In the picturesque village of Papigo, set in the protected Vikos Aoos UNESCO Global Geopark, you will find Mikro Papigo 1700 Hotel & Spa, which was named Europe’s Best Sustainable Hotel at the recent Boutique Hotel Awards 2021.
The first and only international awards exclusively dedicated to recognising unique excellence among luxury boutique hotels worldwide, this was the tenth tourism accolade received by Mikro Papigo. “Its a great honour to be awarded as a sustainable and eco role model, including our efforts within our community, our philosophy and our generic presence especially now more than ever,” said management after receiving the award on November 4th, 2021 .
Housed in a heritage 17th century private village complex, this luxury hotel set in the Pindus mountains of northern Greece (1700 refers to its altitude in metres) is set under the Tymfi massif and is the ideal place to explore the nearby Vikos gorge. It is the only property in Zagori region steeped in history and perfect for nature lovers who also seek boutique accomodation.
Featuring 18 rooms and suites built from traditional wood and local granite, the unique design and architecture blends in beautifully with Zagori’s unique landscape. Mikro Papigo offers guests ecological luxury, a rejuvenating spa, charming rooms with magical Vikos gorge and Papigo views; this is mountain life at its finest.
The award-winning eco-spa operates with mountain spring water, and the famous Veranda 1700 restaurant creates award-winning dishes using local produce, such as hare, wild boar and buffalo. From breakfast through to dinner, the best of natures produce is chosen from the resort’s gardens at Organic Zagori Farm. From traditional pies and meat dishes to handmade sweets and local wine- guests are able to taste authentic local flavours.
Apart from the outstanding eco-friendly amenities and services, there is also a wide range of outdoor activities for guests to enjoy. Mikro Papigo offers tours to the Astraka refuge, Drakolimni (a lake on top of a mountain), Voidomatis springs, and Vikos gorge and the Rogovo natural pools to name a few.
Thessaloniki has proudly become Greece’s first city to join the UNESCO Network of Gastronomy- recognised for its rich culinary traditions, vibrant gastronomic community, and delightful local delicacies.
The city’s municipality shared that it had prepared and submitted a complete file highlighting its centuries-old gastronomic traditions and was ecstatic to learn it had been welcomed as one of the city’s to be joining UNESCO’s network of gastronomy.
“Gastronomy is an important comparative advantage of Thessaloniki. Our city is now a UNESCO-stamped crossroads of taste and culture. Delicious regional cuisine is the backbone of our gastronomy offerings, which enhances the travel experience,” announced Thessaloniki’s Mayor Konstantinos Zervas.
By joining the network, cities commit to collaborating and developing partnerships that allow the promotion of creativity and cultural industries; to share best practices, to strengthen participation in cultural life, and to integrate culture in economic and social development plans.
Thessaloniki has always been referred to as the gastronomic capital of Greece, based on its diverse culinary traditions and the delightful flavours that it offers. As the formation of the overall culture of the city came under many influences, Thessaloniki’s cuisine is one of the richest in Greece. Traditional recipes, as well as modern creations, have allowed a wide range of food choices for both locals and international visitors.
The result is a famously diverse and welcoming city, with food that draws on ingredients, recipes, and influences going back centuries. Here you will find traditional tavernas serving authentic dishes alongside modern bistros offering contemporary twists on century-old recipes.
Some of Thessaloniki’s most famous foods include:
Koulouri – Bagel like bread topped with sesame seeds
Bougatsa- Cream-filled pastry
Patsas- Tripe soup
Bakaliaro- Fried salt cod
Pites – Pies such as Spanakopita (spinach pie) and Tiropita (cheese pie)
Bouliourdi – Baked Feta topped with tomatoes, green peppers, chilli flakes, and oregano
Pita Souvlaki/Gyros- Pita bread filled with grilled meat, tomato, onion, tzatziki and homemade fries
Soutzoukakia- Spicy handmade sausages
Trigona- Triangle pastries filled with custard
Tsoureki- Sweet brioche-style bread
Kazan Dipi- Milk pudding
Thessaloniki truly is a food lovers paradise; with plenty of local dishes and delicacies to satisfy all tastes!
The Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ is the largest and one of the most spectacular monasteries not only in Meteora but all of Greece. It stands atop the highest rock pillar in the area and was founded by Saint Athanasios Meteoriti in the early 14th Century.
Every year thousands of pilgrims arrive at Meteora, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks is a holy site where monks settled on these ‘columns of the sky’ from the 11th century onwards. Twenty-four of these monasteries were built, however today, only six monasteries remain open- the Grand Meteoron being one of them.
