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Meteora and Pindos Mountains 17

Meteora Monasteries & Walking in the Pindos Mountains

Overview

Our Meteora and Pindos Mountains walking holiday in Greece combines the stunning rock formations and monasteries of Meteora with a breathtaking walk through the Vikos Gorge, the world’s deepest canyon and experiencing the enchanting 18th century stone villages and bridges of the Pindos Mountains.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meteora has unusual and spectacular landscapes of immense monolithic pillars on top of which sit Eastern Orthodox monasteries dating back to the 14th century. Reach the world-famous Megalo Meteoron and Varlaam monasteries on foot and walk among the gigantic rock pillars to enjoy some truly breathtaking views. Discover the hidden caves in Meteora during a guided walk.

After a night stop in the historic city Ioannina, situated at the Pamvotida lake with its small island, you continue on the second part of your trip with a 2-day trek in the Zagori region. Hike to breathtaking viewpoints and walk through the beautiful Vikos Gorge. Conclude your holiday with a refreshing swim in the physical rock pools of Papingo. Accommodation is in elegant hand-picked boutique hotels and stone mansions in the villages along the route, which will also help you immerse yourself in the atmosphere of this authentic region.

  • The rock formations and monasteries of Meteora
  • The beautiful town of Ioannina
  • Vikos Gorge, one of the world’s deepest
  • Stone bridges and villages of Zagori

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Kastraki

Arrive in Kalambaka by public bus from Thessaloniki or Athens. You can prebook with us the public bus ticket, but only in combination with the transfer from the airport to the bus station (upon request). Transfer by taxi from Kalambaka to Kastraki (not included, very easy to get on the spot, costs approx 10 EUR), and checking in at your hotel.

Day 2: Round walk Meteora | 7-9.4 km

Today you will walk along Ypapanti, Megalo Meteoron and Varlaam. The hike begins at the foothills of Doupiani rock, beneath the old ruins of Pantokrator monastery. It then crosses through the immense rock formations to reach the northern side of Meteora. You will also be able to enter the hidden monastery of Ypapanti (open for visitors Monday to Friday only). Afterwards, you will visit the monasteries of Great Meteoron or Varlaam, and then you’ll walk down the old footpath the monks used for centuries before the construction of roads for the last part of this marvellous hike.

  • Accommodation: Hotel Doupiani or similar
  • Walking for the day: 7 to 9,4 km, 2,5 to 4 hrs, ↑­­­­400 m ↓400 m

Day 3: Hike Meteora’s Caves or Climb Meteora’s Tallest Rock | 3 hrs

Join a great guided hike to discover Meteora’s caves and to climb the rock of Agio Pnevma (Holy Spirit). This 3-hour hike will guide you on the trails near the village of Kastraki. The rock of Agio Pnevma is located in the middle of the valley that extends from the village towards the vast rock complex of Meteora. The hike starts from the village of Kastraki, on the foothills of Agio Pnevma rock, to lead you some 250 meters higher above the village. Filled with the most awesome views of the surrounding area, you will then reach the monks’ prison cave, located on the northern side of Agio Pnevma. The hike will then pass below the cave of Ag. Georgos, and it will finish at the central square of Kastraki village.

You can book an optional excursion for the late afternoon (starting time depends on the season). This sunset guided tour of Meteora is by minivan and includes only very short walks. It is ideal for concluding your stay in Meteora and making some great photos. As the sun slowly begins to descend, getting ready to touch on the mountain ridges, we’ll bring you by car high up on the rocks of Meteora, on a magical spot to enjoy the most captivating sunset views. Up there, sitting on the edges of cliffs, you will feel the evening breeze blowing through these giant cliffs. Allow your senses to explore the dimming of the light moment by moment as the sun sinks behind the mountains.

Day 4: Ioannina

Today you will travel by public bus to the beautiful town of Ioannina (ticket not included). You can also book a private transfer (105 km / 2 hours, bookable at an extra cost, available in the tour booking form).

Ioannina is a beautiful town located at the foothills of the Pindos Mountains on the bank of Lake Pamvotis. The city was once the home of Ali Pasha, a ruler of the Ottoman Empire. The well-preserved Ottoman city offers plenty to visit: the Itch-Kale (fortress) where Ali Pasha lived, the Byzantine Museum and the Fetiche Mosque, to name a few. You may also choose to go on a water taxi boat to the small island in the lake. On the lakeshore, you will also find numerous taverns for a lovely evening dinner.

Day 5: Monodendri Walks | 1.6-7.7 km

A taxi transfer (40-50 min) takes you to the heart of the Zagori region: Monodendri, situated on the rim of the gorge. During the transfer, the driver will make a detour via Kipi and make a photo stop at two famous stone bridges: the Kokkorou bridge and the Plakidas bridge. After check-in in your hotel in Monodendri, you can choose between three walks to different viewpoints over the magnificent Vikos gorge. Recommended is to go at least to the nearby abandoned monastery of Agia Paraskevi from where you have stunning views over the Vikos canyon. Most famous is the Oxya viewpoint that you reach via a path through a bizarre wood of eroded rock pillars: the ‘Stone Forest’.  And you can also visit the less-known viewpoint at the chapel of Agioi Apostoloi.

