5 days
Duration
Thessaloniki, Pindos
Location
12+
Age
Apr-Oct
Dates

Track wild bears in a pristine mountainous corner of Greece: Northern Pindos

Back to nature with the friendly guides of wildlife charity CALLISTO to hear about research methods, walk in the wilderness and witness traces of wild bears.

Departures: 5 & 26 May, 15 Sept & 20 Oct 2018

Highlights:

  • Track wild bears and other large mammals in a rarely visited mountainous corner of Greece
  • Learn about and experience the vital conservation work being done for this enigmatic species
  • Join researchers of the wildlife charity CALLISTO, exploring remote bear territory and habitat of other mammals like Wolf, European Otter and Red Deer
  • Reload your batteries as you walk amazing trails in a truly unspoilt and little known paradise
  • Support Nature Conservation; this holiday includes a donation to the Bear Emergency Team project conducted by CALLISTO.
  • Enjoy other bountiful wildlife – especially birds, butterflies and plants

Check out a Bear sighting report here &

a Travel blog post here.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Thessaloniki, Greece
TOUR DURATION 5-days
PRICE €550 – p.p. for stay in quadruple room

€599 – p.p. for stay in triple room

€625 – p.p. for stay in double room

€649 – p.p. for stay in single room

INCLUDES
  • 2 overnight stays in 3* accommodation Kastoria
  • 2 overnight stays in hostel of National Park of Reconciliation, Kotili
  • Meals as indicated in program, half board basis
  • English speaking guiding services by representative(s) of wildlife charity CALLISTO in the Pindos mountain area
  • All land transfers with comfortable vehicle a/c with pick up and drop off Thessaloniki airport.
  • 75 EURO donation to wildlife charity CALLISTO
EXCLUDES
  • Flights
  • Travel insurance (recommended)
  • Drinks, lunches and personal items.

Other Information:

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.

According to the latest research data, the total Brown Bear population in Greece is 475 to 500 and here in the Pindos range there are 350 to 400 animals (Pilidis, 2015, in pub.). 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.

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

Arrive at Thessaloniki airport. From here you get a private transfer to the lovely Kastoria region, at the foothills of the Pindos mountain range.  The transfer is via an excellent highway. The distance some 190 km (118 miles) and duration just under2  hours. Arrive at the guesthouse situated near the  very scenic Kastoria Lake.

Time to rest before you meet your nature guide and CALLISTO expert on Brown bears. Time permitting, there will be a first nature hike in area near your hotel, which is part of bear habitat. Dinner and a presentation in your hotel. You get a fascinating information session about the European Brown Bear and the nature conservation efforts of CALLISTO which poses a great introduction for the days ahead.

Overnight in 3* accommodation in Kastoria

2

Day 2 - Kastoria and Nymfaio area

In the early morning we go to a place where brown bears may be active, foraging/observation in an attempt to spot bears.

After breakfast you head North, to the great outdoors! This is where wildlife charity CALLISTO conducts field research. Walk in the wilderness with your expert guide and learn about: 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 remote camera traps.

A visit to either a beekeeper or 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.

On the way back you will pay a visit to the bear sanctuary at Nymfaio, of the nature organization Arcturos. It is shelter where orphan and rescued bears are kept in a fenced area of some 50.000 m2. The guided tour here lasts around 1 hour. Your chance to see the bears, guaranteed, up-close and personal.

Opportunity to explore the traditional mountain village of Nymfaio. Drive back to Kastoria.

Dinner in your guesthouse.

Overnight in 3* accommodation in Kastoria Vissinokipos

3

Day 3- Kastoria and surrounding area

Start your day early with another bear observation effort in bear habitat.

After breakfast you head to the wilderness of the greater Kastoria aerea.

Walk with your expert guide, in an area where wild bears are active. Look for bear tracks and other signs such as bear droppings, bear hairs and scratch marks on trees or poles!

Back to rest in your guesthouse.

