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Tour Details

Dates:31st of Jul - 6th of Aug 2024
Availability:SOLD OUTGuaranteed departure
Group Size:Minimum 4, maximum 15 guests
Grading:Easy day walks
PricesFull price: £1,425.00 / person Single room supplement: £150.00 / person Deposit: £150.00 / person
Price includes: Accommodation, all meals, ground transportation, services of your guides, and a holiday report
Not included: International travel, drinks and other personal items, holiday insurance

Tour Highlights

  • Time spent in a spectacular, unspoilt area of Spain that abounds with butterflies, including endemic, near-endemic, and otherwise scarce species
  • Around 100 species will be seen during the course of the tour

  • Amongst them, we will look for specialties including Zapater’s Ringlet, Iberian Sooty Copper, Spanish and Azure Chalkhill Blues, Mother-of-Pearl Blue, Southern Hermit, Striped Grayling, and Esper’s Marbled White.

  • Our base for the holiday is the achingly beautiful medieval walled town of Albarracin

  • A donation will be made to the European Butterflies Group, supporting proactive research and conservation

Tour Description

The founders of Mariposa have been pioneering butterfly tours in Spain’s magnificent Montes Universales for years, and this particular tour is always a highlight of our summer, not least because we will share with you one of our favourite European butterflies of all – the strikingly beautiful Spanish endemic Zapater’s Ringlet Erebia zapateri.

That’s just one highlight of many this tour provides. Lycaenidae (blues, coppers and hairstreaks) will be a particular feature of every day, and we’ll encounter thousands of individuals of blues in particular – including vibrant Azure Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus caelestissimus, snowy Spanish Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus albicans, subtle Oberthür’s Anomalous Polyommatus fabressei and Ripart’s Anomalous Blue Polyommatus ripartii, as well as the rare Mother-of-Pearl Blue Polyommatus nivescens. We will see Southern Brown Aricia cramera, Spanish Aricia morronensis, and Mountain Argus Aricia montensis, encounter freshly-emerged Iberian Sooty Copper Lycaena bleusei, and search for Spanish Purple Hairstreaks Laeosopis roboris at the margins of damp meadows.

The countryside in the Montes Universales is a mixture of pine and deciduous forest, arid scrub, and small patches of arable fields, laid over a landscape that’s corrugated with hills and sheltered valleys, and threaded by small rivers and dry barrancas, or gorges. For such a relatively compact area – approximately 1,000 square kilometres – it packs in a variety of habitats and supports a high density of both butterfly species and sheer numbers of individuals of them. This is greatly helped by the region having no history of intensive agriculture – it feels a little like stepping back in time to a period elsewhere in Europe when butterflies were much more numerous than they are today.

The numbers of some species simply have to be seen to be believed. We’ve enjoyed days here in the past when Great Banded Graylings Brintesia circe and Iberian Marbled Whites Melanargia lachensis take to the air with every step one takes through dry grassland. Satyrids are another prominent feature of the tour, and we anticipate a host of graylings including Striped Hipparchia fidia, Rock Hipparchia hermione, Tree Hipparchia statilinus, and False Arethusana arethusa. Amongst their numbers we’ll look for their rarer counterparts – enigmatic Southern Hermit Chazara prieuri and Hermit Chazara briseis. Esper’s Marbled White Melanargia russiae is always a sought-after prize for the keen-eyed, Black Satyrs Satyrus actaea will reward a stealthy approach, and the distinctive iphioides subspecies of Chestnut Heath Coenonympha glycerion will be numerous as we enjoy gentle-paced walks in grassy places.

The countryside here, for all its nominally montane range of altitude from 1,000 to 1,900 metres, makes for easy-going and relaxed butterfly-watching. It’s never steep or challenging underfoot, and with sunny days almost guaranteed at this time of year, it’s always a joy to spend time out and about in this region. The mornings are pleasant and we ensure that we spend the heat of the day in steep-sided canyons or at higher altitude, with plenty of iced water for our guests, and to temper our daily itinerary to maximise comfortable and productive time in the field. Many of our daily excursions are just a few kilometres from our hotel, and the roads we travel are of excellent quality, and quiet.

