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.