Meteora, Mount Olympus, & Thessaloniki 🇬🇷

Wed, Aug 12, 2020 5-minute read

Predominantly known for being the site of a number of monasteries, Meteora is a breathtaking rock formation that quite simply has to be seen. A short drive later took me to Mount Olympus to enjoy a climb half way up the mountain, a great precursor to my visit to the second largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki.

Right now I am writing from a hillside guesthouse in the region of Zagori. I am playing catch-up with my writing as the adventures have come thick and fast. It is not hard to think back to my time in Meteora as the view over the rocks was truly outstanding. My trip to Mount Olympus is also a recent memory as I passed by for a second time to take some friends to the base for their hike.


Meteora is a rock formation that looks over the town of Kalabaka. The site is on the UNESCO world heritage list and, less importantly for me, is host to six remaining monasteries built into the rocks.

I would be doing a disservice to the site if I didn’t mention the monasteries but, as I have said before, those that know me will know I don’t indulge in religion. Although the monasteries don’t engage in the practice of denying entry to women like Mount Athos, they do enforce a modesty policy which requires those entering to cover their legs. Nevertheless the buildings are impressively built atop the tall narrow rocks with stairs to access them.

The monasteries built upon the rocks

From the village of Kalabaka one can see the front of the rocks which are impressive even from there. But the real magic comes from making your way up to the top of the rocks. For those approaching by car there is a road that runs behind the rocks and takes only 15 minutes to drive from the town. From this road you can visit everything. For those feeling more adventurous, myself not included this time, there are apparently a number of fairly short hikes that will take you to the top.

For me the real magic came at sunset. At around sunset time I took my seat alongside a number of other tourists at the observation deck and watched as the sun set below the mountains opposite Meteora. The red of the sunset mixed with the blue of the sky, the green of the trees around the rocks, and the grey of the rocks themselves and made for an incredible scene.

The sun setting from atop Meteora Observation Deck

With a car one can see all the beauty of Meteora in one day, just remember to take accommodation to allow for viewing the sunset. The next day I headed off in search of a rather tall mountain.

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus has its highest peak at 2917m making it the tallest in Greece. Incidentally this peak is also the home to the Greek Gods. Sadly my energy levels weren’t enough to make it to the peak to meet them but, for those better prepared, it is easier than you might think.

My adventure up Mount Olympus started at Summit Zero Hostel near the town of Litchoro. From the beach one can see the imposing figure of Mount Olympus.

The view of Mount Olympus from the beach outside Summit Zero Hostel

I set off from the hostel by car up the mountain road to the rather spacious car park and bar at Priònia. This already cuts out over 1000m of climb. For those wishing to start from Litochoro I am informed that a hike up the gorge is the best option in terms of ease and beauty.

From here I hiked to one of two refuge centres on the mountain known as Refuge “A”. The path on this hike is both easy and well-maintained. In a little opening I found time for a little drone flight.

On the way up you can catch a glimpse through the mountain edges and the clouds out over the sea.

Looking down the mountain at the clouds

And after approximately 3 hours I arrived at the refuge!

Arriving at Refuge “A”

I wish I could have gone further but the most accessible peak Skala was still a couple of hours away. Although achievable, it would have left me in darkness on my descent. For those with more time and better planning I recommend booking a stay at one of the refuges and taking in the view from the summit. Luckily for me I was able to see the view from photos sent by my better prepared friends.

On my return to sea level I spent another night in the hostel before heading on to Thessaloniki.


Hopefully the city of Thessaloniki will forgive me for saying it is not the most beautiful, but as a welcome contrast to the remote beauties of Greece I was able to enjoy some nightlife and faster pace of life.

The stay was made more enjoyable thanks to my friend Frida. She had kindly contacted her friends in advance who met up with me, showed me the city, and invited me to join them for food, drinks, and rebetiko music. Sadly the only evidence I have of this night is the impressive thunderstorm that carried on throughout the night.

The main touristic sites of Thessaloniki include The Arch of Galerius and Rotunda. Both of these are 4th century monuments and stand out against the more modern architecture of a populous city.

Rotunda commissioned by Roman emperor Galerius

My visit however was focused mostly on the social aspect and as such I’ll keep this section brief. I will spare my writing energy for the many other treasures I have found on my travels and am yet to write about!