There are two very good reasons to spend a few days in the province of Trikala in the heart of Greece: one is to visit the monasteries of the Meteora and the other is to enjoy some of Greece’s most glorious nature and mountains. In fact, the area offers a unique opportunity to combine cultural holidays with outdoor activities.
The Meteora are a group of incredible rock formations with centuries-old monasteries perched on top. While the first hermits ‘settled’ in caves high up on (in) the rocks somewhere around the 11th century, the oldest monasteries date from the 14th century. Two centuries later over twenty monasteries had been constructed on top of the Meteora, but today, only four monasteries and two convents are still working. If you have the time (a full day is good, two days are better), I recommend you try and visit as many as you can. You no longer need to go up using net and rope ladders as in the old days, instead you can drive up part of the way and continue on foot via suspension bridges, footpaths and steps carved into the rocks. Ladies should be aware of the dress-code: no bare shoulders or trousers. Most monasteries let you borrow totally unflattering skirts you can wear over your shorts or trousers, but a pareo will do the job as well – I always carry one with me.
Outdoor activities at the Meteora
Greek active holiday specialist Trekking Hellas offers some great half- and full-day activities at the Meteora. A guide can take you to follow the old monk paths and discover the Meteora on foot and you can sign up for a half-day tour to explore the culture, history and nature of the Meteora, with a picnic on the way. There is rock climbing (yes, the actual Meteora rocks!) for beginners and advance climbers, and, for the ultimate thrill, rappel/abseiling. And as if that is not enough, you can also go rafting at the Ionas River, a beautiful 8 km route with rapids of 1st and 2nd grade difficulty, great also as a family activity, as it is suitable for kids from the age of eight.
The southern Pindos Mountains, Elati and Pertouli
The eastern half of the province of Trikala is covered by mountains belonging to the southern Pindos range. The area is absolutely beautiful, with densely forested mountain slopes, sparkling snow-white peaks (many over 2000 metres high), fast streaming rivers, gorges and waterfalls. There are some gorgeous traditional villages: Elati and Pertouli are the most well known (largely thanks to the nearby 3-lift ski centre!), and others that are worth a stop as well, especially Gardiki and Krania. And if you haven’t had your fix at the Meteora, there are several beautiful monasteries scattered around the mountains, some in quite spectacular locations as well.
Thankfully, the ski ‘resort’ of Pertouli is too tiny to attract the masses, but the whole area is great for hiking and all sorts of adventure sports. You will see the signs for river canoe and kayak as well as white water rafting, and there are also some companies that organise rock climbing, notably at the Meteora. I am not at all into climbing sports, but I can imagine that if you are, it must be an amazing experience.
Small hotels and other special places to stay in Trikala