Great Meteoron Monastery
This particular monastery remains “suspended in the air” (meteoro), because of the cliff formation of a gigantic rock on top of which it was built. The Great Meteoro Monastery or “Megalo Meteoron” is dedicated to the Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior and is decorated with beautiful 16th-century frescoes.
There are three chapels at Great Meteoron Monastery: The Chapel of John the Baptist, the chapel of Saint Constantine, and Saint Helens, of which the latter was built in 1789 and is characterised by its polygonal domed basilicas. The third chapel of the monastery is dedicated to Saint Athanasios.
Icons inside the Church
Take time to view the artistic details of some of the best samples of post-Byzantine art of Greece, found inside the church. As you enter, there are two carved wooden icon-stands, the left is of Agios Anastasios and on the right is the icon of the Transfiguration of Christ. There is also an icon of Panagia (Virgin Mary) and Saint Nicholas from the 14th / 15th Century. You will also see icons of Saint John the Baptist, the Annunciation of the Theotokos, and the Archangels.
History of the Monastery
The Great Meteoron is a male Monastery built on the greatest rock of the complex, the Platys Lithos or Playtlithos before the mid-14th century. In the past, monks used scaffolds in order to get supplies to them and they would climb the rocks to reach the monastery. Afterward, nets with hooks, baskets and rope ladders, or even wooden ladders of 40 metres long were used.
Monks of the Monastery
Monks devoted to Christ, have dedicated their lives to the monastery and hold building materials on their backs, spend hours renovating, restoring, and preserving the monastery, honouring its beauty. As a result, every year, pilgrims and tourists come here by the great mission undertaken there, making Great Meteoron one of the most visited monasteries of Greece.
Exploring the Great Meteoron Monastery
Visitors can admire the beautiful architecture, which includes a cellar with skulls of monks that have passed, and an impressive balcony. The cellar also houses a wonderful folk museum that includes exhibits taken from historical everyday life. Along with the ossuary, explore the main church and its 15th and 16th Century Byzantine frescos and murals. The monastery’s rectory doubles as a museum with artifacts of monastic life and religious relics. Explore the ancient kitchen for a glimpse into the past and into everyday life in this sky-scraping environment.
-Seeing the reliquaries, as the monastery keeps with respect holy relics of many and great Saints of the Orthodox Church.
-The garden of the monastery of Great Meteoron, which offers amazing views of the surrounding landscape.
-The monastery’s museum, where historical artifacts and religious icons of importance are on display.
-The library that’s filled with treasures of books and manuscripts, including Byzantine and post-Byzantine era manuscripts and documents, as well as books concerning the function of the monastery. The monastic library is one of the wealthiest of its kind.
-The collection of the gold-embroidered cloths which is kept in the monastery, they are rich and very remarkable.
-Silverware that dates from different periods (16th -19th century) and depicts various Saints and other decorative themes.
August 6th Feast Day of Transfiguration of Christ
The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is celebrated each year on August 6. This great Feast commemorates the transfiguration or metamorphosis of Christ on Mount Tabor when our Lord appeared in His divine glory before the Apostles Peter, James, and John.
Tips for visiting
-At the entrance of the monasteries, clothing is provided only to women. Men are not allowed to enter if they are wearing shorts above the knee or sleeveless shirts. In any case, dress appropriately.
-The Monastery of the Holy Trinity and Great Meteoro has over 300 steps.
-The monks do not allow anyone to photograph the interiors of the churches and especially the icons, or any of the museums located inside the Meteora monasteries. You can, however, take photos or videos in the gardens and outdoors.
-Check the opening hours of Meteora monasteries here.
The most convenient way to visit Meteora from Athens is by car and the most scenic is by train. The duration from Athens by train is 5 hours (transfer at Paleofarsalos), by bus (KTEL) is 4.5 hours (transfer at Trikala) and 3.5 hours by car. From Thessaloniki by train, it takes 3 hours (transfer at Paleofarsalos), by KTEL is 3 hours (transfer at Trikala) and 2.5 hours by car.
Athens International Airport (AIA) has been named as one of six international finalists for a prestigious global architecture award.
AIA has been shortlisted by the world judges Panel of Prix Versailles, which recognises innovation, creativity, a reflection of local heritage, and energy efficiency, and has been nominated as a finalist in the distinguished Prix Versailles Awards, a set of annual international architectural prizes given by the French World Prix Versailles Organisation.
The airport also named “Eleftherios Venizelos” has been nominated for its expansion of South Wing in the category of World Selection of Prix Versailles Airports 2021.