In the afternoon you discover Kastoria town, one of Greece’s prettiest villages. It’s highlights include many historical mansions of the 18th and 19th century, a folk museum, a costume museum and a Byzantine Museum.With its location at the lake shore Kastoria, a Natura 2000 site, a wildlife Refuge and an Important Bird Area is great for watching birds. Pygmy cormorants, Dalmatian and White Pelicans, Ferruginous Duck and Night Herons all live in this area of exceptional beauty. Finally, Kastoria is famous for its numerous Byzantine churches of the 11th,12th and 13th century!

Dinner in your hotel

Overnight in 3* Accommodation in Kastoria

4

Day 4 - Kastoria- Mount Grammos -Kastoria

After breakfast, you head for the Grammos Mountain, near the Albanian border . It is Greece’s 4th highest mountain (2.520m summit)! The transfer will take around an hour. After the drive we will set out on a hike on the mountain trails to Grammos Lodge. 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 breath-taking natural landscape unfolding before your eyes. Hit amazing trails in a truly unspoiled paradise, where crystal clear rivers flow through the forested valleys. Grammos Lodge is open for drinks and food on some days of the week. Drive back to your guesthouse in the afternoon.

Later that day you discover more of Kastoria town and its Lake with your local guide.

Dinner in Kastoria town.

Overnight in 3* Accommodation in Kastoria

5

Day 5 - From Kastoria back to Thessaloniki

After breakfast get your transfer to Thessaloniki. Expect to be back at 1 PM.

We advice to take a flight back no earlier than 2 PM

***

Practical information:

  • The program is offered from mid-April till end of October 2017
  • Participants will need to have a minimal level of fitness, as there are walks of approx. 2 hours’ duration in the mountains. This tour has some easy walks, but on occasion, if tracking a bear walks may become more strenuous and cover rough ground.
  • We can expect a variety of weather conditions ranging from pleasantly warm to cold so layered clothing will be advisable. Expect mostly dry weather (especially June, July, August, September) but there may be an occasional rain shower. Firm walking shoes are indispensable, binoculars, camera optional. Bring along a rucksack, cap or hat, sun glasses, sun cream too for during the walks in nature.
  • Flight advice: arrive no later than 2 PM at Thessaloniki airport on 1st day. Take a flight back home not earlier than 2 PM on last day.

Tour Reviews

5.00 based on 11 reviews
October 26, 2017

ACCOMMODATION: Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent) for Vissinokipos guesthouse:5 Comments: very nice B&B , with lovely view, excellent breakfast Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent) for Alexandros guesthouse: 5 Comments: perfect apartment, with little kitchen, balcony, plenty of space, lovely view to the mountains, with Central heating, ACTIVITY PROGRAM: Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent): 5 Comments: a lot of trekking in the mountains , but also we visited old churches, open air museum, bear sanctuary and much more, so it was all very interesting , there was no time to get bored:) YOUR LOCAL GUIDE: Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent): 5 Comments: Yannis is a great guide, he did everything that we could enjoy our trip. Very attentive, easy going and with enormous knowledge about bears, mountains and wildlife. OVERALL RATING FOR THIS HOLIDAY: Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent): 5 Comments: I had a great time and I really enjoyed it.

Emilia Majcher
UK

September 29, 2017

ACCOMMODATION: Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent) for Vissinokipos guesthouse: 5 Comments: Very friendly hosts and a wonderful view over Kastoria. Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent) for Alexandros guesthouse: 5 Comments: More basic accommodation, as expected in this rather remote area, but an excellent location overlooking the gorge. ACTIVITY PROGRAM: Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent): 5 Comments: The walks were very enjoyable. Pity we didn’t see a bear. We managed to include visits to Dispilio and Argos Orestiko in the afternoons – maybe you could add these to the scheduled tour, plus more time in Kastoria – the walks finish in the early afternoon, so there is time afterwards. YOUR LOCAL GUIDE Yannis Tsaknakis: Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent): 5 Comments: Very knowledgeable, and some interesting conversations en route. OVERALL RATING: Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (Poor to Excellent): 5 Comments: We were very pleased. We combined this with 4 days in Thessaloniki and 6 days in Halkidiki, which made a very varied and interesting holiday.

