Towering above the town of Kalambaka, sheer cliff faces topped with monasteries dominate the skyline. The monasteries only becoming really visible once you begin the twisting road upwards. It’s at this point that you marvel at how these could have been made so long ago.
With the pathways that now allow visitors to enter the monasteries only recently added, not only do you wonder how they were built but also how did they even get the materials to the buildings. A feat of defiance, determination and necessity by the monks in the beginning of the 14th century.
Originally over 20 monasteries were atop these cliffs that look like oversized boulders. Now 6 remain.
All can be visited, although on different days of the week at least one is closed to the public. There is a dress code to enter, both men and women are to cover your legs and shoulders.
We did not enter as we did not know about this dress code and were well and truly dressed for walking in 32-degree heat.
There is also a cost to enter each one.
So how does one visit Meteora on the cheap?
First of all, you need to get to Greece. Obviously. The cheapest airport to fly into would be Athens. We purchased flights from Sofia for 15 GBP pp (excluding our one checked in bag). But, as you are in Europe, Ryanair fly from nearly everywhere. They aren’t as bad as some people think, its a budget carrier, it will have its faults.
After seeing the amazing highlights of Athens you will need to get to Trikala. (We seriously loved this free walking tour. We recommend it! No, we aren’t affiliated with them, we just like a good tour)
Your only realistic options are bus or train.
You could look at a one-way car rental, but we found these too expensive and the fuel cost/road conditions/the Greeks driving ability put us off. Although this would be a great way to see the country and all the places in between. We are suckers for a road trip.
We met a traveller in Trikala who said they got the train for 17.50 euros. That is cheaper than the bus! He did say that the train went through some amazing scenery, but you couldn’t see it enough because of opaque advertising on all the windows!
As we took the bus, I will describe how to get there this way.
To Trikala by bus
Athens to Trikala by bus takes 4 1/2 hours.
And for the bladder conscious, there is no toilet on the bus. However, they do stop at a cafe/WC about 1 1/2 hours in. But not again after that. So limit your drinking.
The bus is air-conditioned and it does not cost extra to take your luggage.
We purchased our tickets the day before from the bus station, as we like to make sure we have the right bus station before the day of departure. The bus was nearly full though, so I would recommend purchasing tickets in advance.
Athens Bus Station
Location: Far away from the centre of Athens Bus Terminal B. It has ticket booths and a small cafe (untested by us, so we have no clue if it’s ok).
Toilets: Cost 50 cents. Pay the lady waiting in the hall to the toilets. Take some toilet paper from the roll she has. They are squat toilets, so get those leg muscles ready.
I always feel short changed having to pay for a squat toilet and taking a measly piece of toilet roll.
Trikala bus station, the only Trikala destination the buses stop at, is not in Trikala the town.
Go inside the gloriously air-conditioned ticket office, you need to purchase bus tickets to Trikala town. These are available at the information/ticket counter.
How much: 60 cents each
Location: About 15 minutes from Trikala town.
How often: Supposedly every half an hour. 15 past the hour and 45 past the hour. Don’t quote me on this, Greek buses do not run on time.
Bus “Stop”: Walk through the ticket office and across the courtyard, toward the street. Do not cross the road. Wait near the Taxi stand, there is seating to your right under a shaded area. There is no bus stop sign, so just wait at those seats and get up when a bus drives toward you on your side of the road.
The bus: The bus is your average 40 od people seater. Air-conditioned! Hand the driver your ticket when you get on. Not an overly busy bus, so you should be fine with your luggage.
The bus drops you just down the road from the main central square. Most accommodation is somewhere off the main road North of the square.
Food: There are many supermarkets around the area, two of which are on this main street running north from the square. There are seriously so many cafes and places to eat. We were on a Giros binge. Cheap (2 to 2.5 euros), delicious, and a vegetarian option for me!
Where to stay: Personally we stayed at Hostel Meteora. It was the cheapest we could find with the facilities we like. This got us a private room with its own bathroom (quite a luxury for us, not sharing a loo).
What to see: Nearby Meteora of course!
Bus Trikala to Kalambaka
Where from: South from the square is the bus stop for Kalambaka (not signposted). Just opposite Slumdog corner (don’t know what it is, but its a google maps point) Get to the stop on time, but still expect to wait for at least 10 minutes. For some reason, none of our buses were on time…
How much: 3.60 euro. The attendant will come to you to pay. Normally after you’ve been driving 10-15 minutes.
How long: 45 minutes. Depending on how many stops it has to make and traffic.
Once you enter the town of Kalambaka, you can get off at any of the stops along the main street. As the bus up to Meteora goes along this street too. The attendant can help you if you just ask for the bus to Meteora.
We just so happened to get off the bus at a bakery, it had just opened and enticed us in with the smell of freshly baked chocolate filled croissants. Seriously yum!
05.15, 06.00, 07.00, 08.00, 09.00, 10.00, 11.00, 12.15, 13.00, 13.30, 14.15, 15.15, 16.15, 17.15, 18.15, 19.15, 20.15, 21.30, 22.45.
05.15, 07.00, 09.00, 10.30, 12.15, 13.15, 14.15, 15.15, 16.15, 18.15, 20.15, 22.45.
From Kalambaka you can either walk up or take another bus.
There are pros and cons of each. The bus schedule means that everyone gets there when you do. Walking is long, and uphill, but you could get there before any of the buses do.
We would normally walk and get there early, but with temperates in the 30’s (Celsius) our bodies, now used to the cold British summer, did not appreciate the heat and the sweating was unappealing.
Apparently, if you walk, expect it to take around 2-3 hours to get to the top (where the first bus stop is) then continue the rest of the walk, a good few hours, then walk down another hour-ish.
Bus Kalambaka to Meteora
Where: Along that main road in Kalambaka where you got off the first bus. The bus stop signs say “Meteroa” on them.
How much: 1.80 euro. Pay the driver.
How long: About 20 minutes. Depending on traffic.
Timetable: 9.00, 11.00, 13.00, 15.00
As this timetable does not line up with the early buses from Trikala to Kalambaka, you either walk and beat the crowds, or get on the first bus of the day.
Get off the bus at the very end of the road, where it will need to turn around, this is the largest of the monestries. (Far top left on map) from here you can walk and follow the road right along to the last monestry. You can deviate off the road along dirt paths to see different viewpoints along the way.
To get back down to the town you need to retrace your steps (or miss the last monestry) to the second to last monestry and walk down the path toward the monestry entrance. Before the actual entrance is a tiny little sign that says Kalambaka. Follow this rough, dirt path all the way back to the town. It will take roughly 45 mins to walk to the bus station in Kalambaka.
Or you walk to the last Monestry (or any actually, as the bus stops at all) and get the bus down to the town. This is the same price as the trip up. The walk down provides its own views as you decend between these huge formations though. We also met a tortoise, so it was worth the walk in our book!
The timetable for return bus:
(Starting from the first Monestry) 10.00, 12.00, 14.00, 16.00
Bus Kalambaka to Trikala
Time to return “home” for a well deserved rest.
Where from: Kalambaka Ktel bus Station. You must get the bus from here, as it does not make the same route back through the town where you got on.
05.50, 06.45, 07.30, 08.00, 08.30, 09.00, 10.00, 11.00, 12.00, 13.15, 14.00, 15.15, 16.15, 17.15, 18.15 19.15, 20.15, 21.15, 22.15, 23.30.
05.50, 08.00, 09.00, 09.50, 12.00, 14.15, 15.15, 17.15, 19.15, 21.15, 23.30.
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