Meteora, literally. "middle of the sky", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above" - etymologically related to Meteorite) is one of the gems of Greece and second only to Mount Athos as being the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries.
Located near the towns of Kalampaka and Kastraki in northwestern Thessaly it consists of a number of rock pinnacles topped with a total of 24 monasteries. These immense, solid rocks, split by earthquakes, weathered by water and wind over millions of years, are nature's authentic masterpieces.
'Suspended in the air', these monasteries represent a unique artistic achievement and are one of the most powerful examples of the architectural transformation of a site into a place of retreat, meditation and prayer. The Meteora provide an outstanding example of the types of monastic construction which illustrate a significant stage in history, that of the 14th and 15th centuries when the eremitic ideals of early Christianity were restored to a place of honour by monastic communities, both in the Western world and in the Orthodox Church.
Built under impossible conditions, with no practicable roads, permanent though precarious human habitations subsist to this day in the Meteora, but have become vulnerable under the impact of time. The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 m cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.
The monasteries are built on rock pinnacles of deltaic origin, known as Meteora, which rise starkly over 400 m above the Peneas valley and the small town of Kalambaka on the Thessalian plain. Chemical analysis suggests that the pinnacles were created some 60 million years ago in the Tertiary period, emerging from the cone of a river and further transformed by earthquakes.
The area includes forested hills and river valley with riverine forests of Platanus orientalis and species such as the endemic Centaurea lactifolia (found near Koniskos village) and Centaurea kalambakensi. The nearest protected area is Trikala Aesthetic Forest (28 ha), created in 1979, which has been planted with Pinus halepensis and Cupressus sempervivens.