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Tour Details

Dates:3rd of Jul - 10th of Jul 2024
Availability:SOLD OUTGuaranteed departure
Group Size:Minimum 4, maximum 12
Grading:Easy to moderate
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

  • Desirable species we will be aiming to see include Gavarnie and Forster's Furry Blue, Purple and Lesser Purple Emperor, Twin-spot Fritillary, and Lefebvre's, de Prunner's, Chapman's, Gavarnie and Piedmont Ringlets
  • We will encounter a myriad of Lycaenidae in particular, with many other blues, coppers and hairstreaks to search for
  • Based in an extremely beautiful and comfortable guesthouse, benefitting from the local natural history knowledge of our host and co-leader, Peter
  • A donation will be made to the European Butterflies Group, supporting proactive research and conservation

Tour Description

The Western Valleys of the Spanish Pyrenees are a Natural Park, the second highest level of protection possible in Spain. We spend a week exploring the foothills, woodlands, pastures, meadows, wetlands and high mountain terrain of this unspoilt and habitat-rich area of Spain.

Our base for the week is the gorgeous guesthouse of Casa Sarasa, at the foot of the medieval village of Berdún. Our host, Peter, is also one of our guides for the week ahead, and his knowledge of the area is second to none. Set in a large wild-flower meadow, the guesthouse has rooms that give out directly onto the garden and it is here that we can also do some moth trapping. Breakfasts, evening meals and lunchtime picnics are all prepared here, with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. There is also a large and comfortable meeting room with an excellent natural history reference library.

We do a series of excursions from Berdún, depending on the weather and local conditions. Within an hour’s drive we can explore diverse habitats from 400m above sea level amidst olive and almond groves to 1800m at the frontier with France, right up in the high mountains.

This variety of habitats will serve us well for butterflies (and birds and wildflowers too). In the course of our week in the region we will be seeing a wide variety of species and families. From the aristocrats we will search for Purple and Lesser Purple Emperor, the dramatic Two-tailed Pasha, and the velvet loveliness of Camberwell Beauty. Satyrids should include three species of gatekeeper, Great Sooty Satyr, and Chapman's, de Prunner's, Lefebvre's and Piedmont Ringlets. The Lycaenidae in particular should blow our socks off! Blues we will be hoping for include Forster's Furry, Gavarnie, Iolas, Turquoise, Glandon, Alcon, Provence Chalkhill and Spanish Chalkhill. Then there are the coppers, and hairstreaks that ought to include the ever-pleasing Spanish Purple. Throw in the likes of Twin-spot Fritillary and Apollo, and other butterfly delights besides, and this is truly a tour to savour.

All in all this a very varied and tranquil week in one of Europe’s bio-diverse hot-spots. Sweeping changes in altitude and transitions from Atlantic to Mediterranean habitats in a relatively short distance means that there is always somewhere new to go and something new to see.

Tour Leaders

Paul’s been passionate about nature and the environment all his life. In his early teenage years, this began with birdlife, learning most UK bird songs, helping him to identify the last ever breeding Turtle Doves in his home county, Cheshire.

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Peter has lived in the Pyrenees for 33 years, where he leads history, natural history and gentle walking holidays for the inquisitive from the beautiful Casa Sarasa guesthouse.

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Tour Location


Tour Itinerary

  • DAY 1

Arrival at Bilbao airport*.

Transfer to Casa Sarasa, and the rest of the day will be spent locally, a chance to familiarize ourselves with the local butterflies that we will see over the course of the week. Within walking distance, we go from the meadows in the gardens, down back lanes with fig and almond trees, along some semi-arid marl “Badlands” with interesting flora and finishing up at the riparian forest along the banks of the Veral river. We will see the three types of gatekeepers to be found here, Cleopatra and Swallowtail, as well as our first encounters with Great Banded Grayling and Marbled White, amongst others.

  • DAY 2

Berdun wider general area.

