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France - The Vercors (by air)

Tour Code: FRA16

An 8-day holiday in search of birds, plants, mammals and butterflies in the Vercors massif, a spectacular area in the heart of France's Dauphiné region on the doorstep of the Alps.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £160


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Heading south from Lyon in south-eastern France, an awe-inspiring massif of jagged limestone looms into view. Framed perfectly by the resplendent snow-capped Alps in the distance, and the deep Isere Valley in the foreground, the Vercors Regional Nature Park is an area of exceptional beauty. It cries out for exploration, and that's exactly what we do on this varied 8-day wildlife holiday, making full use of the region's trails and back-roads as we search for the birds, plants, mammals and butterflies which inhabit the limestone gorges, high summits, and extensive forests and flower-filled meadows of the Vercors.

  • Wonderful wildlife amidst truly magnificent scenery
  • Friendly, family-run hotel serving good home cooking based on local produce
  • One of the three principal Orchid hotspots in mainland Europe
  • Stunning alpine plants with abundant Gentians, Saxifrages & many more specialities
  • Wallcreeper, lekking Black Grouse, & numerous birds of prey
  • July highlights include the mysterious Ghost Orchid & the elusive European Beaver

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A delightful family-run hotel; all rooms have private facilities.

Escher's Blue (Paul Harmes)

Escher's Blue (Paul Harmes)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Lyon

Day 2/7 Natural history excursions in the Vercors

Day 8 Fly London

Heading south from Lyon in south-eastern France, an awe-inspiring massif of jagged limestone looms into view. Framed perfectly by the resplendent snow-capped Alps in the distance, and the deep Isère Valley in the foreground, the Vercors Regional Nature Park is an area of exceptional beauty. Incorporating France’s largest nature reserve — the splendid Hauts Plateaux — this is one of the oldest ‘Nature Parks’ in France and a most interesting region for the visiting naturalist. We will explore its thousands of hectares of unspoiled countryside on this holiday, focusing on the rich and varied fauna and flora of the massif’s deep limestone gorges, high summits (dominated by the Grand Veymont at 2,341 metres) and vast expanses of forest. From our base in La Chapelle, a delightful village in the heart of the massif, we are within easy striking distance of the many rich habitats which, after centuries of glacial and then fluvial erosion, form a harmonious limestone landscape of damp, flower-filled meadows alternating with majestic vertical cliffs and high wooded plateaux.

One of the highlights of our week will be a day spent in the Hauts Plateaux nature reserve in the company of a local guide. This wild area, in many respects unique in Europe, consists of a patchwork of meadows, moorlands, forests and high mountain ridges, shaped by savage winters and centuries of forestry and grazing. A small, pioneering population of Wolves, presumed to have recently recolonised this part of France from the Italian Alps, hides in the vast Silver Fir (EM>Abies alba/EM>) and Mountain Pine (EM>Pinus uncinata/EM>) forest, their presence betrayed only by tracks left in the extensive winter snows. Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Black Grouse, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Crossbill, Citril Finch and perhaps even a Tengmalm’s Owl or Black Woodpecker are amongst the avian possibilities here, whilst the alpine flora is at its dazzling best at this time of year.

The pretty winter ski station of Font d’Urle provides an unusual backdrop to beautiful alpine meadows carpeted with wild pansies, gentians, wild tulips and snowbells. The path to Pont d’Urle leads us through an unspoiled alpine habitat with stunning views south across the Forêt de Quint. We must keep our eyes open here for Chough, Alpine Chough, Golden Eagle, Rock Thrush, Water Pipit and Alpine Marmot. The numerous limestone cliffs in the Vercors attract resident Wallcreepers, and one or two of our picnic spots make ideal points from which to scan for this sought-after species. On the drier, sunnier southern slopes, Rock Sparrows breed, while Short-toed Eagles glide and hover overhead hunting for snakes. Orphean and Subalpine Warblers and the attractive Ortolan Bunting, too, will also be amongst our targets during this part of our holiday.

The Vercors is one of the very few regions in western Europe harbouring six species of wild ungulates — Ibex, Chamois, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Mouflon and Wild Boar all occuring here. Whilst these animals invariably remain elusive in the wooded areas, they may sometimes be seen on the higher, rocky slopes. Smaller carnivores such as Fox, Badger and Pine Marten are well represented, while Mountain Hare, a relict from the Ice Age, is confined to the high mountain ridges. We will look for some of these smaller mammals in the freshly cut hay meadows at dusk.

It is perhaps the stunning flora, however, with several rare orchids present in an overall list of 64 species, for which the Vercors massif is best known. The spectacular Lady’s Slipper Orchid is relatively common in the fir and beech forests, and we will look for the endemic EM>Ophrys bertolonii ssp. drumana/EM> in the drier Mediterranean climate of the Gervannes. EM>Orchis spitzelii/EM>, Toothed Orchid (EM>Orchis tridentat/EM>a) and, on our later tour, Ghost Orchid (EM>Epipogium aphyllum/EM>) will all provide excitement during our walks and picnic lunches, throughout what promises to be a varied and enjoyable week in this, one of the most beautiful regions of France.

