spring on an Aegean island
Carpets of flowers, olive groves and birding on the beautiful island of Lesvos in the Aegean Sea.
1st – 8th May 2024
Single Room Supplement – £150
Return flight London Stansted to Lesvos. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Seven nights accommodation, full board.
Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. ETIAS/visa costs. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 4, maximum 12.
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.
The island is justifiably famous for its birdlife, with local breeding specialities including Krüper’s Nuthatch, Cinereous Bunting and Masked Shrike. We have timed this holiday to catch the best of the northwards spring migration, as well as the wonderful carpets of spring flowers.
During the week we will be visiting many parts of the island – 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.
Our home for the week is a family-run hotel in the coastal village of Skala Kalloni, serving delicious, hearty, homecooked food, within walking distance of the Kalloni wetlands, some of the prime birding spots, a great base from which to explore the island.
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.
Day 1 Our flights take us to Mytiline, the main town on Lesvos, from where we transfer to Skala Kalloni.
Day 2 Today will be spent exploring the countryside around Skala Kalloni. Walking out from the hotel, we amble through the lanes and fields east of the village, where we familiarise ourselves with the local wild flowers of the pathsides, waterways and marshes. Eastern Olivaceous Warblers sing from the tamarisk bushes, newly-arrived Bee-eaters hawk over head, Little Bittern and Squacco Heron feed along the river margins, and all sorts of migrant birds might turn up as they head north.
Day 3 We visit the Kalloni salt pans, where large numbers of Greater Flamingos feed alongside elegant Avocets and Black-winged Stilts, and (depending on the season) a variety of migrating waders and wildfowl, gulls and terns. After lunch, we drive inland to Metochi Lake where we will look for Balkan Terrapin and various dragonflies, and take a wander through the olive groves, checking for the lovely yellow Iris orientalis and the Hairy Birthwort Aristolochia hirta, before we drive to the north of the island, and settle in to our hotel in the harbour at Molyvos.
Day 4 We travel to the eastern side of the Gulf, to visit the pine woodlands at Achladeri, home to Krüper’s Nuthatch, a local speciality for which Lesvos is the only European outpost. From here, we head onto the slopes of Mount Olympus and 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. We will look for several species of orchids, including Sword-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia, Toothed Orchids Neotinea tridentata and Holmboe’s Butterfly Orchid Platanthera holmboei.
Day 5 We head to nearby Kavaki headland where Rüppell’s Warblers hold territory amongst the attractive coastal vegetation, while Yelkouan Shearwaters feed offshore. Nearby, we will walk through the scenic village of Petri, and explore the quiet lanes, where Western Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit and Masked Shrike may all be found.
Day 6 We head to the west of the island to explore the dryer habitats and volcanic landscape. We will visit the hillsides below Ipsilou Monastery, famous for another local speciality, Cinereous Bunting, which sings from the oak trees. Isabelline and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears feed on the rocky slopes, with the lovely pink Crepis rubra, Euphorbia rigida and Large Venus’s Looking-glass Legousia pentagonia amongst the floral highlights. At the coastal village of Sigri, we visit the interesting geological museum, with its world class exhibits and Holy Orchid Anacamptis sancta in the garden!
Day 7 Today we head north again, for a gentle walk through the scenic village of Petri and out to explore the quiet lanes and hillside beyond the village, where Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit and Masked Shrike may all be found.
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 at the discretion of the leaders.