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Kalabaka 422 00, Greece

Holiness on the Hilltops

Meteora means "suspended in air" in Greek. The town of Meteora, about a 5-hour drive north of Athens in Thessaly, Greece, is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site: six Greek Orthodox monasteries built on enormous rock pinnacles that rise up to 1,300 feet from the valley floor.

Hermits settled this area in the 11th century, but the official monasteries were not built until the 14th century, during a time of political instability. At their peak, 24 monasteries provided a place of safety, refuge, and quiet contemplation until the 17th century. Six of the monasteries still operate today.

Several of the monasteries are accessible to tourists on a road connecting the rock towers. Byzantine frescoes and architecture are a sight to see, and the views of the valley are breathtaking. Meteora reminds me of the American Southwest, like Moab, in Utah, with huge rock cliff walls and sandstone pinnacles, but with houses built on the tops. A natural and man-made marvel.

Base yourself in the town of Kalabaka, at the bottom of the rock pyramids, where there are plenty of hotels and alfresco restaurants with a view. After quiet contemplation of the monasteries, you can also try rock climbing, hiking, and rafting.

Fun Fact: The monastery of Holy Trinity was featured in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only.