The extension of the South Wing structure to the existing AIA Main Terminal Building was designed by leading architects Tombazis & Associates and AVW Architects. This was an important project as it’s one of the first experiences visitors have when landing in Athens and also one of the last as they leave.
What makes the architectural project so unique is the exterior surface of the building cell, which is highlighted by the element of the louvers, that rotate progressively, revealing views from and to the building. Although the louvers have fixed positions, the building gives the sense of movement and changes in view, as someone moves closer or further away. At night, the extension transforms into a lighthouse for the landing planes.
AIA is up against an $8 billion upgrade at New York’s La Guardia Airport, Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport, New Zealand’s New Plymouth revamp, Kazakhstan’s Hazrat Sultan International Airport, and the Philippines’ Clark International Airport.
The winners of the Prix Versailles Airports 2021 will be named at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris in November.
Corfu Town is one of the prettiest and most romantic places in all of Greece. Named the “Greek Venice,” it’s located on the Ionian’s second biggest island and is filled with Byzantine, Venetian, French and British influence- this is felt throughout the Old Town which has, in its entirety, been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Venetian fortresses and British mansions to grand royal palaces and fine French arcades- a walk around the Old Town of Corfu is like taking a mini- stroll through Europe!
Things to See & Do In Corfu Town
The Old Fortress
The Fortezza Vecchia is located on a hill on the eastern end of the city. Stroll the canal, through the gates, and on towards the Church of St George, and from the top, you will enjoy the stunning views. Here you will also find a historic library, a Byzantine collection, and a café within the grounds, as well as a small marina.
Short walk west and you will arrive at the New Fortress (the Venetian’s 16th-century Fortezza Nuova), built on the hill of St Mark above the old port.
The Palace of St Michael and St George
Built by the British in 1815, this was once a British governor’s mansion and a summer house for the Greek Royal Family. Today, it houses the Museum of Asian Art, featuring Japanese, Chinese and Indian paintings, sculptures, and many other oriental treasures.
Corfu’s Town Hall (formerly a club for noblemen) is located at the town square, near the 16th-century Catholic Cathedral of San Giacomo. The town square and surrounding streets are filled with cafes, restaurants, bars, and boutiques.
There are close to 40 Greek Orthodox churches in Corfu Town with the Church of St Spyridon being the most famous; this 15th-century church with an impressive bell tower houses relics of the island’s Patron Saint and Protector, Agios Spyridon. Nearby is also the Byzantine Church of St Jason and St Sosipater; built in the 11th Century inside you will see icons and frescoes of Greek Orthodox Saints.
The Spianada Esplanade
The large grass-filled park between the Old Fortress and the Liston fountain has a lovely café and open areas, where events, concerts, and cricket matches are played.
Next to the Spinada is The Liston, the “French” part of town, a pretty promenade whose arcade is lined with chic cafés, restaurants, and boutiques. Although it dates back to Venetian times, it was the French, who gave it a Parisian feel, with its 19th-century colonnade modelled on Paris’ Rue de Rivoli.
The Archaeological Museum and the Byzantine Museum are definitely worth a visit. Heading north, you’ll find a museum dedicated to Greece’s national poet, Dionysios Solomos. Heading up to Nikiforou Theotoki Street, you will find the Casa Parlante, a 19th-century mansion that’s now a museum, bringing to life the Count and Countess, who called this manse home in the 1800s, by using robotic technology and animated figures.
Built in 1831 and set in a beautiful park, is the Neoclassical palace of Mon Repos, the birthplace of the late HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who was born in 1921. It has beautiful large gardens and artifacts and the walk leads you to a private beach.
As you wander around the Old Town, down the cantounia (pedestrianized little streets) you will come across an array of stores selling local products and delicacies, and open-air markets, where you can pick up some local, oil, honey, spoon sweets and liqueurs.
This is the oldest and most popular quarter where locals can be found socialising any time of the day. Featuring endless narrow cantounia, carved wells, pretty town squares, and grande buildings with balconies that are often decorated with bougades (pots) and ropes. From here make sure you visit the Venetian Well opposite the Church of Panagia Kremasti and the Metropolitan Church.
Corfu’s Jewish community, which dates from the 12th century, was persecuted during the Nazi occupation but played an important part in the island’s cultural and daily life. Originally, there were three synagogues in the Jewish Quarter. The only one surviving is the ‘Scuola Greca’ on Velissariou Street, built in the Venitian style in the 18th century, on the site of an older Jewish temple. The area is filled with rich history and is now alsohome to some great eateries that serve traditional local cuisine.
