By Sacha Bunnik
The magical landscape of Meteora is located approximately a 5 hour drive inland from Athens, the capital of Greece. Meteora is a collection of monasteries that were built on sandstone cliffs and mountain tops. They feel as though they have been suspended in the air, just floating above the fertile farm lands of the Thessaly plains.
The oldest of the monasteries date back to the 14th century and the whole area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its uniqueness and historic importance. At one stage there were as many as twenty monasteries here, but today only six remain intact and are still in use (four for men and two for women). Due to their unparalleled beauty, these working monasteries have also become a tourist attraction.
The Greek Government has built a scenic (and well kept) road that links each monastery, along with viewing areas that offer some of the best photo opportunities. That said, not all of the monasteries are easy to access from this scenic road; some are a little harder to reach, with access only by cable basket or by taking the stairs down one cliff and then back up another. Most supplies and visitors to these monasteries are transported by cable basket, which is not for the faint hearted as the basket runs along a cable suspended hundreds of metres above the ground!
During my visit to one of these monasteries, I had the opportunity to speak to an Australian nun from Perth who came to Meteora in the 1980’s as a 20 year old to find God and has never left. It was so interesting to hear from her first-hand what it was like to live in a monastery, such a different way of life and such dedication to religion.
The closest town to Meteora is the quaint city of Kalambaka, located at the foot of the rocky sandstone outcrops, giving it some amazing vistas of the monasteries perched high above. At night, some of these outcrops are lit up, to give the town a truly dramatic backdrop. Kalambaka has a very nice town centre which is well worth visiting, with lively restaurants at night offering a range of tasty local Greek cuisine.