Visit Meteora Monasteries Greece with KIDS
Visit Meteora Monasteries Greece with KIDS
Meteora is an easy and fantastic trip from Athens. We took the train and spent 2 fantastic days in this magical area. Mountains that rise straight up out of the ground with monasteries perched on top. So much history and so much beauty – what a fantastic spot!
How to get to Meteora from Athens? Read here this related post:
Visit Meteora Monasteries Greece with KIDS – Why haven’t I heard of this place?
Meteora has not been on the radar of travelers for long. Prior to the 1960s, there were not any roads in the area. Only visitors who hiked through the rough terrain could get near the mountains. Without roads…the only way up to the monasteries was the way the monks got up there…being drawn up in a straw bag with the help of the monks on top or rock climbing.
Visit Meteora Monasteries with KIDS – Must See Spot in Greece
After the Acropolis in Athens, Meteora is the most important spot in all of Greece. The tour guides we used through Visit Meteora said that in the last 3 years the numbers of visitors has exploded. See this lovely area before it gets super crowded!
Visit Meteora Monasteries with KIDS – UNESCO World Heritage Site
The United Nations recognizes some places in the world as unique and important and gives them the label “UNESCO World Heritage Site” . This site is important to all of humanity and
“symbolizes a remarkable footprint of extreme human endeavour often coupled with some act of indisputable accomplishment of humanity which then serves as a surviving evidence of its intellectual existence on the planet.”
The Meteora monasteries are unique because they are listed in two categories – art and nature.
Visit Meteora Monasteries with KIDS – Monasteries
Once there were 24 monasteries perched high on the rocks – as high as 1200 feet in the air. These difficult spots to reach were chosen by monks who preferred a hermitic existence away from people. The only way to the top was by rock climbing or to be pulled up by rope.
Only 6 monasteries remain today and due to roads built in the 1960s you can visit them.
Great Meteoron Monastery
This monastery is the oldest and largest.
Enjoy 16th century frescoes of Byzantine art.
Be sure to see the kitchen – still black with soot from the cooking of soup and baking of bread.
Open 9:00 – 17:00 every day BUT Tuesday.
This monastery is the second largest.
Founded in the 14th century.
See the LARGE oak barrel for water storage.
Visit small museum of painted icons and holy vestments.
Open 9:00 – 16:00 every day BUT Friday.
Holy Trinity Monastery
Put on your good shoes because this visit begins with a LOT of steps.
Used in the James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only
St. Nikolaus Anapafsas Monastery
Built in the 14th century, probably used as a resting spot of monks during travel.
Constructed more vertically because of the shape of the rock’s surface
Open 9:00 – 15:30 every day BUT Friday.
St. Stephen’s Monastery
Easiest to reach of all the monasteries!
This rock used since the early 12th century by monks.
Visit two cathedrals – one from the 16th century and one from the 18th century
This monastery has the lowest elevation of the remaining monasteries.
Became a convent in 1988.
****Hours can change.*****
Open 9:00 – 14:00 each day BUT Wednesdays.
Visit Meteora Monasteries with KIDS – Best ways to visit
You can actually climb hike up to the top of one of the rocks by using the trail right outside the hotel we used: Alsos House. The trail head is literally steps from the front door. Ask owner Yannis, about all the details.
Use a hiking tour! Visit Meteora has tours of all kinds – including hiking! Kostas, the hiking guide, fills you in on all the details of the lovely area while you explore on foot. Wear good shoes!
Arrive on your own! If you have a rented a car or are touring on your motorcycle you’ll find the roads excellent and parking is free and easily available at the monasteries.
We loved the sunset tour which ends at the perfect perch on a mountain to see the lovely sunset.
Visit Meteora Monasteries with KIDS – You’ve seen these in movies!
The incredible mountains with monasteries on top have been seen in movies. Most famously, it is seen in the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only.
This French movie is about a Greek monk and a Russian nun who develop a relationship that makes them question their life purpose.
The Meteora area is inspiration for Eyrie, the ancestral seat of House of Arryn. The filming wasn’t actually done here though as the local monks wouldn’t allow it.
Visit Meteora Monasteries with KIDS – Women can now visit!
What? Women can visit…..now? Yes, prior to the 1920s, women were not allowed to visit. Up until then, not only were women strictly forbidden to visit the monasteries, but according to some, monks were advised not to give food to a woman even if she were dying of hunger. (I’m going to keep researching that one and in the mean time I just hope it is wrong because Geez, Louise!)
But, in life, what goes around comes around as it did here. I paraphrase the story…
Once up on a time, in the early 1920s, one of the monasteries caught fire. It was going to be destroyed because the men were all away working and the only people in the village to help were women. The monks didn’t interact with women so they had a serious dilemma….should they allow the women to help or let the monastery burn down? Decisions! Decisions! Somehow, they managed to put aside their feelings towards the women….and the women stepped up to help save the monastery.
After the women saved the monastery from certain destruction, the monks felt badly about not allowing those women to visit (as well they should have) and so they reversed the rule. Karma…I love it. Queen Maria of Romania was the very first woman to step foot inside in 1921.
So….why did women go to such lengths to help save a monastery – full of monks who FOR REAL wouldn’t give them the time of day? Remember….there were no roads and water had to be hand carried and then pulled up to the top by rope at the time. So helping was really really hard. Why did they help?
My first thought was….One word – Filotimo. It has no translation into any other language and is super complicated. The best short explanation I can come up with is “Doing the right thing NO MATTER WHAT.” and it is a part of every single Greek person on the planet. These women chose to do the right thing….just because it was right.
But after discussing this with a dear friend who was born and raised in Greece, I find out that no, this is not filotimo. (Still an elusive idea but I am trying to wrap my head about it. So interesting.) Instead, this is a demonstration of faith and good will. Women did not feel slighted by the men of the church. Instead, they just felt an obligation out of a religious devotion. In the end, the monastery was saved and we can now continue to enjoy it.
Visit Meteora Monasteries with KIDS – Meteora Monasteries Dress Code
Now women are free to visit but they must still wear a LONG skirt. By long skirt I mean mid calf length and since most travelers do not travel wearing such long skirts routinely the monasteries provide them.
The monasteries make it super easy by making the long skirts available for use, free of charge, just inside the door. Plan on wrapping one around you even if your legs are completely covered by pants. They’ll let women inside but for some reason, known only to them, being covered in a skirt is more acceptable that being covered by pants.
Put aside your feminist ideas….when in Rome, do as the Romans! Tie the skirt on and visit the wonderful monasteries. The skirts go for female children, too!! Don’t think you can slip by either. You’ll be inspected when you buy your ticket if you question the length of your skirt. Have fun with the experience!
Be assertive about your place in line while buying a ticket. If you step aside for all the people trying to cut in line (the actual ‘line’ for buying ticket is not very clear) you’ll never get in! Step up and ask the monk or nun for a ticket.
Visit Meteora Monasteries with KIDS – Icons
You’ll find icons in the very small gift shops which help fund the Meteora monasteries and make lovely souvenirs. They are beautiful and also representative of the importance of religion in the Greek culture.
Step into the chapel and look up. The art work is stunning and you’ll see it it quite similar between the Meteora monasteries. I just love the carved seats around the edge. Take a moment to be still and quiet and show reverence for such a special place. No photos are allowed of the chapel so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say they are so beautiful.
Greece is a fantastic destination for families! Read on about a Greece Family Vacation.
We just LOVED our Greece Family Vacation where we celebrated my BIG birthday and our 17th wedding anniversary and would love to go back.
Natalie, The Educational Tourist