8-Day botanical tour in Crete identifying orchids and endemic Tulips
Our botanical tours are based in the Amari valley, half an hour south of Rethymno, and focus on orchids and endemic tulips of the Amari Valley and the Gious Kampos plateau. We will also identify other flowers, birds, butterflies historical sites and Byzantine churches, always at an easy pace. In addition, we will visit the slopes of Mount Psiloritis, coastal Triopetra, Plakias, Preveli, Kerame and the village of Vatos. And finally, depending on the season, there will be a day trip to the White Mountains to either the Omalos plateau or the Aradaina gorge.
Included in the price:
* Available on request: Transportation (flights, ferry connection)
Transfer to the village of Gerakari in the Amari valley where our base for the week will be in the Alexander Hotel. It is an unspoilt rural environment among ancient Byzantine churches, cherry trees and traditional Cretan villages, at the Northern end of the Amari valley. It is very peaceful and relaxing and after a day out exploring you can jump in the pool or just sit in its gardens.We have chosen Gerakari for our base because of its peaceful and friendly atmosphere as well as its superb location in the Amari Valley, very close to Gious-Kambos, which is the main focus of our tour. Today is spent settling in and if there is time there is the chance of short walks in the local area.
Our first full day will be spent on the Gious Kampos plateau. There we will see a carpet of flowers, particularly orchids and irises including Orphys mammosa (Breasted orphrys), Orchis pauciflora (Sparsley-flowering orchid), Orchis italica, Orphys tenthredinifera, Iris cretensis, Hermodactylus tuberosus and Romulea bulbocodium. The great profusion of flowers is due to the limestone on which the plateau is situated. One of the highlights of this plateau is the extremely rare Tulipa doerfleri, and it occurs in in such great numbers that the fields are coloured red! However, it only flowers for a short time and flowering times are dependent on the weather. So we need some luck to see it at its best.
We’ll spend a day exploring the beautiful Amari Valley, sandwiched between Mount Kedros and the snow-capped peak of Psiloritis. There are fields full of orchids including some Orchis papilionacea (Butterfly Orchids) and Barlia robertiana (Robert’s Giant Orchids). Ophrys candica (White ophrys) is one of the rarer species we hope to show you today.
There are many small villages set amid an enchanting landscape, and richly-frescoed Byzantine churches, such as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the village of Meronas and the church of the Panagia in Thronos. In addition, there are a couple of archaeological sites, dating from the Minoan period, in the area such as Syvrita and Monostiraki.
Excursion to the hills on the south coast around the villages of Vatos and Kerames, and later for a swim at Preveli beach. On the banks of the Grand River there is a large colony of Theophrastus palm trees, which give the region a sense of an African landscape. The river, forming a large lake, 1.5km long, before emptying into the sea, has water all year round. You can walk along the river, under the shade of palm trees and other trees.
Today we’ll take a longer trip to the White Mountains, either to the Omalos plateau or the Aradaina gorge, depending on the season and weather. Both locations offer us some stunning flowers such as Tulipa bakeri on the Omalos plateau and the rare Campanula laciniata in the Aradaina gorge.
The Omalos plateau is most famous today for the start of the Samaria gorge walk, but in its own right it is a fantastic place to visit in spring. There is a profusion of flowers and towering all around are mountain peaks, the most famous of which is that of Mount Gingilos. Here there is one of the most beautiful mountain walks in the whole of Crete. Aradaina gorge is the deepest and steepest gorge in the province of Chania, 138m deep and 4km longl. It starts at the abandoned village of Aradaina and descends into the gorge via on old stone-paved donkey trail. The path zig-zags down the side of the gorge precipitously. Walking inside the gorge till the exit on the majestic Marmara beach is an unforgettable experience as there is a wealth of rare endemic flowers and Griffon Vultures circle overhead.
Exploration of the area around the seaside village of Plakias and a chance for a swim in the afternoon. Within short distance from Plakias, we can visit the mountainous villages of Myrthios, Selia and Asomatos, which retain their traditional features and have amazing views to the Libyan Sea.
Morning trip to walk through the Imbros gorge and then a chance to relax walking through the old town of Rethymno. The Imbros gorge is a popular walk as it is relatively easy and quite stunning as the walls of the gorge narrow to 1.6m with a height of 300m. Here we can find many endemic Cretan flowers and beautiful butterflies. It is 11km long and takes about 3 hours.
Rethymno never feels like a city, but a provincial town with all of the advantages. It unites Venetian architecture, narrow alleys, a small port and fortress with charm and grace. You can choose to spend your time solely in the old Venetian town drinking coffee and discovering all of its nooks and crannies, or you can explore the amazing fortress that dominates the town.
Return to the airport.