If you believe that you have traveled all over the world and have seen everything that is worth viewing, you should visit Meteora and view its unique clifftop monasteries. It is a guarantee that the awesome sights of these holy buildings will leave you awestruck. Situated near the Pindus Mountains and the Pineios River, Meteora lies to the northwest edge of the Plain of Thessaly. In the Greek language, its name literally means `suspended rocks.’ Though there are quite a number of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, Meteora is second only to Mount Athos, as far as importance is concerned.
The sight of the six monasteries, built on natural sandstone rock pillars, and which are a part of the UNESCO world heritage sites, never cease to amaze tourists, both local and from abroad. Balanced atop the rocky pinnacles in Thessaly, these monasteries considered amongst the most striking sights in Greece. According to history, the Byzantine hermits initially inhabited these sandstone peaks in the 11th century. Rumor states that they did so to be alone with the Lord. Every year, thousands of tourists visit these monasteries, constructed during the 14th and 15th century.
Kalambaka, the nearest major town, lies at the base of the Meteora. Tourists are advised to stay here during the night and begin their journey to the monasteries during dawn. Accommodation options for tourists are available in Kalambaka and in neighboring Kastraki. If one so wants, they can also opt in for the guided tour originating from Athens. Those interested in viewing some striking sights should take the morning train from Athens that passes through the mountains between Lamia and Livadia. 24 such monasteries were completed by the year 1500, but only six of them remain with the others perishing at the end of the 17th century.
They are, the Agia Triada Monastery, the Agios Nikolaos Anapfsas Monastery, the Aglos Stefanos Monastery, the Great Meteoron Monastery, the Roussanou Monastery, and the Varlaam Monastery. Of these six, the Great Meteoron Monastery is the most famous and most important. Visitors should check out its large church, topped by a twelve-sided dome. The elaborate fresco works are a treat to the eyes. The Roussanou Monastry boasts of a courtyard along with an active nunnery. If you are interested to know more about these monasteries and their history, nothing could be better that to chat with someone of the locality.
Proceed to the Varlaam Monastery and have a friendly chat with its friendly monk. Ask him why does the Agia Triada Monastery look so familiar and he will inform you that it was used during the shooting of a James Bond movie. The Agios Nikolas Anapafsas Monastry is also famous for its frescoes including some by the famous Cretan painter, Theophanes the monk. If you believe in the divine and its powers to ward of illness, check out the Aglos Stefanos Monastery. According to folklore, one of its important relic, the head of St. Charalambos, has the power of warding off illness.
The best time to visit these monasteries are during the months of May and June when the weather is pleasant. Shorts and sleeveless clothes are prohibited in these monasteries. If you do not have adequate clothing, you can avail of shawls and skirts at the entrance.
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