Cliff-top Monasteries.

Oh no! I need to turn my Top-100 List of Must-See Places in the World into the Top-101 List! Not exactly a round number is it, but what can I do? Needs must…

So what’s so special that needs adding? It’s the Meteora in Greece – a ‘formation of immense monolithic pillars and hills like huge rounded boulders that dominate the local area’. Sheer cliffs stretching 600 meters up, all in different shades of grey, with monasteries atop some of the peaks of the rocks.

Incidentally, it’s here.

And here are all those shades of gray I mentioned.

It’s a long way up if you want to visit the monasteries. You need to climb steep paths/stairways up the cliffs, which sometimes turn into tunnels through the rock.

Oh my Greek! The sizes of these cliff formations! Cyclopean. Almost hypnotic too. You stare and stare and stare some more, and maybe start looking like Cyclops, or at least become cross-eyed if not one-eyed :).

These cliffs being so Cyclopean and awesome – of course they attract tourists: lots of them. Some on coaches, others in cars. We, at first, belonged to the latter group, covering practically the whole of the Meteora roads in our rented car. But then we decided to drop the car off back at the hotel and take a taxi (for just 10 euro) to the top of a peak and then get a bit of trekking in. Here’s the route we took.

In all it was just four kilometers, but it took us five hours! That’s because to get up to each monastery takes at least half an hour, and of course we were stopping a lot to gawp and snap…


This is a cableway for delivering heavy cargo – and aging monks – up to the monastery! The nun-only monasteries don’t have such devices – and they don’t even have steps! There’s equality for you :).


The tourists here seem to be active; this one at least. Well, the curiously shaped formations are quite tempting…


Not only can the tourists here be sprightly and energetic, they can also be plentiful in supply, as I think I’ve mentioned already. We were lucky to be here mid-June – not quite peak season – but even then they swarm here in the zillions. Advice: if it says a monastery opens at 9am – make sure you’re there at 9am sharp; otherwise it’s elbows at the ready…


More advice, for if ever you’re here: do as we did and take a taxi to a peak and then return to your hotel by foot – that way the parking problem is simply bypassed. Just make sure to cover yourself well with suitable clothing, take your sunglasses and sun cream, and plenty of drinking water. It’s fairly fries up them peaks…

The monasteries are all must-see. But don’t expect ancient archaism when it comes to their architecture and construction: they’ve all been renovated over the years: lots of concrete and modern technologies to be seen; hardly one bit of antiquity left.


Monks and nuns have been living in these monasteries for thousands of years. I can believe it: some of the stone steps are decidedly worn form zillions of monkish steps having been made upon them – these days added to by those of tourists…

Of course, the reason why the monasteries were built at the top of inaccessible cliffs was for the monks to be as cut off as possible from the rest of the world. Funny, today that ‘rest of the world’ is beating a path to those poor monks’ doors :).

This barrel – no need to isolate it from the Internet like SCADA in critical infrastructure. It looks, feels and smells of something very ancient indeed. A lot more ancient than all the concrete at least…

This ancient device was once used to winch stuff up to the monks from down below.

Onwards we march, merrily snapping…

What’s that over there on the other mountain? Yep, a village right up there, and the road up to it serpentining way down below (these monks!). We decided there and then to get over there…

Back at the car, we relied on Google Maps to take us to the above-mentioned serpentine road. In fact, quite how we’d have managed without it I can’t imagine.

Just look at these hairpin bends. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Alpe d’Huez – move over.


The signpost in the pic above indicating an upcoming sharp bend was the first of its kind we saw. I said to A.Sh. that there should be at least 50 such signs judging by the map. I of course proceeded to count them all, and the total turned out to be exactly 50! 50 hairpin bends in 7.7km!!

That must mean there are 100 in total – including the other 50 signs facing drivers coming down the other way. The craziest, most intense stretch of hairbendism was in the middle, stretching around 3.5km, but around just a kilometer as the crow flies!

At first the road’s decent; later the asphalt becomes a dirt track. Wasn’t expecting that. further still and the road’s made of large concrete slabs.


We arrive!


We drove a bit further than the village but found the road to be barely passable. Then we drove round the pretty village itself a bit, parked up and had a stretch of the legs, then it was back in the car and back down the hairpins…

The views from up here! Wanted to stay longer – or forever. So peaceful; so cut off; charming; alluring; tempting; but no… not realistic :).

Whoah! Broken bridge!

We finally made it to the curiously named Hotel Kastraki just a kilometer from the Meteora. Nice lodgings.

That’s it for today. The next morning we were back on the road. You won’t guess where to…

All the pics from the Meteora are here.

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