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Autumn Plants of the Peloponnese

Tour Code: GRC07

An 8-day holiday to the Peloponnese in search of the wonderful displays of autumn-flowering bulbs among the limestone mountains and plains of ancient Sparta.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1295 SRS: £160


 

As the heat of summer gives way to the cooler temperatures and rains of autumn, many species of crocus and other plants burst into flower on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. During this 8-day botanical holiday we explore the limestone mountains and valleys of this dramatically beautiful landscape in search of the exceptionally varied autumn flora. Whilst our attention will inevitably be directed towards the plants, we will also have time to enjoy the general natural history of the Peloponnese and admire the numerous well-preserved remains of Classical antiquity and the Byzantine monuments which are a feature of the region. 

  • Tremendous scenery
  • Well-preserved ancient monuments
  • Glimpses of unspoilt Greek villages & fishing ports
  • Autumn flowering crocuses & other plants
  • Guided by Naturetrek botanist, David Tattersfield

Food

All included in the price, except dinners in Gytheio. Allow £75.

Accommodation

Comfortable hotels in Kalavrita and Gytheio. All rooms have private facilities.

Cyclamen graecum

Cyclamen graecum

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Athens; transfer Kalavrita

Day 2 Botanical excursions from Kalavrita

Day 3/7 Botanical excursions from Gytheio

Day 8 Fly London

South of mainland Greece, and joined to the rest of the country only by the 6-kilometre Corinth isthmus, lies the Peloponnese. This enormous peninsula is strewn with the remains of Classical antiquity and Byzantine monuments, and it also contains some of Greece’s most spectacularly varied scenery — high mountains, attractive streams, fertile plains, valleys and lovely beaches. The area is richly endowed, both in names famous from Greek mythology, and nature. As well as being pleasing to the eye, the area’s karst scenery creates rich limestone soils on which grow the Peloponnese’s famous assemblage of autumn-flowering bulbs.

The Peloponnese endures relentless heat from June to September, but the earth here comes to life once again in the autumn and early winter. The local plant-life has evolved to escape the intense summer heat by growing during the early and latter months of the year, and many species choose to flower at this time. The region is, therefore, justly famous for its diversity of autumn-flowering bulbs, and these will be the focus, and highlight, of our tour — indeed, it is the only place in Europe where it is possible to see cyclamen, crocus and snowdrops in flower at the same time!

Forested mountains and idyllic beaches characterise the Peloponnese landscape. On a map, the peninsula’s shape is reminiscent of fingers spreading out into the sea, each ‘finger’ with its own characteristic micro-habitats and flora, while the severe Taygetos Mountain range rises steeply to the west of the Plain of Sparta. The limestone peak of Mount Taygetos stands 2,404 metres high and is clad in forests of Black Pine and fir. Following two nights in the small town of Kalavrita, from where we will enjoy the botany and scenery of Mount Chelmos, we move to the charming seafront town of Gytheio for the remaining five nights of the tour. Gytheio is the gateway to the Mani peninsula, and is an ideal base from which to explore the region’s three areas of key botanical interest, Mani, Mystras and Malea, which jut out into the Aegean Sea. Even in late autumn the weather in this part of Greece is typically still warm and sunny, providing ample opportunities to enjoy full days of botanising, to venture in search of specific floral treats, to eat al fresco and to soak up the last rays of European sun for the year.

Though familiar in Britain as one of the harbingers of spring, approximately one third of all crocus species (there are 80 in total) flower in autumn and some right through the winter. In the Peloponnese, as the summer temperatures cool down and the first rains arrive, the flowering of crocuses and other plants is triggered. Nestled among the moist stream beds and gorges of the Taygetos Mountains are patches of cyclamen and snowdrops, and of particular interest are the delightful blooms of EM>Galanthus reginae olgae/EM> and widespread EM>Cyclamen hederifolium/EM> sspEM>. crassifolium/EM>. Some late-flowering stands of Colchicum spp. also appear at this time of year, as well as crocus, which flower in great profusion on these slopes!

