In central Greece on the plain of Thessaly is a remarkable rock formation. Giant pillars tower into the sky. Now imagine looking up and seeing monasteries built in the 14th century perched on top like eagle’s nests.
To escape persecution monks climbed these monoliths and built their monasteries on top using ladders, ropes and mesh nets. Many monks died just trying to climb up or when the rope broke that held their net. The Great Meteoron Monastery is the largest one and the first one built. You could only reach it by ladder or net until 1923 when they built 146 stairs.
We paid 25 euro each for a 4 hour tour that picked us up at our hotel. We visited three monasteries (one was run by nuns, so actually a nunnery) but also stopped at a few viewpoints and were able to see a few more crowning the tops of pillars in the distance. The story of how the monks built on top of these stone outcrops and even basic survival was astounding.
Travel Tip: Women must wear skirts or a scarf tied around their waist if they’re wearing pants. There are free scarves at The Great Meteoron Monastery but you must pay 3 euro to buy one for entrance into Varlaam.
The next day we hiked to The Dragon Cave, located beneath Varlaam Monastery. There are hiking trails around the rocks and rock climbing is allowed in designated areas to protect the monasteries and the rock formations.
Meteora is one of the most spectacular places I have ever been. It’s a bit of an adventure to get there if you don’t have a car, but well worth it.