Just 352 km. from Athens, Kalambaka, a small town full of history and unique monuments situated on the left bank of river Pineios, is one of the most popular year-round travel destinations. It is the capital of the namesake province of the north-western part of Trikala prefecture. From picturesque Kalambaka we head towards the monastic state of Meteora, a masterpiece created by nature, that spreads eastward and northward off the town.
Google Maps Coordinates
Latitude : 39.707331
Longitude : 21.626745
Latitude :N 39 42.440
Longitude : E 21 37.605
Important inscriptions of the 10th c. refer to the town as Aiginion or Stagoi, and attest to the central position it occupied during the Hellenistic and Roman eras. While strolling around the town, you'll see the cathedral of St. Vissarion (100 m. from Toti Boutique Rooms) and the Temple of the Assumption of Virgin Mary (10 - 11th c.) on the north part of the town. Here you can marvel at a fine wood-carved icon screen (iconostasis) of post byzantine style (17th c.) and the only marble pulpit in Greece. Since this byzantine temple is located just 3 minutes away from Meteora by foot, you can set out from here and visit the nearby monasteries of Holy Trinity and St. Stephen.
Other attractions of Kalambaka that are worth a visit are the Natural History Museum of Meteora [700-800 m. from the accommodation], which houses a rich collection of approximately 300 species of fauna (birds and mammals), the Museum of Hellenic Culture located at the town's centre, which aims at the preservation, study, promotion and furtherance of Hellenic Culture, as well as a Mushroom Museum, the first of its kind in Greece, where the main varieties of mushrooms are showcased and the way they develop in each ecosystem is explained. If you happen to be at the area during the first weekend of October, you can take part in the annual Mushroom Festival, established in 2015, which features many events and activities sponsored by the Region of Thessaly, the Kalambaka Municipality and the Mushroom Associations of Greece, Epirus and Western Macedonia.
DESCRIPTION OF SURROUNDING REGIONS & RECOMMENDED EXCURSIONS
With the town of Kalambaka as a base we embark on an exploration of the wider area, which includes nearby destinations such as Meteora and Kastraki, and more distant locations such as Trikala, Elati, Petrouli, Metsovo, and Plastiras Lake. Very popular are also the mountain climbing, trekking, kayaking, rafting and horse-riding excursions.
Route 1: Theopetra - Kastraki - Meteora
The region defined by the Antichasia Mountains, which includes Meteora and Kalambaka, has been characterized as a Natural Habitat and a Special Protected Area. The highlands of mount Koziaka (mount Kerketion in antiquity), full of gorges clad with firs, beeches, oaks and deciduous trees, and of Achelous river (Aspropotamos), strewn with riparian forests of plane-trees, willows, maple-trees and other aquatic plants, with theirvast alpine valleys at an elevationof 2.300 m. or more, have been included in the list of the European network of protected areas NATURA 2000. The diverse landscapes and the lush virgin nature will entice you to rejuvenating and relaxing hiking explorations.
At a distance of 5 km. from Kalambaka, we find village Theopetra with the namesake cave, 100 m. above the valley floor and 280 m. above sea level. This cave is of utmost importance since it was the finding site of two human skeletons, one from the Upper Paleolithic period and a burial from the Mesolithic period, which make it the only cave in Greece in which the transition from the Upper Paleolithic to the Mesolithic and from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic period can be studied and accurately dated.
The boulders of Meteora are located 7 km. north of Kalambaka, at the foot of the Pineios valley. This unique geological phenomenon makes for an unworldly spectacle that overwhelms all visitors with awe. The visit to the monastic state focuses on the 6 surviving monasteries out of the 30 that are estimated to have existed initially. In 1989, Unesco included this whole region in its list of World Heritage sites characterizing it as a "preserved monument of Humanity" and thus asserting that, despite been located in Greece, it belongs to the whole world in light of its cultural significance. At the foot of the boulders, we find Kastraki, which has been thrice characterized by the Greek State as a traditional and preserved settlement and tourist attraction. The houses of this traditional village stretch from the surrounding slopes to the foot of the valley, where the monasteries are situated. Since the route to the monasteries is the most aesthetically pleasing, many visitors choose to hike from Kastraki (2 km. from the accommodation), past the derelict monastery of Lord Pantokrator (to the northern side of boulder Doupiani), the abandoned and restored Monastery of Ypapanti and the bust of the Greek Revolution freedom-fighter Papathimios Vlachavas, to the majestic monasteries of "Great Meteoron" (Monastery of the Saviour) and the "Holy Monastery of Varlaam".
Route 2: Trikala - Elati - Petrouli - Plastiras Lake
The city of Trikala, 20 km. from Meteora [approximately 40 minutes by car], is one of the most picturesque cities of Thessaly, and in antiquity it was home to the great god of medicine Asclepius and to the most renowned healing temple (Asclepieion) in Greece. The waters of river Lithaios run through the city, and its two banks are connected by numerous bridges. Trikala is an idyllic and verdurous city that excites all of its visitors who are fascinated by the picturesque neighbourhood Varousi, with the colourful two-storey houses dated between the 17th and 19th centuries, the churches, the Osman Shah Mosque, created by architect Sinan of Greek descent, the medieval Fort with the famous tower and clock, trademark of the city, and by the archaeological site of the Asclepieion, which includes a Late Hellenistic building also used during the Roman era, part of a Late Hellenistic stoa, part of a Roman bath house and one post-Byzantine temple.
Any time of the year, a tour of the surrounding areas will reveal dozens of attractions and will provide you with numerous opportunities for activities, such as horse-riding at valleys Petrouliotika, mountain climbing in Elati, skiing in Petrouli, rafting and kayaking in the waters of Aspropotamos (7,5 - 8 km from location Tria Potamia up to Alexiou Bridge and 8,5 km from there to the Mesohora Dam), as well as river trekking. While on route you will pass through picturesque mountain villages, like Neraidochori, Pyra, Drosochori and Dessi.
Your trip can be ideally combined with the dreamlike beauty of Plastiras Lake, which is fringed with dozens of traditional and very hospitable villages. The lake offers opportunities for countless activities, such as horse riding, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking and rock-climbing, in a magnificent landscape, with the enchanting Agrapha of Thessaly encompassing the lake.
Route 3: Metsovo
The wonderful town of Metsovo, at an altitude of 1200 m. dominates the mountainous bulk of Pindos. Metsovo is situated 61,45 km. northward off Kalambaka, and you can combine your trip there with a visit to the artificial lake Aou (at 1300 m. elevation) and the Politses plateau, for horse riding and mountain biking, or for kayaking in river Metsovitikos. During wintertime you can ski and snowboard at the Aniliou ski centre (7 km. from the village) located at "Giuzel Tepe" (Beautiful Mountain Ridge) at an altitude of 1.790 m.!
In the town of Metsovo you can visit the Folk Art Museum, housed at the restored Tositsa mansion, the Averoff Museum of Neohellenic Art (erected in 1985), with works from Volanakis, Gyzis, Litras, Maleas, Moralis, Parthenis, Tsarouchis, Fasianos, Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas and the famed Averoff garden, a park that stretches over 10.000 sm. and contains all the endemic flora of Pindos.
At a short distance from Metsovo, in village Anthochori, we recommend a stop at the Open Air Water-Power Museum, which features old restored watermills, fulling mills, tuck mills, small bridges and beautiful cobblestone streets.