From Drama to NestosEurope
The scenery at Drama is as one might imagine rather good! The Nestos and Aggitis Rivers drain deep valleys between the high southern outliers of the Rhodope; Phalakron and Orvilos. The snow-streaked upper slopes of these mountains top 2000m though are easily reached by roads that snake their way almost to the top.
Here we can find a colourful pastiche of Crocus chrysanthus mixing with blue Scilla biflora and both white and deep pink forms of Corydalis solida subspecies incisilobata. Rarer is the local endemic Crocus orphei, a lovely plant with indigo-streaked undersides to the tepals. Wands of deep red Saxifraga sempervivum emerge from glaucous rosettes on roadside rocks. Totally amazing groups of huge-flowered Pulsatilla halleri bloom across alpine turf also littered with tight clumps of Viola perinensis, whose lilac and blue heads completely obscure the leaves. At the highest points of the road on Phalakron striking mats of Saxifraga ferdinandi-coburgi mix with the little brown and orange bells of Fritillaria drenowskii and a paradise of the Dogs-tooth Violet Erythronium dens-canis. Over on Orvilos we’ll seek the European Wild Cat. This beautiful feline is reasonably common here and with some careful looking and little luck we have a reasonable chance of a sighting – we saw a male and, separately, a female on last year’s tour in this area. Amazing Mount Pangeio hosts so many fabulous flowers, the variety is impressive, but it is the mind-boggling show of endemic Paeonia saueri that takes the biscuit.
The Rhodope is famous for its forests, some of the most unspoilt in Europe. We’ll walk under Birch, Beech, Spruce and Oak where we’ll find wonderful spring ephemerals from Pulmonarias to Orchids and from Primulas to green-belled Fritillaria pontica. Here we’ll find another paeony, true-red Paeonia peregrina, and the strange endemic Lathraea rhodopaea. The displays of Corydalis are remarkable, but these are as nothing compared with the masses of Crocus veluchensis which stretch in their millions across the hills towards the Bulgarian border. The beautiful snowbell Soldanella rhodopaea grows here too. Black Storks nest along the river valleys and this area is rich in raptors. Golden Orioles and Middle-spotted Woodpeckers are a frequent sight. Down on the coast, the Nestos river delta offers great birdwatching with storks and various herons very obvious, groups of White-winged Black Terns passing through and telepgraph wires providing perches for numbers of Red-footed Falcons. Syrian Woodpeckers are in the trees and Golden Jackals slink past… A stunning path, draped with wonderful plants, takes us along the Nestos Gorge. Cascades of pale mauve Haberlea rhodopensis decorate the limestone cliffs, jostling for space with both yellow and purple forms of Iris reichenbachiana and the rare Tulipa rhodopaea. Orchis quadripunctata, Ophrys reinholdii and Ophrys mammosahide behind storax and tall Asphodeline; Orchis italica is altogether more obvious!
Dates and Prices
20th April - 27th April 2024 (8 days)
* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged
Flowers, particularly spring bulbs.
One leader for a group of up to 6, two leaders up to a maximum of 12.
All flights. All transport, accommodation, meals and gratuities in Greece. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, and items of a personal nature, including insurance, are not included. Flower, butterfly and bird checklists are available.
We’ll start the tour with four nights at the lovely Aloni Hotel in Volakas, perched on the western slopes of Mount Phalakron. Volakas plies its trade in winter as a ski centre but in summer it is all quiet and we’ll have the hotel to ourselves. The Aloni is run by Maria and Angelos, who will ply us with truly excellent meals throughout or stay as well as delivering picnics to us wherever we are in the field! The rooms are spacious and modern. For the last three nights of the tour we’ll stay at the Nemesis Hotel close by the lovely village of Stavroupoli. The Nemesis is a most unusual place. The rooms are large and very comfortable, the food great, but it is the ‘fake castle’ design of the buildings that make it so odd. All rooms and cabins on this tour have en-suite facilities.
We will be ambling no more than three or four miles in any one day, and always at a slow pace, ideally suited to flower photography.
UK return flights are direct from London Gatwick to Thessaloniki. Add-ons are available from various UK airports*. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Usually sunny and warm, with temperatures approaching 25°C or so in the lower areas we’ll visit such as the Nestos gorge but the higher we’ll go the cooler it can get, perhaps only 12-14°C on Phalakron and with increasing chance of rain, though these usually only in the form of showers.
Contact us to check if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back 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. This will contain up-to-date health information.