Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Metéora (literally means “middle of the sky”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” — etymologically related to meteorology) is a formation of immense monolithic pillars and hills like huge rounded boulders dominate the local area. It is also associated with one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece.
In the 9th century AD, an ascetic group of hermit monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles; they were the first people to inhabit Metéora since the Neolithic Era. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some as high as 1800 ft (550 meters) above the plain. This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors.
At the end of the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire’s 800-year reign over northern Greece was being increasingly threatened by Turkish raiders who wanted control over the fertile plain of Thessaly. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. More than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century. Six remain today.