Meteora Greece, a hidden gem on the mainland

Lizet Wesselman - 19/02/2024

Meteora Greece, a hidden gem on the mainland

Lizet Wesselman - 19/02/2024

A country steeped in mythology, history and beautiful nature, Greece is best known worldwide for its stunning islands and beautiful beaches. You might also visit Athens, but most Greece travellers don’t get much further than that. And yet there are so many hidden gems to be found on the mainland. One of the most impressive destinations the Greek mainland has to offer is Meteora.

Meteora, a place of religion and nature

Meteora, which literally means ” floating in the sky”, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in north-western Thessaly. What makes this place so unique are the imposing rock formations that rise high above the plains. Formed by millennia of erosion, these limestone pillars not only offer breathtaking views but also hold rich spiritual significance.

Religious communities began to settle here in the 11th century, looking for a place where they could focus on their faith without being disturbed. Apparently, a monastery on top of a metre-high rock, with no access roads, was the only way to do so. Today, six of the original 24 monasteries are still in use, although often only a handful of monks live there. They also now have roads leading to them and all have metre-high stairs leading up. Today, therefore, it mainly provides a beautiful sight, but certainly still a glimpse into the religious history of the monks.

What to do in Meteora?

Of course, the monasteries are the highlight of Meteora and you can visit them. All of them, except St Nicholas Anapausas, are closed on one day during the week (and a little more often in winter). This means you can visit all the monasteries on weekends, but will have to skip one on weekdays. Now this is not a disaster, as it is not very easy to visit them all in one day.

The area the monasteries are located in is quite large and there is something for everyone. Whether you come for the monasteries, nature or a combination, you are guaranteed to have a great time here.

Personally, I just found the surroundings so beautiful. The rocks that the monasteries stand on give a unique view that is worth a nice walk. I met a tour bus myself and they really only got about five minutes to take quick photos of a beautiful view, before jumping back into the bus. Meteora deserves more time than that. So I would recommend a mix, such as a hike tour with monastery visit or even a tour on horseback. Or go for a two-day tour from Athens, so you have more time to really enjoy the area.

I recommend you set aside at least 2 days for Meteora anyway and bring your hiking boots. Pick 2 or 3 monasteries to visit and go hiking. So the monasteries are all at high altitude and the climb up is tough, although there are just stairs leading up. You can also possibly take local buses, which stop at the top of the mountains. They just don’t go very often and don’t always come when they should. But it is a good and cheap option to go to one of the monasteries and hike down from there. Find the bus routes here.

How to get to Meteora?

There are several options to get to Meteora. So the first option is the many tours on offer, from Athens and Thessaloniki. But if you prefer to go on your own, here you will find all the information for buses and trains to Meteora.

Train from Athens to Meteora
There are daily trains from Athens to the town of Kalambaka, the closest train station to Meteora. Kalambaka is the village next to Meteora and from there you can most likely just walk to your accommodation, unless you have chosen one in the mountains. Then you can hop on local buses. The train journey takes around 4-5 hours, depending on the type of train and any intermediate stops. Check this well in advance. There was a major train accident in March 2023 and there have been many strikes since then due to safety concerns. The train departs from “Larissa” train station, Athens’ central station. This is reasonably located in the city centre, and otherwise you can catch the red metro line.

Bus from Athens to Meteora
No train or prefer to go by bus? Of course that’s also an option. It will obviously take a bit longer, but it’s a nice route. You take the bus from the Liossion bus terminal to Trikala. That ride is about 6 hours with a short stop at a road restaurant about halfway. From Trikala, you take a local bus to Kalambaka. This goes without saying, and if you can’t figure it out, you can literally ask any bus driver “Kalambaka?” and they will point you to the right stand of the bus you need.

To Meteora from Thessaloniki
From Thessaloniki, you can also get to Meteora by bus or train. This is a slightly shorter route than from Athens, about 4 hours. Take the bus from the bus station “Macedonia intercity bus station”. There are 12 different buses going to Trikala, so it’s pretty easy to find one. Or take the train from “Neos Sidirodromikos Stathmos” directly to Kalambaka.

Train tickets and bus tickets to Meteora
Train tickets can be bought at the station or online, if you can manage in Greek. Use this handy roadmap with pictures, which will probably help you out.

Bus tickets are best bought at the bus station. If you buy them online, you still have to go to the counter to get a printed version. Of course, an online ticket does ensure a reservation and prevents the bus from already being full. This is the bus’s website, where you can also find up to date prices.


The village of Kalampaka is also very cosy. Meteora is incredibly touristy, but the village really has a cosy local atmosphere. An atmosphere you won’t find on the popular islands or even in Athens. So this is definitely worth a visit and I can fully recommend taking a seat on a terrace in the cosy central square if the weather is good enough for it.

Best traveltime Meteora

I myself was in Meteora in March, which is thus the low season. I can highly recommend that! I felt I was the only tourist actually staying in Kalampaka, the rest were day-trippers in tour buses. So that gives you that lovely local atmosphere with incredibly friendly people who appreciate your visit.

I would recommend Athens and mainland Greece during the off-season anyway, as it can be very hot in summer and you have no other restrictions here in winter. Where the Greek islands close in winter, and entire cities are deserted, the mainland is just where the locals live and work. So it is always lively here, and in the low season you then avoid most of the crowds of tourists.

In spring, everything is in bloom, giving you a beautiful picture with flowers and greenery, contrasting nicely with the rocks and monasteries. The weather can certainly reach 25 degrees already, although on top of the mountains it can still be windy and quite cold, so do bring a jacket! In summer, it quickly gets too hot for a long hike up the mountains to the monasteries.

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