Greece attracts herds of tourists in the months of June-July. But if you plan a trip in the early week of June, you may meet lesser traffic. In my very brief trip of a week, I could only cover Meteora, Athens, Mykonos and Santorini. This was obviously rushed and if you wish to really enjoy the place, do this in about ten days.
Meteora, literally means “middle of the sky”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above”. Meteora is a natural wonder with one of the largest complexes of Greek Orthodox monasteries built on natural sandstone rock pillars in central Greece. One of its monastery, the Holy Trinity was a filming location for James Bond “For your eyes only”. Interestingly a fun fact, for all GOT fans, is that the Eyrie of Vale of the House of Arryn is based on Meteora.
Getting to Meteora
So my travel accomplice, Nikhil and I landed in Athens and we decided to head straight to Meteora. One can reach Meteora in several ways, but the train for us was the fastest and the most convenient. So we boarded the metro and after changing a train, reached Larissa Station, which is the central train station of Greece. At the Larissa Station, after a bit of theatrics and dramatic movement of hands and nodding, we managed to get tickets to Kalambaka, which is the town at the base of Meteora and a terminal station, meaning that if you get on a direct train you wont have to worry about getting off at the right station. It will be the last one! We, however, got tickets with a change of lines at Paleofarsalos station.
So,after travelling for about 6 hours on the train, we finally reached Kalambaka at around 9 PM. As we drove towards our hotel, the rock formations circled around us from all sides and looked magnificent and a wee bit ghastly in the night lined with hazy clouds. We had booked ourself at the Dellas Boutique Hotel, which is located in Kastraki village very close to the monasteries.
Having had an exhausting journey, we decided to not get too adventurous, take the concierge advice and get a quick dinner and to bed. So, we went to this restaurant named Meteoron Panorama, which was barely a 100 steps from Dellas. The view from this restaurant was simply amazing- with the rock formations on one side and the lit up city on the other. We chose the outside seating where we became part of a huge greek family celebration dancing and singing to traditional greek songs. All members of the family, who were mostly, above the age of 50 and plus, were bustling with energy- just looking at these people groove, indulding in simple pleasures of life with so much enthusiasm, made us forget all the exhaustion and we easily became a part of the music and fun. The cherry on the cake was the food,which was pretty good too! The house wine, although, could be avoided. But that’s true about all greek wines- they really aren’t anything to write back about!
The next morning we set out to hike, at about 8:30 A.M to the six beautiful monasteries (one could also take a bus- but that would be cheating- so if you can, hike it up!). While crossing the town of Kastraki, we came across this beautiful rock formations with natural crate lines on them. Nikhil, who is a rock climbing enthusiast, took a diversion towards them, whereafter the next 45 minutes went by in trying to ape up the rocks- he a natural, I a scared poo. However, his constant pull (pun intended) helped me escalate. The view from the top, that presented an arcade of the whole valley, obliterated my acrophoebia (as well as my fear of the descent ). It was a risk worth taking!
After this detour, we were back on track, where-after walking past grape fields, tavernas, the only gas station in the area and 400 steps cutting through rock, we reached the Monastery of the Great Meteron.
This Monastery was beautiful and was built way back in 1340, which makes it the oldest as well as the highest and largest monastery in Meteora. It was founded by a monk named St. Athanasios Meteorites who, according to legend, was carried to the top of the cliff by an eagle (yeah right!). After visiting the frescos, the church of transfiguration and the beautiful gallery to the valley, we set foot towards the rest of the monasteries. We bought some cherries and ice cream for the journey ahead. The weather, was clearly our partner in crime as it started drizzling as we hiked.
At the end of about 5 monasteries, we came across this beautiful, unassuming spot, where magnificent rock formations lined up like an army protecting the city that lay between them. Someone also pointed out, that it looked like the Apostle! This place was very serene and calming.
At the end of hiking for over 7 hours, we reached the base of Kalambaka. It was time to reward ourselves for the great hike with some local food and drink. We, believing our senses, walked towards this local eatery in the centre of town hall square, called Restaurant Meteora, and what a delight it was! Restaraunt Meteora, was a family run joint, with its 5th generation serving us. The local beers sure quenched our thirst. You are invited into the kitchen to choose your food and you will find a selection of dishes bubbling away on the stove top – chicken, pork, veal, lamb, different vegetables and different starches. Prices are reasonable. Restaurant walls are covered In paraphernalia. The caged birds signing outside was a bit annoying but our cute server made up for all of it (He even got us a plate of Feta for free!!). The food was decent, although dont expect it to be super authentic or straight out of a greek granny’ kitchen.
We walked through mulberry trees, soaking in the sun and finally reached Dellas after a long day! In the evening, we decided to chill at the bar at Dellas. The person serving us, to our not so shock, told us about how people from India were lovely, but from Delhi were usually brash and rude! To our relief, he didn’t think we were from Delhi, which we made no attempt to correct. He also told us how due to crashing economy, people were unemployed for half the year and how the tourists remained their lifeline.
As the evening progressed, we decided to go for a stroll leading to dinner. The streets looked beautiful with the half golden sky turning into a pale blue. We went to Taverna Gardenia, a cute little shop tucked in the corner. This was yet another family owned shop, where the service was quick, and food decent. I had a fresh catch of the day along with some feta salad. Nikhil was craving for aglio olio, so he went the italian way!
The next morning, Dellas packed us a full breakfast for our onward journey to Athens, with some delicious Greek Yoghurt. They even dropped us to the station.
As they say in Greece, “Έφαγα τον κόσμο να σε βρω.”, which means, “I ate the whole world to find you.” Meteora definitely filled our appetite and left us wanting for more! Heavily recommend this to anyone visiting Greece.