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Crete in Autumn

Tour Code: GRC03

An unusual 8-day botanical tour revealing the wonderful autumn flora of Crete.

8 days from £1195(inc flights) Land Only Price: £995 SRS: £170


Crete is justly famous for its spectacle of spring flowers, but is less well known for its floral attractions at the close of the botanical year. Following the long and hot dry summer however, early autumn rains bring a wonderful variety of crocus, cyclamen, colchicum and narcissi to life. This single-centre holiday is based in the attractive former Venetian port of Chania in western Crete. From here we explore the neighbouring mountains and coastal plains with visits to the Omalos Plateau, Samaria Gorge, Imbros Gorge, Falasarna, Akrotiri Peninsula and the Sirikari Gorge. As well as the flowers, spectacular scenery, Minoan archaeology and warm autumn sunshine, such interesting birds as Griffon Vulture and perhaps even Lammergeier may be seen.

  • Enjoy botanical walks & spectacular mountain scenery
  • Rich autumn flora includes a wealth of crocus, cyclamen & narcissus species
  • The attractive Venetian port of Chania is our base
  • Walk the dramatic Imbros Gorge
  • Enjoy Minoan & Roman archaeological remains
  • Warm autumn sunshine & direct flights
  • Interesting variety of birds
  • Expertly led by a Naturetrek botanist (usually David Tattersfield)

Food

Included in the price, with the exception of dinners which we will enjoy each night in one of Chania's excellent local tavernas. Allow £120.

Accommodation

A comfortable, family-run hotel in Chania, all rooms with private facilities.

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Chania

Day 2/7 A daily programme of botanical and natural history walks from our base in Chania

Day 8 Fly London

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, being 258 kilometres long and 56 kilometres wide. To its south, across the Libyan Sea, lie the shores of North Africa; to the north, the islands of the Cyclades and Dodecanese. Crete itself is dominated by a central spine of limestone mountains which rise to a maximum elevation of 2,450 metres. From these heights, clear mountain streams empty into the Aegean Sea to the north, whilst south of the mountains the streams have cut deep gorges on their way to the Libyan Sea. This geographical position and variety of terrain have blessed Crete with a wonderful diversity of flowers and plants; not only an exceptional collection of characteristic Mediterranean flora but, additionally, around 140 endemic species, making it one of the most exciting places to see wild flowers in Europe. Some of these species originate from Asia Minor, reminders of the period some five million years ago when the island was part of what is now Turkey, whilst others have their origins in North Africa. In addition to the plants, Crete offers us numerous Minoan remains and some exciting birds, both of which we will be able to enjoy during this autumn break.

Our holiday has been planned to coincide with the best of the island’s autumn display of flowers. Crete is, of course, noted for its fine array of spring flowers. It is less well known, however, that following the hot, dry summer, early autumn rains encourage many bulbs such as crocuses, colchicums, narcissi and scillas to spring to life. In addition, the autumn fruits and colours, together with pleasant weather, make Crete a lovely place to visit at this time of the year.

We will be based in the relatively unspoilt western side of Crete, in the town of Chania. Our comfortable hotel lies on the quiet edge of this old Venetian port which boasts many fine restaurants for us to investigate. At this time of year most holiday-makers will have gone home, so we will be able to wander through the attractive town and see it at its best. There is a fine Venetian harbour and a maze of narrow streets where there were once no fewer than 97 Venetian palaces! Even before the arrival of the Venetians this city, formerly known as Cydonia, had long been an important centre, occupied first by the Minoans, then later by the Romans, and many of the Byzantine fortifications have been incorporated into other buildings. There are Minoan remains carefully preserved alongside minarets and churches, and a wonderfully colourful covered market full of herbs, spices, dried fruits, olive oil and honey. Later in the week, we will take time to explore the back streets of Chania and visit the market before making an excursion to the Akrotiri Peninsula and the Monastery of Agia Triada.

For much of the week, however, we will enjoy gentle walks in the countryside in search of the island’s flora. One of our first destinations will be the Imbros Gorge which lies on the long-distance E4 footpath which, amazingly, runs from the Alps to the Cretan coast. The gorge has steep, dramatic walls covered in interesting plants, many of which are endemic. It is the second largest gorge in Crete and was one of the routes used to evacuate Commonwealth troops during the Battle of Crete. We will look for EM>Narcissus serotinus/EM>, EM>Crocus boryi/EM>, EM>Origanum dictamnus/EM> and many others during an 8-kilometre walk which is regarded as one of the finest in Crete.

An excursion into the White Mountains will take us to the upland plain of Omalos. Situated at the top of the Samaria Gorge it is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery. This fascinating landscape is full of exciting plants including the endemic Colchicum creticum, Acer sempervirens and Crataegus azarolus. Another scenic walk from the village of Megala Horafia will lead to the ancient town of Aptera, which contains both Hellenistic and Roman remains and was once a major centre of trade. This is an area full of natural and ancient history interest, where we can look for EM>Cyclamen graecum/EM> and EM>Colchicum pusillum/EM> among the flora and also visit the Turkish fort which offers breathtaking views over Souda Bay.

On our last day we will visit the ancient village of Polyrenia. This is one of the most beautiful parts of Crete and the village is a delightfully chaotic mix of ancient and modern buildings clustered together. After lunch at the local taverna we can look for Cyclamen, EM>Scilla autumnalis/EM> and colourful EM>sternbergias /EM>before visiting the ancient olive presses, Roman cisterns, ‘cave houses’ and raki ‘stills’ of Polyrenia, which ensure a fascinating conclusion to our autumn holiday on Crete.

 

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D.L.
Surrey
Our tour leader was excellent – very knowledgeable on plants and other wildlife, as well as the geology and history of the island
A.F.
Norfolk
David’s knowledge of geology was enlightening, and added to his botanical expertise and local knowledge made for a very interesting trip
A.C.
Nottinghamshire
I enjoyed the walks and looking for all the flowers on Crete. Our leader was very interesting, caring and a very knowledgeable botanist and knew the area well.
Mr & Mrs C.
Worcestershire
We had a most enjoyable holiday and agree that this trip has given us a wider appreciation of the natural world of western Crete in autumn.
B.B.
London
The holiday was thorough enjoyable. The blend of scenery, flowers and archaeology was perfect. Davids knowledge of both botany and geology made it even better.
M.L.
Perthshire
A memorable week - David worked continuously to ensure everything went smoothly and his wide-ranging interests and knowledge added greatly to the enjoyment of my first visit to Crete - The weather was great as well!
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Tue 16th October 2018 - Tue 23rd October 2018

YES

£1195

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

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

Land only cost: £995 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Greece

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Kerrie Porteous
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01962 733051

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Wild flowers

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Tour Reviews

Our tour leader was excellent – very knowledgeable on plants and other wildlife, as well as the geology and history of the island
D.L., Surrey