A group of huge dark rocks is rising outside of Kalampaka, near the first hills of Pindos and Chassia. They were created about 30 million years ago when the sea covering the region began falling back, drawing back and bestowing rocks at the bottom of the sea, that solidified over the years.
The isolated rocks come up to a height 400 meters and host monastic communities on their tops. The monasteries constitute the second more important and remarkable monastic complex in Greece, after the Mount Athos. The buildings of monasteries look like a continuation of the rocks, like their natural ending.
In 1989 the Unesco registered Meteora in the list of the World Heritage Sites, as a cultural natural monument of great importance. It has been recognized the “Holy-Meteora” as “landmark monument of Humanity”, thus declaring that they belong not only to Greece but also to the whole world. The Meteora monasteries are included in the World Cultural Heritage Sites, because they constitute a unique harmonic combination of a byzantine architecture and natural beauty. The Greek state recognized this place as a “holy place, unalterable and intact”.
They owe their name to Agios Athanasios Meteoritis, founder of the monastery of Metamorfosi tou Sotiros (Big Meteoro), who gave this name to the “wide stone”, where he climbed for the first time in 1344. According to the prevailing opinion, the first hermits settled in the area in the 12th century and prospered, however, as a monastic center in the 13th-14th century, while many residents of the surrounding regions adopted the hermetic life. From the thirty monasteries through history, only six of them exist today.
A place for climbing lovers. In the past the monks and the hermits were climbing to the monasteries and their hermitages by ropes, nets or with bare hands. Rock climbing in Meteora continued in the contemporary period. Climbers from every part of the world come today in Meteora, in order to take on the huge rocks, enjoying the classic climbing routes rising almost vertically to a height of a half kilometer.
Meteora are undoubtedly an invaluable artistic and heirloom treasure. The existence of many monasteries in such a small place, along with the orthodox spiritual life and asceticism diachronically cause the admiration of the visitors from abroad and the interior of the county.
The traditional settlement «Palio Kastrakiι».
The 6 visitable monasteries:
The Theopetra Cave.
The Natural History Museum and the Mushroom Museum.
The scarves from the custom of Agios Georgios Mantilas.
A custom to honor of Ai Giorgis (Agios Georgios). The name “Mantilas” was added because every year at the celebration of the name day of Agios Georgios, residents of the village, the region but also visitors from all over the Greece honor the Saint by offering a handkerchief (mantili) and they take a piece as an amulet, from those that were there for a year, and the climbers bring them down and those who manage climb to the dilapidated monastery. At the same time with this taking up and bringing down the handkerchiefs, the Mass is held at the small church of Agios Georgios.
The custom started many years ago when a Turkish soldier or army officer, was cutting some trees in the grove of Agios Georgios that existed under the hermitage of Agios Georgios. During the cut a trunk crashed down on him resulting to his serious injury. Then the Turk’s wife finding him injured, took off her scarf (hijab) and she «vowed» (offered) it to the Saint so as her husband could get well. Immediately a resident of Kastraki brought it up to the monastery and the Turk got well.
Since then this custom is practiced every year at Kastraki where the young people make a very difficult ascent, by exchanging the old handkerchiefs with the new ones offered as vows. The custom of Agios Georgios Mantilas showσ us also the connection of the local population with the rocks climbing.
Kalabaka constitutes the city-gate of the huge stone complex of Meteora. The first visit is the hovering Monastery of «Agios Stefanos ». From there the cycling tour begins in a downhill route with a direction to the monastery the «Big Meteoro» and then to the monastery «Varlaam».
The masterpiece of the nature spreads before our eyes. The holy place constitutes a breath-taking spectacle!
We continue our cycling descent and arrive to Kastraki. It nestles between the rocks and it is the most beautiful village in the area and the base of operations for the climbers. Next we go to a special location in order to know the sport of climbing from a qualified instructor on the holy rocks, something very popular in the area and it attracts the specialist athletes and amateurs from all over the world, to the marked routes. There we will try the climbing route for the beginners and we will get to know the custom of Agios Georgios Mantilas. At the same time with this activity some cycling exercises and crafts will be take place (for the children under 18 years of age who want to participate).
Then we go with our bicycles to the Natural History Museum and the Mushroom Museum..
The excursion ends at the Central Square of Kalabaka. Then a stop for coffee or a sweet follows and a free tour to the traditional local shops of the area. After dinner in a traditional tavern with delivious food, we spend the night at a Hotel in Neochori village of Plastira Lake.
After a very good breakfast at the Hotel of Neochori we are ready to start our cycling trip around the Plastiras Lake. We enjoy our ride in fir, beech and chestnut and also the slopes of the surrounding mountains that are reflected into the deep blue waters of the lake. We make a stop for coffee and a snack at the Lamperou beach on the 30th km of the course and then another short stop to admire the imposing lake dam. We finish at the initial starting point at Neochori. Lunch-buffet follows at the hotel and on the afternoon after the goodbye photos, the visitors group departs.
Small cycling back bag.
Pullover or jacket depending on the season.
Long sleeve shirt (synthetic, perforated, light).
Comfortable short or long trousers or gym suit depending on the season.
Sun cream & lips sun cream.
Extra bottle of water.
Camera, personal items.
Meeting Point: Central Square of Kalabaka
Meeting Point: Hotel @ Neochori