  • Accommodation: Hotel Zarkadas or similar
  • Walking for the day (option 1): 7,7 km, 3 hrs, ↑­­­­325 m ↓325 m
  • Walking for the day (option 2): 1,6 km, 45 min, ↑­­­­60 m ↓60 m
  • Walking for the day (option 3): 2,1 km, 50 min, ↑­­­­50 m ↓50 m

Day 6: Through the Vikos Gorge | 12.5 km

The walk today is the real highlight of this trip. Descend 400 metres from Monodendri to the Vikos Gorge’s bottom and then walk up along the river bed to the Voidomatis springs. You mostly walk close to the river bed and sometimes a bit higher, so you will have many opportunities to swim or cool your feet in the freshwater. From the Voidomatis springs, you ascend via a beautiful cobbled path up to the Vikos, a tiny village overlooking the impressive gorge, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the deepest canyon in the world in proportion to its width.

  • Accommodation: Foris House or similar
  • Walking for the day: 12.5 km, 5 h, ↑­­­­700 m ↓1000 m

Day 7: From Vikos to Papingo | 14 km

You can first admire once more the views over the Vikos gorge before descending to the Voidomatis springs. On the way, you have the option to make a small detour to the church of the once bigger monastery of Panagia tou Vikou. At the icy springs of Voidomatis, you go across the river. Until June there is a chance that you have to take off your boots to go across. You follow the zigzagging path uphill. Just before entering the Mikro Papingo village, you have the option to make a loop to the ‘Kokkino Lithari’, meaning the ‘Red Rock’. From this point, you have a superb view of the Papingo villages and surroundings. Back in Mikro Papingo, you continue towards the Rock Pools, called ‘Kolymbithres’ in Greek. These natural pools are a great spot to spend some time, especially during summer. After an afternoon relaxation at the pools, you walk to nearby Megalo Papingo for your last overnight.

Day 8: Departure or Onward Travel

After breakfast, a taxi transfer (included) will take you to the bus station of Ioannina or Ioannina airport/city for your outbound or onward travel. You can optionally book extension nights in Ioannina, Thessaloniki or Athens or any hotel during the tour.

What to Expect

Accommodation

We have chosen accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. All rooms have private facilities. Usually, there is no balcony, but the accommodation mostly offers a nice shaded terrace to enjoy your afternoon pre-dinner drinks. The accommodations in the Zagori area are all in traditional mansions, built from limestone and usually with the characteristic slated roofs. Some hotels are housed in buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th century. In those times the area was under Turkish occupation, but despite that, the region was flourishing thanks to expatriate merchants who sent remittances to their families from other countries in the Balkan. Because the villages are protected, even new buildings are built in the traditional style; usually, you find nice carvings and a fireplace.

Click to view default hotels

  • Doupiani House in Kastraki offers great views on the pillar rocks of Meteora. The owners go beyond limits to offer the best service possible. The breakfast is Greek traditional breakfast and probably the best in the wider region.
  • Its-Kale in Ioannina is a boutique hotel in the oldest quarter of the city so you can truly experience the character of this city. The hotel Its Kale is named after the palace of Ali Pasha: Itch-Kale in Turkish, meaning interior fortress.
  • Hotel Zarkadas in Monodendri is a family hotel run for many years by the Zarkadas family. Leftheris & Dina are excellent hosts and are very helpful. The hotel has a swimming pool.
  • Foris House in Vikos is a cosy pension with simple rooms, run by father Tasos and his Bulgarian wife Bettie and their son Christoforos. A few minutes from the rooms is their tavern in the village square where you can have your evening meal.
  • Saxonis Houses in Megalo Papingo is a traditional hotel built in the typical Zagorian style. Owner Vassilis is an outdoor instructor himself and knows the area very well. Excellent breakfast is guaranteed in the morning.

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

The overnights are on bed & breakfast basis. Every morning you enjoy a traditional local breakfast with ingredients from local produce. Characteristic for this area are the pies, usually with wild herbs and feta cheese. You can buy food for lunch from the local mini markets and grocery stores in all villages along the route. In most hotels you can order a packed lunch; discuss with your host what he can make for you and what you like (payable on the spot). Occasionally there is a possibility for a tavern lunch on your walk as well. Evening dinner can be enjoyed in one of the local taverns and some accommodations on this trip offer food as well.

Difficulty & terrain

This holiday is graded easy to moderate and is suitable for walkers in good physical shape. All days include walks of a moderate grade, the hardest being days 6 and 7 in the Zagori region. Average daily walking distance is 7 -10 km (3 to 5 hours), with daily elevation gain up to 700 m (read more about difficulty grades). The walks are mostly on footpaths and cobbled paths (kalderimi). The terrain is quite hilly, but the walks are not as difficult as you would expect looking at the dramatic scenery. Some sections of the trails are steep and follow old cobbled footpaths dating back to the 17th and 18th century. You have to be sure-footed, and some experience with walking in mountainous areas is recommended. Summers can be warm; many walks are partly through shaded forest. You can get close to steep drops at some viewpoints, but it is up to you how close you get to the edge, and you can avoid this should you suffer from vertigo. If you walk with children (minimum 8 yrs old), you have to hold them at the viewpoints. Most of the daily routes (except the Vikos gorge traverse) offer some alternative options, so depending on your physical abilities, you can choose the one that suits you best. The terrain varies from steep rocky footpaths in Meteora to cobbled paths and dirt roads in Zagori. One of your walks in Meteora is guided (guides are English-speaking), and the self-guided routes are well signposted, and we provide simple route notes and GPS tracks. We supply copies of maps in the route book with drawn-in routes as well. The routes are also available in our ActiveNav App.

