LILY GROUP TOUR TO NORTHERN GREECE 2023
Chris Gardner of ViraNatura Tours has put together a one-week holiday in Greece especially for members of the RHS Lily Group. The itinerary will provide excellent opportunities to see many of the best colonies of species lilies, together with a wide variety of other early summer flowers. As we have members across the world, this holiday begins and ends in Thessaloniki, allowing each of you to book your own flights from the airport of your choice.
A suite of early summer flowers illuminates the stunning uplands of the Pindos and Rhodope Mountains of northern and central Greece with beautiful lilies and some standout alpines among them. These include flowery mountain slopes populated with rich-yellow Lilium af. albanicum, woods illuminated with creamy Lilium rhodopeum and pink Lilium martagon and craggy limestone cliffs with Lilium candidum. Alpine turf and woodland edge burst with colour at the start of summer, a swirl of violets, pinks, foxgloves and campanulas. And what better way to enjoy them than to walk in the mountains in the day, and spend comfortable nights in delightful hotels afterwards? This tour is designed to provide opportunities to see a huge array of colourful mountain flora together with some pleasant day walks and outstanding cultural sights, as we move down the rugged spine of the Pindos Mountains, enjoying the best of Greek hospitality, food and a very pleasant early summer climate.
23 June: Arrival at Thessaloniki midday/early afternoon and transfer to Drama in the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains.
24 June: Meet with park staff and go in search of Lilium rhodopeum in a national park characterised by lush beech forests with grassy clearings where hopefully we will find this lovely species in flower. Precisely where we will go to see them will depend on current conditions known by the park staff. This is a threatened and scarce plant. Overnight Drama.
25 June: Mount Falakron to look for Lilium martagon cattaniae in pine forests; we hope to see Gladiolus palustris and Anthericum lilago. Mounds of Globularia cordifolia, lilac-pink Acinos alpinus, Teucrium montanum and low-growing Campanula orphanidea colour the rocky alpine turf. Overnight Drama.
26 June: Transfer to Agios Germanos via the historical site of Pela, travelling over thickly forested foothills where roadside banks have pretty masses of Linaria dalmatica, Digitalis lanata, Lathyrus grandiflorus and dainty pinks.
27 June: On nearby Mount Vournos, an excellent area of subalpine grassland and rocky slopes has a thriving population of Lilium af. albanicum. There is pleasant walking across the undulating green hills to see not only more lilies but lots of other flowers too such as Dianthus deltoides, Geranium macrorhizum, Campanula foliosa, pretty drifts of Viola doefleri in either yellow or mauve forms, as well as dwarf bushes of Daphne oleoides, tall stands of Knautia magnifica and spires of Digitalis viridis. Overnight Agios Germanos.
28 June: The morning will involve a direct transfer (3.5-4 hours) to Zaghoria, a region with fabulous landscapes and historical interest as well as offering the opportunity to see Lilium candidum on limestone cliffs near stands of Acanthus balcanicus. Close by are some of the most striking Ottoman bridges with elegant round arches and cliffs where the remarkable billowing inflorescences of Bubon macedonicum decorate the pancake limestone. Lilium martagon grows in oakwoods near the spectacular Vikos Gorge (the deepest in the world), another standout sight in the region. Overnight in the delightful and immaculately authentic village of Papigo, positioned at the base of the soaring cliffs of Mount Tymphi. Nightingales sing loudly as we enjoy dinner outside.
29 June: The serpentine ridge that leads to Mount Flega harbours a relict population of Lilium af. albanicum, and this is accessed via a pleasant high mountain walk that passes through scattered forest of ancient Bosnian Pines. Underfoot are pretty alpines such as Dianthus haematocalyx and Campanula tymphae. From the summit there are commanding views of the spectacular surrounds of the Pindos Mountains. Hopefully there will be time to view the impressive lizard orchids that grow nearby too and perhaps stop for the plentiful marsh orchids that grow in the verges with Digitalis grandiflora or nearby meadows full of Gladiolus imbricatus. The nearby town of Metsovo is famed for its smoked cheese. Overnight Papigo.
30 June: Transfer to Thessaloniki (SKG) for flights.
Accommodation is in smaller boutique hotels. For anyone arriving earlier than 23 June, Chris Gardner can recommend a hotel near the airport. Transport would be in 9-seater minibuses – larger vehicles are not suitable for the narrow roads.
Costs include all accommodation, transport within Greece, guiding, entry fees, meals and water (within the tour dates). Drinks other than those provided at breakfast and picnic lunches are extra. The price is 1925 euros per person twin share; single supplement 350 euros. Booking will be confirmed once a non-refundable 15% deposit has been paid.
The minimum group size is 6 and the maximum 14. If a large number of single occupancy rooms are needed, accommodation may be required in additional hotels. In order to ensure preferred hotels (at high season) Chris Gardner will need all applications and deposits by 6 January 2023.
Extensions. It is easy to add two/three extra days (or more) for those that want to go on via the impressive monasteries of Meteora to Parnassos where there is a strong population of Lilium chalcedonicum and some great alpine plants. Further extensions can easily be arranged for anyone coming, for example, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA.
Chris Gardner may be contacted at: email@example.com
Growing lilies from seed is a great way to ensure you obtain virus-free stock, increase your bulbs & have a lot of fun in the process. The RHS Lily Group issues a Seed List in January/February each year. With contributions from members around the world, it is widely regarded as one of the most valuable sources of lily seed. Members often have wider interests, so our Seed List includes other Liliaceae, bulbs and lots of perennials too.
Here are some past Seed Lists so that you can see what we have been able to offer in past years:
For full details please go to the Seed List page.
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