Eat and Drink
For coffee go to Josephine which is a cafe bar in Liston and was named after Napolean’s wife, Josephine. For drinks, head to Azur Bar in the city overlooking the sea and old fortress. Make sure you have a drink at the rooftop bar of the Cavalieri Hotel. For dinner, head to the Old Venetian Well in the old town and also dine at Rex Restaurant in the city behind Liston for traditional Corfu food.
How to Get to Corfu Old Town?
From the port
-To the New Fortress: 1.9km (bus No16). -To the Palace of St Michael and St George: 2.8km (bus No2).
From the airport
-To the Old Fortress: 2.5km. -To Spianada Square and Liston: 2.2km (bus No15 to Saroko Square and from there by foot).
Greece, with its rich history and culture, boasts a wide variety of monuments and archaeological sites. So it comes as no surprise there are currently 18 Greek monuments and areas given the distinction of being UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In the list, 16 are cultural sites and two (Meteora and Mount Athos) are mixed, listed for both their natural and cultural significance. Currently, there are also 14 sites on the tentative list, all of which have been nominated and waiting to be added!
Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
The Temple of Apollo Epikourios—a World Heritage Site since 1986—is one of the most important temples of Antiquity and sits in the mountainous region of Andritsaina and Figalia (Bassae). It is one of the best-preserved monuments of classical antiquity and an evocative and poignant testament to classical Greek architecture. The temple was built at the height of the Greek civilization in the second half of the 5th century BC (420-400 BC).
Archaeological Site of Delphi
In Ancient Greece, Delphi was Greece’s most sacred place and was considered to be the navel of the world. The pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, where the oracle of Apollo spoke, was the site of the omphalos, the ‘navel of the world’. Blending harmoniously with the superb landscape and charged with sacred meaning, Delphi in the 6th century B.C. was indeed the religious centre and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world.
The Acropolis of Athens and its monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world.
This is the spiritual capital of the Orthodox Christian world, consisting of 20 monasteries and approximately 2000 monks. An Orthodox spiritual centre since 1054, Mount Athos has enjoyed an autonomous statute since Byzantine times. The ‘Holy Mountain’, which is forbidden to women and children, is also a recognised artistic site.
A region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these ‘columns of the sky’ from the 11th century onwards. Twenty-four of these monasteries were built, despite incredible difficulties, at the time of the great revival of the eremetic ideal in the 15th century. Their 16th-century frescoes mark a key stage in the development of post-Byzantine painting.
Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki
Founded in 315 B.C., the provincial capital and seaport of Thessalonika was one of the first bases for the spread of Christianity. Among its Christian monuments are fine churches. Constructed from the 4th to the 15th century, the mosaics of the rotunda, Saint Demetrius and Saint David are among the great masterpieces of early Christian art.
Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
In a small valley in the Peloponnesus, the shrine of Asklepios, the god of medicine, developed out of a much earlier cult of Apollo (Maleatas), during the 6th century BC at the latest, as the official cult of the city-state of Epidaurus. Its principal monuments, particularly the temple of Asklepios, the Tholos, and the Theatre – considered one of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture – date from the 4th century.
Medieval City of Rhodes
The Order of St John of Jerusalem occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and came under Turkish and Italian rule. With the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Great Hospital, and the Street of the Knights, the Upper Town is one of the most beautiful urban ensembles of the Gothic period.
Archeological site of Mystras
Mystras, the ‘Wonder of the Morea‘, was built as an amphitheatre around the fortress erected in 1249 by the prince of Achaia, William of Villehardouin. Reconquered by the Byzantines, then occupied by the Turks and the Venetians, the city was abandoned in 1832, leaving only the breathtaking medieval ruins, standing in a beautiful landscape.
Archaeological Site of Olympia
The site of Olympia, in the Peloponnese, has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In the 10th century B.C., Olympia became a centre for the worship of Zeus. The Altis – the sanctuary to the gods – has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces from the ancient Greek world.
According to Greek mythology, Apollo was born on this tiny island in the Cyclades archipelago. Apollo’s sanctuary attracted pilgrims from all over Greece and Delos was a prosperous trading port. The island bears traces of the succeeding civilizations in the Aegean world, from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the palaeochristian era. The archaeological site is exceptionally extensive and rich and conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port.
Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas and New Mini of Chios
Although geographically distant from each other, these three monasteries belong to the same typological series and share the same aesthetic characteristics. The churches are built on a cross-in-square plan with a large dome. In the 11th and 12th centuries they were decorated with superb marble works as well as mosaics on a gold background, all characteristic of the ‘second golden age of Byzantine art’.
Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
Many civilizations have inhabited this small Aegean island, near Asia Minor, since the 3rd millennium B.C. The remains of Pythagoreion, an ancient fortified port with Greek and Roman monuments and a spectacular tunnel-aqueduct, as well as the Heraion, temple of the Samian Hera, can still be seen.
Archaeological Site of Aigai Vergina
The city of Aigai, the ancient royal capital of Macedon, was discovered in the 19th century. It is located between the modern villages of Palatitsia and Vergina, in Northern Greece (Region of Hemathia). At Aigai was rooted the royal dynasty of the Temenids, the family of Philip II and Alexander the Great.
Archaeological Site of Mycenae and Tiryns
The archaeological sites of Mycenae and Tiryns are the imposing ruins of the two greatest cities of the Mycenaean civilization, which dominated the eastern Mediterranean world from the 15th to the 12th century B.C. and played a vital role in the development of classical Greek culture.
Historic Centre with Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos island
The small island of Pátmos is where St John the Theologian wrote both his Gospel and the Apocalypse. A monastery dedicated to the ‘beloved disciple’ was founded there in the late 10th century and it has been a place of pilgrimage and Greek Orthodox learning ever since. The fine monastic complex dominates the island.
Old Town of Corfu
The three forts of the town on the Ionian island, designed by renowned Venetian engineers, were used for four centuries to defend the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice against the Ottoman Empire. The mainly neoclassical housing stock of the Old Town is partly from the Venetian period. As a fortified Mediterranean port, Corfu’s urban and port ensemble is notable for its high level of integrity and authenticity.
Archaeological Site of Phillippi
The remains of this walled city lie at the foot of an acropolis in north-eastern Greece, on the ancient route linking Europe and Asia, the Via Egnatia. Founded in 356 BC by the Macedonian King Philip II, the city developed as a “small Rome” with the establishment of the Roman Empire in the decades following the Battle of Philippi, in 42 BC. Later the city became a centre of the Christian faith following the visit of the Apostle Paul in 49-50 AD. The remains of its basilicas constitute an exceptional testimony to the early establishment of Christianity.
Meteora, famous for its monasteries perched atop vertical peaks, is the most jaw-dropping destination. Its name literally means ‘suspended in air’ because in the 9th-century hermit monks were the first to climb these soaring stones to settle in the caves and hollows of the rocks.
Nowadays, pathways and stairways have replaced baskets and ropes and undoubtedly, it’s a destination in Greece that shouldn’t be missed. From 24 monasteries, today six of them remain active and are run by monks and nuns. Meteora is a Unesco World Heritage and archaeological site and the Greek State has officially declared it as a Holy Place.
What you need to know before you arrive
Entrance to the monasteries for Greeks and Cypriots is free. For the rest, in each monastery, there is an entrance fee of 3 euro per person. Kids up to 12 years old don’t pay.
If you have less than 24 hours to spend at Meteora, plan to visit 2 or 3 monasteries as for each of them you need an hour minimum.
There is at least one fountain with cold water inside every monastery if you need to refill your bottle. There are no restaurants, so also take some snacks with you.
At the entrance of the monasteries, clothing is provided only to women. Men are not allowed to enter if they are wearing shorts above the knee or sleeveless shirts. In any case, dress appropriately.
The Monastery of the Holy Trinity and Great Meteoro has over 300 steps. Rousanou, Varlaam, and Saint Nicolaos have an average number of 140. The Holy Monastery of Saint Stephen is connected with a walking bridge, so it’s more accessible than any other monastery.
Check the opening hours of Meteora monasteries here.
The most convenient way to visit Meteora is by car and the most scenic is by train. The duration from Athens by train is 5 hours (transfer at Paleofarsalos), by public transport (KTEL) is 4.5 hours (transfer at Trikala) and 3.5 hours by car. From Thessaloniki by train is 3 hours (transfer at Paleofarsalos), by KTEL is 3 hours (transfer at Trikala) and 2.5 hours by car.
Where to stay- Most travelers who visit Meteora stay in Kalambaka city or Kastraki village.
Tips for getting around
If your hotel is at a central spot in Kalambaka and Kastraki you can move around by car or on foot.
To avoid traffic jams or difficulties to find parking spaces outside the Monasteries of Great Meteoro, Varlaam, and Agios Stefanos (from May till late October), try to be outside those Monasteries before 9 am. An alternative way is to leave your car in the hotel and join one of the tours offered by locals.
There are public buses between April and October starting from Kalambaka at 9 am in the morning and every 2 hours till 5 pm in the evening. It’s convenient to use it as a one-way trip rather than like a hop-on, hop-off bus from monastery to monastery. You can check the bus timetable to Meteora here.
