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West Carpathians – butterflies and natural history of Central Europe

A leisurely introduction to the butterflies and other wildlife of Mitteleuropa, exploring two contrasting but equally wildlife-rich areas.

The Carpathians form the backbone of Eastern Europe, curving eastward in an arc from Slovakia through Ukraine to Romania. The White Carpathians are shared between the Czech Republic and Slovakia – much of the area is protected within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is famed for its patchwork of flower-rich meadows and extensive mixed forests. It is not surprising that this is one of the best areas in Europe for butterflies.

Flowers are also abundant here and local meadows are amongst the richest in Europe. From here we travel southwards, skirting the High Tatras on our way to spend three nights on the sun-dried southern slopes of the Slovak Karst and Aggtelek National Park in Hungary; the largest area of karst limestone north of the Alps. Just on the margins of the Pannonian basin, the rich limestone flora is represented by several eastern elements – the flagship being the local endemic Turna Golden Drop, which we will look for whilst visiting the ruins of the 13th century Turna Castle, looking out across the Hungarian plains.

Summer time before harvesting crops is always an idyllic season in Central Europe. Amongst the possible highlights of our journey, we will search for the much sought-after Poplar Admiral, the first Apollo may have emerged higher up, and we will enjoy a variety of skippers and blues, fritillaries and heaths, hairstreaks and coppers.


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Return flights from London Luton. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation, all meals.

Not included

Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

The tour is designed to visit some of the best butterfly areas, looking at the wealth of flowers that we shall encounter on the way, and not ignoring other wildlife either.

Day 1 – Our flights take us to Vienna, from where we travel north to the White Carpathians. After dinner, if the weather is good, we will try to run the moth trap in the hotel garden.

Days 2-4 – The White Carpathians form a 96-kilometre long ridge of hills on the border between the Czech Republic and Slovakia and rise to a maximum elevation of 1,000 metres. Famed for its patchwork of large, flower-filled meadows dotted with solitary limes and oaks and extensive mixed forests, it is not surprising that this is one of the best areas for butterflies in Europe. We hope to find a vast array of species and will search hard for the two butterfly highlights of the area – Woodland Brown and Poplar Admiral. Many attractive flowers should be in flower, especially the magnificent lousewort Pedicularis exaltata whose single Czech locality is in these mountains. Orchids could include Globe-flowered, Greater and Lesser Butterfly, Military and Burnt, as well as the endemic Ophrys holubyana.

Day 5 – We bid farewell to the White Carpathians and set off across Slovakia towards the Karst region of the south, making several stops along the way. A stop higher up in the White Carpathians, should reward us with sightings of Apollos flying gracefully above meadows, alongside other species including Mountain Green-veined White, Large Blue, Eastern Baton Blue and Geranium Argus that we hope to locate.

Days 6-7 – From our base in the Slovak Karst National Park, we will explore the surrounding open, rolling landscape of limestone pavement, low hills and small woodlands. This is a dry, sunny region which has much in common with the adjacent plains of Hungary and the plant community here displays a correspondingly ‘steppic’ character. Chief among the specialities are the locally endemic Turna Golden Drop Onosma tornensis, the local race of Alpine Aster and Astragalus vesicarius albidus. We will be looking for Woodland and Great Banded Grayling, White Admiral, Common and Hungarian Gliders as they hawk gracefully along the woodland edges. A host of fritillaries may include Silverwashed, Niobe and Lesser Spotted and perhaps the great prize, Pallas’s Fritillary. The blues will provide a challenge for even the most expert lepidopterists, with Eastern Baton, Chequered, Large, Osiris, Alcon and Chapman’s Blues among the possibilities.

Day 8 – Our final breakfast and then it is time to head towards Budapest, making yet more roadside stops along the way as time allows, including a stop at Cerova Vrchovina, where we will look for Lesser Fiery Copper. Then it will be time to cross the border and arrive at Budapest airport in time for our afternoon 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 be staying at two small hotels during our holiday. All rooms are en-suite.

The holiday is full board, with all the meals provided during the stay a mixture of local and International dishes. We will take picnic lunches with us every day. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.

We will travel by small coach or minibus.

The group flights are from London Luton, flying out to Vienna with Easyjet and returning from Budapest with Wizz Air.

It is also possible to fly with British Airways from London Heathrow.

The countries we will visit during this trip (Austria, Slovakia, Czechia and Hungary) are all one hour ahead of UK time.

If you hold a British passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Austria, Slovakia, Czechia or Hungary. If you do not have a UK passport, please check with your local consulate.

At this time of year the weather is usually sunny and warm (mid to late 20s°). However, as with everywhere the weather is no longer entirely predictable, and there could well be some both hotter or cooler weather, or rain (perhaps heavy). There can be strong sun especially on higher slopes and sun protection is needed.

You should have a good level of fitness to get the most out of the planned activities on this holiday. While the walking is generally easy and we won’t be covering any great distances, there will obviously be some hilly areas and uneven, wet or rocky ground for which good walking boots are essential.