Meteora, Greece was a must stop on our 2022 trip and hiking to Ypapanti Monastery was a perfect way to start exploring the area. We arrived in Meteora mid afternoon and after checking in at our hotel we decided we would have time to get a hike in before sunset. We knew we wanted to see the sunset somewhere over the monasteries and Ypapanti Monastery was up in the rocks so it would work well for us.
About Meteora, Greece
Meteora, Greece brings to mind images of monasteries onto of steep tall rocks. Meteora is the name of the area, the monastery complex, not the town. It was aptly named as the Greek word meteoro which means suspended in air. Almost like another planet, these rocks jut up out of the earth. They are a sight to see on their own, and with the century old monasteries at the top, you have a place like no other on earth. This unique area has brought people here for centuries for it’s uniqueness and awe inspiring views. Even Hollywood has been attracted here as parts of James Bond For Your Eyes Only and Game of Thrones were filmed here. You can read more about Meteora and the monasteries on my next post, E-Bike Tour in Meteora, Greece.
History of the Meteora Monasteries
Meteora monastery history can be traced back to the 11th century when many of the caves in the rocks were used as homes or cells for Greek Orthodox hermit monks. The first monastery was built in the 14th century by a monk named Athanasios Koinovitis. The monastery was built on the area called Platylithos (meaning huge stone). The small complex consisted of a chapel, some cells and 14 monks. The surrounding rocks were the beginning of what came to be known as the Grand Meteora. Athanasios called the rock Meteora as he thought it was suspended between heaven and earth. Over time more monasteries were built on the other rocks with a total of 24 in all. Monastic living started to decline in the 17th century and today, there are 6 working monasteries in Meteora.
Ypapanti Old Monastery
When I first heard about the abandoned Ypapanti being off the beaten path and assessible by foot, I was all in. The Ypapanti Monastery is in the Northern part of Meteora and is a wonderful place to hike in Greece. Ypapanti Old Monastery is also known as Monastery of the Purification and Monastery of the Accension of the Savior. This monastery was established in 1367 by the Prior of the Skete and Abbot of Doupiani It is constructed inside an opening of a rock instead of on top fo the rock. After having fallen to disrepair, it was restored in 1765 by Athanasios Vlachavas. He was a local man from a prominent family.
We drove up to the Grand Meteora Monastery to park as the hike starts there. After looking around for a bit and not seeing a trailhead or sign to Ypapanti, I asked a man selling souvenirs and books if he spoke English. He confirmed that he did so I asked him if he knew where the trail is for Ypapanti Old Monastery and he pointed towards the road at the end of the parking lot. We could see a path going up the hill, so off we went.
Following the Trail
The Trail was easy enough to follow we went just above the road for a short time and the views were beautiful. We passed the Holy Monastery of Varlaam which was built in the 14th century. This Eastern Orthodox Monastery is the second largest in the Meteora complex. In 1350 a monk named Varlaam founded this monastery.
As we continued down the trail we saw many rock formations. We walked through trees and also on top through a grassy area. It was a very pretty hike. The trail was easy to follow and mostly packed dirt.
We came to a point where we had to walk down the side of a rock as we could see the path below us but did not see a great spot to hike down to it. It wasn’t to much of a scramble but as we found out later it was easier to go down to the path below than back up.
Once on the path below, we continued following the trail. The trail was becoming more rocky but still not difficult. We passed by some ruins but I have not been able to find out what the ruins once were.
After a bit we came to a split in the trail. One way was to follow the trail we were on that veered to the right. This would take us across from the Ypapanti Monastery to view it. Option # 2 was to follow the path that went down a hill to Ypapanti. Since I was nursing my knee with a torn meniscus I did not want to go down and consequently back up any more than I planned on so I decide to follow the trail to the overlook. Steve decided to see where the downhill trail led and then catch up with with me and view Ypapanti.
Down the Hill
So off our separate ways we went. I know, hiking alone is not suggested, but we could hear each other and were really not that far apart. In addition, with my knee, I was quite slow and careful. When Steve caught back up with me, he had some great photos to show.
Ypapanti Old Monastery is closed to the public. The stairs up to Old Monastery was chained off and although we noticed people on the stairs from a distance, Steve did not feel it would be respectful to cross that barrier. He only took photos from below but they are still amazing. There was also an elevator set up that was used before the stairs to get to the top and to haul items up to the Monastery.
Viewing Ypapanti Old Monastery
I walked through the trees and followed the path towards an overlook area across the ravine from the Old Monastery. Steve soon caught up with me. We were really enjoying the Meteora area here, in Greece, and our hike was rewarded as we viewed the Old Ypapanti Monastery. Tucked inside a large opening on Dimitrios Rock, it was hard to imagine a community once lived here hundreds of years ago. My photos aren’t the greatest as we were facing towards the low setting sun.
Thymios Vlachavas Statue
On the rock we were standing is a statue dedicated to Thymios Vlachavas. Thymios Vlachavas, born in 1760 was the son of the above mentioned Athanasios Vlachavas. He was known for leading an anti-ottoman uprising in 1808 against the powerful Ali Pasha. Unfoortunaltey he was captured and executed.
The Way Back
We went back the way we came, unfortunately, when we came to where we had scrambled down from the upper path to lower path we had a hard time finding a good spot to scramble back up to the path. We could see the path but with my bum knee, getting there didn’t look like fun. After back tracking a bit, Steve found a spot through the trees up to the path without too much difficulty. I am wondering if there is a better way and we missed it. The sun was starting to lower on the horizon and we made it back just before the sun set. We drove back to Kalambaka as the sun was setting and stopped to snap a couple of photos.
Where We Ate
Once back at our hotel we cleaned up and decided to walk around Kalambaka until we found a place that looked good to dine at. We decided on Valia Calda, set back just a bit from the sidewalk with plenty of outdoor seating. I enjoyed a local wine. I wish I had caught the name of it as it was excellent. As suggested by our waiter, Steve and I ordered Saganaki and Moussaka for the table. Both were amazing! We topped it off with Baklava and called it a night!
If you enjoy hiking, Ypapanti Old Monastery is a must do in Meteora, Greece. I would consider the hike moderate and it took us just under 2 hours. Although we went slow and took lots of photos. All in all, it was a great way to start off our Meteora visit.
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