The Monasteries of Meteora, Greece

What better way to get closer to heaven than to build monasteries on megalithic mountains? Monks from the Greek Orthodox Church constructed their soaring monastery complex, known as Meteora, upon towering sandstone spires (some reaching 1,300 feet above ground) in the heartland of Thessaly, leaving a monumental mark in Greece’s natural history.

These peaks became home to nomadic Greek Orthodox monks beginning in the 11th century, but it wasn’t until the Ottoman conquest of 1453 when religious pressure against orthodox monks forced them to seek refuge on high ground, leading to construction of what would become more than 20 monasteries across the area’s pillars.

The monks were not the only groups motivated by danger to migrate here. This area has recently become home to the endangered Egyptian vulture, and is recognized as a symbol of the Meteora region. Adventurers can test their faith in trekking to the top via a carved stairway and bridges connecting the buildings.

Kevin Johnson is a frequent contributor to National Geographic Travel. Follow his story on Twitter.

Plenty of travelers visit South Africa for its wine or beaches. But fewer travelers venture inland to the landlocked country of Lesotho–surrounded on all sides by South Africa. It’s a pity, as Lesotho, with its high altitude and some three hundred days of sun a year, is one of Africa’s finest destinations for adventure travelers. Head to the Tsehlanyane National Park–thick with che-che (old wood)–or go skiing at Oxbow, one of Africa’s few ski resorts.

Lesotho

Plenty of travelers visit South Africa for its wine or beaches. But fewer travelers venture inland to the landlocked country of Lesotho–surrounded on all sides by South Africa. It’s a pity, as Lesotho, with its high altitude and some three hundred days of sun a year, is one of Africa’s finest destinations for adventure travelers. Head to the Tsehlanyane National Park–thick with che-che (old wood)–or go skiing at Oxbow, one of Africa’s few ski resorts.
Photograph by David South, Alamy STock Photo
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