Lesvos – spring on an Aegean island
Carpets of flowers, olive groves and birding on the beautiful island of Lesvos in the Aegean Sea.
Lesvos is still an undiscovered island for many, despite being the third largest in Greece and close to the Turkish mainland. It is relatively undeveloped and retains its rural culture, interspersed with a few attractive towns and villages. In early May, the tourist season is only just beginning and there is a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere at a time when the flowers and birds are at their best. The countryside is covered in a colourful display of shrubs, perennials and annuals and the birdsong adds a delightful background to quiet walks through olive groves, meadows and woods or along the coast. Our search for the island’s wildlife will take us to some interesting landscapes and historical sites.
During the week we will be visiting many parts of the island – visiting the rolling hills, pastures and rocky landscapes of the west, and the sweet chestnut and pine woods of the southern mountains. We will explore the rivers, lagoons and reedbeds around Skala Kalloni, and the coastal ‘shrublands’ full of orchids and birdsong. Excursions will take us to a peaceful monastery set in a beautiful valley and to a partly deserted village with wonderful views of the coast.
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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.
2 – 9 May 2020
Laurie Jackson and second leader
Single Room Supplement – £145
Return flights from UK. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation, full board basis.
Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
Minimum 5, maximum 12.
Day 1 Our flights take us to Mytilini from where we transfer to Molyvos (c 1.5 hours).
Day 2 We drive across the island to the north coast, where we will spend some time at the Kavaki headland where, amongst the coastal vegetation, Rüppell’s, Eastern Orphean and Eastern Subalpine Warblers hold territory. We will visit a hillside of abandoned terraces, now good for a wide variety of wild flowers and butterflies, before returning to Molyvos with some free time to explore the cobbled streets.
Day 3 We head west to explore the dryer habitats, driving through an interesting volcanic landscape dotted with a few small villages. We visit the hillsides below Ipsilou Monastery, famous for another local speciality, Cinereous Bunting, which sings from the rocky slopes and oak trees, and the Petrified Forest, and the associated geological museum at the coastal village of Sigri.
Day 4 We bid farewell to Molyvos and visit the monastery at Limonos, where numerous small chapels are found within a beautiful, tranquil valley, before reaching Skala Kalloni, our home for the rest of the holiday. We take a short walk down to the small wetland behind the beach.
Day 5 Today we explore the countryside around Skala Kalloni. Walking out from the hotel we will familiarise ourselves with the local wild flowers of the pathsides, waterways and marshes. After a coffee in the village square, we will head to the ‘East River’, a famous migrant trap, where Little Bittern and Squacco Heron feed, and all sorts of migrant birds might turn up as they head north.
Day 6 We visit the Kalloni salt pans, where large numbers of Greater Flamingos feed alongside elegant Avocets and Black-winged Stilts, and large numbers of migrating waders and wildfowl, gulls and terns. In the wet fields we will look for Iris orientalis, a variety of different Trifoliums grow along the track sides alongside Holy Orchid. In the afternoon we return to Skala Kalloni and check the marshy rivermouth just west of the village where Eastern Olivaceous Warbler sing from the tamarisk bushes and various waders may be found feeding out on the mud.
Day 7 We travel around to the eastern side of the Gulf, where will visit the pine woodlands at Achladeri, home to Krüper’s Nuthatch, a real local speciality for which Lesvos is the only European outpost. From here we travel through the town of Agiassos up onto the slopes of Mount Olympus to visit the beautiful sweet chestnut woods and limestone hillsides looking for many flowers including Fritillaria pontica and bright splashes of colour in the form of Paeonia macula, Tulipa hageri and the beautiful Peacock Anemone Anemone pavonina.
Day 8 After one last hearty breakfast it is time to bid farewell to Skala Kalloni and make the return journey back to Mytilini and our flights home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities or at the discretion of the leaders.
Our home in Molyvos is the pleasant, family-run Sea Horse hotel, situated at the quayside of the small fishing harbour. In Skala Kalloni we will be staying in the Malemi Hotel: a family run hotel, surrounded by gardens and only a few minutes walk from the wetlands of Skala Kalloni (handy for those pre-breakfast bird walks). The hotel also has a pool that should be open at this time. All rooms are en-suite.
Evening meals will be at the hotel and we will have picnic lunches.
We will travel by small coach or minibus.
Direct flights are available (rather than via Athens). An overnight at one of the many (relatively cheap now) airport hotels gives you a comfortable journey enabling you to visit this wonderful island. Group flights are with Thomas Cook Airlines as follows:
2 May depart London Gatwick 06.40, arrive Mytilini 12.35
9 May depart Mytilini 13.35, arrive London Gatwick 15.25
It is also possible to fly from Manchester with Thomas Cook:
2 May depart Manchester 05.00, arrive Mytilini 10.55
9 May depart Mytilini 11.50, arrive Manchester 13.50
Flight prices for Manchester may differ, and you would need a separate transfer back to the airport on departure day.
Lesvos is two hours ahead of the UK.
If you hold a UK passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Greece. Should we leave the EU without a deal in place, before June 2020, you should have at least six months left on your passport from your date of arrival.
At this time of year the weather is usually sunny but not too hot. There may be some cooler weather and some rain. We will adapt our walks and excursions accordingly.
On the first day we will be walking for much of the day, but on relatively flat ground. On other days, most walks are much shorter and none of the walking is strenuous. On some mornings we will start early but the pace will generally be relaxed with time to enjoy the surroundings and take photos as well as look at the birds. All excursions are optional.