Meteora & The Pindus Mountains 

Meteora – Greece

Meteora (‘middle of the sky’, or, ‘in the heavens above’), is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famed for its unique sandstone rock formations with ancient monasteries precariously perched atop.  Meteora originates from the Greek word Meteoros; high in the air or above.

Summer Sunset – Meteora 

Meteora lies just to the northwest of the plains of the ancient Greek province of Thessaly (Thessalia), and at the foot of the remote and beautiful Pindus Mountains.

It’s an area I have been fortunate enough to visit several times, spring, summer and early autumn, and it never ceases to amaze me; it’s an absolute mini-mecca for landscape photography.

Meteora Spring Light – Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas 

 

There are now six inhabited monasteries dating back to the 14th century, Varlaam, Roussanaou, St Stephen, The Holy Trinity, St Nikolaos (Greek spelling), some of them open to the public on different days of the week, and some only accessible by high cabled gondolas (dubbing the monks “The Flying  Monks of Meteora).

Holy Trinity Monastery – Meteora

Although I have visited the interior of two of the monasteries, it’s all about the exterior for me as a nightscape/landscape photographer; this area boasts not only one of the most iconic and surreal landscape photography spots in Greece, but in all of Europe.  

This Ancient Land

As you stroll the roads and trails, hunting out classic, and new, compositions, it’s hard not to let your mind wander, especially if you have any knowledge of Greek Mythology and antiquity; although Meteora has no mention in classical myths or literature.

Monastery of St. Stephen – Meteora 
The monastery of Ypapanti – Meteora 

Meteora’s hidden Monastery

Off the beaten track, reachable via two different routes you can find The monastery of Ypapanti, closed, though visits can be permitted with special arrangement.

Built into the rock, and almost hidden away, it can be reached via an easy hike from Great Meteor Monastery and Doupiani Rock.

As you follow the trail you will encounter a constant rustle in the undergrowth and 9 times out of 10 this will be the vast population tortoises meandering around the place; this is amongst an abundance of other wildlife, to include vipers, so always be aware where you are treading. 

When to visit Meteora

Meteora is beautiful at any time of year. But like everywhere, it is busier in peak season. Although some compositions can be found along the roadside, many involve clambering on top of the sandstone summits, of which there is limited space in the summer due to the usually “chilled” crowd of sunset spectators soaking up it’s majestic vista.

Getting my swerve on a warm evening  – Meteora 

Early spring is a stunning time of year in Meteora. The days can be warm, the evening air cool and nights cold, leading to a crispness within the air which is perfect for landscape photography. Late autumn is another favourite, although the weather can be unpredictable (it may be 20 degrees Celsius mid-November, or it may snow, or both a within few days of each another!) Once the large crowds have dispersed, the autumnal colours remain and paint the landscape in their golden hues.

Early Spring Pastel Sunset  – Meteora 

Astrophotography and Nightscapes in Meteora

Tricky! Naturally, as a lil’ bit of nightscape animal, I’ve tried to nail this location time and time again with the Milky Way over the entire scene (panorama) or single frame individual parts. It’s a difficult customer, and I’ve recently deleted a number of files shot at different times of the year that incorporate a very bleached out Milky Way. The problem is, the light pollution from the two towns, Kalabaka and Kastraki, as well as the floodlights used to illuminate the Meteora landscape.

Jupiter (Zeus), and Venus (Aphrodite) at Twilight – Monastery of Roussanou

Unfortunately, all the artificial light bleaches out the night sky with the camera settings required to shoot the Milky Way over most parts of the monasteries and rock pillars. Even using multiple exposures, or filters ( techniques I have used to achieve almost impossible results in Oia, Santorini through light pollution), it’s just not been possible to achieve anything that looks anywhere near a professional standard, bar one composition in late October/November.  

Yep, there are a number of Milky Way shots featuring Meteora, or Meteora shots featuring the Milky Way out there. Some have used multiple stacking methods and heavy editing to obtain detail through the light pollution. Others? I’ll leave you to draw a conclusion on how some of them have been “made”.  

Star Trails through the LP – Meteora 
Star Trails & Sharp Stars

However, the complexity of the composition and post-production of an image featuring the Milky Way over Meteora, does not mean this is not an excellent night sky photography location. The scene sets itself, it’s a must for anyone even remotely interested in night or astrophotography to have a crack at this bad boy!  Night time landscape photography is NOT all about the Milky Way.

Adjust camera settings to pick out stars, whilst dampening down the ISO, and you can achieve some breathtaking nightscapes from the area. Star trails look pretty awesome, and one of my absolute favourite times to shoot, which is right the end of blue hour (nautical twilight), can produce some mind-blowing nightscapes.  Many astrophotographers probably scratch their heads at shooting at this time of night, but the camera still picks up a faint pink tinge from the afterglow, with the sky a  deep, dark blue, and the landscape is slightly illuminated; it’s a time that satisfies both the night, and landscape, photographer within me.

