Where is Kalambaka located?

Kalambaka is 220 miles NW of Athens, 147 miles away from Thessaloniki and 90 miles from Volos (three of the largest Greek cities). The town is located at the foot of an extraordinary rock landscape, which provides a dramatic backdrop to daily life here.

The archaeological sites of Delphi and Dion are 3 hrs and 2 hrs away respectively. For sea adventures, the village of Achillion is 2.5 hrs away, where you can catch a boat to the island of Skiathos. Alternatively, take a trip to the `Golden Beach` of Katerini which is 2 hrs away.

By car from Athens, Meteora can take between 5 to 6 hours to reach. People planning a road trip around Greece sometimes leave from Athens, stop in Delphi, and then continue to Meteora the next day.

What is the Meteora?

Meteora is a popular destination for people visiting the mainland of Greece. It is a unique mountainous area right near the towns of Kalambaka (1.2 miles away) and Kastraki in Thessaly. Filled with dramatic mountains and rock pillars coupled with precariously placed hand-built monasteries balanced atop, and you have a pretty spectacular destination.

Note: Many times you will see the words Meteora and Kalamabaka interchangeable.

The word Meteora means literally means `in mid-air` and of course brings to mind the word meteor. What created this rare geological occurrence is one of the mysteries of nature and there are many theories though they remain theories and none have been proven. Many geographers speculate that some 30 million years ago, all Thessaly was a vast inland sea; when the sea receded, sweeping the topsoil along, rock formations were left behind. Over the millennia, the Peneios River and the wind carved the rock into the weird, twisted shapeds that now climb about 984 ft. above the plain. The top of these are a wonder of man and seem just as miraculous and make Meteora one of the most spectacular places to visit in Greece.

Most of these peculiar rock formations are topped with substantial monasteries, settled by monks who lived in caves within the rocks during the 11th Century. In fact, the word `monk` comes from the Greek word `alone.` Over the centuries, more and more hermits and monks seeking solidarity made their way to the Meteora until, in the 14th century St. Athanasios founded the Great Meteoron. By 1500, there were 24 monasteries here. Six -- the Great Meteoron, Varlaam, Roussanou, Ayia Triada, Ayios Nikolaos Anapaphsas, and Ayiou Stefanou -- are still inhabited and welcome visitors.

How can I get to Meteora by plane?

There is no airport in Meteora. The National Airport of Nea Achialos, located close to Volos, is the closest to the monastic community of Meteora. This small airport works only in summer and receives charters and low cost flights from abroad. From this airport, tourists can go to Meteora by bus via Volos and Trikala. Otherwise, the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki can be convenient as they work all year round and they accept more flights. After you arrive in Athens or Thessaloniki, you can take the bus to Meteora/Kalambaka via Trikala.

How can I get to Meteora?

You`ve got three options when it comes to getting to Meteora, which are train, bus, and car. Having your own car is always going to be the easiest, but driving in Greece is not for everyone. The most popular way to get to Meteora is by train.

By Train: The Athens to Kalambaka train (although it is often times referred to as the Athens to Meteora train service) terminates at the Kalambaka train station. The train runs regularly between Athens Railway Station and Kalmbaka train station, with several services a day. For train schedules and additional information, visit: httpss://tickets.trainose.gr/dromologia/.

Train tickets can be purchased from Athens railway station, or you can purchase online beforehand. We recommend booking them online because the Athens to Kalambaka train can fill up in the busy season, so it is best to get them in advance. The cost of tickets can vary between 25 and 30 Euros, and booking in advance will generally get you the better price. Allow at least 8 hours for the Athens-Kalambaka trip.

One you arrive at the Kalambaka Train Station you will need to take a taxi to your hotel or to your final destination.

By Bus: There are seven buses that run daily to Trikkala from the Athens terminal at 260 Liossion. Allow for at least 8 hours for the Athens-Kalambaka trip. Buses leave frequently from Trikkala (this is the biggest city near Kalambaka/Meteora) for Kalambaka. Several buses a day connect Kalambaka and the Meteora monasteries.

By Car: The easiest way to get to Meteora from Athens is by car. The most difficult part of the journey is probably getting out of Athens. After you`re out of the city, the ride is pretty straight forward. From Athens, take the Athens-Thessaloniki National Highway north to Lamia; from Lamia, take the highway northwest to Kalambaka. From Delphi, take the Lamia-Karditsa-Trikkala-Kalambaka Highway north. Allow at least 6 hours for the Athens-Kalambaka trip.

What is the best way to get around Meteora?

If you don`t have a car, you may want to hire a taxi to visit the Meteora monasteries. Plan to pay between €50 and €100 to visit the six monasteries usually open to the public. Your fee will vary depending on whether you want a drive-by tour with a brief stop at one or two monasteries, or a more thorough day-trip with stops at each. Be sure you are in agreement with your driver as to how much time you will have at each monastery. Most drivers are content to wait up to 30 minutes at each monastery, while some drivers will accompany you into each and act as guide (and expect a tip).

What does the public transportation look like in Kalambaka?

