This tour will suit those who enjoy being surrounded by thousands of easily accessible alpine butterflies at a fabulous time of year, as the burgeoning vegetation in this achingly beautiful region reaches its midsummer climax. Encompassing the alpine regions of both Italy and France, we enjoy the best of both butterfly worlds – and cuisines!
Travelling from Nice via the spectacular Col de la Lombarde, we will spend five nights in a delightful, Italian spa village set in an unspoiled mountain valley prior to crossing back over the border to shorten the return journey and, at the same time, take in a sample of the wonders to be seen in the French part of the Mercantour National Park.
The prime target on this trip will be Scarce Fritillary Euphydryas maturna, with the Italian population only having been discovered fairly recently. This beautiful butterfly has a very restricted range, but is fairly common at its epicentre, and is easy to observe, being prone to settling in moist tracts of land and also occasionally on its human admirers!
Other species of interest will be Alcon Blue Phengaris alcon, Nickerl’s Fritillary Melitaea aurelia, Reverdin’s Blue Plebejus argyrognamon, Lesser Spotted Fritillary Melitaea trivia, and possibly Southern Swallowtail Papilio alexanor.
The valley in which the hotel is located is flower and butterfly rich, with large numbers of Apollo Parnassius apollo, Clouded Apollo Parnassius mnemosyne, Almond-eyed Ringlet Erebia alberganus, Northern Wall Brown Lasiommata petropolitana, and many others.
The second part of the tour will be based in the French hilltop village of Rimplas, which will give us the opportunity to explore the famous forest track at the end of the road from the hotel. The slightly drier, warmer climate here should see a selection of different species recorded such as Baton Blue Pseudophilotes baton, Ilex Hairstreak Satyrium ilicis, Dusky Heath Coenonympha dorus, Chequered Blue Scolitantides orion, and possibly Southern Comma Polygonia egea.
Even at this relatively early period in summer, we would expect more than 100 species to be observed, proving just how rich and diverse this area of the Alps is. The higher altitude butterflies will largely have yet to emerge, so this tour is easy on the feet, with no steep climbing or scree slopes. Instead, just relax and enjoy the green landscape and its butterfly bonanza on reasonably level terrain, with temperatures not as oppressive as they can be here in July and August.