Best time to visit- Spring and Autumn offer pleasant weather and the crowds are tolerable. Winter is out of the question if you want to hike on trails or climb up to monasteries because of the cold or snow.
Panellinion, located on Kalambaka’s central square. The restaurant’s most famous dish is the lamb chops with roast potatoes and rice. (A: Eythimiou Vlachava 20, Platanos Square, Kalambaka)
Valia Caldahere you will find traditional Greek food cooked with the freshest local ingredients. (A: Trikalon 91, Kalambaka)
Elia’s Garden features traditional delicacies and a cellar full of all kinds of Greek wines. (A: Trikalon 149, Kalambaka)
Archontariki offers traditional Greek cuisine with fresh ingredients. (A: Trikalon 13, Kalambaka)
What to eat- The must-eat dish is Mutton (kebab or chops).
Where to drink…
Cafe Diverso in Kalambaka’s central square.
Aroma Mentas, with charming decorations it is great for coffee or dessert.
Aerino, a nice place, decorated in stone, from where you can see the rocks of Meteora.
Scientists believe that these magnificent rocks were formatted about 60 million years ago. At that time, the area was covered by the sea. Several earth movements caused the seabed to withdraw. Extreme weather conditions, strong winds, and waves formed their shape.
During the Byzantine times, monks had the inspiration to construct monasteries on top of these rocks so that they would be closer to God. The foundation of Meteora monasteries began around the 11th century.
In the 14th century, Saint Athanasios established the Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of Jesus and named this huge rock Meteoro, which means hanged from nowhere. This monastery is also known as the Holy Monastery of the Great Meteoron, the largest of all monasteries. Monks used scaffolds in order to get supplies and climb the rocks. Afterward, nets with hooks, baskets, and rope ladders, or even wooden ladders of 40 meters long followed.
Between the 15th and 17th centuries, many monks from other monasteries and people who wanted an ascetic life arrived at Meteora but the prosperity of Meteora started to fade away after the 17th century mainly due to the raids of thieves and conquerors. As a result, many monasteries were abandoned or destructed. Today, only 6 monasteries operate and the only nunnery (female monastery) is the Monastery of Agios Stefanos.
Must visit villages –
The small and picturesque village of Kastraki with houses made of stone, embellished with roofs of red clay tiles, has an authentic local character of the old times. The village of Kastraki has been classified by the Greek State as a traditional resort under preservation, three consecutive times.
Culture & Traditions of Meteora
There is a unique tradition that started back in Ottoman times and takes place every year after Easter in the small village of Kastraki. On the day of the celebration of Saint George, many people with colorful scarfs in their hands and belts gather early in the morning underneath a cave. When their belts are full with scarves they head to the bottom of the rock, grab the ropes and they start to pull themselves up. In the middle of the rock, there is a cave full of scarves from the previous year. When the climbers reach that point, they enter and suddenly you can hear them singing and dancing. After that they replace the old scarves with the new ones, they brought up there. In the end, they come down with the old scarfs while the people gathered around them, reach their hands to take a fainted small piece of a scarf. Finally, they all gather at the village’s square, singing, and dancing in circles.
According to the legend, a couple of Turks went underneath the chapel of St. George to cut wood for the fire. Suddenly, a tree fell and seriously injured the man. His wife (even though she was Muslim) prayed to St. George. Her husband was immediately healed, so she offered the most precious thing she had, her hijab. Nowadays we offer scarfs in exchange for good health and we keep the old scarfs as talismans for good luck.
Do as locals do
The true locals of Meteora are the… monks and nuns. They are part of a community and they have three basic rules: Purity, lack of property, and obedience. They pray and fast according to the rules of the Orthodox Church the whole year. They wake up at 3:30 am in the morning in order to pray in their cells until 5:00 am. From 05:00 until 07:30 they have the services of Midnight, of Matins, and of Hours that take place at the church.
Hiking. Alone or with a group, through a 7.5km-long route where you will enjoy the jaw-dropping landscape.
Rock Climbing. Meteora is one of the most well-known rock-climbing sites in the world, with more than 1,000 paths, with all levels of difficulty.
Μountain bike. Riding a bicycle can lead you beyond the mainstream paths in order to discover the hidden treasures of Meteora.
Truffle Hunting. An alternative tour that starts with the search for black truffle in the forest and after a break with a picnic with truffle-spaghetti, concludes with a tour of the Museum of Natural History and Mushrooms.
Where to shop-
In all the monasteries there are interesting icon stores (usually half the price of regular shops).
“Ekfrasi”: traditional Greek tourist shop in Kalambaka where you can find real leather sandals, t-shirts, and ceramics inspired by Ancient Greek mythology and various souvenirs, among others.
