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

Live a Big Adventure in Northern Greece, exploring brown bear habitat with an expert guide. The beautiful Pindos mountain range, stunning Prespa Lakes & colourful Thessaloniki are on the menu. And oh yes, delicious Greek food of course.

While you visit Northern Pindos you gain an insight into brown bear research. Explore Prespa Lake on the second part of this holiday, home of the Dalmatian pelican & numerous rare plants!

Departures in 2020: 23 May, 26 Sept & 17 Oct

Highlights:

  • 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 Bear Conservation
  • 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 experts on large mammals of  Greece.

Grade: Basic fitness required, few hours hiking  daily in rough mountainous terrain is part of the tour.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Thessaloniki, Greece
TOUR DURATION 8-days
PRICE €750 p.p. based on quadruple room occupancy

€825 p.p. based on triple occupancy

€850 p.p. based on double room occupancy

€900 p.p. based on single room occupancy

INCLUDES
  • Accommodation with private facilities – en suite
  • half board
  • 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 p.p.
EXCLUDES Flights , travel insurance, alcohol, lunches (max.10 E p.p.) 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.  Furthermore, 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.

More info on the website of the National Park of Northern Pindos.

During this trip you will learn about bear research methods, bear protection, human-bear interaction and follow bear tracks. Bears are secretive animals that avoid human contact. They tend to roam silently and forage for their food in thick forests and remote corners. Even so, Northern Pindos provides chances of viewing these magnificent animals in their natural environment without baiting, as the local bear experts that accompany you in this holiday know the whereabouts of the bears and help approach these majestic animals in a Responsible way. Since animal welfare and your safety are our main concern, there is no bear baiting and therefore no 100% wild bear spotting guarantee. However, you will see bears for sure, during your visit to the bear sanctuary. Read more about our Responsible Wildlife Viewing here.

 

1

Day 1 - Arrival in Thessaloniki, Greece

Important note: this itinerary is indicative. We depend on factors such as the weather, road conditions and the position and behavior of the bears on the day itself. Advice and judgement of your guides is leading.

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  bear habitat. Dinner in your hotel. Watch a presentation about the European Brown Bear and the nature conservation efforts of CALLISTO. This poses a great introduction for the days ahead.

Overnight in Vissinokipos Guesthouse, Kastoria or similar

2

Day 2 - Kastoria to Nymfaio

In the early morning we go to a place where brown bears may be active, foraging/observation for a first attempt to spot bear presence. Breakfast.

After breakfast you head North, to the area around Nymfaio! This is where wildlife charity CALLISTO conducts field research.

Walk in the wilderness with your expert guide and learn about:

  • methods of radio tracking animals,
  • finding signs for recording bear presence,
  • measuring footprints to determine the size and age of a bear and
  • the use of camera traps.

visit to either a beekeeper, a farmer or a livestock breeder will be on our program 1 of these days! Learn how locals cope with the bears in their area. See how CALLISTO assists these locals by providing them with special mobile fences, a breed of shepherd dogs that keep the bears at bay and more!

Today pay a visit to the bear sanctuary at Nymfaio, of the nature organization Arcturos.

It is a shelter where orphan wild bears and rescued bears are kept in a fenced area of some 50.000 m2, in 1350 m altitude. The guided tour here lasts around 1 hour. Here you see bears, guaranteed, up-close and personal! After marveling at the traditional village of Nymfaio you head back to Kastoria.

Dinner at hotel.

Overnight in Vissinokipos Guesthouse, Kastoria or similar

3

Day 3 - Kastoria

In the early morning we will go again to a place where brown bears may be active, foraging! Our goal is to admire these beautiful creatures from afar and by no means cause any disturbance to their natural habits, so we stay safe away and quiet to marvel upon their presence!

After breakfast you will head with your guide, to the wilderness of the greater Kastoria area.

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! See what being a research scientist is all about!

Rest at your guesthouse after the walk.

Late afternoon: 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 a Greek tavern in Kastoria’s historical district.

Overnight in Vissinokipos Guesthouse, Kastoria or similar

4

Day 4 - 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. Digital detox guaranteed. Transfer back in the afternoon to Kastoria. Dinner in your hotel

Overnight in Vissinokipos Guesthouse, Kastoria or similar

5

Day 5 - Grammos to Prespa Lakes

Drive to Agios Germanos in the Lake Prespa area (1 hour drive, 55 km). Prespa Lakes are the most ancient lakes of Europe & a true biodiversity hotspot.
Check into your traditional guesthouse. An 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 walkFloral 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

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Day 7 - Prespa Lakes to Thessaloniki

After breakfast there is time to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Drink a cup of tea in the charming garden of your traditional guesthouse.

Or explore Agios Germanos village on your own. Narrow cobbled alleyways and a 1000-year-old Byzantine church, as well as an old restored watermill make this an irresistible place to be.

Transfer from Prespa Lake to Thessaloniki (net 3 hrs, 240 km).
Arrive at your Thessaloniki Hotel in the late 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.

Bear tour by natural Greece

Tour Reviews

4.83 based on 6 reviews
November 24, 2018

Just wanted to say a huge thank you for our trip, everything was amazing, highlights were the food, the walks, the mountain water, seeing amazing butterflies, info on the bears…..Thank you to Yannis for an amazing time and it was wonderful to meet such an interesting person. Lake prespa I loved.

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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