Ian Summers
UK

May 28, 2017

I really enjoyed my first visit to Greece ever and delighted to meet everyone especially Yiannis. He is the best, and communicates well. I felt safe with him and did panic a bit when out of sight. He is in tune and very clever and never met anyone like him before. ***** 5-star: I really enjoyed the whole trip. I would have liked to seen a bear so maybe the random bait drop could work? I would recommend this to friends, in fact have done so already and thank you so much for being around at the end of the phone. I really like this trip and loved Greece !

Soraya Wasemius
UK

October 7, 2016

The trip was fantastic – in addition to the gorgeous hiking and thoughtfully arranged accommodations and meals (all of which were comfortable and delicious and fun!), Giannis and Maria were THE BEST. Perfectly complimented each other, knowledgeable, warm, thoughtful, genuinely friendly and helpful – Christos and Christina were terrific hosts, as were Giorgos and his dad at Gramos Lodge.

Christine & Paul Singer
Washington D.C., USA

October 1, 2016

The tour was highly educational, we learned about animals and their signs, such as tracks or droppings as we spotted them, about fungi, various plants and forest habitats we hiked through. The landscapes were stunning, topped by a hundred metres high waterfall. The cuisine was yummy and even a seasoned Greek traveler like myself had to discover new dishes and tastes every day (have you ever tried a sweet liqueur made of locally picked wild fungi?). Accommodation was great, from the lovely lake-view hotel in Kastoria to a comfortable log cottage high in the mountains (so far, actually, that the mobile network signal came from neighbouring Albania). Last but not least, our guides, bear-researchers Yannis and Maria were not only highly knowledgeable but a nice company too, such pleasant people to spend time with while trekking those mountains. They were always willing to tailor the tour according the fitness level and wishes of their guests. Bear tracking in Greece is highly recommendable and very unique experience, even, as I said, for a seasoned Greek traveler.

Duschanka Stokovic-Simic
Belgrade, Serbia

September 30, 2016

Had great time tracking bears, enjoyed it immensely. Yanis and Maria are a great guiding pair, Yanis so calm and always smiling and Maria with that infectious laugh. Accommodation very good and charming, food great. Landscapes magnificent.

Dragan Simic
Belgrade, Serbia

September 27, 2016

Greece does sell itself really ….people, food, accommodation. I thought the trip was excellent with lots of variety meeting local people and an insight into conservation.

Bernard Price
UK

May 11, 2015

I would also like to extend our thanks to Giorgos and Gianis for their patience with us and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Greece and found the work of Callisto both fascinating and inspirational. Obviously the highlights were the close encounter with 1817 and the more distant views of “our” bear, but the weather, food and the countryside were spectacular. Note: You can read a report on the 2nd Brown Bear sighting by Martin & Liz Pitt right here: http://www.natural-greece.gr/brown-bear-sighting-in-northern-greece/

Liz & Martin Pitt
UK

October 11, 2014

Once again congrats for the excellent trip organised and delivered! A brilliant idea put into action with great professionalism and inspiration, perfectly planned and executed. I ‘m looking forward to your next interesting, unique proposals that will highlight and point out Greece’ s rich flora and fauna. A most experienced, effective and innovative profesional. I would definitely recommend anyone to join Natural Greece in its programmes around Greece!

ATHENA PAPAELIOPOULOU
Athens, Greece

May 28, 2014

Chantel, thank you so much for the magnificent organization of the dream trip “In the footprints of the European bear”. It was beautiful, fun, unforgettable and 5* rated. The enthusiasm and passion of Armin will be for always with me. Thank you and keep doing this marvelous job filled with love for nature. Marlien

Marlien Colina
Utrecht, The Netherlands

May 28, 2014

Greece, apart from sea and sun, has got wildlife and it is there for you to see and experience. In a pristine unexplored mountainous landscape you can sense bears, wolves, boars whispering around you. Although I am a native Greek I had never imagined the thrilling beauty hidden in the mountains of Northern Greece. Chantel through a very well organised adventure tour made all this possible. At a very reasonable cost the venture offered me the opportunity to get rid of the stress and learn many valuable lessons about nature. We followed Our nature loving and experienced guide Armin along the paths of mount Grammos and we listened openmouthedly to unravel the fascinating secrets of wildlife. Once you have learnt so many things about wild life you realize how closely we are related to animals. Many thanks to everybody.

Ioannis Kosmatos
Kefalonia, Greece

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