Maro Theodorou ceramic shop: In the heart of Kastraki village, a Kalambaka-born ceramicist sells her own pottery as well as works by other local artists.
What to see-
Holy Monastery of Grand Meteoron (or the Holy Monastery of the Metamorfosis- Transfiguration of Christ) is the oldest and largest of all the monasteries of Meteora. It is a male Monastery built on the greatest rock of the complex, the Platys Lithos or Playtlithos before the mid-14th century. Enjoy the courtyard and observe the amazing frescoes. There is also a sacristy with the skulls of the monks who have lived there over the years.
Holy Monastery of Varlaam is named after the first monk who built the first church on the rock. Unfortunately, after his death, the site was abandoned for 200 years. In 1517 two monks from Ioannina, Theophanes and Nektarios Apsarades, re-founded the monastery. You can reach the monastery by a bridge. There you can find a small museum and several impressive 16th-century paintings.
Holy Monastery of Rousanou, built in 1545, is dedicated to St.Barbara. You can reach the Monastery by a bridge. Nowadays, after the restoration of 1980, Rousanou Monastery is run by nuns.
Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas, founded in the 14th century, is most famous for its frescoes by the famous Cretan artist Theophanes Strelitzas in 1527. The monastery was completely abandoned for 60 years from 1900 to the 1960s when the Greek government repaired it.
Holy Monastery of St. Stephen, constructed in the 15th century, is run by nuns and is the closest monastery in Meteora to the main town of Kalambaka. During the Second World War, it was severely destroyed by German troops and the by the Greek civil war.
Museum of Natural History and Mushrooms, whichhouses approximately 300 exhibits of animals and several dozens of the main species of mushrooms. It’s the first of its kind in Greece.
Museum of Digital Projection (in Kalambaka) & Museum of Geology (in Kastraki), a journey through Meteora’s history via 3D movies and other audiovisual material.
The Rock in the cave of Theopetra, a prehistoric treasure, since it’s the place where the oldest human imprints in Greece were found (130, 000 years old).
The Antichassia-Meteora Natural Reserve, home to various species of flora and fauna that covers almost 830 hectares.
Take a day trip to-
Trikala, an exceptional city with a river, bridges, and bikes! Get lost in the old town and discover the alleys of Sakaflias, the fort, the Kursum Mosque, and the clock, among others. Don’t leave before you enjoy a boat ride in Litheos.
A walk in the serene village of Kastraki with the breathtaking view of the rocks.
Wine tasting. A five-minute drive from Kalambaka is the village of Diava, where the Loudas family has been producing wines since 2006. The Loudas Winehouse is the perfect place to taste some of Thessaly’s top wines.
–Do not park on Trikalon Street in Kalambaka because it is very likely that you will get a fine from the traffic police.
-Pay attention to the dress code for the monasteries. Kids up to 12 years old don’t have to comply with the dress code.
Ideal time to spend here? I wouldrecommend at least 2 days stay in Meteora.
Favourite part? Watching the sunset at Psaropetra sunset viewpoint in Meteora (Most tourists watch the sunset from the viewpoint next to Varlaam). You can find Psaropetra beside the Rousanou nunnery parking lot.
What to avoid?
Skirts above the knee, shorts, and sleeveless shirts (for both women and men).
The monks don’t allow anyone to photograph the interiors of the churches and especially the murals, or in any of the museums located inside the Meteora monasteries. You can take photos or videos in the yards or any viewpoints.
Do not attempt to fly a drone inside or outside a monastery. It is strictly forbidden by law (flights restriction zone of up 4.000ft.) without written permission by the authorities.
Also, don’t take pictures or videos of monks or nuns, unless they specify otherwise. They can become upset by it as they are not tourist attractions. Be very respectful of their way of life.
Finally, you can’t leave until- Enjoying an evening car ride and enjoying the night scenery of Meteora, with the unique imposing dark figures of the rocks.
Upon arriving at Euphoria Retreat, I felt an immediate sense of calm and relief. Idyllically located above the picturesque medieval village of Mystras, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and just beneath the snow-capped Mt Taygetyos, the resort is surrounded by a dreamily pastoral landscape and a pine and cypress forest.
And then there’s the heart of Euphoria, it’s incredible four-story spa, like a magical tower of healing lit by natural light.
Euphoria Retreat is the result of a magnificent vision experienced by its creator, Marina Efraimoglou, who left the stress-ridden world of banking when she faced and battled cancer, consequently entering her own fascinating journey into the holistic wellness world. Awards received by Euphoria Retreat since it opened include the Conde Nast Traveller Spa and Reader’s Choice Awards, a World Luxury Spa Award and a National Geographic Traveller Big Sleep Award.
