The astonishing Meteora region in the prefecture of Thessaly in Central Greece consists of a spectacular series of slim rocky peaks with neatly perched Byzantine monasteries on top, which creates a truly enchanting and otherworldly landscape that tourists, walkers, and climbers curiously flock to each and every year.
This uniquely beautiful religious complex has its origins rooted in the 9th century AD, and the monasteries have gradually adapted and developed throughout the centuries, whereby six of the original twenty survive today. Meteora also makes for a fantastic day trip from Athens, and there are a number of ways to travel there:
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How to make a day trip from Athens to Meteora
How to get there from Athens to Meteora on a day trip
Though getting to Meteora from Athens is not exactly a breeze, there are five ways that you can travel there for just a day trip.
One way of traveling to Meteora from Athens via the KTEL bus, which is a service that is specific to each prefecture in Greece. By traveling by bus, you will be limited by time, especially if you are only traveling for a day trip, as this bus travels from Athens to Trikala, though you will have to switch buses to Kalampaka, which is sometimes written as Kalabaka. Overall, traveling to Meteora by bus is not recommended, as it simply takes too long.
For more information regarding the routes and timetable check here
Another option for traveling independently from Athens to Meteora is to take the train. This route begins at Athens Larissa Station, where you will take a train to the town of Kalampaka, which is the nearest town to the Meteora.
Once you arrive in Kalampaka, you will have to work out how to get to the monasteries; you could either hike (it is not close), take a taxi (which you must book beforehand).
Overall, traveling from Athens to Meteora by train is the most popular option for day-trippers, though it is worth noting that in order to visit the region in a day, you must depart Athens at 7:20 am, arriving at 11:30 am, and then leave Meteora at 17:15pm, arriving back in Athens at 21.25 pm.
To book your ticket head to the trainose website and choose a return ticket starting from Athens and arriving in Kalambaka for the times mentioned above. Note that at these times the train goes straight to Kalambaka and you don’t need to change trains.
By a guided tour
The best option is to take a guided tour. You still have to take the train departing from Athens at 7:20 am, arriving at 11:30 am, and then leave Meteora at 17:15pm, arriving back in Athens at 21.25 pm but your tour collects you and returns you to Kalampaka Station in time for the trains, and shows you the highlights of Meteora and the monasteries.
By a private driver
There is the option of hiring an English speaking driver for the day that will take you to the Monasteries of Meteora and wait while you visit each of them. This is a great option for parties up to 4 people that can share a car. The trip lasts for 12 hours and costs around € 550 for up to 4 people.
Another way of traveling to Meteora from Athens for the day is by car, which you can rent in Athens. However, on a good day without traffic, it will take around four hours each way, which is a large portion of your day already taken in driving time. The conditions in Meteora are also very steep and rocky, and connectivity can drop out, meaning unless you have a map and knowledge of where you are going, it can be a little daunting.
Overall, driving to Meteora from Athens in a day is not advisable; however, if you are driving there as part of a larger road trip, and are not attempting to make the journey a day-trip, it could be a good option.
Tips for your day trip from Athens to Meteora
Because Meteora and the monasteries are a very popular tourist attraction, it is important to keep your wits about you, and your belongings safe at all times; also, because the monasteries are an important religious site, there are rules to follow. Here are the top tips for your day trip to Meteora:
- Make sure to take care of your belongings on the train. Though Meteora is a safe place to visit, due to its influx of tourists, there will be individuals who are looking to take advantage and pick-pocket, especially on the train, so make sure to take care of your belongings, and do not leave them unattended.
- Bring hand wipes and hand sanitizer with you. Making sure that you bring these items with you is important, especially when visiting the bathrooms!
- Make sure to follow the correct dress code when visiting the monasteries. The rules are that men must not wear shorts, and women must not wear short trousers or short sleeves; if you do not follow these rules, you may not be allowed to enter, or you may be given a wrap to cover up when visiting. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes, as whichever transport you take, it will be a long journey, and comfortable shoes, as you will likely be doing lots of walking.
