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Available places: 9

Deposit: £150.00 / person

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Tour Details

Dates:6th of Jun - 13th of Jun 2024
Availability:9Guaranteed 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

  • Approaching 100 species of butterfly possible during the tour, including some scarce and local eastern species
  • Highlights we’ll be looking for will include Freyer's Purple Emperor, Tessellated Skipper, Yellow-banded Skipper, Sandy Grizzled Skipper, Balkan Copper, Lesser Fiery Copper, Little Tiger Blue, Blue Argus, Lesser Purple Emperor f. clytie, Common Glider, Balkan Marbled White, and Balkan Grayling, to name but a few.
  • Abundant additional wildlife around Lake Kerkini, including majestic Dalmatian Pelicans and Balkan Lizard Orchids
  • A donation will be made to the European Butterflies Group, supporting proactive research and conservation

Tour Description

Over the course of years of exploring the Lake Kerkini National Park and the biologically rich surrounding countryside where north-eastern Greece meets the mountainous border with Bulgaria, we’ve built up an intimate knowledge of the area’s butterflies. Indeed, we’ve even added one or two species to the known butterfly fauna!

This tour builds upon the wealth of experience we have in the area, with an itinerary refined to maximise the amount of species we’ll see during the course of a week-long stay, ensuring we visit sites that provide the greatest spectacle as well as diversity, and giving us the opportunity to make some new discoveries all of our own as we take our time to explore each day’s sites at an easy pace.

With around 130 species recorded in the area, we have ample scope to see plenty of species, and will be anticipating recording in the region of 100 species during the course of our tour. Amongst them there will be some extremely desirable targets – skippers, in particular, will be well-represented and we’d expect to see well into double figures of species of them alone. Our targets will include Tessellated Skipper Muschampia tessellum, Yellow-banded Skipper Pyrgus sidae, and Sandy Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus cinarae.

Fans of Lycaenids won’t be disappointed either. Our exploration of the region will cover habitats ranging from lakeside margins to dry scrub, and from woodlands to mountain meadows. Puddling activity can be simply remarkable, with many species of blue all present at once in a dense crowd of soporific insects. We’ll visit special sites in the lowlands for the likes of Europe’s largest blue, Iolas Blue Iolana iolas, and one of its smallest, Little Tiger Blue Tarucas balkanicus. Up in the mountains, we’ll search meadows for the delightful Blue Argus Aricia anteros. Those montane meadows ought to abound with coppers too, and we’ll make a visit to ‘the copper mine’, a special site we found in recent years that boasts an abundance of Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron, in addition to Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae, Sooty Copper Lycaena tityrus, and the dark, local form of Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas. We’ll be hoping to encounter Balkan Copper Lycaena candens, Large Copper Lycaena dispar, and Lesser Fiery Copper Lycaena thersamon during the week to complete the flaming copper set.

Some special aristocrats will also be on the agenda – we’ve good sites for Lesser Purple Emperor Apatura ilia, and Southern Comma Polygonia egea; we anticipate good numbers of the king of fritillaries, Cardinal Argynnis pandora; and we will keep our eyes peeled for itinerant Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa, and Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros. Impossible to ignore will be the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of puddling Nettle-tree Butterflies Libythea celtis.

Hidden, tree-fringed meadows close to the Bulgarian border give us a chance of encountering Common Glider Neptis sappho, and Map Araschnia levana, along with a host of other interesting possibilities – the likes of Eastern Festoon Zerynthia cerisy, Lattice Brown Kirinia roxelana, and Balkan Marbled White Melanargia larissa. Our eastern location gives us a good chance of further regional Satyrid specialties, like Balkan Grayling Hipparchia senthes, and Eastern Rock Grayling Hipparchia syriaca. If we are truly blessed, we may encounter the ultimate emperor of all, Freyer's Purple Emperor Apatura metis.

Where there are this many insects, it almost goes without saying that other wildlife will abound too. Lake Kerkini is justly famous for its birdlife, and we’ll expect to see large numbers of breeding heron and egret species, in addition to the immense, magnificent Dalmatian Pelicans Pelecanus crispus, and many more species besides.

