Meteora, Greece is one of those destinations that truly feels like a well-kept secret. Stunning landscapes and monasteries that are thousands of years old give it major Bhutan + Lord of the Rings + Sedona vibes. While I've always lusted after the whitewashed, blue-domed Santorini and the ancient ruins of Athens, it was only after I started researching for our Greece trip that I chanced across photos of Meteora on a Reddit thread.
Meteora means "suspended in the sky"—the area is named after the monasteries perched precariously high in the cliffs. Mostly dating between the 14th and 16th century, the monasteries were built by monks who, over several years, carried construction materials up these huge rock formations to build their places of worship.
While the journey to get here from Athens was a long one—especially considering it came after a transatlantic flight from the U.S.!—the incredible views, seemingly supernatural architecture, and rich history of this place was magic.
HOW TO GET TO METEORA FROM ATHENS
From Athens, you can rent a car and drive (about 5 hours) or take a train (5-6 hours) between Athens and Kalabaka. There’s only 1 direct train a day to and from Athens that takes closer to 5 hours. Here’s a train schedule (it was slightly different the day we traveled by +/-30 mins so I would try to get there a bit early). You can buy tickets online or at the train station—there was a ~15 min line when we were there. On the train, there’s a single cafe car with snacks/beverages and a few outlets. The rest are just rows of seats, with 2-2 seat configurations.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN METEORA
I would recommend a minimum of two nights in Meteora—more if you're the type that likes to take your time exploring. We arrived by train around 9 p.m. on Monday and departed on the 6 a.m. train on Wednesday. Having just the one full day to sightsee was enough for us, but we’re also not the type that needs to see/do everything. The journey is also a long one, regardless of whether you take a bus, train, or car—so you might want a little more time to make it worth your while.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN METEORA
We had a private taxi driver, the hilarious Thimios take us around for 70 euro for the day (5 hours). He would occasionally throw out what we called a "Thimios fact," like "Meteora is the second most popular tourist destination in the world after Tokyo!"—but he grew up in the area and was fairly knowledgeable. If you’re only there for a day, I would recommend renting a car/scooter or taking a tour. It's possible to walk between the monasteries, but it would be time consuming. After the half day of touring with our driver, we rented a scooter in the afternoon. Winding down the road while the setting sun cast a rose tinted glow over the valley felt absolutely mythical.
WHERE TO STAY IN METEORA
Kalabaka vs. Kastraki : Kalabaka and Kastraki are the two main towns in the area. Kastraki is a more traditional area that’s higher up, closer to Meteora. We stayed in Kastraki, which was cute and quiet with stunning views. Kalabaka has more bars and restaurants, so if you expect to be going out at night and don’t have a car, I’d recommend staying in Kalabaka.
We stayed at Guesthouse Papastathis in Kastraki, which was the closest accommodations option to the monasteries (a good option if you’re planning to walk vs. drive). This is definitely a basic option, but the rooms were clean and comfortable–very affordable at <$70 USD/night. There were incredible views of the rock formations from every window.
For a more upscale option, try Meteora Hotel in Kastraki for $100-150 USD/night, which has great views and a nice pool for lounging.
If you'd prefer to stay in Kalabaka, Monastiri Guesthouse is a well-appointed accommodations option in town with a pool.
WHERE TO EAT IN METEORA
Meteora Restaurant (Kalabaka) : Great traditional taverna food in the main square of Kalabaka. It does get its fair share of tour buses, but the food was delicious and service was excellent. We had an appetizer plate of dips and the veal—both were very good.
Taverna Meteora Vavistas (Kastraki) : This taverna option is closer to the monasteries. The reviews are just OK but we really enjoyed our meal here of grilled lamb chops and saganaki (the moussaka was a pass, though!)
Looking back, it was a painstakingly long day of planes, trains, and cars that brought us to Meteora—and we were admittedly drained by the time we arrived to our guesthouse that first evening. But waking up to the sunrise bathing massive rock formations in light that next morning... that's one of the travel experiences that'll stay with us forever.