Where to stay in Meteora
The best way in which to properly experience Meteora to its fullest potential, is by spending a night or two there; this allows you more flexibility and freedom, and prevents you from feeling rushed and pushed for time. Here are some of the best places to stay in the town of Kalampaka, Meteora:
- The Meteora Hotel at Kastraki – The Meteora Hotel at Kastraki is a wonderful hotel that offers lavishly designed rooms, many of which offer unbeatable views of the rocks. However, this hotel is slightly out of the center of the town, so you may require a car.
- The Hotel Doupiani House – offering incredible views of the surrounding scenery, the Hotel Doupiani House is a great spot to stay in; it is situated just a stone’s throw away from the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas, and it is on the outskirts of Kastraki.
- Hotel Kastraki – Hotel Kastraki is a wonderful, family-run hotel, and it is situated in the beautiful village of Kastraki; it is a very old and traditional hotel, though it is nonetheless incredibly welcoming and comfortable.
- Divani Meteora – Situated in Kalampaka, is the Divani Meteora, which is a large and spacious hotel, that is located in the center of the town; it is centrally located, and therefore convenient, and the rooms are spacious and comfortable.
Where to eat in Kalambaka
By far my favorite restaurant in the area is called Meteora. It is located in the central square of Kalambaka and it is a family run restaurant since 1925. It has amazing food and you can even get inside the kitchen to see what you want to eat.
Alternatively, take a 2-day tour from Athens:
If you do not wish to travel to Meteora independently from Athens on a day-trip, nor do you want to spend a few days in hotel without the added benefit of a tour-guide, another great option is to take a 2-day tour from Athens, such as this one, which is highly recommended:
This incredible 2-day rail tour to Meteora begins at Athens Railway Station, where you will journey to Kalampaka and be collected by an English-speaking driver, before being transferred to your hotel, and experiencing Meteora at sunset. On the second day, you will experience the wonderful beauty of this incredible area, and learn about the vast and fascinating history of the monasteries, before being transferred back to the train station, where you will travel back to Athens.
This is a fantastic way to experience Meteora, as it provides structure to your trip, though you do still have independence and freedom to see what you would like.
A mini guide to the Monasteries of Meteora
There are six remaining monasteries in Meteora, and each has their own unique history; here is a breakdown of the highlights and points of interest for each monastery:
- Great Meteoron Monastery – The Great Meteoron Monastery was originally established in the 14th century AD by a Monk from Mount Athos, and it is the largest, tallest, and oldest of all of the six monasteries that survive today. Some things to look out for at this monastery include the frescoes that date back to the 14th and 16th centuries, the museum, and the wine cellars.
- Holy Trinity Monastery – The Holy Trinity Monastery dates back to the 14th century, and there are some gorgeous frescoes to check out here, most of which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries; there is also a fantastic Gospel Book, that was printed in Venice in 159. Many of the original artefacts held here were looted during the Second World War, though there are still some fascinating features to see.
- St Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery – The beautiful St Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery was originally founded at the turn of the 14th century, and it is today occupied by just one monk. This Monastery is completely enchanting, and it is well known for its gorgeous frescoes by the Cretan painter, Theophanes Strelitzas.
- Roussanou Monastery – Roussanou Monastery is absolutely gorgeous, and it was originally established in the 16th century, at which point it was inhabited by nuns. This is one of the more easily accessible monasteries, as it is situated on a low rock. Some of its highlights include the stunning frescoes that are located inside the church.
- St Stephen’s Monastery – Originally founded in 1400 AD, St Stephen’s Monastery is absolutely stunning, and is one of the most charming monasteries out of the six remaining. Today, it is inhabited by nuns, and access to it is very easily. Some of its highlights include the beautiful frescoes on the walls, as well as a museum that houses a charming exhibition of important religious objects.
- Varlaam Monastery – Founded in approximately the year 1350 by a monk called Varlaam, Varlaam Monastery has a truly fascinating history; it was only resided in by Varlaam himself, and it was eventually abandoned in 1517, though it was later rediscovered by two wealthy monks. Today, there is a museum at the monastery that documents the history of the site, as well as some gorgeous frescoes and some impressive religious objects.
If you need a help organizing your day trip from Athens to Meteora leave a comment below.