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
- 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|
|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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
- 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.