We will stay at a comfortable hotel in the heart of the countryside not far from the shore of the lake. Butterflies and birds alike can be found within short walking distance of our base, and there will be Balkan Lizard Orchids Himantoglossum calcaratum, to see on the quiet roadside margins. At night, over a cacophony of singing Nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos, we may hear the sound of Golden Jackals Canis aureus calling to one another in the near distance. Above all this week, we will be seeing lots of butterflies every day, and we look forward to seeing you there too.

Tour Leaders

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.

ButterflyFind Out More

An Irishman, but one born and grown up in Malaysia, living alongside virgin rainforest in Malaysia gave Michael a lifelong interest in entomology and the diversity and beauty of butterflies.

ButterflyFind Out More

Tour Location

Map

Tour Itinerary

  • DAY 1

Meet at Thessaloniki airport*

and transfer to Lake Kerkini. Once we’ve checked in, we will be able to start to explore the countryside on our very doorstep. Targets: Little Tiger Blue Tarucas balkanicus, Southern Comma Polygonia egea, Cardinal Argynnis pandora, and Lesser Fiery Copper Lycaena thersamon.

  • DAY 2

Lake Kerkini local sites.

A day working our way around half of the immense lake’s best butterfly sites. Targets: Iolas Blue Iolana iolas, Sooty Copper Lycaena tityrus, Lattice Brown Kirinia roxelana, Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros, and Eastern Baton Blue Pseudophilotes vicrama.

  • DAY 3

Agkistro environs.

A lowland area nestling up to the Bulgarian border, we explore a variety of habitats including puddling sites, ruderal fields, and traditional hay meadows bordered by mature woodland. Targets: Common Glider Neptis sappho, Map Araschnia levana, Yellow-banded Skipper Pyrgus sidae, Sandy Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus cinarae, Eastern Festoon Zerynthia cerisy, Grecian Anomalous Blue Polyommatus aroaniensis, Anomalous Blue Polyommatus admetus, Meleager’s Blue Polyommatus daphnis, Osiris Blue Cupido osiris, Large Copper Lycaena dispar, and Freyer's Purple Emperor Apatura metis.

  • DAY 4

Lake Kerkini local sites.

A day working our way around the second half of the lake’s best sites, ensuring we have missed nothing, and hoping for something very special indeed. Targets: Freyer’s Purple Emperor Apatura metis, Eastern Festoon Zerynthia cerisy, Spotted Fritillary Melitaea didyma, Lesser Spotted Fritillary Melitaea trivia, Nettle-tree Butterfly Libythea celtis, and Lattice Brown Kirinia roxelana.

  • DAY 5

Lake Doirani area.

An excursion to a different range of lakeside habitat, near to the North Macedonian border, and home to a small but highly desirable suite of insects. Targets: Tessellated Skipper Muschampia tessellum, Lesser Purple Emperor Apatura ilias f. clytie, Balkan Marbled White Melanargia larissa, and Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa.

  • DAY 6

Mount Lailias

Starting at the end of the road on the top of Mount Lailias, we work our way down the mountain over the course of the day, swapping alpine meadows for dry tracks and flower rich hillsides. We would expect more species today than any other single day in the week! Targets: Balkan Copper Lycaena candens, Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron, Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae, Blue Argus Aricia anteros, Zephyr Blue Plebejus sephirus, Large Blue Phengaris arion, Chequered Blue Scolitantides orion, Pearly Heath Coenonympha arcania, and Yellow-banded Skipper Pyrgus sidae.

  • DAY 7

Guests Choice Day.

We have a variety of further sites we could visit today and, should we have drawn a blank on any previous days for particularly desirable species, these often mean we’ve back-up sites we could visit. If everything has gone brilliantly well – and it usually does! – then we like to give our guests a chance to choose where we could return today – their favourite site(s) of the week!

  • DAY 8

Depart Lake Kerkini and transfer to Thessaloniki airport.

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 Thessaloniki. The main railway station in town is New Thessaloniki Railway Station, and there is a frequent aerobus service linking the city centre with the airport.

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