The mighty Pindus range in western Greece ends in an explosion of uncanny geological wizardry at Meteora: a forest of more than 800 freestanding sandstone pillars and pinnacles. Two villages lie at Meteora’s feet – modern Kalambaka and historic little Kastraki – while all around are opportunities for unforgettable walks, drives and mountain sports. Where to rest? In one of the best hotels in Meteora, for every traveller.
In the 11th century, Greek monks began living among the rocks of Meteora, and started building monasteries in the 14th century. Originally, there were 33 – today the six that survive form a World Heritage Site, including the monastery featured in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
This Kastraki hotel has one of the best seats in the house, with unforgettable views over Meteora’s surreal amphitheatre. Plenty of woodwork and leather furniture fill the interior, especially the cosy sitting room and bar in the traditional Thessalian style, with sofas lining the walls, and a wooden ceiling and fireplace. Best bit: sitting out in the garden on a jasmine-scented evening, downing an ice cold carafe of ouzo as the moon rises over Meteora.
Head east of Meteora to one of Greece’s best kept secrets: the outrageously beautiful Tzoumerka region: here Anavasi is a mountain resort of dreams, with endless opportunities for hiking, kayaking, canyoning and more. The Greek-made all-natural Coco-Mat beds are lovely to sink into after an active day, as is the indoor pool. There are tremendous views from the sitting room with its wall of windows around the fireplace. Here you can take herbal mountain tea or something stronger. Don’t miss their famous cheese pies at breakfast.
It has some of the most wallet-friendly prices in Kastraki, but friendly, family-run Spartacus House doesn’t stint on head-spinning views over Meteora. It’s a slightly older hotel, with simple but immaculate rooms, near the trail heads to the monasteries (Agios Nikolaos Anapavsa is within easy walking distance). It’s also handy for the stop for the bus that serves the others. The big buffet breakfast (€6) — yogurt, ham, cheese, omelette, etc – will give you the oomph to walk up all the monastic steps. The days of monks winching up visitors in baskets is sadly long gone.
This peaceful stone-built guesthouse near the top of Kalambaka has mesmerising views over Meteora’s towering rocks, especially when they are illuminated at night. The location is next to the path up to Holy Trinity Monastery and nearby Agios Stefanos, and it’s easy to make a packed lunch in the shared kitchen, while good restaurants are a short walk away. Maps and useful info fill the lobby, typical of the helpful owners, who know the region and its many byways well.
There are no noisy kids here to disturb your romantic getaway, at Kastraki’s most stylish hotel, done up in earth tones, stone and wood. Choose between the intimate, inexpensive cosy double and the fancy suite with its own private sauna; all come with Nespresso machines, Coco-Mat beds and fridges. There are magical Meteora views from the front garden, where a mostly organic breakfast is served on fine days. They also rent e-bikes and cars for touring – good to know as Kalambaka is easily reached by train or bus from Athens or Thessaloniki.
Spend a few nights in the 19th century in this traditional mansion in Kastraki – stone on the ground floor, with a painted wooden upper floor – in the shadow of one of Meteora’s pinnacles. Individual fireplaces, wooden floors, extra long beds and heavy old furniture add to the atmosphere. Hospitable owners Alberta and Nikos serve breakfast in the garden, based on local seasonal produce and homemade pastries. For dinner, there’s a great taverna right next door.
West of Meteora, in the heart of the stunning mountain town and ski resort of Metsovo, this big mansion-style hotel ticks every box for a perfect holiday. For starters, there’s a sunny terrace with a heated pool, large whirlpool bath and endless mountain views. Some of the spacious beamed rooms and suites have four poster beds, jacuzzi and fireplaces. The lounge is lined with traditional weavings and embroideries. Parking is easy (this is important in Metsovo) thanks to the hotel’s underground car park, and breakfast is served until 11am for terminally late risers.
Just across the river from Kalambaka is the little town of Diava, a 15-minute drive from the Meteora monasteries. Here you’ll find this new pink villa on a peaceful residential street. It really feels like someone’s home, with a full kitchen and photos of the owner’s family. As its name suggests, it’s an ideal base, especially if you’re travelling en famille: a mosquito-proof baby cot and removable child gates make it a safe for even small children.
Bargain seekers, look no further. Hostels are rarely as sunny and welcoming as the brand new Holy Rock on the main street of Kalambaka, a short stroll from the train and bus stations. There are three mixed-dorm rooms and a female-only room. The spotless bathrooms have lashings of hot water, and the washing machine is a godsend if you’ve been on the road for a while. Pick up goods next door to cook in the shared kitchen or barbecue – then make new friends while star-watching on the terrace or garden.
Nature-lovers adore this little mountain inn in Elati, high in the lush fir forests where the Pindus and Agrafa ranges meet. It’s just an hour’s drive south of Meteora, through jigsaw puzzle mountain scenery. Kroupi’s dozen woodsy rooms and its two apartments all have fireplaces and balconies on which to drink in the herculean views. Big sink-into sofas surround the open fire in the lobby and bar. Rates include an excellent homemade breakfast and bushels of free mountain info from the wonderful hosts.