Ecomember 2016

Special ORCHID expedition

Exciting orchid-hunting expeditions

orchid_expedition_comperia_comperiana_agiassos_sanatorium Special ORCHID expedition
The Greek island of Lesvos holds a unique position in the flora of Greece, because of the number of European wild Orchids which flourish here. The reason for this is its position on the borders of three spheres of influence: Asia Minor (Turkey), a few sea-miles away; the South of Europe (Lesvos is on the same latitude as Northern Greece), and its position in the East Aegean islands. All these spheres of influence have their own flora and accordingly also their own Orchid flora. On Lesvos those three influences unite. Additionally, although Lesvos is the third biggest Greek island it is still relatively sparsely populated and it is divided, in its nature and landscape, into three completely different parts:

A somewhat bare, rocky landscape in the west (but still with unique orchids such as Ophrys lesbis and Ophrys bucephala) where the Petrified Forest is located; the big ‘lobe’ in the middle of the island between the two Gulfs of Kalloni and Gera, where the ‘orchid capital’ Agiasos is situated (with very rare orchids like the green Platanthera holmboei and the ‘rasta’ orchid Himantoglossum comperia in the chestnut forest); and the south-east ‘lobe’ around the capital Mytilini where the hills with millions of olive trees mingle with extensive pine forests where dozens of other orchids are growing. The ‘orchid count’ for Lesvos is currently around a hundred different species.

From the middle of March on there are enough orchids flowering (depending of course on the the winter rainfall) to make orchid hunting on Lesvos rewarding, but there are no charter flights available at that time. THE orchid month is April, when there are at least 50-60 species in flower. May is also a good time to ‘hunt’ orchids but in June the numbers drop rapidly: in the lower-lying parts of the island the orchids are now withered, but in the mountains behind Mytilini, and around Agiasos and Megalochori you can still find very rare orchids flowering, such as Epipactis turcica & densifolia, Himantoglossum caprinum, montis-tauri and affine.

Day 1 – The South: Plomari – Agiasos

Morning: from Plomari we go steeply uphill alongside the Sedoundas river to a rocky path just below Megalochori where we can expect to find dozens of special orchids. Afterwards we drive on towards Karionas for lunch.

Afternoon: from Karionas we drive on over one of the most spectacular tracks of the island (with a short stop at an old quartz-crystal quarry) and through a chestnut forest to the Sanatorio above Agiasos, one of the most famous Orchid habitats of Lesvos.Overnight stay in Agiasos.

Day 2 – The middle lobe: Vatera – Skala Kalloni

Morning: from Vatera to Mt. Koutra (where thousands of red tulips flower in a pine forest).  Afterwards we drive along the coast to a track where hundreds of orchids crowd together. From there we go on through Nifida and the salt pans of Skala Polichnitos to the small fishing village of Skamnioudi for lunch.

Afternoon: from Skamnioudi we drive to the waterfalls of Achladeri for a short walk; then we continue to the Aspros Glaros to have a look at Neotinea maculata and some special Ophrys before we drive alongside the Tsianas River to Skala Kallonis on the Gulf of Kalloni for our overnight stay.

Day 3 – From the west to the north: Skala Kallonis – Molivos

Morning: from Skala Kallonis we drive steeply uphill through the Potamia valley (where the unique Rhododendron luteum makes sweet-smelling rivers of yellow flowers) to the top of Profitis Ilias (800m) for a splendid view over the west of Lesvos, then through the pine forest down to Pterounda and Andissa (for Ophrys lesbis). We follow the road down towards Gavathas and up to the hamlet of Liota for lunch.

Afternoon: above Liota there is a habitat with Orchis simia and many members of the Oestrifera group. Afterwards we drive alongside the coast via Ancient Andissa – Skalachori – Skoutaros – Petra – Anaxos to the most beautiful village of Lesbos: Molivos. Overnight stay in Molivos.

Day 4 – To the north-east: Molivos – Paralia Thermi

Morning: from Molivos to the orchid paradise around the tiny fishing hamlet of Palios where a real castle dominates the view towards Turkey. On our way down the east coast we make a short walk to the Man’katza waterfall. Further along the coast we stop at Skala Mistegnon for lunch.

Afternoon: we drive into the mountains behind Loutropoli Thermi to Mt. Palamas and via a spectacular track up to Mt. Spathi. Alongside this track we will find dozens of different orchids. Afterwards we descend to Paralia Thermi for an overnight stay.

Day 5 – East and south-east: Paralia Thermi to Mytilini

Morning: from Paralia Thermi we drive to the Roman Aqueduct of Moria and then to the Larisos marsh and the Dipi reed-beds to get our feet wet and to admire the big Orchis laxiflora, palustris and elegans. Afterwards we drive up to Mt. Gerania for a look at the small Ophrys from the oestrifera group. Lunch in Lambou Mili.

Afternoon: A beautiful walk to the Aqueduct of Lambou Mili, part of the same water system as the Aqueduct of Moria. Then we drive up to a hill above Alifantá to look at almost the whole Ophrys fusca group and maybe the oestrifera group. For a farewell to Lesvos we drive up to Profitis Ilias above Mytilini for a splendid view over Mytilini and the south-east part of the island. Overnight stay in Chamarida (near the airport).

orchid_expedition_ophrys_leochroma_mt_gerani Special ORCHID expedition

Per day per person:
100 Euro

All 5 days per person:
450 Euro

Prices are inclusive of en-suite accommodation in twin- or double-bedded rooms, transport & lunches during expedition days.

Prices are exclusive of flights, travel insurance & alcoholic drinks during the expeditions.

Group size: minimum 4: maximum 14.
Transport: minibus or 4×4 jeeps, depending on the terrain and expedition.

Expedition leader: Jan van Lent is a professional orchidologist. He is writing the definitive guide to the orchids of Lesvos & blogs regularly at