Mammal Ecology in Nestos & the Rhodope

FULL ITINERARY

Notes

  • The order below is an example. Giorgos will decide on the day which walk is best.

  • Depending on numbers we will use one or two, modern 4x4s

  • We always have two guides on this tour, so when we're walking there'll be someone at the front and back. They also carry extra water and fruit and nuts, so we'll never be out of supplies. Both will have first aid kits.

  • The walking may look daunting, and indeed you'll need to be in good shape, but we don't go fast at all.  There will be lots of birds, flowers, trees and insects to examine along the way. So the pace is definitely gentle.

  • Being quiet - whilst we don't guarantee any bird or mammal sightings, the less noise we make the better. On some walks, especially around dawn and dusk, we will ask you to be silent. Most of the time though we'll just try to minimise noise and ask you to speak in low volumes, have food wrapped in paper tissue rather than plastic and put mobiles on vibrate. At any time during the day, when we reach areas with good chances to see species, we'll make a signal to remain silent for a time.

  • The mountains in autumn are generally drier than northern Europe, but it can of course rain and we might have to adjust routes.

  • Also, our guide, Giorgos, spends a lot of his free time in these mountains and forests, so if he gets wind of a good habitat for mammal watching, we'll, of course, move some things around to accommodate. We may even change entire walks, but obviously within reason.

Day One:

Saturday

Arrive in Thessaloniki

  • Fly into Thessaloniki (SKG) anytime during the day

  • (For those looking at the late Ryanair flight from Stansted, you'd be advised to arrive the night before, so that you can join us for dinner on the first night. But if you can't, we'll run down to the airport to get you. And if you do come a day early, we can recommend hotels and plenty of things to do in the very much unknown city of Thessaloniki)

  • We'll meet in the lobby of Hotel Pefka for 19:00, with dinner at a local restaurant, Vila Luna, at 19:30 (walking distance from hotel). The restaurant has a terrace looking over the city and bay.

  • At dinner, we'll introduce the week ahead and go over some basic animal tracks and signs.

  • Hotel Pefka is our hotel of choice as it is in the quiet suburb of Panorama. It is 15 minutes from the out of town airport and allows us to avoid inner city traffic both in the evening and the next morning.

  • Occasionally we use Hotel Avalon, which is even closer to the airport.

 

Days Two and Three:

Sunday & Monday

Nestos Riverine Forest

Walking: all flat

 

  • We'll have breakfast at 08:00 this morning. A civilised hour, to ensure everyone is rested from travel. Some other mornings will be earlier, but on any morning our guides are happy to go out before breakfast. Should everyone intimate to us that you're rested and happier getting up and off, then we can eat earlier.

  • By 09:00 we'll be on the road to the Nestos river. It's about 2 hours so we'll stop midway for 15 minutes.

  • We'll arrive for a mid-morning walk (no more than 2 and a bit mile) in Greece's largest riverine forest, home to eagles and woodpeckers.

  • A packed lunch today, so that we can maximise time outside.

  • We'll have an hour or so rest at the hotel, before a short evening's walk of just a mile. 

  • Dinner will be in Toxotes.

  • Our hotel is usually in the small town of Toxotes, near the entrance to the Nestos gorge. Often we use Filoxenia, or occasionally the self-catered apartments of Nefeles. We often take breakfast with us so that we can get out early.

  • On Monday we'll probably be up early (6am) and take breakfast with us for an attempt to see jackal.

  • We'll check a trail camera for jackal, which is in the middle of a 5-mile circuit to the delta and back.

  • Continue to explore the Nestos Riverine Forest and the 'Porto Lagos' lagoon area.

  • Depending on our luck in the mornings for jackals, we may take some evening walks too. On this and any day we may organise packed breakfasts, lunches or dinners, to allow us the freedom to spend the days outdoors. If there are early mornings and late evenings, we add in a siesta at the hotel. Anyone with energy will find Toxotes is great for a walk.

  • If we eat out, there are many excellent taverns, as everywhere in Greece.

 

Day Four:

Tuesday

The Inner Gorge, Tomb & into Rhodope

  • OPTIONAL: we may have one last go for jackals, if we've had no luck so far.