We continue our explorations of the local area, starting at a nearby chapel, set amongst Holm and Portuguese Oaks. Here we will be concentrating on hairstreaks, as we hope to find Ilex, False Ilex and Purple amongst others, as well as some blues in the grassy areas near the trees. From here we head up hill to the Fago gorge, an amazing limestone chasm where Griffon and Egyptian Vultures soar along with Alpine Swifts and Golden Eagles. Here we will continue looking for hairstreaks, Blue-spot and Spanish Purple amongst them, and we will start our contact with fritillaries, such as the Queen of Spain and Silver-washed. We continue up the gorge, stopping at a couple of meadows before arriving at another mountain chapel at 1,000m above sea level. Here the meadows are bordering some pine forests, and amongst the blues and fritillaries we will start finding some more graylings, as well as some of the many day-time flying burnet moths, such as Transparent, Merry and Algarve.

  • DAY 3

Roncal Valley in Navarre.

Here we make a couple of stops as we go up the valley, hoping to find Purple Emperor, Lesser Purple Emperor, Purple-edged Copper and Twin-spot Fritillary. Our destination however is the high La Contienda valley, near the border with France, at 1,800m above sea level. This little valley is a botanical delight, with alpine flowers nestling amongst the karst limestone outcrops, under Austrian Pines. Here we come across ringlets, including Piedmont, Champman’s and Lefebvre’s, as well as Mountain Argus and Forster’s Furry Blue, as well as enjoying the local Ring Ouzels and Crossbills.

  • DAY 4

For our fourth day, if conditions are right, we will head down to the south, crossing the outer foothills of the Pyrenees and into the Mediterranean areas around the Riglos, Aguero and Loarre ranges, dropping to 400m above sea level. Apart from the spectacular geology, we are now in an area of almond, olives and rosemary, with the hillsides covered in garrigue-like shrubs. Here we will come across Provence and Spanish Chalkhill Blues, as well as Berger’s and ordinary Clouded Yellows. Our sights are set, however, on the Strawberry Tree forests around Agüero, where we are hoping to come across the magnificent Two-tailed Pasha.

  • DAY 5

The Hecho valley beckons on the fifth day. This is a valley that stretches up to the border with France and we make various stops along the way, in meadows and alongside mountain streams. Up at the highest point we hope to make contact with Apollo, De Prunner’s Ringlet, and Escher’s, Turquoise, Iolas and Baton Blues, whilst lower down we hope to come across Large Blue, Purple Emperor and Camberwell Beauty. Our journey home includes a stop in the Binies Gorge, where a tiny meadow usually reveals a whole host of butterflies, especially fritillaries, whites and blues.

  • DAY 6

The Aisa Valley is a microcosm of the whole Pyrenees. The lower stretches of the valley are made up of tiny traditional walled grazing meadows, where we stop on a couple of occasions hoping to come across Cardinal amongst others. We proceed up to the upper part of the Valley, where after a short walk we find ourselves in a pristine mountain valley, wild flower meadows stretching away to the craggy peaks in the middle distance. The puddles and streamsides are crowded with flocks of blues garnering minerals, while Apollo, Turquoise, Silver-studded and Glandon Blues are on the radar today. A little lower down at our lunch spot we hope to come across Alcon Blue and Great Sooty Satyr, while in the fringes of the woodland we will hope to find Southern White Admiral and Mediterranean, Billowing and Six-spot Burnets.

  • DAY 7

Our final day takes us up to the frontier with France at the Portalet pass at 1,800m above sea level. Apart from Marmots, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes and Lammergeiers, here we make our way up towards some rocky outcrops, hoping to find more Apollos and ringlets, especially Pyrenees Brassy and Gavarnie, whilst our eyes are peeled for Gavarnie Blue. Later in the day we drop down to the Lasarra Reservoir, where a walk along the riverside on the edge of the woods takes us past little meadows with coppers, blues, hairstreaks, Camberwell Beauties and still more Apollos.

  • DAY 8

Return to Bilbao airport, and holiday concludes.

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, or by ferry to Bilbao. There is a regular (every 20-30 minutes) bus linking the city centre with the airport.!#public-transport

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