Begin your trip with a bang by heading to Meteora, in Kalambaka town. Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is made up of a network of Greek Orthodox Christian monasteries perched atop a complex of 1000 sandstone boulders, each soaring to 400 meters. As you approach, you’ll feel Meteora’s mystical aura, and from afar these huge brown boulders look like giant monks huddled in congregation – a rather fitting image for the second most important monastic site in Orthodox Christianity. This unique geological formation is 50 million years old and was created when a great earthquake drained the lake that once stood in Meteora’s place. As the terrain reshaped itself, the silt, rocks and sand that lined the depths of the lake took the form of the huge boulders we see today.
Soaring to the sky, these imposing boulders were chosen by the first monks as ideal spiritual locations for monastic cells. Beginning in the 12th Century, monks attempted to scale the boulders by pushing logs up against the sides of rock pillars, climbing the logs and then dropping rope ladders down for other monks to join them. To this day, monastic cells dot the sheer face of the rock – evidence of the monks’ determination to worship and meditate as close to God as possible. Make it a point to visit as many monasteries as possible – each one hides treasures that span the ages and which will leave you with a deeper appreciation of religious art, monastic life and spiritual scholarship. Monks and nuns will be happy to tell you more about the historically and religiously important documents, old illuminated manuscripts, precious books, church artifacts and stunning hand-painted icons that are centuries old.
If you’re an adrenalin junkie and eager to take part in something other than cultural and spiritual activities, you’ll find that Meteora offers the perfect coupling of spiritual reflection and intense sports as you commune with nature. The soaring sandstone boulders of Meteora are a premiere world destination for rock-climbers, with 700 routes along the 1000 pillars. If you’re into low-impact sports, take the time to hike or mountain climb around the rock pillars. Routes take you through lush forests thick with plane trees and the occasional squirrel. This is another way of reaching some of the monasteries at the top of the boulders, so take the land-based scenic route to meditate as you traverse some of the most pristine forests in the country. It’s the perfect prelude to your tour of the one-of-a-kind spiritual site of Meteora.