  • Drive to an ancient Macedonian tomb, the "largest, best preserved and most impressive Macedonian tomb in Thrace. It is located south of Stavroupoli not far from the road that leads to Komnina. Based on its architectural shape and the findings discovered in its interior it dates back to the first half of 4th century B.C. It is probably historically connected to a settlement located 500m south in Mitikas Komninos location and which had a long history starting from the early Iron Era (9th – 8th centuries B.C.) up to the Byzantine period".

  • Lunch in the picturesque village of Stavroupoli.

  • Drive up to the Forestry Village of Haidou and relax

  • Evening walk close to the village. A mile, maybe two, mainly on forest roads, but we may take an animal track or two if something looks interesting. These trails can be a bit steep in parts, but never for long. We'll be walking very slow at all times, avoiding twigs. 

  • CABIN IN FORESTRY VILLAGE for three nights.

  • NOTE: the cabins were originally built for loggers working the forests and were never ritzy. They are now managed by our host, Thanasis, a retired army telecoms engineer, who keeps them clean, warm and in good shape. Each cabin has a living room/kitchen area, bathroom with shower and hot water, and two bedrooms, each with two single beds - so that's one bathroom for every two bedrooms. We can't guarantee that you can have a cabin all to yourself if the tour is full.

    Thanasis is a great cook and full of stories from his career spent on the border during the Cold War. The cabins are of course chosen for their location, not the luxury, but they come with sheets and towels. You may want to bring your own shampoo and conditioners though. Wi-fi is available in the office area only, but your UK mobile phones can connect to the Greek mobile provider, Cosmote, and so you can use any data provided by your UK operator.

 

Days Five & Six:

Wednesday & Thursday

The Bulgarian Border

Walking: 7 miles (ups and downs) / 11km

 

  • Giorgos has spent huge amounts of time in these forests, both for work and pleasure. He has a long list of possible walks, some starting from the cabins, some need a drive in the 4x4s. So what is written below is just an example from past trips.

  • An early start to walk through the beech and into the pines. Again, we'll be going quiet and slow to minimise noise, and stopping for countless photographs. We want to get off early as these parts are known for capercaillie.

  • A collection of shorter walks in the morning and come back to the cabins for lunch, before a rest and a longer walk for late afternoon and evening, with some bottles of Greek wine as the sun goes down over the cliffs. Chamois spot.

  • A drive deep down into a stream valley. We might choose walks to see the (rather dry in autumn) waterfalls and an impressive stone bridge that they say hides British gold.

  • Along the way, Giorgos sometimes has the opportunity to set trail cameras, which we can check.

  • Lunches will be packed along the way, or we may eat at the cabins if we have a siesta.

  • One lunch will be at an old camp of nomadic Sarakatsan shepherds. We'll eat outdoors, hopefully with a member of the Sarakatsani community.

  • Dinners will be homecooked by Thanasis. Hearty food involving lamb shoulder, moussaka and local cheese and salads. Often he invites local logger friends to join, who are Pomak, a Muslim minority in what are now Greece and Bulgaria. They spend most of their time from May to November in the forests, going back home once a week or so. We'll gain a small insight into their lives and talk a bit about the effects of the fall of the Ottoman Empire & the region's Cold War history.

 

Day Seven:

Friday

Lagoons, Thessaloniki & Feet Up

  • It's a 4 hour drive from the forest to the Kalochori lagoon, so we'll have a comfort stop with a difference - at ancient Phillipi. The amphitheatre is colossal. Here's the link to the wikipedia page, but a Google image search will give you a good idea of the landscape surrounding the ruins. 

  • Then to a Kalochori, a great place for coastal birds.

  • We'll pay a short visit to a wildlife rescue centre too, run 24 hours a day throughout the years by volunteers. It's important for Balkan Tracks that we visit and support them.

  • Then a relaxing evening in the Upper Town and castle district of Thessaloniki. A fascinating city, best described in Mark Mazower’s ‘Salonica, City of Ghosts’.

 

Day Eight:

Saturday

 

  • Depending on people's flights out, we can have coffee and a stroll. From the Upper Town it's not far at all to the Roman Agora, Rotonda and Arch of Galerius.

  • Guests could also take a flight out late on Day Seven, if needs be. But we'd recommend you stay to enjoy Thessaloniki with us.

  • Previous guests have also asked our advice on staying a few days extra, to really see Thessaloniki and its UNESCO heritage sites, or combine this with trips to Meteora, Phillip II's tomb in Vergina, ancient Amphipoli or to Athens.

 

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0044 (0)7506 381757

 

 

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