It doesn’t always have to be Camino de Santiago. If you don’t want to make a pilgrimage with the masses, then we’d recommend Meteora. Part of UNESCO world heritage the monasteries of Meteora are one of the most extraordinary sights. Built into and on top of huge pinnacles of smooth rock, the earliest monasteries were reached by climbing articulated removable ladders. Later, windlasses were used so monks could be hauled up in nets, a method used until the 1920s. Apprehensive visitors enquiring how often the ropes were replaced were told ‘When the Lord lets them break’. These days access to the monasteries is by steps hewn into the rocks and the windlasses are used only for hauling up provisions.
In an earlier era, the monasteries provided monks with peaceful havens from increasing bloodshed as the Byzantine Empire waned at the end of the 14th century. Nowadays, Meteora is a climbing Mecca and hiking destination. Either you want to climb one of the historic ascents, test your skills as a promising beginner or hike winding stone paths to the preserved monasteries glancing at Byzantine treasures this emotive place will offer you the opportunity to commune with nature, taking you on an unforgettable journey in the most profound sense of the word.
Insider’s Tip: Reach the Monastery of Metamorfosis built on the Meteora’s biggest rock and admire the most important frescoes of the Macedonian School. Spent some time visiting the kitchen, the nursing home and the Holy Table while you can see a valuable collection of manuscripts, icons and holy relics.