One of the highlights of my first trip to Athens was visiting the monasteries in Meteora. Getting from Athens to Meteora is a bit of a headache, but you can do it as a day trip if you want! While you might prefer to spend the night in Kalabaka to have extra time, for those who truly only have one day here’s how to do it. I’ve listed three different ways to go on a Meteora tour from Athens, plus Athens travel tips to help you plan your trip.
3 Ways to Visit Meteora from Athens
In order from easiest to most difficult…
Taking a Guided Meteora Tour from Athens
This is what I chose to do. I went on the Meteora Full-Day Trip from Athens by Train. It’s not a full guided tour because you still have to take the train on your own from Athens. Here’s how this tour works.
First, you book the tour, and the tour company gives you the information about which train you need to take. You’re responsible for following their instructions and getting on the train. I found the actual journey to be boring but pleasant. It’s about five hours there and six hours back, so this is a long day!
Make sure you bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Even at 8 am, this was one of the dirtiest bathrooms I’ve ever seen on a train. Plus someone had been smoking inside it and the sink was already clogged. You’ve been warned.
So why go on a guided tour if I had to deal with my own public transportation? Well see how high these monasteries are off the ground:
I never could have walked up there and back from the train station before the next train. There were only about four-five hours from when I arrived to when I had to leave. The guided tour helped me make sure I saw everything I wanted to.
There aren’t really taxis at the bottom either, so you can’t just hire a driver on the spot. If you wanted to do this, you’d need to pre-arrange it.
Basically, the medieval monks who built Meteora wanted it to be difficult to get to. Mission accomplished.
Once I arrived in Kalabaka, the tour company picked me and the rest of the people on our tour up. From here they drove us to the monasteries. We went inside and toured two of them, learned about the other four from the road, and had two stops for photo shoots.
Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about where we were. Tour guides in Greece have to be especially good because there are all these rules about who is allowed to be a guide. It’s also why the tours in Greece are a bit pricier than elsewhere: the guides have to know their stuff.
Not included in the tour price: train tickets, lunch, entrance to the monasteries (one was three Euros and the other had no cost).
If I was in Athens and wanted to go back to Meteora, I would still want a guided tour or to stay overnight. It’s just not an easy place to see on your own if you’re short on time.
Taking Public Transportation from Athens to Meteora
Athens to Meteora by Train
Essentially you’ll do what I did, except once you get to Kalabaka you’ll need to figure out how to get to the monasteries. Make sure you book the direct train that leaves from Athens Larissa station and arrives in Kalabaka (sometimes written Kalambaka). If you want to do this round trip, you’ll leave on the direct train that leaves around 8:30 am and go back on the train that leaves around 5:30 pm. Double check the exact times when you buy your ticket.
You can buy your tickets online and check schedules at Train OSE.
Athens to Meteor by Bus
Another option is to travel from Athens to Meteora on the KTEL bus. I love Greece’s buses (I’ve used them all over, especially in Crete). One thing to keep in mind is that KTEL is not a nation-wide company. The buses are split up at the prefecture level.
Plus, if you go by bus then you won’t have any real time to explore because the trip will take longer. The journey will go from Athens to Trikala, and then you’ll change buses to Kalabaka.
You can check schedules and book your tickets at KTEL.
Self-Driving from Athens to Meteora
I love doing day trips DIY and renting a car. We wrote about how we love driving in Serbia because we got to see things that are not on the traditional tourist circuit. However, I don’t personally think I would ever want to drive to Meteora from Athens and back in one day. The drive is four hours each way before you account for traffic leaving and returning to Athens.
I am usually all up for a Balkan road trip, but I would personally only drive there from Athens as part of a larger road trip or at least an overnight. The cost of the rental car will most likely cancel out any saving you have on the tour after factoring in the rental cost, gasoline, and tolls.
But if you insist on driving, like if you have a few people to drive and you’re borrowing a friends car or something, then go for it. Just make sure you have data and that you download the section of Google Maps so that you have access to the driving instructions if you lose connectivity in the mountains.
Also, if you have a crippling fear of driving in the mountains, (like I do), then don’t be the driver. Have someone else on your trip cover that part.
How to Follow the Meteora Dress Code
You may be wondering what to wear to Meteora. There is a dress code, and it is strictly enforced: “No entry for men wearing shorts and for women wearing trousers shorts or short sleeves.”
Yes, women, that means you need to wear a dress. Otherwise, they’ll give you a wrap to wear in the monasteries that are, let’s say, not Instagrammable.
You should also wear sturdy shoes that can handle slick staircases and long hours walking on stone steps.
Another thing to consider is that you’ll either be on a train for eleven hours or in a car for nine hours. You want to wear clothes that are appropriate for the monasteries, something you want to be photographed in, and also something that you can wear on the train or in the car.
I chose leggings and a dress, but you know what works best for you.
The Best Times to Visit Meteora
You can visit Meteora year-round. The crowds will be much higher in the summer, but even in October during my visit, it was quite crowded. I loved visiting Meteora in autumn because the weather was amazing.
Allison visited Meteora in winter and got some amazing photos of the monasteries covered in snow. Bottom line, there isn’t really a bad time to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Recommended Meteora Tour from Athens
There’s only one tour that we’re recommending for this day trip:
If you’re iinterestedin other guided day trips from Athens, check our Athens Day Trip guide.
Where to Stay in Athens
If this is your first trip to Athens, figuring out where to stay in the city can be a bit intimidating. Because of the location of the Acropolis, it really matters which neighborhood you choose to stay in, especially if you’re looking for Acropolis views, easy access to the metro, and a good value for your money.
For our hotel recommendations, Generally, budget means hostel beds for around $30 a night and singles/doubles for around $50, mid-range is from about $50-100 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night. However, note that availability, time of year, and how much in advance you book will play a role in how much accommodations cost in Athens.
Budget: If you want a hostel dorm bed in the heart of Psyri, check out the Acropolis Hostel. This basic-yet-clean hostel boasts what very few in the world can: Acropolis views from its communal terrace. You’ll enjoy having access to an elevator (no lugging you bag all the way up to your room), and you can enjoy the lively neighborhood atmosphere and come home when you want since the hostel has no curfew.
Mid-Range: For my most recent trip to Athens, we stayed in a couple of different places, but my favorite was the Ares Athens Hotel off of Omonia Square. I loved it’s location, close to Omonia station, across the street from a Coffee Island (my personal version of Heaven), and with views of Mount Lycabettus. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and each room has a private terrace.
Luxury: If you are a traveler who loves having stunning hotel views, book a stay at A for Athens, a boutique hotel in Psyri that has what is considered by many to be the best rooftop bar in the city. You can also enjoy Acropolis views from the panoramic terrace during breakfast, You can even get amazing Acropolis and Parthenon views from some of the rooms. This hotel is basically Instagram crack.
Don’t see a hotel that’s the right pick for you? Check out our complete Athens Neighborhood and Hotel Guide.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is essential for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Athens is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!
Greece Travel Resources
Headed to Greece? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Greece and local tipping customs.
If you’ll be spending time in Athens, check out our Athens Instagram Guide and our complete Athens hotel guide. If you’re looking for more suggestions for day trips, here is our guide to the best Athens day trips.
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.