Mars, Venus, and Jupiter at Twilight – Meteora Nightscape Panorama 

15th – 21st November 2019

Meteora Photography Workshop and Tour, taking in the awe-inspiring Eastern Orthodox monasteries and unique rock pillars.  Visit the spectacular Pindus Mountains and explore one of Europe’s last wildernesses, Vikos, and the ancient bridges of Zagori.

Read More …

Thessaly – The Surrounding Area

Bridges and Waterfalls – Thessaly & Epirus 
Pyli – Greece

Where to begin with the surrounding landscape, as the typical way people visit Meteora is on a day, or overnight tour from Athens, the surrounding landscape is often overlooked, with an array of rainbow shaped ancient bridges and waterfalls, from the start of winter, through to spring, stunning mountain scenery an hour away around Lakmos to the west, but for me it’s all about pushing deeper into the Pindus Mountains and the Zagori region, situated within Thessaly, and Epirus, the region is also known as the spine of Greece spanning into Southern Albania.  The region is also regarded amongst Europe’s last wildernesses, with a population of brown bear, and wolves.  I have designated a small blog to the Zagori area of the Pindus mountains that can be read here or via link below.

Read More …

How to get to Meteora 

The Acropolis at Sunset – Athens

The most popular route is via Athens, which naturally gives you the opportunity to pay a visit and see some of the cities wonders such as the Acropolis, Filopappou Hill, the neighborhood of Plaka, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Syntagma Square, the list goes on.  You can either take a train, or hire a car and head toward Lamia via the E75, Trikala via the E65 the 30, then Kalabaka (the main town at the foot of Meteora).  The drive to Meteora is a long one and somewhat of a none event for the majority of it (four hours on a good run), though traffic is sparse through much of mainland Greece once away from the cities, and the new roads are excellent, and fully completed now from Lamia past Trikala towards Kalabaka, albeit toll controlled; though this kind of takes the fun out of the old route, along with taking wrong turns in Trikala.

Kalabaka & Kastraki Towns – Foothills of the Pindus Mountains
Thermopylae battle of the 300 site – Greece

Of course if you drive, and you’re into history, or a fan of the film “300”, you can make a stop off at the 3rd battlefield of Thermopylae, and the last stand of Leonidas.  There’s not much there to be honest, but i’ll admit to stopping off there a couple of times and taking a few pics of me, and the statue of the man himself. Though I love the history too, and have read a few books on it,  5000 – 10000, verses 70,000 – 300, 000; a hell of a feat!  The landscape has changed over the millenniums, it’s easy to see how this was a choke point, sheer mountains to one side, and flood plains to another.

Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.

The Delphi!  Another route, that can be done in a day if you don’t mind the drive is go via the ancient site and village of Delphi, a must for those with an interest in antiquity and lovers of Greek Mythology.  In fact in light of the aforementioned film (300), it is Delphi to which Leonidas must travel to consult the Oracles.

The Temple of Athena Pronaia within the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia at Delphi makes for an excellent subject within the landscape, the village itself is also perched high on the side slopes of Mount Parnassus with spectacular views down to Itea and the Gulf of Corinth; personally, if you take this route, I recommend spending the night at Delphi or the picturesque village of Arachova and exploring the area.

 

The Temple of Athena Pronaia – Delphi
Views to the Gulf of Corinth – Delphi

A quicker route is to fly to Thessaloniki, the drive takes less than 3 hours, train to Kalabaka less than 3, and bus can take below 5 with a change at Larissa.  I have also driven from Patras, this takes around 3.5 hours, and I have driven from Igoumenitsa, which is the quickest at 2.5 hours.  The view coming into Meteora around 30 minutes out from these routes is stunning, though the road windy and tedious.   These are the ports used when driving over from Italy.  If you are staying on Corfu and ferry over to Igoumenitsa, the bus journey is easy enough with one change at Ioannina.

 

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Where to stay in Meteora 

Stay in Kastraki if you want peace and quiet though it shuts down early, and Kalabaka for convenience and nightlife, they are only a few KM from one another. 

Kastraki – Hotel Kastraki Brilliant owners, small but cozy rooms, right at the start of the road and hiking trails up to Meteora.

Kalabaka – Divani Meteora Hotel All the mod cons of an upmarket hotel, typical of the Divani standard with great views, pool, fitness, wellness centre.

Kalabaka – Grandmas House  Great value accommodation if you have a larger party, book via Airbnb or Booking.com, Tasos is a great guy who will take time out to help you with the local area and make sure you have everything you need.

 

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By |2019-06-20T19:16:14+00:00June 16th, 2019|Travel Blogs, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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