Before my trip to Greece, I had never heard of Meteora. Greece is known for Athens and the Acropolis, beautiful beaches and Santorini sunset. I didn’t realize the country was also mountainous and full of amazing landmarks outside the mainland. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meteora’s name in Greek means “suspended in the air” and the modern astronomy word “meteorite” is derived from it. It is located in Greece’s Plain of Thessaly, about four hours from Athens and it was once home to twenty-four monasteries (six are still standing today) that sit atop those iconic rock pinnacles.
These monasteries were built by Greek Orthodox Monks in the 14th century in order to escape the religious persecution of the Turkish invaders who ended up abolishing the Byzantine Empire and conquered parts of Greece. It’s mind blowing to think that monks built these monasteries only with the aid of rudimentary rock-climbing equipment. The only access to the place required climbing over the rocks with the aid of ropes or ladder. In the year 1920, a staircase and path were added to allow access to tourist and pilgrims. Of the six monasteries, five are inhabited by monks, one by nuns.
The monasteries are now some of the most popular tourist attractions in Greece and serve primarily as museums. There were lots of steps going in but totally worth it. Inside the monastery was an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The smell of the honey from the wax candles and dried mint plus a hint of incense was really calming. The walls and ceiling of the small chapel are covered with paintings telling the stories of the Bible. The paintings were done in the mid-1500s and tell some pretty brutal stories.
Did you know that the Eyrie of the Vale from Game of Thrones is based on Meteora? The site was also featured in the 1981 James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only” and the 2003 album by Linkin Park takes its name from this area too!