11 Things to know before visiting Meteora in 2018
1. Book everything early ahead if possible
For Greek tourism, 2017 was an all-time record year with over 28 million visitors. The impact of such a record number 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. In fact last year a lot of hotels and resorts around Greece were fully booked from very early on. For 2018 tourism experts expect at least a 10% rise on last year’s numbers, so be prepared! 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 the way you like.
2. Monasteries opening hours have changed
Make sure to check on our website the revised opening hours of Meteora monasteries for 2018 in order not to face any bad 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 roads and rail 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 2018 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. That will likely affect the departure and arrival trains from Athens to Meteora. So instead of taking nowadays over 5 hours, the train from Athens after June will need around 3 ½ hours to reach Kalambaka-Meteora. We don’t have any official announcement yet, but the moment we will have one we’ll make sure to post it on our site and blog in order for everyone to be informed of any important changes! 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 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. You can find those museums here!
6. Finding parking space outside Meteora monasteries
During the pick period from May till 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 pm. This happens due to the limited width of the road system and of the parking areas outside of those monasteries to handle a big number of buses and cars arriving all more or less, at the same time. If possible, try to be outside those monasteries before 09:00 am to avoid any big crowds or consider leaving your car entirely 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 a 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 upon the tallest of all Meteora rocks, some 400 meters right above the town of Kalampaka. The professional mountain guide will lead you through an ancient curved path upon 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 passage and even fewer know the 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 then click here.
10. Don’t miss to visit the Byzantine church
Not only is one of the oldest and most precious churches of Greece, made back in the 4th century AD; it’s also a monument that has managed to preserve the continuity of the local history of the past 25 centuries at least. The church is located in the old district of Kalambaka town and it encloses in its architectural features the transition from the ancient religion to the Christian period and all the different evolutionary stages of the Eastern Christianity for the past 2000 years. 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 Virgin Mary has remained somewhat elusive, hidden in the shadows of monasteries and of the rocks above and that despite the fact that the church is 10 centuries older than the oldest monastery of Meteora. Our Sunset tour visits this truly hidden gem every day!
11. Always be prepared for encounters of the third kind…
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). It’s rumored that those elderly ladies, dressed always in black are specially trained agents operating in our place for thousands of years. You’ll see them often sitting on the sidewalks next to the streets, or on benches in the parks, always watching the surroundings and those passing by. If you ever encounter the “WIB” of Meteora keep calm and smile! Greet them by saying “Kalimera” meaning “Good day”. Like their male counterparts the famous M.I.B., they also seem to possess some sort of precognition or psychic abilities. They seem to know everyone and everything that happens in the small town; sometimes even before it actually happens! Rumor has it they are connected to the notorious “No Such Agency”! If they treat you with fruits or flowers never, never say no. 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