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Spring in the Peloponnese 2019

This 8-day tour explores the diverse landscapes and rich floral displays of the Peloponnese. The array of flowers is vast. From orchids and wild tulips at sea-level to cyclamen in mountain forests and crocuses on the highest peaks of the peninsula.

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See some of the amazing plants our tour group have seen on their trip.

Day 1

We landed in Athens in the early afternoon and after meeting our driver Dionysos, we set off to our first destination: the two gardens that botanist and nurseryman Lefteris Dariotis keeps in Peania, on the outskirts of Athens Airport.

Lefteris is passionate about South African bulbs, salvias and Mediterranean xerophytic plants.

Day 2

Today, our aim was to find as many orchids as possible and mount Hymettos near Athens is a good location to do so. This, and a further location in Loutraki, yielded 10 species.

The spring bloom of annual species like Silene colorata, Anthemis chia and Malcolmia chia was as good as ever.

(Click on individual images to enlarge and see more information)

Day 3

Our third day was focused on exploring the highest peaks in the Northern Peloponnese. We were on the lookout for snowmelt crocuses and colchicums.

After a pleasant drive from Tripoli, with brief stops on the side of the road to photograph Anemone blanda and Anemone pavonina, we started our ascent of Mount Chelmos (our main destination). I was slightly worried as we were approaching the mountain on noticing how low the snow line still was. Fortunately, we found some clear patches in the sun where the snow had melted and lower down forest clearings where Colchicum triphyllum, yellow Crocus olivieri and pink Crocus sibieri subsp. sublimis f. tricolor were growing.

Day 4

On our fourth day we headed east and saw the ancient sites at Mycenae and Epidavros. Adorning the famous ruins were masses of wildflowers – a joy to behold but a pain to photograph in the wind! We ended the day further south in the Argolis peninsula, where fields of wild tulips occur.

(Click on individual images to enlarge and see more information)

Day 5

On our fifth day, we travelled south towards Gythio with stops for a couple of good walks around Mystras and then the Parori gorge. We were particularly impressed with an unusually coloured Anemone pavonina and the delicate Cyclamen rhodium subsp. peloponnesiacum, which inhabits the shaded slopes of the gorge.

Day 6

The next day was spent exploring the Mani peninsula and we travelled all the way to Cape Tenaro, the southern-most point in mainland Greece. On our way back to Gythio, we stopped in several places in the Maniot countryside. Highlights of the day included the endemic Tulipa goulimyi and Fritillaria davisii as well as the annual pink flax Linum pubescens.

Day 7

On our seventh day, we drove east towards Monemvasia, the ancient medieval trading town perched on the small but rugged island. Of note, after the copious winter rains, were groves of giant fennel plants, some up to 4m tall and buzzing with insects.

We also saw the third tulip species of our tour: Tulipa orphanidea and the magenta coloured Cyclamen rhodium subsp. vividum.

Day 8

On our last day, the amazing weather we had enjoyed so far disappeared and it rained heavily. Most of the day was spent driving north towards the airport but we managed to make a short stop in Attica, where in horizontal rain and howling winds we spotted two more species of orchids, bringing the grand total to 20 in just a week.

It was a fantastic trip and we saw many beautiful wildflowers in their natural habitats. If you’re interested in exploring the Peloponnese, we have another trip to explore the autumn flora in October/November 2019 – find out more here.

More about the tour

Itinerary

Day 1

Fly into Athens from Heathrow.

Afternoon visit to Elefterios Dariotis, a botanist and nurseryman who specialises in bulbs and Mediterranean natives. He has developed two gardens on the outskirts of Athens.

Accommodation: Hotel in Athens

Day 2

Morning exploration of Hymettus Mountain, an 11 mile long range overlooking Athens.

This is a top location for hardy wild orchids, Iris attica and Fritillaria graeca.

Accommodation: Hotel in Tripoli (Mainalon Resort)

Day 3

Day trip to Mount Chelmos, north of Tripoli, where we will look for snowmelt bulbs: Crocus olivieri, Crocus sieberi, Colchicum triphyllym and Gymnocarpium altaicum subsp. peloponnesiacum on the northern slopes.

Accommodation: Hotel in Tripoli (Mainalon Resort)

Day 4

Day trip to Mycenae. Over 4000 years old, the impressive archeological remains are set in beautiful mountainous countryside with a prime view of the Gulf of Laconia. The bee-hive tombs are of particular interest.

Plants to see include the endemic Campanula andrewsii, local Gagea graeca and Astragallus lusitanicus.

Accommodation: Hotel in Tripoli (Mainalon Resort)

Day 5

After a relatively short drive south, we’ll arrive at Mystras, a medieval citadel where we will see Anemone, Muscari and Campanula while admiring the amazing views towards the Taygetos mountains.

Accommodation: Hotel in Gytheio (Pantheon)

Day 6

Day trip to Cape Tenaro, the southern-most point on the Greek mainland.

There will be stops along the way at Vathia and other locations on the Mani peninsula in search of Serapia, Orchis and Ophris species scattered throughout the olive groves.

At our destination look out for Tulipa goulimyi, Linum pubescens, Mathiola sinuata as well as the Roman mosaic set yards away from the seashore.

Accommodation: Hotel in Gytheio (Pantheon)

Day 7

From Gytheio we’ll drive east to Monemvasia, driving past the famous Dymitrios ship-wreck. With a name reminiscent of Turkish violets (according to a French scholar), Monemvasia was an important trading station in the Eastern Mediterranean in medieval times. The island, joined to the mainland by a causeway as recently as 1971, is awash with colourful annuals in spring.

We will also stop at Sikea for Orchis militaris, Anacamptis papilionacea, Tulipa goulimyi, Ophris speculum and Serapias.

Accommodation: Hotel in Gytheio (Pantheon)

Day 8

Drive to Athens Airport with short stops on the way. Fly back to the UK.

Image of Răzvan Chişu Răzvan Chişu

Răzvan Chişu MCIHort, has had a passion for alpines since he joined the AGS aged 14. As a professional horticulturist, he divides his time between garden design jobs, giving lectures and running plant hunting tours. His plant interests are diverse and wide ranging, from bulbs to ferns, succulents and hardy perennials.