If one is interested in extreme perched monasteries, then look no further than the eye-catching Eastern Orthodox UNESCO-listed monasteries of Meteora in Greece. These are some of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Orthodox monasteries in the world.

There are other impossibly perched monasteries to be found all around the world like the Katskhi Pillar monastery (where women are forbidden), and in Asia, there's Fanjingshan- a Chinese monastery that could be the world's most extremely perched Buddhist Temple.


The Greek Orthodox Monasteries Of Meteora

To the Greeks, the monasteries of Meteora are considered second in importance only to Mount Athos (where women have been banned for more than 1,000 years).

Today six of the original twenty-four monasteries remain and are built on immense natural pillars and only hill-like boulders that dominate the area. Only a few monks and nuns continue to keep these age-old monasteries alive.

  • Name: Means "Lofty" "Elevated" "Suspended In the Air" From Where The English Word "Meteor" Derives

Number of Monasteries: 

  • Today: 6 Monasteries
  • Originally: 24 Monasteries

The Meteora monasteries are considered a miracle of Greece and rise from the Thessaly plains. Some of these heights reach over 600 meters and are home to one of the most important monastic communities of Greece. Here the tradition of Greek Orthodoxy has continued uninterrupted for over 600 years.

Related: Visit Taktsang Monastery: Bhutan's Most Iconic Monastery That's Impossibly Perched On A Sheer Cliff

UNESCO World Heritage Designation

"In a region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these 'columns of the sky' from the 11th century onwards. Twenty-four of these monasteries were built, despite incredible difficulties, at the time of the great revival of the eremetic ideal in the 15th century. Their 16th-century frescoes mark a key stage in the development of post-Byzantine painting."


These monasteries have been UNESCO Listed for impressively meeting criteria I, II, IV, V, and VII. These Byzantine monasteries are home to priceless artifacts and wall paintings. These monasteries were looted in World War Two. One can learn all about them in much greater detail on their dedicated website.

  • Designated: World Heritage Since 1988

Today Meteora is the largest archaeological site in Greece (as measured by the area that it covers). Since 1995, the area has officially been designated a holy place of Greece.

Related: The Monastery Is One Of The Most Iconic In Italy (And It's More Impressive In Person)

The Six Active Meteora Monasteries

Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron:

The Great Meteoron (also called the Holy Monastery of the Metamorfossis (Transfiguration of Christ) is the largest of all the monasteries of Meteora. It is also the oldest as well as monk (male) only.

  • Oldest: The Oldest Monastery Here Founded Around 1340
  • Monk: It Is A Male Only Monastery

It is built on the largest rock of the complex and was founded around 1340. One can enjoy its stunning frescoes and breathtaking vistas.

Holy Monastery of Varlaam:

This Varlaam Monastery is another of the eye-catching monasteries and is named after its first monk. Varlaam built three churches as well as a room for himself with a water tank.

After he died the site was abandoned for 200 years until it was re-founded in 1517 by two monks called Theophanes and Nektarios Apsarades. One can reach it now by a bridge and see its small museum.

Holy Monastery of Rousanou:

The Holy Monastery of Rousanou was built by  Maximos and Ioasaph of Ioannina in 1545. One can also reach this monastery by a bridge and admire its breathtaking backdrops. It is one of the monasteries in Greece that is run today by nuns.

  • Nuns: The Rousanou  Monastery Is Run By Nuns

Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas: 

Founded in the 1300s, the St. Nicholas Anapafsas Monastery has its share of mysteries - such as who it is named after (no one really knows). It is famous for its frescoes - including the passion of Christ and the Virgin Mary praying.

It was abandoned between 1900 and the 1960s when the Greek government stepped in and repaired the decaying monastery.

Holy Monastery of St. Stephen:

St. Stephen monastery is the easiest of the six monasteries to visit and the closest to Kalabaka - the closest town to the monasteries. World War Two and the ensuing Greek civil war saw extensive damage to the 15th-century monastery. But it was later repaired. It is also run by Nuns.

  • Nuns: Nuns Inhabit The Monastery of St. Stephen

Holy Monastery of Holy Trinity:

The monastery of the Holy Trinity was built in 1458 and once held many treasures - but most of these were later looted by the Germans in WW2. For the James Bond fans out there, this monastery may be familiar as it starred in the 1981 movie ‘For your eyes only’ when Roger Moore scales the cliff face.

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