It is possible to do Meteora from Kalambaka and Kastraki by public bus and walking combined. There are four public buses a day running from Kalambaka and Kastraki to Meteora and back starting at 9:00 am. The last bus departs back from Meteora at 4:00, so if you want to see the sunset there without your own transportation, be prepared to walk back. It is not very convenient if you wish to use these buses from monastery to monastery like a hop-on, hop-off bus. These buses mostly serve as a one way trip to reach the monasteries and then you will be on your own.

What is there to do in the town of Kalambaka?

The old town of Kalambaka provides narrow cobble-stoned streets and traditional houses, some of them built right next to the rocks. Known as Stagi in Medieval times, Kalambaka was an important settlement during the Byzantine Empire and there are two churches from that time, St John the Baptist and church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary (which we cover below). Join a walking tour of the old town with a local guide, to discover the town`s unique beauty and history!

Kalambaka is home of a 12th-century church, Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The church is often locked, but if it is open, take a look at the frescoes, which date from the 12th to 16th centuries. Keep an eye out for the ancient marble blocks and column drums pilfered by this church`s builders from the earlier Temple of Apollo. An admission of about €2 is sometimes charged.

For something a bit different, head to the Center of Contemporary Art, 38 Patriarchou Dimitriou, which houses the extensive private collection of Leonidas Beltsios, the important contemporary Greek art collector. The museum is officially open daily 9am to 3pm and 5 to 9pm.

You`ll also discover a number of hotels, restaurants, banks, cafes, and gift shops to cater to every need. Traditional items to buy include hand painted religious icons, embroidered fabrics, and leather sandals. Another great way to soak in the local culture is to visit the Natural History Museum of Meteora and Mushroom Museum.

What is the shopping like in Kalambaka?

A lot of tourist shops in Kalambaka (most of which close for the winter) sell various hand-made, wood-carved objects, but also in the making of religious icons that are painted by local artists. Many of the workshops are located outside the town`s center. Some other favorite items to shop for in the area are the leather sandals and embroideries. You will also find a great farmers` market that takes place every Friday at Plateia Dimarhiou, the town-hall square.

What is the best time of year to visit?

There are many visitors to Meteora all year round. The peak season is from July to October. It is recommended to visit Meteora during the shoulder season or off season. The off season starts in November and ends in March, but this is also during the colder months and things can get slippery in the winter here as well. May/June and September/October are considered to be a great time to visit because of pleasant weather, lesser crowds, and off-season rates.

What are the visiting hours and days of the monasteries?

The opening hours often change from year to year, so beware when relying on information provided in guidebooks or general web sites.

What is the dress code when visiting the Monasteries?

Women are required to wear long skirts, and covered shoulders. Men are required to wear long pants below the knee. Sleeveless shirts are not allowed. Skirts and trousers are provided at the entrance to monasteries, so you arrive to the monasteries with shorts, they do offer wraps to cover your legs. The kids are free to wear shorts and t-shirts.

What are the entrance fees for the monasteries?

In each monastery there is an entrance fee of around 3euros per person. Kids up to 12 years old do not have to pay.

What is the best way to explore the Meteora and how much time do I need?

Not to rush and to actually immerse in what Meteora has to offer we would recommend staying for a few nights. Meteora is an area of approximately 15 miles, encompassing a rock forest with over 100 giant rock pillars of different shapes and sizes. The monasteries are built on top of those pillars like a natural extension. The best way to explore such a unique site is by spending quality time here and combining walking and driving. This will allow you to explore the region deeper and get the most of your time while visiting.

Can I tour the area independently or should I follow a guided hiking tour?

Apart from the circle road route which is 12 miles, there is a total of 25 mile network of different hiking trails. Not all of them are well marked. Some of the trails are in a very poor condition in terms of navigation while some other trails will end up in a serious drop off. So please be extremely careful when you decide to explore those trails on your own. While these walks can be done independently, a knowledgeable guide can greatly enhance your safety and experience and can choose your path carefully.

What should I pack with me when sightseeing the Meteora monasteries?

Around the monasteries, there are no restaurants or cafes, only canteens that serve few quick snacks and beverages, so it is always a good idea to take some snacks and a bottle of water or refreshments with you. Don`t forget the appropriate clothing and your camera!

What are some other things I need to keep in mind?

Meteora is very touristic but mostly catering tourists arriving in big tourist buses, so if you have a choice, better visit monasteries first thing in the morning before the arrival of the most buses or later in the afternoon after their departure. Otherwise, you will be spending your time in lines and will not see so much because of the crowds.

Be prepared to take steps. As monasteries are located on top of cliffs you have to climb up to visit them. The Monastery of the Holy Trinity has 140 steps, others a bit fewer. The Holy Monastery of St Stephen is connected with a walking bridge, making it most accessible from all monasteries.

Food and drinks are easily available in Kastraki and Kalabaka towns, but not at the top of Meteora and next to monasteries, so better take food and drinks with you.

What should I do if I need medical attention?

In an emergency, dial tel. 100 for the police and dial tel. 171 for the tourist police. Dial tel. 166 for an ambulance and the hospital.

The clinic in Kalambaka (tel. 24320/24-111), the police (tel. 24320/22-109), and the tourist police (tel. 24320/76-100) are about 1/2 mile outside town on the road to Ioannina. The Health Center can be reached at Tel. +30 24323 50000.