Meteora is a geological formation in the Thessaly region of Greece. They are home to several Orthodox Christian monasteries perched on top of gray cliffs and rocky peaks, sculpted by erosion.
The spectacular mix of nature and human-made buildings on top has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Location and geology
The monasteries are perched in the detrital cliffs, composed of 'poudingue' (conglomerate formed of pebbles bound by a sandy cement) which overlook the small town of Kalambaka in Thessaly to the north. Since 2018, the region is included within the Tzoumérka National Park, Achelóos Valley, Ágrafa and Meteora.
According to local mythology, rocks were sent from heaven to earth by Providence (hence their name 'meteors') to allow ascetics to retreat and pray.
The detrital formation dates from the Tertiary era, a large tributary of the Thessaly Sea having gradually deposited pebbles and sediments, as shown by the stratified appearance of the rocks. During the folding which gave birth to the Hellenic peninsula (the “Hellenides” of geologists) this river was displaced or disappeared, the alluvium was partly metamorphosed under the effect of pressure and heat, while the The whole was raised, then released by erosion, giving a sandstone relief made of rounded blocks typical of this type of rock.
The Mediterranean climate of Greece presents, in the region of Meteora, continental characteristics linked to isolation and altitude, with colder and snowy winters, and hot and stormy summers. The year can be divided into two main seasons: a first relatively cold and rainy period from November until the end of March, and the hot and stormy season from April to September. All the monasteries are equipped with lightning rods and climbing is prohibited during storms.
Only six monasteries are active today, having sometimes been reoccupied after a period of abandonment:
- - Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas)
- - Agios Stefanos (St. Stephen)
- - Agía Triáda (Holy Trinity) - Great Meteor, or monastery of the Transfiguration, it is the first in size and in seniority, it is also the only one which has never ceased to be occupied since its creation
- - Roussanou
- - Varlaam
- - There is also the monastery of Ypapantis which is now open for guided tours only
- How to visit the monasteries
The departure of the visit is from Kalambaka. A circuit of approximately 17 km allows you to tour the monasteries.