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.
Our hotel is within walking distance of the Kalloni wetlands, which contain the prime birding spots on the island, and provides a perfect base to explore Lesvos. The island is justifiably famous for its birdlife, with local breeding specialities including Kruper’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. 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.
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 Mytilini, 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 will amble through the lanes and fields east of the village, where we will familiarise ourselves with the local wild flowers of the pathsides, waterways and marshes. We will head to the ‘East River’, a famous migrant trap, where Little Bittern and Squacco Heron feed, newly-arrived Bee-eaters hawk over head and all sorts of migrant birds might turn up as they head north.
Day 3 This morning we will 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, and we will check under rocks for scorpions and the endearing little Worm Snake; a tiny little reptile that feeds exclusively on ants and termites. In the afternoon we will drive a little inland to Metochi Lake before checking the marshy river mouth on our way back to Skala Kalloni, where Eastern Olivaceous Warbler sing from the tamarisk bushes and various waders may be found feeding out on the mud, including Kentish Plover and Stone Curlew.
Day 4 We head to the west of the island to explore the dryer habitats, driving through an interesting volcanic landscape dotted with a few small villages. We will visit the hillsides below Ipsilou Monastery, famous for another local speciality, Cinereous Bunting, which sings from the rocky slopes and oak trees. Various flycatchers and warblers feed up on their on their journey north, while birds of prey pass by. We will also visit the Petrified Forest, and the associated, very interesting, geological museum at the coastal village of Sigri, with its world class exhibits.
Day 5 This morning we will head north to spend some time at the Kavaki headland where, amongst the attractive coastal vegetation, Rüppell’s, Eastern Orphean and Eastern Subalpine Warblers hold territory, while Yelkouan Shearwaters feed offshore. Travelling further south we will visit a hillside of abandoned terraces, now good for a wide variety of wild flowers and butterflies, before visiting the attractive town of Molyvos with some free time to explore the cobbled streets, enjoy the views from the hill-top castle, have an ice cream overlooking the harbour or explore the headland.
Day 6 We visit the monastery at Limonos, where numerous small chapels are found within a beautiful, tranquil valley, before returning to Skala Kalloni, where we will take a short walk down to the small wetland behind the beach, where Black Stork and various herons stalk amongst the reeds and small parties of Wood Sandpipers probe the muddy edges, and there are some interesting coastal flowers growing in the sand.
Day 7 Today we travel around to the eastern side of the Gulf, where will 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 travel through the town of Agiassos up onto the slopes of Mount Olympus. Here we will 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 Toothed and Provence Orchid, Sword-leaved Helleborine, Violet Limodore and the rare Ophrys reinholdi.
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.
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.
Group flights are with with Jet2 from Manchester to Mytilene.
It is also possible to fly Jet2 from London Stansted or Bristol to Mytilene.
You can reach Athens by train from London via Munich, Zagreb and Belgrade, on a sleeper train or with overnight stays en route. From Athens you can take a ferry to Mytilene. Contact us to find out more, and to make your holiday flight-free.
Greece is two hours ahead of UK time.
If you hold a British passport you can travel to countries in the Schengen area (including Greece) for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. You must have at least six months left on your passport to travel to most countries in Europe.
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.
This is not a strenuous holiday: all excursions are optional, you can choose to spend more time around the hotel if you wish. On Day 5 we walk for much of the day (relatively flat ground). On other days, most walks are much shorter. The pace will be relaxed with time to take photos, watch wildlife and look for flowers.