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The Gargano (Greentours)

The Gargano’s tranquil limestone hills rise to over three thousand feet and manage to pack an unbelievable flora into an area only fifty miles across. From the beautiful cool green beech and oak forests and limestone karst moonscapes of the higher reaches, the hills plunge towards a deep blue Adriatic where the local inhabitants cling to the cliff-tops in stunning jumbled white-walled towns.
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Iris lutescens © Phil Blanning

No less than 72 orchid species have been recorded and we should see over 48 during our stay. The sheer abundance of Pink Butterfly Orchids and Green-winged Orchids is a revelation and amongst these we can find swarms of the Gargano’s speciality – Bee Orchids. Many are found only in this region – Ophrys apulicaOphrys archipelagiOphrys parvimaculataOphrys promontorii and the abundant and aptly-named Ophrys garganica.

There’s Serapias apulica, improbably decorating a motorway verge, and Serapias laxiflora, also Ophrys virescens, rare Ophrys sipontensisOphrys funerea and the lovely Spectacle Ophrys. In Southern Murgia we shall find the local endemics Ophrys tarentinaand Ophrys celiensis. But orchids are only part of the show. Swathes of Anemones, Cyclamens, Violas and Narcissus poeticus decorate the woodland floor.

Woodpeckers, Hawfinches and Flycatchers inhabit their newly leafy boughs. Swallowtails and Southern Festoons sail across fields adorned with superb shows of Irises and Wild Tulips.