Our base for the week is in a charming family-run hotel within the imposing walls of the medieval town of Albarracín – this small town is worth visiting the Montes Universales alone to see, and is quite simply magnificent, boasting winding, narrow cobbled streets through ancient timbered buildings, castles, and an imposing cathedral. Small wonder the entire town is officially a Spanish National Monument – but, incredibly, it is never busy or thronged with tourists. We regularly see Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra and Iberian Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides feisthamelii in the carpark, and the odd Geranium Bronze Cacyreus marshalli, has been known to pop up on ornamental displays of pelargonium. The townsfolk are friendly and welcoming, and it feels like coming home whenever we return here.

In summary, if you wish to stay for a week in an historic town voted many times ‘prettiest in Spain’, in an area where 95% of the butterflies can be found in 10% of the landscape thus leading to extraordinary numbers at the best sites, then this is the right trip for you.

Tour Leaders

In the past decade David has devoted his life to butterflies - sharing them with guests, but also working proactively on the committee of the European Butterfly Group, and (until recently) as an identification consultant on the UK Butterflies website.

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Jon is a natural history writer, photographer and experienced wildlife tour leader based in the Shetland Isles, but with strong links in Europe and the Americas that see him travelling widely in search of memorable wildlife encounters.

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Pau, from Gandia in Spain, has a lifelong interest in wildlife. He’s a professional ornithologist and wildlife guide, but finds time to work as a professor at the Universitat Politècnica de València, teaching Zoology and Wildlife Management.

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Tour Location


Tour Itinerary

  • DAY 1

Meet at Valencia airport* and transfer to Albarracín.

If time permits, we’ll stop en route to visit a good butterfly site or two.

  • DAY 2

Xavier’s Rambla & the road to Pozondon.

Targets: Southern Hermit Chazaria prieuri, Hermit Chazaria briseis, Oberthur’s Anomalous Blue Polyommatus fabressei, Spanish Chalkhill Blue Lysandra albicans.

  • DAY 3

Noguera & Bronchales and Sierra Alta.

Targets: Mother-of-Pearl Blue Polyommatus nivescens, Azure Chalkhill Blue Lysandra caelestissima, Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron, Zapater’s Ringlet Erebia zapateri, Iberian Marbled White Melanargia lachesis, Provençal Fritillary Melitea deione.

  • DAY 4


Targets: Large Argynnis fritillaries (A. paphia, A. aglaja, A. niobe, A. andora, and A. adippe), Twin-spot Fritillary Brenthis hecate, Lesser Marbled Fritillary Brenthis ino, Chestnut Heath Coenynympha glycerion ssp. iphioides.

  • DAY 5

El Vallecilio & Ojos de Cabriel Targets

Esper’s Marbled White Melanargia russiae, Zapater’s Ringlet Erebia zapateri, Spanish Purple Hairstreak Laeosopis roboris.

  • DAY 6

Bronchales area.

Targets: Zapater’s Ringlet Erebia zapateri, Iberian Sooty Copper Lycaena bleusei, Southern Mountain Argus Aricia montensis, Sandy Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus cinarae.

  • DAY 7

Depart Albarracín and transfer to Valencia airport.

If time permits, we’ll stop en route to visit a good butterfly site or two.

As with all of our tours, we want our guests to enjoy the very best views of the very best wildlife and, as such, we think it’s important to retain a little flexibility in the holiday itinerary. This means that we may choose to swap days around to take into account local weather conditions, or the timing of the flight or flowering season we find upon arrival at our holiday destination. Rest assured, we will ensure you visit all the best sites, and we have your best interests and comfort at heart!

*We’ll meet at the airport as this is a convenient travel hub for many. However, we appreciate that some guests may have chosen to come overland via rail to Valencia. The main railway station in town is Estació del Nord, and there is a frequent aerobus service linking the city centre with the airport.

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