Meteora, the Cliff Monasteries
After a week in Corfu and having received my spare stuff I decided to cycle to Meteora. While I was at home preparing my bicycle journey this was one of the places I really wanted to visit. So, when I was in Brindisi, Italy, I took the ferry to Corfu, where I spend a week.
After that, I took the ferry to Igoumenitsa on the mainland. This was the starting point of the 2 days bicycle ride to Meteora with a stop at Ionnina where I camped out at the lakeside.
From here I cycled the E92 to Metsovo and from here up to the Katara Pass at almost 1700 meters. This was an amazing bikeride through the mountainous land that gave birth to one of history's greatest rulers: Alexander the Great.
I spend a few days to explore Meteora and the Greek orthodox monasteries which are build on top of the cliffs. Coming from afar, this was quite a spectacular sight. In reality, nothing can really prepare you for what to expect.
The first of the monasteries was build in the 9th century by ascetic monks. In later centuries more monasteries were build on equally difficult to climb rocks. From the around 20 monasteries originally build only 6 remains. 4 of the monasteries are inhabited by men, the other 2 by women.
List of monasteries:
The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, the biggest of all the monasteries, was build in the 14th century and since than several times restored. It's the main target for tourists and has a museum.
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam was build in the 16th century. Nowadays there's a small museum which is worth the effort visiting the 2nd largest of the monasteries in Meteora.
The Holy Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara and Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas were both too build in 16th century.
The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen is a small church which too was build in the 16th century.
This monastery however was not build on a cliff but on the plains.
The Nazi's destroyed parts of it in the Second World War. After the war nuns took over and restored the monastery.
The last of the 6 monasteries is the Monastery of the Holy Trinity which was build in the 15th century and remodeled several times in the 17th and 18th century. It's build on top of the cliffs.
Meteora is a great place. Basically there are a series of monasteries build on rock formations. It's quite a climb to the top of the monasteries but it's worthwhile.
From here I went through the rough mountains south. A few days crossing the Pindos Mountains and some camping on the way.
There was little traffic. Definitely this area was little visited though it was beautiful. Cycling in Greece for me was mostly this area.
I left Meteora being very impressed with the monasteries. Just imagine what an effort it must have been to bring the building materials on top of the cliffs and make a living here.
The monasteries were deliberately difficult build to make life for the hermit monks as far as possible from any form of civilization.
Accommodation and public transport
As usual in Greece I used a camping not far from the Meteora cliffs.
For many travelers Kalambaka (also spelled as Kalampaka) is the place to stay. There are many guesthouses of which the Monastiri Guesthouse gets many excellent recommendations.
There is public transport from Igoumenitsa and Ionnina if you come from Corfu. Further there are buses from Patra and Athens. But it's just as rewarding to cycle the distance through the mountains to Patra. I took the road to Trikala and from I went east, spend a night wild camping before going to Arta. Here I spend a night at the beach and after I went south to Patra. Here is more about that journey.
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Corfu is a major tourist attraction in Greece. There are beautiful beaches on the spectacular Ionian Sea. And there's a lot of history from Antiquity to the Renaissance to explore. A not to miss spot, also great for cycling.
The old ruined city of Corinth is worth your attention. It's not because there is a lot of great buildings left but it's because there is a very long, 8000 years piece of human history left. And the remains are still impressive.
The road to Olympia
North Peloponnesus is worth exploring. Of course Olympia, where the original Olympic Games were held is an obvious must visit sight but on the whole, I found Peloponnesus a very pleasant experience.