To the east of Gytheio, Malea is home to the small, pale lilac EM>Crocus hadriaticus/EM> ssp. EM>parnonicus/EM> as well as breathtaking displays of EM>Crocus goulimyi/EM> in season, and these stands are often accompanied by EM>Crocus laevigatus/EM>. The white blooms of the latter are a treat to see, for they are unique to the Peloponnese, its petals being striped in Crete! Among the many special crocuses of this area is the endemic EM>Crocus biflorus/EM> ssp. EM>melantherus/EM> which blooms in autumn — in fact, it is the only one of the four biflorus subspecies to flower at this time of year, and represents a unique adaptation to survival here in the country’s driest region.

The central of the three peninsulas we will explore on this tour is Mani, and it is here we will hope to find the largest of the crocuses, EM>Crocus niveus/EM>. Its name means ‘of the snows’ — a somewhat curious choice for a plant which occurs down to sea level! It is a delightful member of the family, however, sporting large white and pale lilac flowers (which can be up to six inches high!) with deep yellow throats. In addition, the scented EM>Cyclamen hederifolium/EM> ssp. EM>confusum/EM> will be in flower, along with masses of EM>Cyclamen graecum/EM>. Both are common on rocky hillsides and in olive groves at this time of year. Yellow Sternbergia are common throughout the Peloponnese and the curious aroid EM>Biarum tenuifolium/EM> is another speciality here.

The Peloponnese is a rocky, starkly beautiful land baked by summer sun, and adorned in autumn with wonderful annual displays of autumn-flowering bulbs — and it is these little-known treasures of the region which will be the focus of this holiday, led by our expert and enthusiast, David Tattersfield.

Galanthus reginae olgae (Andrew Radgick)Colchicum parletoris (Andrew Radgick)Crocus goulimyi (Andrew Radgick)Crocus goulimyi (David Tattersfield)Crocus laevigatus (David Tattersfield)Crocus niveus (David Tattersfield)Crocus niveus (David Tattersfield)Cyclamen graecum (Andrew Radgick)Cyclamen hederifolium (David Tattersfield)Cyclamen hederifolium (Andrew Radgick)Cyclamen hederifolium (David Tattersfield)Galanthus reginae olgae (David Tattersfield)Gythio Harbour (David Tattersfield)Narcissus tazetta (David Tattersfield)Sternbergia lutea (David Tattersfield)Sternbergia sicula (Andrew Radgick)Mystras, a Byzantine castleTaygetos Mountains
J.S.
Cornwall
The rain which preceded our arrival ensured the plants we'd come to see were in bloom in huge quantities - positive drifts or 'hosts' or whatever word seems most suitable of Cyclamen and Crocus. Quite wonderful! Lovely to see sunrise/sunset over Gythio harbour from the balcony. Having two leaders who so obviously get on well together and have similar attitudes to things was a real bonus.
P.L.
Shropshire
An excellent mixture of botanising, birding, history, archaeology and late autumn sunshine.
S.L.
Shropshire
The whole thing was very enjoyable.
P.D.
London
Organised, pleasant and hard-working tour leaders. Their knowledge and patience was impressive.
S.B.
Lancashire
Three of the sites taken to were of exceptional quality floristically - a wow factor.
R.L.
Canada
David Tattersfield has extensive knowledge of the area and the localised areas in which particular species are to be found. Barry Oxley was a wonderful addition, very cooperative. Great botanists, like David, don't grow on trees! I thought the itinerary was well-balanced. I loved the chance to visit the historical sites of Monemvasia and Mystras.
C.C.
Somerset
David found all that we were looking for. I would have liked to have spent more time at Mystras exploring the church frescos, but he got the balance more or less right. David is full of enthusiasm; Liz has a more caring aspect. They make the perfect team.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Wed 25th October 2017 - Wed 1st November 2017

7

£1495

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: £1295 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Wed 24th October 2018 - Wed 31st October 2018

YES

£1495

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: £1295 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Greece

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Kerrie Porteous
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01962 733051

Tour Focus

Wild flowers

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Tour Reviews

The rain which preceded our arrival ensured the plants we'd come to see were in bloom in huge quantities - positive drifts or 'hosts' or whatever word seems most suitable of Cyclamen and Crocus. Quite wonderful! Lovely to see sunrise/sunset over Gythio harbour from the balcony. Having two leaders who so obviously get on well together and have similar attitudes to things was a real bonus.
J.S., Cornwall