Tour Details

Dates:22nd of Apr - 29th of Apr 2025
Availability:9Guaranteed departure
Group Size:Minimum 4, maximum 12
Grading:Easy day walks
PricesFull price: £1,495.00 / person Single room supplement: £175.00 / 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

  • Spring butterflies including some choice endemic or extremely localised and hard-to-catch-up-with species
  • Desirable species we will be aiming to see include Spring Ringlet, Spanish Greenish Black-tip, Sooty Orange Tip, Iberian Sooty Copper, Spanish Festoon, Western Dappled White, Panoptes Blue, and Spanish Fritillary
  • Plenty of time to enjoy the Spanish countryside at a verdant time of year that’s unfamiliar to many guests. Great opportunities for photography of wildlife generally, but butterflies and orchids in particular.
  • A donation will be made to the European Butterfly Group, supporting proactive research and conservation

Tour Description

Central and Northern Spain offer a rare chance to encounter a suite of sought-after and infrequently seen butterflies in early spring. This tour offers a transect of the region from our dearly-loved butterfly destination, the Montes Universales, up to the foothills of the towering Pyrenees, staying at small, comfortable hotels in both regions, and taking in a wide variety of habitats en route.

Many of our guests will be familiar with the Montes Universales in the late summer if they have joined us there before, but the butterflies here in spring offer some fresh surprises. The countryside here 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.

At this time of year the landscape is largely green and verdant in the wake of winter, and our main target in the area will be on the wing – the aptly named Spring Ringlet Erebia epistygne. This is a particularly bright and beautiful Erebia, and one that’s hard to come by – it’s found only sparingly in France and Spain, and is generally threatened by habitat loss. Happily for us, the landscape in the Montes Universales remains absolutely ideal for it, and we will visit sites where dozens of newly-emerged insects should be on the wing.

Before departing the Montes Universales we will also visit sites where we know we can expect early examples of Iberian Sooty Copper Lycaena bleusei, an endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and, arguably, one of the most beautiful of all the copper family, sporting gorgeous, rich bronze tones when freshly emerged. Other desirable butterflies on the wing at the time include the likes of Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumina, Provence Orange Tip Anthocharis euphenoides, Western Dappled White Euchloe crameri, Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros, False Baton Blue Pseudophilotes abencerragus, and Panoptes Blue Pseudophilotes panoptes.

Our base in the Montes Universales will be the small, friendly, family-run hotel in Albarracin we’ve been staying at for years on our annual visits to the area – we know we’re guaranteed a warm welcome, hearty and delicious evening meals, and a glass of wine or two as well here.

It’ll be hard to tear ourselves away, but we’ve somewhere just as lovely in which to base ourselves for the second half of the week – a boutique guesthouse in the pretty hilltop village of Berdún, nestling at the foot of the Pyrenees. From here, we will explore the deep valleys that flank the mountains, searching for flaming, bright Spanish Fritillary Euphydryas desfontainii and, at lower elevations, ruderal fields and their hilly margins in which we anticipate finding two simply sensational Pierids – Spanish Greenish Black-tip Euchloe bazae ssp iberae, and Sooty Orange Tip Zegris eupheme. The former is restricted to just a couple of discrete areas of Spain, and found nowhere else on Earth; while the latter is notoriously hard to see without expert guidance. Happily for our guests, we know where both should be…

There will be plenty of other distractions on the wing in the area. We should find further fritillaries, Weaver’s Fritillary Boloria dia and Knapweed Fritillary Melitaea phoebe flaming fresh in grassy areas; blues, like Baton Blue Pseudophilotes baton and Green-underside Blue Glaucopsyche alexis; and birds too, from mighty Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus soaring overhead to a lysergic European Bee-eater Merops apiaster breeding colony. If that weren’t enough, there will be orchids to catch our eye, with some fine stands of Elder-flowered Orchid Dactylorhiza sambucina, Burnt Orchid Neotinea ustulata, Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, and Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera amongst others.

This promises to be an unparalleled opportunity to spend time with northern Spain’s special spring butterflies. And if that appeals, the following week will find us exploring southern Spain on our Spring Butterflies of Andalusia tour – you could join us for both!

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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Juan Pablo is a biologist with an MSc in Conservation Biology. He has a particular interest in Iberian butterflies, and also enjoys photography and hiking - often all three interests coincide!

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Tour Location


Tour Itinerary

  • DAY 1

Meet at Valencia airport* and transfer to Albarracin.

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

  • DAY 2

Moscardon & Frias de Albarracin am, Noguera pm.

With no further ado, we get straight to business on our first full day in the Montes Universales, and visit sites where we know Spring Ringlet should be on the wing. Targets: Spring Ringlet Erebia epistygne, Iberian Sooty Copper Lycaena bleusei, Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros.

  • DAY 3

El Vallecillo & Terriente.

Our first site will be beyond the small village of El Vallecillo. This isolated location has damp areas and some great tracks with grassy meadows where Panoptes Blue Pseudophilotes panoptes, Provence Orange Tip Anthocharis euphinoides, Turquoise Blue Polyommatus dorylas, Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros and, if the season is early, De Prunner’s Ringlet Erebia triaria, should be seen.

In the afternoon, a treat awaits with a visit to a roadside site containing significant numbers of Spring Ringlets Erebia epistygne.

  • DAY 4

Calomarde, Monterde de Albarracin and Alberracin canyon.

Calomarde is a green oasis with a steep-sided canyon where a wide range of general butterfly species can be seen. Later on, we will visit some ruderal fields near Monterde de Albarracin for a feast of Pierids, hopefully including the enigmatic but highly desirable Sooty Orange Tip Zegris eupheme. If time allows we will then take in the canyon at the northern end of Albarracin.

  • DAY 5

Transit Day via Los Monegros.

We set out today to drive to Berdun, our second base for the remainder of the week. However, this is no ordinary transit day, for we will stop en route at a site where we have recorded both the achingly rare endemic Spanish Greenish Black-tip Euchloe bazae, and the notoriously elusive Sooty Orange Tip Zegris eupheme. Throw in hilltopping Swallowtails Papilio machaon, fresh Adonis Blues Polyommatus bellargus, and a bustling colony of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster, and this is quite a way to break a journey!

  • DAY 6

Valle de Hecho.

The Valle de Hecho is a beautiful area, and we will spend time in a riverside meadow near the town of Binies first thing, with Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumina, Duke of Burgundy Hamaeris lucina, Iberian Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides feisthamelii, Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros, and Weaver’s Fritillary Boloria dia all likely. Upon reaching the second site close to the village of Hecho, we will look for Spanish Fritillary Euphydryas desfontainii, with a likely supporting cast of Green-Underside Blue Glaucopsyche alexis, Baton Blue Pseudophilotes baton, Western Dappled White Euchloe crameri, Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxia, and Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alceae.

  • DAY 7

Yesa area.

A trip close to the border with France near Canfranc-Estacion will see us looking for Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa, along with Pearl Bordered Fritillary Boloria euphrosyne, Duke of Burgundy Hamaeris lucina, Sooty Copper Lycaena tityrus, Provençal Fritillary Melitaea deione, and many others.

  • DAY 8

Depart Berdun and transfer to Valencia 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 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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