Have you heard of one of the most stunning places on Earth? Visiting Meteora, in Greece, will transport you into another world. The Meteora sunset is spectacular, so we’ll give you some photography tips to capture it.
For years I’ve been hearing whispers of this mysterious valley with holy monasteries clinging to the side of cliffs, unchanged for centuries. It seemed like everyone I knew was going to Greece and heading up to see the ancient monasteries and the rock pinnacles. Sunset photos dazzled me over all the social media channels. It seemed like Meteora was teasing me, calling me.
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On our Greek road trip, we were not going to miss Meteora. We had just visited Delphi, another site clouded in superstition and mystery where oracles determined the fates of kings and were ready for more.
Visiting Meteora Fast Links (TLDR)
For a quickie look at some of the links you might like, I’ve put them here.
Beautiful Views and Comfort:
In this article:
- Visiting Meteora
- How to Get to the Monasteries
- Photographing Meteora
- Meteora Sunset
- Photography Tips
- Getting To and Around
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
There is one reason to visit Meteora, and that is seeing and going to one of the six monasteries included on our ongoing venture of visiting world heritage sites. They were inscribed because of their inaccessibility as well as their regligious background. We, however, came for the sheer beauty of the area.
We stayed in Kastraki for two nights. We wanted to be able to visit the monasteries, do a bit of hiking, look for some fantastic views, and of course, our coup de résistance, get some amazing sunset photos.
How to Get to the Monasteries
There are three ways to get to the Meteora monasteries of you don’t have a rental car like we did: walk, hire a motorbike, or take a tour. It would be really difficult to do all six monasteries by walking, because they are further apart than they seem.
Taking a motorbike is a really good option, and we saw a few people choosing this option and the driving was not bad, just steep. For a couple, this really works, for a family…not so much.
The last option is also one of the better ones, is taking a tour. You can take tours from Athens or Thessaloniki as well as get yourself to the area and take a morning or afternoon tour from there.
Here are our best tour suggestions:
Majestic Sunset Meteora Tour with a Local Guide – 4 hours of being in this gorgeous valley and seeing all the monasteries, visiting 2.
Half-Day Morning Tour from Kalampaka: A different time of day, visiting 3 monasteries and seeing all of them, of course.
From Athens: Full-Day Meteora Trip by Train in English
From Thessaloniki: Full-Day Bus Trip to Meteora
We only had a couple of days and we were determined to make the best of it. Our plan was to photograph the valley at all times of the day from different angles. We had a lot to do, so we needed to get going.
Kastraki is the absolute best place to stay to enjoy everything that Meteora has to offer. The town is nestled in the valley, with the pinnacles towering over it, and there are plenty of guesthouses that boast a view. It’s pretty hard not to have one, really.
A Meteora Sunset
Arriving in the afternoon, we were anxious to start up into the mountains and find some great places to shoot the monasteries in the sunset. The road is steep and winds around with plenty of places to pull over. We took our time, evaluating the scenes, where we thought the sun would set, and making a plan. We couldn’t wait for that sun to set.
We were there at the end July and the sunset was around 8:15. So we made sure to be there from daylight to dark. This way we got images when the sun was creating the best light.
If you want to photograph Meteora, you will want to plan your trip to coincide with the best sunset times. Here is our table on sunset times for each month:
By the time the sky started changing colors, we had our tripod set up and we were ready. We took a variety of shots, somewhat folded the gear, and headed a little further up the mountain where we took another series of shots.
We repeated this process about four times. Four different places to catch the light on the rocks, on the monasteries; it was magical. We couldn’t get enough of it.
We finally headed down when the last glimmers of light were dimming.
Meteora Photography Tips
Meteora is a stunning location and the sunsets are amazing! As you follow the main road, it winds and winds, where each curve gives you a different angle to shoot from as it climbs higher and higher. You could also catch a ride to the top and walk down, but once that sun starts dropping it moves faster than you think.
- Mobility is key! Whether you rent a bike, or scooter, or you have your own car like we did, you will want to move around a lot. Even when you’ve picked a spot, move around in that area to get all the possibilities.
- Bring a tripod. Yes, it can be unwieldy, but as the sun starts to dip, and your light diminishes, you will want to still have sharp photos, which allows you to take slower photos at a great ISO.
- The best times for shooting are sunrise, sunset, and about an hour before and after each of them. The rocks are full of crags and dips, and each change of light gives a different character to your shot.
- It is possible to get some good shots on a day trip, but you will be much happier if you spend at least one night in the village.
- Most people visit during summer, as we did, and it was fantastic. The sunset was about 9:00 PM, which wasn’t too bad for staying there an hour before and after. However if you want a shorter day and maybe some snow, I like the idea of going in winter as well.
- Make sure to bring great equipment, a DSLR is optimal. We shoot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. I used a couple of lenses, but I would recommend you at least have a 75-300 mm lens so you can get closer to the monasteries from afar. I also highly suggest a good tripod for stabilizing the camera during low light.
- Post-processing: I’m not big on HDR, but I did on a few just in Lightroom. However, when I didn’t use HDR, all I did was a little sharpening, contrast, and dehaze.
- You definitely need to spend at least one night there, but if you can spend two your chances of having the perfect sunset conditions are much better.
Getting To and Around
By Car: We already had our rental car figured out because we were on a full road trip, but you can either rent a car where you land and drive or take a train.
Driving from Athens and straight to Kastraki, it’s about 265 kilometers, but it will take you about 4 hours. However, just know it’s worth taking your time and hitting a few other sites along the way.
By Train: We could easily have taken the train all the way to Kalambaka, and found transportation to Kastraki, but we’re not the types to go straight from point A to point B. It is a rather inexpensive option, and once you get to Kastraki many places will rent you bikes or scooters to get around.
From Athens, the train will take about 5 hours to Kalambaka. You can stay here or find a taxi to Kastraki which is the village where the Meteora monasteries are.
Where to Stay
There are a few places near Kastraki that are quite nice. If you have a car or rent a scooter, it gives you more flexibility to be nearer to the beach as well.
Naxos Aethereal View – a studio apartment that is super clean and comfortable no matter what time of year you go.
Kastelia – a cute little hotel right near the amazing rock formations.
Where to Eat
We knew which restaurant we wanted to go to, confirmed our choice with the guesthouse manager, and were extremely downtrodden when we saw it was waiting-room only. The Taverna Gardenia was no secret! Thankfully, the waiters were determined to feed as many people as they could and they finagled us a table.
We settled in, downed a delicious dinner of stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki, and beans, and some great wine. Guess what, we loved this restaurant so much that we returned for dinner there the next night as well.
If you happen to be traveling to Greece and can put together a trip to Meteora, don’t miss out. It’s got to be one of the most beautiful, even breath-taking spots in the entire world, and the small town of Kastraki is as Greek as can be. We loved every minute of our stay photographing the amazing rock formations.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.