Marsh Fritillary (Andy McGeeney)Hotel Bellier (Paul Harmes)Group on the Hauts Plateaux (Paul Harmes)Short-toed Eagle (Paul Harmes)The Grand Veymont (Paul Harmes)Scarce Swallowtail (Paul Harmes)Orchid hybrid (Paul Harmes)Grizzled Skipper (Paul Harmes)Green Lizard (Paul Harmes)Cream Spot Tiger Moth (Alan Miller)Ophrys fuciflora - Late Spider-orchid (Andy McGeeney)La Chapelle en Vercors (Alan Miller)Dipper (Paul Harmes)Daphne cneorum - Garland Flower (Paul Harmes)Crocus albiflorus (Paul Harmes)Convolvulus cantabrica (Paul Harmes)Broad-bodied Chaser (Paul Harmes)Anacamptis pyramidata - Pyramidal Orchid (Paul Harmes)The Vercors (Alan Miller)Pont en Royans (Alan Miller)Apollo<i>Campanula cochlearifolia</i>Col de Rosset, VercorsConvolvulus HawkmothLady's Slipper Orchid<i>Crocus albiflorus</i>Dog's Tooth Violet <i>Erythronium dens canis</i>Escher's BlueCluse's Gentian </i>Gentiana clusii</i>Lady's Slipper OrchidMarbled FritillaryOur hotel in the VercorsMt. Aiguille from the Pas de l'EssaureMonkey Orchid <i>Orchis simia</i><i>Orobanche caryophyllacea</i>Naturetrek picnic lunchPreslesScanning for Wallcreepers<i>Sempervivum tectorum</i>Time out to take some photos!<i>Teucreum montanum</i><i>Trifolium rubens</i>Vercors - Hauts Plateaux<i>Zygaena carniolica</i>
I.D.
Hampshire
Paul and Alan worked extremely hard to make sure we saw as many of the plants and birds in what was very difficult weather conditions. They are both to be congratulated that we saw as much as we did.
R.M.
Berkshire
This was our first holiday with Naturetrek and it was all that we had hoped for - and much more. Paul Harmes and Alan Miller were a mine of information on the flora and fauna of the area and took us to places we would never have dreamt of going on our own. Their excellent picnics catered for all our tastes, and their driving skills up and down some pretty vertiginous roads were first-class (despite also keeping an eye open for more plants and birds!).
G.H.
Cheshire
Alan and Paul were good humoured, hard working and dedicated to the comfort and well being of all of us clients. They were both extremely well informed and drove well and safely on difficult roads. The picnics were wonderful.
Mr & Mrs E.
Derbyshire
We came on this trip 6 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. We always said that we would like to do it again. When the Gotland trip was cancelled we took the opportunity to go to the Vercors again. We were not disappointed. We enjoyed it as much as the last time. As well as the intrinsic beauty and interest of the area, the guides Paul Harmes and Alan Miller were excellent. They were enthusiastic, totally in command of their subject areas, took every question seriously, and only too pleased to help and inform. Throughout their cheerful demeanour kept the whole group totally positive.
Mr & Mrs P.
Surrey
A very comfortable family run hotel with personal attention and very good food.
B.B.
Hampshire
One of the highlights was the teamwork between Paul and Alan - they work superbly together complimenting each other's knowledge and skills. The drive safely, communicate effectively and give this holiday a huge dose of added value.
C.H.D.
Dorset
Both leaders worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone got the most out of the trip and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Their hard work, good humour, broad knowledge and enthusiasm made for a very happy and successful week.
A.G.
Buckinghamshire
I think this holiday was undersold on the spectacular and awe inspiring mountain ranges and rock formations. The scenery was truly breath-taking. The hotel was rustic and the food and friendly service were extremely good. Paul Harmes is a relaxed, competent leader with infinite patience and expertise. Both leaders worked hard to make our trip memorable and most enjoyable. I would love to have stayed for a second week and seen it all again.
G.G.
Buckinghamshire
The trip was a complete success due to the knowledge, skills and personality of Paul Harmes. He adapted and made things happen, with great concern for his miscellaneous collection of tourists. He is a great treasure and we would gladly go with him at anytime.
K.H.
Edinburgh
This was my 8th Naturetrek holiday and one of the best. Flowers, scenery, expertise of leaders ... all excellent.
D.K.
Suffolk
The visit was well planned, using known sites that provided good opportunities to see a variety of habitats and various treats of wildlife. Our leaders were keen to give us the best ... their enthusiasm for both the area and its wildlife was quickly passed on, making the foundations for a very successful trip. The accommodation was excellent and we appreciate the efforts made to look after us. No complaints at all - we were very well catered for! Overall the holiday was an excellent introduction to the area, providing good opportunities to see some fantastic wildlife. Many thanks to both Alan and Paul.
J.B.
London
Both leaders were good company and very attentive to the needs of the group. The hotel was exactly how I expected it to be, the staff were very helpful, charming and attentive and there was very good food. Leaders had good knowledge and encouraged further interest and knowledge. It was a really good holiday, I would use Naturetrek again.
J.P.
Dorset
Hotel [was] very pleasant...The picnics were EXCELLENT.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Sun 20th May 2018 - Sun 27th May 2018

2

£1495

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Andy Tucker
Operations Manager

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01962 733051

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ButterfliesWild flowers

Tour Reviews

Paul and Alan worked extremely hard to make sure we saw as many of the plants and birds in what was very difficult weather conditions. They are both to be congratulated that we saw as much as we did.
I.D., Hampshire