Three contrasting areas of the Alps mountain chain are explored in a three week tour that takes you from limestones of the Dolomites in Northeastern Italy to the wilds of Mercantour a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean in Southern France.
Reckoned by many to be unsurpassed in Europe for their wealth of wild flowers, the Dolomites have some of the finest mountain scenery. The great pinnacles and buttresses which rise high above idyllic hay meadows and forests are truly spectacular.
At sunset, the many-hued cliffs of crystalline magnesian limestone from which the region takes its name are a photographer’s dream, and during the day a naturalist’s heaven! Our comfortable family run hotel, just a forty minute drive from wealthy Cortina, has been chosen for its proximity to some glorious flowers and butterflies as well as classic alpine wildlife such as Nutcracker, Golden Eagle, Chamois and the entrancing Alpine Marmot. The flowers really are amazingly beautiful and diverse. Black Vanilla Orchid, Globe Orchid, Bearded Bellflower and Dwarf Alpenrose adorn fragrant meadows, while no less than a dozen species of Gentian decorate splendid alpine turf.
Cliffs are festooned with the pink Potentilla nitida, a variety of pretty Saxifrages, Androsaces and Bellflowers, while wooded glades hold Rampions, Wolfsbane and Orchids such as the lovely Lady’s-slipper. In particular we will search out the enigmatic Devil’s Claw and beautiful King of the Alps! Butterflies feature Scarce Coppers and Alpine Blues as well as localised species such as Titania’s and Cynthia’s Fritillaries. We think that you will agree that this is among the best floral shows in Europe with an excellent supporting cast of butterflies and birds, and all set amidst the most magnificent mountain landscapes.
The variety and abundance of flowers to be found in the outstandingly scenic Stelvio National Park has to be seen to be believed. Usually scarce plants such as Soldanella pusilla and the orchids Nigritella rhellicani and Gymnadenia odoratissima occur in mind-boggling numbers.
Roads take us up to 2700m passes where we can admire alpine beauties such as Ranunculus glacialis and we’ll soon be enjoying Papaver aurantiacum, much Saxifraga caesia, Ranunculus parnassifolius, and abundant Ranunculus alpestris. Marmots whistle their annoyance as Lammergeiers pass overhead, whilst on rocks around us are pink-purple Saxifraga oppositifolia, endemic Saxifraga aphylla, Saxifraga androsacea, Arabis caerulea and Pritzelago alpina.
Silky Ringlet floats over gorgeous Primula glutinosa, the first of ten species of this choice genus. These include Primula daonensis and fine Primula glaucescens, the latter two much lower down in the wild Crocedomani where we’ll have superb views of the southern parts of Adamello Natural Park. This area is rich in orchids. Burnt-tip Orchids and Small White Orchids mix with various Dactylorhizas and the Globe Orchids are superb. There are several stunning Pedicularis species, Soldanella alpina, Astragalus penduliflorus, Centaurea rhaetica with fine feathery bracts, and superb Saxifraga hostii rhaetica on rocks. Apollo, Purple-edged Copper, Glandon Blue, Swiss Brassy Ringlet, Almond-eyed Ringlet and Alpine Heath are found on the approach to the Gavia Pass. Here we’ll find plenty of Edelweiss as well as Gentiana punctata, Saxifraga seguieri and the locally common and very pretty Phyteuma hedraianthifolium. A walk along the beautiful Val Viola will provide some choice butterflies such as Cranberry Blue, Scarce Copper, Eriphyle Ringlet and various Fritillaries. Here architectural Sempervivum wulfenii draws us to rocks where we’ll find smaller gems such as Arenaria marschlinsii and Draba thomasii. The Bergamasche Orobienne Alps are home to beautiful Aquilegia einseleana and the exceptional Campanula raineri. We’ll also find elegant Viola dubyana, endemic Telekia speciosissima and Linaria tonzigii, a very choice toadflax indeed. These glorious heights are also home to Nutcrackers, Snowfinches, Gentiana orbicularis, Cyclamen purpurascens, Paradisea liliastrum, Dianthus hyssopifolius, Yellow-banded Ringlet and the rare Little Fritillary…
Just an hour and a half’s drive north of Nice the idyllic Parc National du Mercantour offers the beguiling combination of beautiful unspoilt mountains, a warm and sunny climate and one of the richest arrays of butterflies and flowers anywhere in Europe.
A dazzling show of Saxifrages, Columbines, Louseworts, Violets and Gentians adorn alpine meadows over which floats that classic alpine butterfly, the beautiful Apollo. Its rarer cousin, the Small Apollo, can also be seen amid a tremendous variety of other butterflies. About 110 species are expected, among them some of Europe’s finest - Great Sooty Satyr, Lesser Purple Emperor, Large Blue, Meleager’s Blue and Cynthia’s Fritillary. We shall search for the shy-flowering Ancient King, a rare and primitive saxifrage, as well as beauties such as Aquilegia alpina and Gentiana burseri. Secluded valleys harbour meadows and forests festooned with Geraniums, Bellflowers, yellow Foxgloves and Delphiniums. From these flowery havens Alpine Marmots whistle at us from boulders bedecked with Cobweb Houseleeks. Golden Eagles, Citril Finches and Nutcrackers add interest in the bird line, and we will see many Chamois and maybe Ibex too!
Much of what we will see is within just a few miles of the hotels so if you want to enjoy a superb mountain holiday with as much time as possible amongst those wonderful alpine meadows, forests and rocky peaks, then try this one!
Alpine and Meadow Flowers. Butterflies. Also Birds and Mountain Landscapes.
Relaxed and easy. Up to two or three miles on some days though less on others, and always at a slow pace, suited to flower and butterfly photographers. Mostly on well-constructed footpaths, but the best flowers and butterflies are often some yards away on steeper slopes or rougher ground.
Included in the Price
All flights. All transport, accommodation and meals in Italy and France. Services of your leaders. Please note: items of a personal nature including insurance, drinks and tips, are not included.
One leader for a group of up to 6, two leaders up to 12, and a third leader will join the group up to the maximum group size of 15.
We start with two nights at the Vittoria, a pleasant three star hotel in Claut, in the Dolomiti Friulane. Then the Hotel Pineta will be your home for a week. The Hotel Pineta is a small friendly family run establishment close to pretty Caprile and in the Val Pettorina at the base of the Marmolada. This hotel has been run by the Nesello family for the past forty years and has recently been refurbished. Superbly situated for the sites we visit, the Pineta has marvellous mountain views and the restaurant serves great home-cooked food traditional dishes including canederli, casunziei, venison and roe deer.
Next we’ve three nights at the Hotel Korallo in pretty Borno. This small hotel has comfortable rooms, welcoming staff and is handily situated for evening ambles around the little town. Stunning views of the surrounding Stelvio National Park can be had from every room in the lovely Hotel Vedig. This swiss-chalet style family-run hotel has comfortable rooms and a great restaurant.
The last week in the Maritime Alps will be at the excellent Chamois d’Or, whose large modern rooms overlook a beautiful alpine valley at Casterino.
All rooms have en suite facilities.
UK direct flights are from London Gatwick, London Heathrow*, Edinburgh* or Manchester* to Venice Marco Polo, returning from Nice direct to any of those airports. Indirect routes from other regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Generally warm and sunny (really quite warm in the Maritime Alps) though cooler wet conditions may be encountered on the odd day.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. Flower, butterfly and bird checklists are available.