Known as the ‘wonder of the Morea’, Mystras in the southeastern Peloponnese is a fortified town that was amphitheatrically built around a Frankish castle. Mystras was under the rule of the Franks, Byzantines, Ottomans and Venetians and was abandoned in 1834. The mystical medieval ruins of Mystras are situated on the slopes of Taygetos Mountain, above the modern village of Mystras and Sparta.
Euphoria Retreat is not a Spa Hotel, it is a healing resort where one can go to rebalance, connect with or re-activate the source of wellbeing and discover new, even life-changing ways to experience personalised mind-body-soul health. Apart from its spectacular spa, which is based on the Five Elements, a combination of ancient Greek and Chinese ‘iatrosophy’ principles, other communal areas are Euphoria’s restaurant and sprawling lush grounds. A tailor-made contemporarily scientific as well as ancient spiritual wellness approach extends to the resort’s Signature Retreats designed for guests according to their personal needs. Whether guests book a customized retreat or not they can enjoy everything from outdoor exercise in the newly constructed Forest Gym and a daily schedule including yoga, Pilates and other classes, to sophisticated spa treatments that include assisted floatation and a fantastic array of luxury therapies.
Style and Character
The overall style is rural-modern, with touches of Byzantine culture and design, and circular objects, representing eternity, femininity and wholeness are noticeably present. The spa experience here is exquisite. With a spiraling staircase topped by a skylight and with a well in its centre, the spa’s tranquilising ambience, intoxicating aromas of essential oils and sounds of running water make it easy to relish hours of healing. Designed by DECA Architecture together with Natalia Efraimoglou & Partners, the 3000 m2 building is carved into the base of a mountain between Mystras town and a lush forest that leads to a river. Designed according to the principles of the Five Elements, the four-storey spa experience starts at the ground floor with the element of water (birth), next of water combined with fire (action), then wood (earth) and finally metal (release, or letting go of things that weigh us down). On the ground floor there is a water-well with warm water that one walks in before then walking into a strip of cold water and experiencing Kneipp Therapy. On the water-fire level is the beautiful Tepidarium, a large steam area with two double and one single mosaic beds; this is surrounded by an Ottoman-style Hammam, sauna, steam room, ice cold water plunge pool, an aroma shower and an ice fountain.
Euphoria is an ideal place to visit alone, with a partner or a few friends when you truly want to unwind and experience what the resort describes as ‘a unique cleansing process’. Its location is unique for not being the usual seafront spa type – indeed, being nestled under a mountain and next to Mystras archaeological site it is imbued with a special alpine charge. Visitors ideally come here to experience a Signature Retreat for a week or more, yet even a weekend offers a curative boost.
Euphoria has modern, unique, yet traditionally-inspired facilities and treatments on its every level, but its unparalleled ‘magic spot’ is the exemplary sphere-like pool, envisioned by Marina Efraimoglou and co-designed by the acclaimed and awarded DECA Architecture, who perfectly describe as such: “At the center of the interior pool is a sphere. Floating in the center of this dark orb there is a sense of being suspended in the void of a platonic volume but also a sense of womb-like calmness. Around this sphere are several coves with water jet treatments.”
Decked out with luxurious contemporary amenities, including a large screen, the rooms have a cosy, soothing and minimal feel. The warm yellows, beiges, browns, golds and reds of the region’s Byzantine iconography inspired the colours and lavish textiles in furnishings and décor, offering a sense of plush comfort and warmth. A Zen minimal-style design is combined with modern comforts like bio-climatization and a home automation system, as well as a luxurious pillow and bedding menu, with mattresses and fabrics that are produced using olive oil for extra softness. Guests who prefer to retreat from the world can also enjoy breakfast and other meals in-room. For a family or group of friends there is also the artfully renovated Leoncini Mansion, built in 1830, which has six rooms and a private dining room.
Food & drinks
Gaia restaurant, with monastic-style benches designed to bring guests together, serves highly nutritious, meticulously prepared and appetizing cuisine based on seasonal,
organic and local ingredients. When it comes to food, Euphoria takes a science-based and expertly designed approach, offering custom-made programmes that address physical as much as emotional/mental needs; these involve specially-designed menus that address particular conditions and requirements, which are designed upon after the guest taking various forms of tests carried out using innovative and sophisticated methods. Guests are treated to herb and fruit-infused water but can also enjoy quality organic wines to accompany meals that are simple yet creative, traditional (using Greek and Mediterranean concepts and ingredients) as well as modern.