8 days
Duration
Thessaloniki, Pindos, Prespa Lake
Location
12+
Age
Jun, Sep
Dates

Join members of a wildlife charity, exploring brown bear habitat in Northern Greece. 

 

You will visit Pindos where hundreds of bears roam & gain an insight into bear research. Visit Prespa Lake on the second part of this holiday, home of the Dalmatian pelican & numerous rare plants! 

Departure: 9 June 2018 & 22 September 2018

Highlights:

  • Tourism as a tool for Nature conservation: join researchers of the wildlife charity CALLISTO, exploring remote brown bear territory
  • Gain an insight into bear research: learn about camera traps, radio tracking animals; find out how you look for signs of bear presence and how you record them. Find many bear signs, possibility to spot them too
  • Get an insight into the challenges posed by co-existence of human activities and large carnivores.
  • Support Nature Conservation; this tour includes a donation to the Bear Emergency Team project conducted by CALLISTO.
  • Great walking in a truly unspoiled and little known paradise.
  • Explore Lake Prespa with park rangers, one of the most important wetlands in Europe, with many endemic wildflowers and the rare & impressive Dalmatian Pelican!
  • Greek food, plenty of sunshine, music, dance, attractive towns and a warm welcome by the locals

Tour leaders for this trip are local researchers of wildlife charity CALLISTO- experts on large mammals of  Greece

Grade: Fairly gentle pace but some degree of fitness required, small group so we adapt walking duration etc. to your needs!

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Thessaloniki, Greece
TOUR DURATION 8-days
PRICE €800 p.p. based on quadruple room occupancy

€875 p.p. based on triple occupancy

€900 p.p. based on double room occupancy

€950 p.p. based on single room occupancy

Includes Accommodation with private facilities – ensuite, all meals, all ground transport (including airport transfers), program as described, boat trip lake, nature guiding services in the English language, donation to CALLISTO wildlife charity of 75 EURO
Excludes Flights and travel insurance, alcohol and personal items.

Other Information:

Prespa is an area of great ecological value, blessed by a rich natural environment and breathtaking landscape, birds, traditional settlements and remarkable Byzantine monuments. The most important characteristic, however, is that so many life forms are concentrated in this tiny part of land. Due to the area’s isolation, many of the rare species that it hosts are endemic of Prespa and/or of the Balkans, which means they can only be found there and in no other part of the world. In addition, it hosts the largest colony of Dalmatian pelicans—a species threatened with extinction—in the world. More info can be found at the website of the Society for the Protection of Prespa.

The purity and the ecological value of the Northern-Pindos region is enormous.

The Northern-Pindos presents one of the greatest indicators of habitat diversity in mountainous Greece. Only in the area of Zagori there have been recorded 34 habitat types, 24 of which present special interest and that is why they are included in the Community Directive 92/43 for the “conservation of habitats and flora and fauna species”. Forest vegetation covers 80% of the area. At lower altitudes vegetation with Mediterranean elements appears (evergreens- broadleaved), the zone of oaks follows, and at the greater altitudes coniferous trees are dominant, with most characteristic the black pine, while even higher trees of beech and white pine appear. The pasture and steppe-like areas appear higher at altitude then the forest boundaries. Priority habitats that are protected are the Forests of Black Pine, the mixed Greek forests of beech- Black Pine and the broadleaved oak forests with Black Pine. The dense forests of Mount Grammos are a prime habitat for the European brown bear (Ursus arctos). But the area is also one of the most important habitats of the European Otter (Lutra lutra) in Greece. Otters are permanently present and breeding in Aliakmonas River and its tributaries. The area is of great importance for a diverse avifauna, including many rare and endangered species, 35 of which are listed in Annex I of Council directive 79/409/EEC. The majority of these species are breeding in the area.

The sandstone cliffs of Aliakmonas gorge near Nestorio provide important nesting sites for many bird species, including Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). The cliffs are equally important for different bat species, as there are many small caves in the rocks.  The open grasslands and alpine meadows have an incredible diversity of flowering plants including numerous orchid species and hence are home of many insect species like butterflies and bumblebees.

About the European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) in Greece

Bears in Greece are found in two main core populations separated by a distance of circa 250km as follows: the Pindos population covering a range surface of circa 11,000km2 which is the southernmost part of the Dinara – Pindos bear biological population and the Rhodopes population covering a range surface of circa 2,500km2 which is the southernmost part of the Eastern Balkan bear biological population. In Pindos range, population is estimated at 115-145 individuals. During this trip you will learn about bear research methods and follow bear tracks. Although bears are secretive animals, the area around Mount Grammos provides good chances of viewing these magnificent animals in their natural environment and without baiting.

 

1

Day 1 - Arrival in Thessaloniki, Greece

Arrive in Thessaloniki airport. Transfer to the Pindos mountain range. Get your transfer to Kastoria, North Pindos (2-hour drive, 190 km) Check into your hotel located near the Lake of Kastoria city.
Meet your nature guides and CALLISTO experts on large mammals. Time permitting, there will be a first nature hike in area near your hotel, which is part of bear habitat. Dinner in your hotel. You get a fascinating presentation about the European Brown Bear and the nature conservation efforts of CALLISTO which poses a great introduction for the days ahead.

