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Western Crete – spring flowers and natural history

A relaxing week of orchids, spring flowers and gentle wanderings through the lanes and meadows of Crete. We have visited Crete an amazing 34 times since Wildlife Travel’s very first holiday, way back in 1988.

Crete is famous for its wild flowers – of the island’s 1600 species, almost one in ten is endemic! April is the best month to enjoy the island’s wild flowers, as well as the northwards bird migration, while the temperatures should be very pleasant.

We will be based in the lovely seaside town of Plakias, with sweeping views over the bay.We never need to travel far from home, as we explore the quiet lanes and footpaths through the surrounding hills and along the coast, finding endemics such as Cretan Ebony, Cretan Cyclamen, Cretan Birthwort, and the statuesque Cretan Palm along the way. And it’s not just the plants; we should also come across Cretan Festoon, Cretan Wall Lizard and Cretan Pool Frog during our exploration of the island.

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Further afield, we will visit the famous Spili bumps, an area of limestone hills rich in orchids – twenty or more species can be found here on a good spring day, alongside Cretan Iris and the beautiful red Tulipa doerfleri. In the Kotsifos Gorge we have yet more endemics to find, while keeping our eyes peeled for a passing Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture or Golden Eagle.

We will also visit a number of interesting historical sites, including the monastery at Preveli, whose monks played an important role in the Battle of Crete during the Second World War, the Minoan ruins at Festos and nearby Roman Agia Triada, and the Minoan tombs at Armeni.

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Wildlife Travel Crete 2016

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

Dates

11- 18 April 2017

Leader

Keiron Huston and Laurie Jackson

Price

£1,495
Single Room Supplement – £90

Included

Return flights from London Gatwick  to Chania. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation, half board, seven lunches.

Not included

Refreshments. Meals on flights, including lunch on Day 1. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

This holiday is suitable for anyone who would like an introduction to wild flowers, or the ones to be found in the eastern Mediterranean in particular – we have timed the trip to catch the best of the orchids as well as the other wild flowers. It is also suitable for those with a general interest in wildlife who want to enjoy the tranquil Cretan countryside and learn about the local history.

Day 1 – Our flight takes us to Chania, from where we travel to Plakias, stopping on the way for a short visit to the interesting Minoan site at Armeni. We arrive with time to settle in before our first dinner.

Day 2 – Today we will explore the immediate surroundings of Plakias, enjoying the wildflowers of the phrygana, the spiny shrubby vegetation that is typical of the island. Migrant birds flit through the bushes as they head north. At this time, almost anything could turn up.

Day 3 – Today we head eastwards to one of the island’s classic botanical locations, the famous Spili bumps. These limestone hills are amazingly rich in orchids – twenty or more species can be found here on a good spring day, alongside other colourful endemic flora.

Day 4 – After some (optional) early morning birding, we will spend the day exploring the lanes and olive groves between Plakias and Mirthios, a quiet little village up on the hillside, with lunch at a taverna.

Day 5 – We head east to explore the ancient history of the island, including the important Minoan site of Phaistos and Agia Triada, where a Roman villa was built over the original Minoan site.

Day 6 – There are those for whom no visit to Crete could be complete without exploring one of the island’s dramatic gorges. Today is our chance! We will explore the Kotsifos Gorge, which should give us the opportunity to enjoy several special ‘chasmophytes’, along with a number of endemics.

Day 7 – Today we head a to the atmospheric Preveli monastery, with its interesting double-fronted iconostasis and history of warrior monks. Stopping on the way home to visit the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, one of the many dramatic gorges that carve their way through the island.

Day 8 – All too soon our time is up and we make our way back to Chania for our flight home.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

We will stay in the Sofia Hotel in Plakias, set in the heart of the village. All rooms are en-suite. The holiday includes evening meals which will be taken at a local taverna.

Dinner will be a mixture of local and International dishes. Lunches are included on all but the first day. We will take picnic lunches with us most days, with a taverna lunch on Day 4. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.

We will travel by coach or minibus for the excursions.

 

The group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick.

11 April depart London Gatwick 08.00, arrive Chania 13.55
18 April depart Chania 14.35, arrive London Gatwick 16.40

There are limited direct flights to Crete at this time of year. If you prefer, you can book your own flights (to Chania or Heraklion) and we can help arrange local transfers.

Crete is two hours ahead of UK time.

If you hold a British passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Crete. If you do not have a UK passport, please check with your local consulate.

At this time of year the weather is usually sunny but not too hot. However, as with everywhere the weather is no longer entirely predictable, and there may be some cooler weather, rain or wind.

 On most days, we are walking for much of the day, albeit at a relatively slow pace. The longest walks are four to five miles long. It is necessary to walk on rougher ground and up some slopes, although none of the walking is strenuous. Walking boots are essential and walking poles would be useful. All excursions are optional and you can choose to enjoy a day around the hotel if you prefer.