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 bear research methods, walk in the wilderness and witness traces of wild bears.
The beautiful Pindos mountain range in the northwest is sometimes dubbed the Amazon of Greece. It contains many peaks of over 2.000m, glacial lakes, pristine alpine meadows, and rare flora and fauna. At least 800 wild bears roam the wilderness of Greece.
Perfect for: Lovers of the outdoors, keen to get off the beaten path in Greece’s spectacular mountains, and getting to know the real Greece.
- 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 Roe Deer
- Reload your batteries as you walk amazing trails in a truly unspoiled and little-known paradise
- Observe and Conserve; your holiday price includes a donation for Bear Conservation work by nature organization Callisto
- Enjoy other bountiful wildlife – especially birds, butterflies, and plants
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Thessaloniki, Greece|
|PRICE||Contact us for availability and pricing|
2018 Report: Tour report May 2018
2016 Report: Tour report Sept 2016
2015 Report: Tour report May 2015
2014 Report: Tour report May 2014
The purity and the ecological value of the Northern-Pindos region is enormous. Northern Pindos offers great habitat diversity. Only in the area of Zagori, 34 habitat types exist. In addition, forest vegetation covers 80% of the area. At lower altitudes vegetation with Mediterranean elements appears (evergreens- broad-leaved), 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. In the Alpine Zone, you find pasture and steppe-like landscapes. Protected priority habitats here are the Forests of Black Pine, the mixed Greek forests of beech- Black Pine, and the broad-leaved oak forests with Black Pine. The type of human activities traditionally developed in the Northern Pindos area provided additional food sources to bears and other mammals. Consequently, the dense forests of Mount Grammos are a prime habitat for the European brown bear (Ursus arctos).
Other wildlife in the region
But the area is also one of the most important habitats of other mammalian species, such as the Grey wolf (Canis lupus), foxes (Vulpes vulpes), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), the European otter (Lutra lutra) and many more. Otters are permanently present and breeding in Aliakmonas River and its tributaries. Also, 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.
The Pindos sub-population of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) is the third largest brown bear population in the EU, as well as the southernmost distribution of the species in Europe. The bear population in the holiday area (the Northern Pindos national park) is an estimated 140 individuals, representing some 35% of the total brown bear population in Greece.
Today, in Europe, the brown bear lives in small cut-off populations and is now considered an officially endangered species in western, central and southern Europe. The minimum population size of the Greek population was estimated at around 500 individuals, with an upcoming trend in some areas of Pindos. This is equivalent to 50% of the brown bear population in western and southern Europe.
The two main core populations, which do not communicate with one another, are:
- the Pindos population covering a range surface of circa 11,000 km2 which is the southernmost part of the Dinara – Pindos bear biological population &
- the Rhodopes population covering a range surface of circa 2,500 km2 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. 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 concerns, 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.
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 covers some 190 km (118 miles) and lasts for a duration just under 2 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 the area near your hotel, which is part of bear habitat. Then you will have 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 Kastoria
Day 2 - Kastoria and Nymfaio area
In the early morning, we might 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 a shelter where orphan wild bears and rescued bears are kept in a fenced area of some 50.000 m2. The guided tour here lasts around 1 hour.
At the Bear Sanctuary you’ll see 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 Kastoria
Day 3- Kastoria and surrounding area
Start your day early with another wild bears observation effort in bear habitat. After breakfast, you head 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! 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 Kastoria
Overnight in Kastoria
Day 4 - Kastoria- Mount Grammos -Kastoria
After breakfast, you head for 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 breathtaking natural landscape unfolding before your eyes. Hit amazing trails in a truly unspoiled paradise, where crystal clear rivers flow through the forested valleys. Drive back to your guesthouse in the afternoon. Later that day you discover more of Kastoria town and its Lake. Dinner in Kastoria town.
Overnight in 3* Accommodation in Kastoria
Day 5 - From Kastoria back to Thessaloniki
*** Practical information:
- The program is offered for set departure dates.
