Meteora is an area in northern Greece which name translates literally to mean ‘suspended in the air’. The region is famous for the incredible monolith rock formations that dominate the dramatic, almost alien landscape, and is one of the most spectacular formations in the world. Even more impressive is that humans built monasteries on top of and into these huge rocks in the 13th century, in order to guarantee safety and eventually repeal attacks from the Ottoman Empire.
We were awestruck for three nights in a small town built directly underneath Meteora; Kastraki, and its close neighbour Kalambaka.
We arrived via train with OSE from Athens. Our return tickets were €28 each and the journey was scheduled to take 5.5 hours. We managed to get the correct train, despite no actual signs or information at all, and only arrived in Kalambaka about an hour late, after a lengthy train change in Trikala. We grabbed a taxi from Kalambaka station to our accommodation in Kastraki for €5. The trains are comfortable although the toilets were horrific; a common theme in Greece.
We were informed by our kind hosts in Athens that the return journey we paid for was actually cancelled due to a train strike. The strike meant we were forced to buy one-way bus tickets to Athens with KTEL, which cost an outrageous €31.50 each. It also meant we had no option to get a refund on our train tickets, since we had to leave Greece before the stations re-opened. That is if they offer refunds….who knows. The lack of information is another common theme.
There are frequent buses between Athens and Kalambaka, probably for an obscene amount of money, and the journey takes roughly the same time as the train. The buses are normal buses, neither great nor bad.
If we were to do it again, we would hire a car and drive. Transport in Greece is too flakey and unpredictable to rely on, and a rental car would have saved us time and money in hindsight.
From Thessaloniki there are all the same connections, but the journey is more like 2.5 hours.
Once you are in Meteora, getting around depends on how adventurous you want to be and how fit you are. We managed it walking, which is how I would recommend seeing the area. The hiking tracks that provide a perspective that the roads don’t, but mean long days up and down big hills. There are local buses but they aren’t frequent enough to be convenient. Driving means parking, and you also miss out on appreciating the full scale of the area. There are taxis available; from Kastraki to the best sunset point is about €7 one way.
Hint – If you are flexible with train departure times you could save around 50% on ticket prices.
Meteora is a popular place to visit, but the towns are very small. Thankfully the locals don’t take too much advantage of the isolation and prices are almost always fair. We stayed at San Giorgio Villa for €33 per night, which is the cheap end of the scale, and it had a shared kitchen where we could cook our own meals. We were based in Kastraki, which meant a 20 minute walk or a five minute taxi to Kalambaka, but we were right at the entrance to the Meteora hiking path and other tracks around the area.
There is a hostel in Kalambaka, although it is quite new. You can get dorm room beds from €11 per night at Hostel Greco. Otherwise you can find hostels in Trikala, which is about 30 minutes away.
Bnb’s, villas and hotels are all fairly similar, you can find a double room for between €30 and €90 per night, and almost all of them have amazing views of Meteora itself.
Meteora is all about mountains and monasteries. That’s why people go there and that’s where you will likely spend your time. Before you travel, check Visit Meteora, for all the info you need about hiking trails and monastery opening days/hours, as they change depending on season and mood.
There are six functioning monasteries that cost €3 each to visit and many ruined monasteries dotted around the area. Some people visit them all, but after visiting four from the outside and paying entry for two, we felt we had seen what they were about; churches, museums and souvenir shops. They are worth a look though, if only for the precariousness of their perches. We spent a full day hiking up from Kastraki, visiting monasteries and hiking back down, then we caught a taxi back up to watch the sun set over the mountains.
The following day we spent hiking the lesser travelled paths around the bottom of the rock formations: visiting the hermitages, churches and ruins. There’s easily enough to see that you’ll want two full days in the area at least, but I wouldn’t spend more than three days unless you have a car to explore the surrounding towns.
We self-catered, eating our breakfasts at home and packing lunches. There are food and water trucks parked at some of the monasteries, but I wouldn’t rely on them to keep you going. For restaurants in the area I can recommend Paramithi in Kalambaka; a meal for two people including wine might cost between €15 – €30 depending on how thirsty you are. Definitely try the local spirit ‘Tsipouro’, which is similar to Raki and Ouzo, and for €1 per glass it’s great stuff.
Hint – In Greece it’s common to just sit down at a restaurant and wait for someone to come and say hello, they will know you have arrived and will bring over water. Also look for the places that serve food included in the price of a drink, it’s a great way to have a snack and taste the local food.
Meteora for three nights;
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