The Monasteries of Meteora are world famous, included on the World Heritage List and visited by millions of people every year. The main monasteries look like a theme park during day, full of people brought by coach in huge amounts. Those people see the parking lot, the ancient wooden elevator, the many steps which are used nowadays, the churches and probably even one of the secluded little gardens, the monks used to produce some food. Then they hurry to the next crowded monastery, and then back to the coach for the journey back. It is hard to visit Meteora on a day trip by coach from a tourist resort some 500 kilometers away.
If you are lucky, and have your own car, take more time, at least two days. If you stay for two nights at Kalambaka, right below the rocks, you may vist two monasteries in the early morning and two in the afternoon, check which monastery is closed on which day when you plan. Between 11:00 and 14:00 avoid the crowded monasteries and do the best alternative that exists: visit one of the fine greek restaurants in Kalambaka and have an opulent lunch. Not such an Anglo Saxon lunch with a few sandwiches, but a Greek lunch, with grilled lamb, vegetables and a glass of wine.
The monasteries were built on the table tops of rock pillars formed of 60Ma old Tertiary sandstones and conglomerates. The rocks are reddish and not soluble by water, so there is no karstification. Nevertheless there are virtually hundreds of caves, normally small structures of various shapes. They were used by the first hermits, which came into this area in the 9th century, for an ascetic life. We can find caves of three different types in this area.
First there are thousands of small erosional caves like speckles on the smooth surface of the rocks. The characteristic rocks pillars are a result of mostly mechanical erosion of this sandstone. Heat, freezing, wind, and running water created both the pillars and the caves in the rock. Parts of the sandstone are less resistant against erosion than the surrounding rock because of minimal chemical differences. This part of the rock is eroded faster and cave like pockets are formed.
The second type of caves is much rarer, the tectonic caves formed by fractures and movement in the rocks. The rocks were lifted by tectonic forces which caused fractures in the rock. The steep relief causes forces inside the rock, which ofen cause movements along the pre-existing fractures.
And finally there are talus caves which are always located at the foot of the rocks. They are formed by collapses, talus caves are the cracks in debris, caused by irregular shape of blocks. This are the crevices between dislocated blocks.
The monasteries of Meteora are connected by a special road. Like an M it starts three times from the valley at Kalambaka forming two bows up at the hills behind the monasteries. The three main caves are found at the middle road, right above Kalambaka.
An additional cave, which is often mentioned in connection with Meteora is the Theopetra Cave which is located less than four kilometers away. There is a geologic boundary in-between and the Theopetra Cave is actually a karst cave inside a limestone hill It is geologically not related to the Meteora caves. It is an archaeological site important for the understanding of the history of this area.