An ancient beauty of nature and human engineering, Meteora is a UNESCO-listed Monastery Complex located in northern Greece. Composed of tall vertical cliffs and century-old monasteries, this beautiful landscape draws a solid crowd of visitors every year. It is also a photographer’s haven, offering unique sights and vistas which are hard to match.
With such stunning views, it can be hard to determine where to set up your tripod when the golden hour arrives. For this guide to the best photography locations in Meteora, we will follow the main road, called “Epar. Od. Meteoron-Kallitheas,” which goes through the area circularly. When determining where to photograph, I often start in Kalambaka, the closest town, and work my way counter-clockwise through Meteora.
Another point to keep in mind is that these locations are numbered below, just for reference. The numbers do not mean rank, it is just a sequence of how they appear physically on our journey. Ultimately you can decide which one is your favorite.
1) Holy Trinity Monastery
The Holy Trinity Monastery sits atop what seems like a giant tooth. Its monolithic cliff base is both daunting and stunning at the same time. Huge vertical walls surround this monastery while it comfortably sits on top of the massive rock formation. It is a marvelous view to look at, especially from the north due to the mountainous background behind it, which gives it tremendous depth.
Although you can also see the Holy Trinity Monastery from Kalambaka, it photographs best from the north. As you drive up the road, you will meander through multiple turns until you gain elevation and come to a T-intersection. If you don’t have a telephoto zoom lens for your camera, go left at the intersection. In about 100 feet you will see a place to park on the right side of the road. This spot will give you a great view.
On the other hand, if you have a telephoto zoom lens, take a right at the fork and go about 300 yards. When the road makes almost a U-turn you will have a more panoramic view of the monastery and the surrounding cliffs.
The best time to shoot the Holy Trinity Monastery is in the morning.
2) Meteora Valley
The Meteora valley is quite gorgeous and very unique. While most people go there to photograph the monasteries, I believe that the landscape has an amazing natural beauty that is also worth capturing. For this next photography location, you will have a top-down view of the valley with stunning vertical walls and cliff formations.
To get to the best viewpoint, continue on the main road for about a quarter-mile. You will come to a small parking lot to your left, referred to as the Observation Deck. From there you can access a large flat rock platform, which overlooks the valley. Because of its easy access, this location can get quite busy, especially to watch the sunset during the summer. Therefore, if you are planning to shoot the sunset from there, be sure to arrive a bit early to get a parking spot. While the best time to photograph this location is at sunset, it is also quite beautiful after the crowds leave and the blue hour descends.
3) Rousanou and St. Nicholas Monasteries
The Rousanou Monastery may be the most photographed building in Meteora. It is the smallest but also the most charming. The building’s walls come to the edge of the vertical cliff on which it is constructed. It is also strategically located from a photographic perspective as it opens a great view of the rocks and the sunset. In addition, it is probably the one monastery that yields great photographs from multiple angles.
To get there from the Observation Deck from the last location, continue west. In about 200 yards you will come to another small parking lot with access to a large rock. This is another popular spot, which can be crowded during sunset hours. You are now a bit lower in the valley, but the monastery is right in front of you and is surrounded by fascinating cliffs. In addition, the St. Nicholas Monastery is right behind Rousanou. Finally, to your right, you will have the Monastery of Varlaam. From this vantage point, you can photograph the sunset, the cliffs, and three monasteries.
As with the previous viewpoint, the best time to photograph these three monasteries is at sunset and in the early evening.
4) Monastery of Varlaam
Varlaam is another beautiful monastery that is a joy to photograph. Similar to Rusanou, it is on top of a monolithic cliff structure with vertical walls higher than 1200 feet (365 meters). However, I believe that one of the best spots to photograph Varlaam is actually from the Rousanou monastery itself. The reason for this is that by going to Rousanou you have already gained elevation and are standing on a platform that gives you a full view of Varlaam and the enormous cliff face.
To reach Rousanou you have to walk down a short trail. At the end of the trail, you reach a gate. When it is open for visitation, usually 10 am to 4 pm, you will be able to climb the stairs past the gate onto a beautiful stone platform. As this location isn’t a part of the Rousanou Monastery, you do not need to pay an entrance fee. If you want to capture Varlaam from this spot early in the morning or in the evening, which is the best time, the option is a bit more tricky. In this case, you have to climb on the rock wall to your right, just before reaching the above-mentioned gate. It is not that difficult but can be intimidating if you are afraid of heights.
5) Rousanou Monastery
As mentioned before, the Rousanou Monastery can be photographed from multiple locations. A few of my favorites will give you unique views of the monastery and its supporting rock formation against a beautiful backdrop of more rocks and the valley below.
For the first location, you can capture Rousanou Monastery with any lens. Continue west on the main road from location #3. The route begins a slight descent while curving through the hills. In about 100 yards you will start seeing views of Rousanou to your south. There is no parking lot but you can pull on the side of the road.
For the second location, you will need a telephoto zoom. Continue further west from the above location. In a quarter-mile, you will come to another T-intersection. Turn right and head towards the Monastery of Varlaam, just about half a mile up the road. As you are pulling into the monastery’s parking lot, you will see a large unpaved lot to your left. Park there and head towards the huge rock platform right in front of you. Find your vantage point and shoot down towards Rousanou. This is a great vantage point that photographs nicely no matter the time of day.
6) The Hiking Trails
If you enjoy hiking with your camera bag, Meteora offers some beautiful and well-maintained trails. These trails will lead to excellent and less popular photography angles of the monasteries and the Meteora Valley.
If you visit Meteora during the summer months, be ready for hot and humid weather. Be sure to take water with you as the area can be rather dry. Needless to say, please leave only footprints and take only photographs.
Meteora is truly a one-of-a-kind location, for both photographers and non-photographers alike. The unique history coupled with its stunning scenery should put Meteora on every photographer’s bucket list.
About the author: Lazar Gintchin grew up in Bulgaria with the beautiful Pirin mountains as his backyard. He quickly learned to appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounded him when his father gifted him his first camera, a 1970s German Film Camera. Since then, Gintchin has crisscrossed the globe in search of beautiful locations that he captures with his camera. More of his work can be found on his website, Instagram, and Facebook.