- 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.
Maria was wonderful. So knowledgeable, warm and enthusiastic. The drivers were both excellent and such lovely people. Our hosts at the guesthouse couldn’t have been more lovely and all the food throughout the tour was AMAZING. I feel I learned a lot about a number of different issues and even though we didn’t see bears in the wild, visiting the sanctuaries was such a bonus. (Thank you for donation receipt.) Such a nice group of people too.
Guide Maria was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about bears, wolves and other mammals. Walks and meals were very enjoyable. Stay at hotel was enjoyable; location was very good and Christina and Christos were friendly (so were other people we met). Meals there and at local restaurants were excellent. Size of group was about right.
I found visit to bear sanctuary disappointing; their conditions were not as good as I had expected and we found ourselves in a group of over 30 people which was a bit overwhelming.
Callisto guides, Maria and Yiannis, were very knowledgeable and experienced about a wide range of topics – environmental, social, cultural and political. We saw lots of evidence of bears, and it’s fabulous to know that efforts to conserve them based on scientific evidence is working.
The food, accommodation and company were exceptional. Our drivers were organised and thoughtful, and our Natural Greece contact, Chantal, was also very helpful and enthusiastic.
We will be recommending this tour to our friends and families.
We walked through beautiful countryside, learning about bears, plants, birds, the history and culture of the area, how farmers cope with bears and wolves. After a leisurely lunch (there is no such thing as a short lunch in Greece) off somewhere else – a walk through a village, a sheepfarm, a vineyard, and then a leisurely dinner.
If you like walking, learning and eating, this is a fabulous trip. The guides, Maria and Iannis were wonderful – friendly, well organised and very very knowledgeable.
I’ve been coming to greece for years, but this is the first time I’ve really felt I was getting to know the place and people. Thank you.
The trip was truly amazing, in every aspect – I cannot fault it!!
Yiannis and Maria were excellent guides – extremely knowledgeable and made every effort to ensure that the trip was as good as it could be for all in the group. All in beautiful scenery or the local and interesting town of Kastoria – we were kept busy with hiking and a broad range of other bear-related activities.
The accommodation was clean with comfortable beds and very homely, with quirky art work, and situated just outside the town with a beautiful view over the lake. The food was home-made or locally sourced and was delicious.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any bears in the wild but came away so much better informed about and aware of the bears in Greece; their various habitats, behaviours, interaction with the world around them and measures being taken to conserve and protect them.
I would highly recommend this trip and it wouldn’t take much to persuade me to do it again!!!!
We really enjoyed the trip – 5/5 without hesitation. It was very pleasant to travel in a small group with just two other participants plus our two brilliant guides Maria and Maria. We liked their enthusiasm. They had so many things to share about bears and the problem of bear-human cohabitation. They did everything to make this an unforgettable stay. We saw bears only in the bear sanctuary, but we found many signs that showed they weren’t very far. Because of the bad weather conditions, we couldn’t go to Mount Grammos and went to Prespa National Park instead where we spent a great day. The guesthouse with view on Kastoria Lake was perfect, Christos and Christina provided us with great food and we enjoyed the discussions with them in the evening on the terrace. Our photo story about the trip is available here: https://winga.jimdo.com/voyages/gr%C3%A8ce/pindos-bear-tracking-2018/
Wonderful mountain scenery, enthusiastic guides, delicious Greek food and good mood and lot of fun during the whole trip.
A real highlight was to learn about camera traps, to get insight into bear research, radio tracking etc.
Guesthouse Vissinokipos is magic place with amazing view on Kastoria Lake and terrific hosts Christina and Christos. Both Marias (our guides) were incredibly passionate about wildlife and conservation. Many thanks to everybody for wonderful holiday!
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.
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.
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 !
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
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.
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.
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.
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: https://www.natural-greece.gr/brown-bear-sighting-in-northern-greece/
Liz & Martin Pitt
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!
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
Utrecht, The Netherlands
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.
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