Overnight in Vissinokipos Guesthouse, Kastoria or similar

2

Day 2 - Kastoria

In the early morning we go to a place where brown bears may be active, foraging/observation.
After breakfast you get a fascinating outdoor presentation about field research methods of CALLISTO. These methods include: the use of radio telemetry equipment and methods of radio tracking animals, finding signs for recording bear presence, measuring footprints to determine the size and age of a bear and setting and operating remote camera traps. You will also get an insight in the challenges posed by the co-existence of humans and bears and you learn about the awareness raising campaigns of CALLISTO and compensating measures.
During these days the group will install camera traps so there is a possibility to capture mammals on camera! Dinner in Kastoria.

Overnight in Vissinokipos Guesthouse, Kastoria or similar

3

Day 3 - Kastoria to Grammos

Start your day early with another bear observation effort in bear habitat.
After breakfast, you head for the Grammos Mountain. It is Greece’s 4th highest mountain (2.520m summit)! We will set out on a hike in Grammos Mountain, near the Albanian border. You’re invited to take in the wild beauty of this forested area, which is rich in pine and beech forests and vast sub-alpine meadows, and forms one of the most attractive trekking destinations in Europe. Admire impressive mountain ranges, forested slopes and the breathtaking natural landscape unfolding before your eyes. Hit amazing trails in a truly unspoiled paradise, where crystal clear rivers flow through the forested valleys.
During these days, we will also pay a visit to a livestock breeder to see how he co-exists with the bears in the area. See how CALLISTO helps these locals by providing them with preventive measures such as special mobile fences and providing a breed of guarding dogs that keep the bears at bay.
Dinner in your hotel
Accommodation: Park of National Reconcilliation Grammos at Kotili

***Note: your program with the nature guide is indicative. We depend on factors such as the weather, road conditions and the position and behavior of the bears on the day itself.

4

Day 4 - Grammos

Full day to explore this wilderness area with your nature guide.
After our walks and observations, we head back to the hotel.
Dinner in the hotel.
Accommodation: Park of National Reconcilliation Grammos at Kotili

5

Day 5 - Grammos to Prespa Lakes

Drive to Agios Germanos in the Lake Prespa area (2,5 hour drive, 130 km).
Check into your hotel at Prespa Lake area. Excursion starts at the Information centre of Management Park Authority of Prespa Lake in Agios Germanos.  After this you head to the sluice/the piece of land where Small Prespa Lake and Big Prespa Lake meet. Learn about the water management and other nature conservation measures taken and enjoy spectacular nature.
Accommodation: Agios Germanos Hotel, Agios Germanos or similar

6

Day 6 - Prespa Lakes

Morning walk – Floral trail in this area where, apart from many endemic plants, over half of the species of birds, amphibians and mammals of Greece can be found.
After lunch: drive on to the town of Psarades for a boat trip. As its name indicates – Psaras means “fish” – it is a traditional fishing village.  Boat trip to see the birdlife, post-Byzantine frescos on the rocks and the hermitages built on the cliffs of the lake. The area has 9 endemic fish species and the landscape is simply stunning
Accommodation: Agios Germanos Hotel, Agios Germanos or similar

7

Day 7 - Prespa Lakes to Thessaloniki

Drive from Prespa Lake to Thessaloniki (net 3 hrs, 240 km).
On your will you pass by Nympheon where you will visit the Bear Sanctuary in a forest in Nymfaio, Western Macedonia. Guaranteed to see the bears up-close-and personal. Here rescued bears are kept and fed in a fenced area. Visit the information Centre adjacent to the Bear Sanctuary to learn more about the animals. Arrive at your Thessaloniki Hotel in the afternoon.
Farewell dinner and Greek live music in the vibrant Ladadika district! Time to practice your Greek dancing skills.
Accommodation: Tourist Hotel, Thessaloniki or similar

8

Day 8 - Departure

After breakfast get your transfer to Thessaloniki airport. Or extend your stay.

Tour Reviews

5.00 based on 5 reviews
October 23, 2017

I wanted to add my appreciations to Philip’s positive feedback …I thoroughly enjoyed our tour, ten out of ten!

Mary-Ann Smyth
Schotland

October 12, 2017

Congratulations on a very fine tour. Thank you so much for the tour you put together for us, we all were delighted with it. We feel that it’s churlish to criticize anything at all, as you arranged what we asked for and did it so very well, assembling a fantastic group of people and activities and locations that met and exceeded our expectations affording us an insight into a side of Greece that we hadn’t imagined before. The habitat management for conservation of rare species the farming, tourism and rural society issues contingent on that were exactly what we wanted and so often debate amongst ourselves. We will return home better informed about Greece and with another perspective on these issues at home.

Philip Mathieson
Schotland

October 10, 2017

Overall rating for this holiday: 4 Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent): Comments: Generally speaking we really liked the program. It is a fantastic part of Greece. We experienced many aspects of the “bear program”. The Grammos mountain and Juniper forest near Prespa were very pretty walking area’s. We had a very good time with the Scottish people in our group. We have learned from them too and enjoyed their company. It was an unforgettable adventure. Thank you Natural Greece.

Piet and Connie Elenbaas
The Netherlands

July 25, 2017

Fantastic trip. It surpassed our expectations and we felt very privileged to be on this adventure with Yannis and Anastasia as our leaders.Their knowledge and passion for their environment was outstanding, their genuineness and integrity was heart warming. Anastasia was also fantastic and I loved our chats on plants and their medicinal uses. We were surprised at the beauty of Northern Greece and that it had been kept such a secret.

Deborah Andrews and Peter Thompson
Australia

June 1, 2015

Giannis did a fantastic job and we will be doing this again. The week was fantastic.

Danielle Robinson, Newton Rigg College
UK

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