From the time I was small I've been hearing about a place in the Greek interior, dotted with impossibly high rock outcroppings, each crowned by a monastery. My father visited the area known as Meteora, "middle of the sky", in the 70s and described it vividly. In my mind it became mythical—bearded orthodox monks in long robes loomed on craggy cliff-tops like wizards. Geologists explain that 60 million years ago the large Meteora valley was a sea bed, but earth quakes caused the water to withdraw leaving the mountains to be battered by wind and waves sculpting the dramatic pillars. The sandstone peaks were settled by Greek Ortodox clergy from the 11th century on, chosen for their inaccessibility which shielded against marauders, and today 6 UNESCO-protected monasteries remain.
On our way to Lefkada, where our sailing trip would begin, we'd finally have the to chance to visit Meteora. In reality, the place was not exactly a mystery ripped out of a fantasy book and has become quite well-travelled since the 70s. None the less, the landscape is a gasp-inducing sight, one populated with visitors instead of wizards. It's definitely possible to find some solitary spots, and then the view really is transporting.
When the sun begins to dip, the area becomes increasingly quiet. So we took the opportunity to slink along a cliff edge and watch the landscape transform. A haze blurred any signs of modern life on the horizon and the rocks began to take on unearthly forms. And after a few beers, which we were smart enough to bring along, the fantasy of Meteora was revived once again.
If you go: Since the roads to Meteora are windy and veer off the main highway you'll probably want to spend the night in Kalabaka—that way you'll have a chance to catch the sunset. We slept at Hotel Tsikeli and our comfortable stay included breakfast in the front garden with a killer view. There are a few decent restaurants and grocery stores in town, but I'd recommend driving up, past Meteora, to The Eagle's Nest (pictured below) for some traditional Greek fare, away from the crowds.