10 Things to know before visiting Meteora in 2020
Article edited on March 7th, 2020
This article was 1st revised for 2020 in early January, and of course during the past few weeks many things have changed to the worst for the tourism industry. Especially in relation to the spreading of #COVID-19 around the world and the travel restrictions imposed on many countries! Greece is not one of those countries and for those of you who are still planning a trip to Meteora this year, we would like to inform you that under the given circumstances Visit Meteora has decided to change its refund policy for any cancellations due to Coronavirus Outbreak. Any cancelations of bookings up to 24 hours will be fully refunded!
1. Book everything early ahead if possible
For Greek tourism and Meteora, 2019 was a record year in terms of numbers with over 32 million visitors. The impact of such a record number of tourists was evident during the pick period in summer. Especially when visitors were searching to find last-minute vacant rooms or seats on tours and transportation. Last year a lot of hotels and resorts around Greece were fully booked from very early on.
For 2020 tourism experts expect at least a 5% rise on last year’s record numbers! So, don’t take any chances by neglecting to book your hotels, tours or transfers early ahead. The sooner you finish those trip arrangements the better chances you’ll have to organize your trip to Meteora the way you like it the most!
2. Monasteries opening hours have changed (again)
Make sure to check on our website the revised opening hours of Meteora monasteries for 2020 in order not to face any unwanted surprises. There is nothing worse than having to cross half the world only to find the site you intended to visit were closed. Find the opening hours of monasteries here! When you’ll arrive here you will also find in most hotel receptions our free Visit Meteora map of the area for 2018 with the revised timetable of the Meteora monasteries.
3. Greece’s road and train infrastructure modernization continues
Despite the decade-old recession, Greece is slowly but steadily modernizing its highway and railway systems. Over the past year alone, a brand new highway route 196km long was given in circulation in the west part of mainland Greece, connecting Igoumenitsa port & Ioannina with the city of Patra and Athens.
The railway is modernizing also and by June 2020, it’s expected that the entire rail line between Athens and Thessaloniki will be fully electrified, thus reducing the trip time needed today almost by half. The Greek train company will introduce a high-speed train, probably from this year. That will likely affect the departure and arrival trains from Athens to Meteora.
So instead of taking nowadays close to 5 hours, the train from Athens after June might need around 3 ½ hours to reach Kalambaka-Meteora. If you need information on how to travel from Athens to Meteora or from any other place of Greece make sure to check on our site the Getting here and around the section.
4. To book or not to book a train from Athens to Meteora?
Traveling by train can be incredibly scenic and it’s by far the most convenient way to travel to Meteora from Athens. You can see cities, mountains, and rivers from the seat of a train. Train travel is just an all-around better, more relaxing experience than its air and car counterparts. While those are mainly about getting from point A to point B, trains are about the ride.
Hopping by air from one city to another and it’s hard to get under the skin of a destination. Crossing a country – or a continent – by train, is a journey through its landscapes and, as Hemingway said, it is the journey that matters. Find everything you need to know about how to travel by train to Meteora here.
5. Theopetra prehistoric cave remains closed
Although recently scientists have delivered the reconstructed face of a lady she lived and died more than 10.000 years ago in the cave, as the latest addition of Theopetra’s museum, the archaeological site of Theopetra and the boutique museum remain closed until further notice.
Despite the many efforts of the local authorities to re-open the site for the public, this hasn’t been possible yet. Instead, there are few new small museums in the town of Kalambaka and the village of Κastraki that you should take a look at.
6. Finding parking space outside Meteora monasteries
During the pick period from May till late October be prepared to face issues with finding parking space or brief traffic jams outside the monasteries of Great Meteoro, Varlaam, and Agios Stefanos; even more during the rush hours between 10:00 am to 14:00. This happens due to the limited width of the roads and the limited parking spots available outside those monasteries.
If possible, try to be outside those monasteries way before 09:00 am to avoid any big crowds. Or you might consider leaving your car in the hotel and join one of the many tours offered by the locals.
7. Guided or independent?
Meteora is a World Heritage Site and thus exceptionally rich in terms of its historical or cultural significance; an educated tour guide can offer a depth of experience and knowledge that goes far beyond guidebook snippets or plaque-reading. If you don’t have much time and you are here for a couple of days, then only a knowledgeable local guide can lend a laser focus to any sightseeing visit, and this may never be as valuable as when you have very little time in one place like Meteora.
A good tour guide will always know the best hours to visit attractions, which places you can skip, how to avoid rush hour, what is closed or under construction, and any number of tricks and tactics that will help you get the most out of a heavily visited location.
8. Ypapanti monastery is open to the public
Established in the year 1367 AD by a monk named Nilos, it ranks among the oldest monasteries of Meteora. The monastery was made inside a cave on the northern side of a cluster of cliffs. It was restored recently by the monastery of Great Meteoron that still belongs to, and opened for public last September.
It’s accessible through only on foot, so only the hikers will have the chance to enjoy beautiful sceneries and this small but magnificent monastery. Our hiking tour visits the monastery, which is with free admission, every day from Monday to Friday when the monastery is open. Don’t miss the chance to visit this hidden monastery of Meteora, away from the big crowds!
9. Discover your adventurous side!
Join the amazing hiking and scramble tour of Great Saint that will take you up on the tallest of all Meteora rocks, some 400 meters right above the town of Kalampaka. The professional mountain guides will lead you through an ancient curved path on the rock of “Great Saint”. A huge rock complex, of which thousands of years ago it was an integral part of the formidable ancient defenses of the town below.
Very few people know or have climbed this secret windy trail and even fewer know the true history behind that place. Once you reach the top you will enjoy unparalleled breathtaking views you will remember forever! If you wish to find more about this activity click here.
10. Visit Kalabaka Byzantine church
Not only is one of the oldest and most fascinating monuments of Meteora, dating from the 4th century AD; it’s a true living history of the past 25 centuries. The old Byzantine church is located in the old district of Kalabaka town. It encloses in its architectural features a lot of mysteries, as well as the transition from the ancient pagan religion to Christianism.
A truly hidden gem of Meteora, that hasn’t been discovered yet by the vast majority of visitors. Up until now, the Byzantine church of the Virgin Mary has remained somewhat elusive. Always remaining hidden under the shadow of the monasteries and of the huge cliffs above. And that even though the Byzantine church is at least 10 centuries older than the oldest monastery of Meteora. Our Sunset tour visits this truly hidden gem every day!
It’s almost inevitable for a site like Meteora, not to have its own dark conspiratory stories. So be prepared for the chance to encounter here at Meteora the so-called W.I.B. (Women In Black). Rumors have it that those elderly ladies are involved in black-ops. Dressed always in black many believe they are specially trained secret agents of some sort.
They covertly operate in our place for thousands of years! You’ll see them often sitting on the sidewalks next to the streets, on benches in the parks, or balconies, always with a watchful eye on those passing by.
If you ever encounter the “Women In Black (WIB)” of Meteora keep calm and smile! Greet them gently, by saying “Kalimera”, meaning “Good day”.
They know everyone and everything that happens in the small town; sometimes even before it happens!
If they treat you with fruits or flowers, never, never, never dare to refuse! Take whatever they will offer you and calmly reply by saying “Eucharisto”, meaning “Thank You“!
Tags: adventure, Athens to Meteora, greece, hiking, kalampaka, meteora, meteora tours, monasteries, people, timetable, tips, train