When to go

The trip is available from late March to late November.

The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your vacation on any time in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking.

The climate in Zagori and Thessaly is Mediterranean continental with an average of 100 days of sunshine in the May-September period. It is influenced by the mountain range of Pindos and spring, and autumn are pleasant with cool nights and occasional rain.

Depending on location and altitude, temperatures vary, but generally, in the May-September period, the daily averages are 15 –25°C. In July and August it might be hot, still leaving early in the morning makes it possible to even accomplish the walks in mid-summer (many walking sections are in shaded forest).  

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Recommended arrival airport: Thessaloniki or Athens. Recommended departure airports are either Thessaloniki, Preveza or Athens which are well connected to the major UK and European airports. Ioannina is also well connected to other airports in Greece by internal flights.

By train or bus
  • Flight to Thessaloniki: From Thessaloniki airport, you have to take a taxi or public bus (app. 45 mins, frequent service) to the bus station of Thessaloniki. There are 3 busses per day from Thessaloniki bus station (KTEL) to Kalambaka, the last bus due to depart app. 17:30. Price is app. 20 Euro p.p. one way. Duration of the trip is app. 4 hrs. You can prebook the airport taxi in combination with the bus ticket along with your booking.
  • Flight to Athens: If you arrive early afternoon at Athens airport, you can travel by taxi or public bus to Athens’ bus station (KTEL). There is a public bus app. 4 times daily with the last bus around 18:00 hrs. Duration of the trip app. 5 hrs and price app. 29 Euro p.p. one way. You can prebook the airport taxi in combination with the bus ticket along with your booking.
  • Kalambaka – Kastraki: You have to take a local taxi or public bus to the nearby village of Kastraki. We cannot prebook this taxi for you. A taxi costs app. 10 Euro, max. 4 persons.
  • Kastraki – Ioannina: Buses run twice daily, departing from Kalambaka at app. 9.00 am and 3.30 pm, 2,5 hours. You can also book a private transfer, available in the booking form of the tour.
  • Leaving Papingo: Included in your trip is your departure transfer from Megalo Papingo to either Ioannina airport, Ioannina centre or the bus station. You can travel to Athens bus station (3 buses daily, duration app. 5,5 hrs., 39 Euro) or Thessaloniki bus station (4 buses daily, duration app. 3,5 hrs, 28 Euro) by public bus. More information about the connections Ioannina-Athens and Ioannina – Thessaloniki is available on www.ktelioannina.gr. It is possible to book tickets online, but the site is only available in Greek. You can prebook the bus tickets from Ioannina to Athens or Thessaloniki. You can prebook the departure transfer from the bus station to the airports of Athens or Thessaloniki respectively.

Inclusions

Included

  • 7 nights accommodation on bed and breakfast basis
  • Guided group walk through Meteora’s Caves on day 3
  • Private taxi transfer Ioannina-Monodendri
  • Luggage transfer Monodendri-Vikos
  • Luggage transfer Vikos-Megalo Papingo
  • Private taxi transfer Papingo-Ioannina airport or bus station
  • Detailed tours materials in digital format (route notes, maps and GPS tracks)
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/reprersentative

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Lunches and dinners
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Entrance fees to monasteries, museums and national parks
  • Local tourist tax (between 0.5 and 1.5 Euro per room per night, payable on-site)
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

Supplements, options and extras

  • Where solo travellers or individual members of a group require a single room, a supplement is applicable as costs are not shared
  • Taxi transfer Meteora-Ioannina
  • Transfer Athens Airport-Athens bus station in combination with KTEL bus ticket to Kalambaka
  • Bus ticket Ioannina-Athens
  • Transfer Athens bus station-Athens airport
  • Transfer Thessaloniki Airport-Thessaloniki bus station in combination with KTEL bus ticket to Ioannina
  • Connecting transfer on Day 4 between Meteora and Zagori
  • Transfer Thessaloniki bus station – Thessaloniki airport
  • Sunset excursion in Meteora
  • Additional night/s at any of the accommodations along the way, Ioannina, Thessaloniki or Athens

If you prefer to purchase a folded map additionally, we recommend:

  • Meteora map 1:10 000, Road Editions, ISBN: 9789605810504
  • Zagori, map 1:25 000, Anavasi, ISBN: 9789608195233

Reviews

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Rating

     

Allison

This trip was fantastic, The Natural Adventure Company was easy to work with, their communication was great and made the trip stress free, they also worked with us on some changes to the trip as we had a rental car. Hotel choices were lovely and we have zero complaints! A very neat way to experience a country.