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The Carpathian Mountains attain theirgreatest width and beauty inTransylvania, the forest-clad provinceof central Romania that is steeped inlegend and folklore. Here, the toweringpeaks of the Fagras Mountains and PiatraCraiului National Park offer a diversity oflandscapes and habitats unrivalled inEastern Europe. Above extensiveconiferous and deciduous woodlands liegreat alpine meadows, awash with flowersin the montane spring. Spectacularlimestone gorges carve through the hillsand the numerous meadows of the valleyshold a rich flora preserved by thetraditional farming techniques that are stillpractised here, in harmony with the naturalworld. This diversity of landscape, coupledwith the lack of modern farming methods,has created a botanical treasure-housewhich attracts naturalists from around theworld and which is the focus of thisexciting Naturetrek holiday.As it is a 2-centre tour, we are based firstlyin the Carpathian village of Zarnesti, andthen at a beautifully located chalet high inthe Fagras Mountains. We start, however,with a flight to Bucharest, the capital ofRomania, where we meet our local guideand drive north into the 'TransylvanianAlps' to Zarnesti, our base for four nights.On our first full day in the mountains wewill take a funicular railway high into themountains of the Bucegi National Park, tothe Babele Hut located at 2,200 metres.From here we will explore a range ofhabitats, from beautiful alpine meadowsdown to the spruce and beech forest. Thewide range of plants to be found here,which may include Artemisia petrosaandVeratrum album(White Hellebore), will only be rivalled by the magnificient 360-degree view! Next we explore the Zarnesti Gorge, aspectacular cleft that divides the limestonemountains on the edge of the PiatraCraiului National Park. The gorge ispartially lined with mixed forest of spruceand beech and its sheer and towering rockfaces are home to the beautiful crimson-winged Wallcreeper. The flora here is quiteexceptional; indeed, to date, the plant listfor Piatra Craiului National Park containsan amazing 1,108 species! The alpinemeadows at the head of the gorge hold anespecially rich flora, including the endemicCampanula carpatica(CarpathianBellflower) and Hepatica transsilvanica,plus Dianthus spiculifolius, Campanulapatula (Spreading Bellflower), Trolliuseuropaeus(Globeflower), Gentiana lutea(Yellow Gentian), Viola biflora(YellowWood-violet), Aster alpinus, Leontopodiumalpinumand Rhododendron kotschyi.On our final day around Zarnesti we willreturn to the Bucegi Massif and take acable car to Mount Postavaru. The viewsfrom the top are once again spectacularand we will have the whole morning inwhich to admire them and descend slowlythrough the alpine meadows and mixedwoodland in search of such flowers asDigitalis grandiflora(Large YellowFoxglove), Saxifraga corymbosa,Pedicularis verticillata(Whorled Lousewort),Gentiana verna(Spring Gentian),Campanula transsilvanica, Primula minima(Alpine Primrose) and Senecio integrifolius.In the afternoon we will explore the RasnovGorge, a second limestone cleft in which awide variety of plant-life should be found,including Viola alpina(Alpine Pansy) andViola dacica.We now move west to our second base, inthe Fagras Mountains - the mostimpressive and spectacular sector of theTransylvanian Carpathians. For our threenights here we will stay in a wonderfullypositioned mountain chalet set high abovethe treeline. There is no need for ourminibus here, for we can walk andbotanise from the front door of the hotel!The scenery is dominated by highmountains, glacial valleys and cirques.Waterfalls tumble from precipitous cliffsand small lakes dot the landscape. Valleys,such as the nearby Doamnei Valley, arecarpeted in a wealth of flora; in the alpinemeadows, that lie at around 2,200 metreson a base of crystalline schist andlimestone, such species as the endemicSoldenella carpatica(CarpathianSnowbell), Aquilegia transsilvanica(Transylvanian Columbine), Campanulaalpina, Listera ovata(Common Twayblade),Gentiana punctata(Spotted Gentian) andArmeria alpinamay all be found. A glanceskyward may even reveal a passingGolden Eagle. With our holiday in the Carpathiansdrawing to a close we must leave themountains and retrace our steps back tothe airport. Those wishing to add a littleculture to their tour, however, may considerextending their stay in Romania with anight or two in Bucharest, the country'scolourful and vibrant capital. Romania - Wild Flowers of the Carpathians An 8-day botany holiday to the beautiful Carpathian Mountains of Romania. Wednesday 19th June - Wednesday 26th June Cost: £1,395Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationHUNGARYUKRAINEMOLDAVIASERBIABULGARIARIVER DANUBERIVER DANUBEBUCHARESTZARNESTITULCEADANUBEDELTACONSTANTACARPATHIANMOUNTAINSBLACK SEAROMANIAFAGRASMOUNTAINSOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Bucharest and transferZarnesti.Day 2/4Zarnesti.Day 5/7Fagras Mountains.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable tourist classhotels with private facilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingB. Easy to moderate day walks. FocusPlants.LeaderPaul Harmes.Single room supplement£240.Web quick search: ROM02113Meadow ClaryCarpathian Mountains

The beautiful Greek island of Samos liesin the eastern Aegean Sea, just a mileacross the strait that separates it fromthe Turkish mainland, and close to theancient site of Ephesus. Similar in size andshape to the Isle of Wight, Samos is arugged island with two mountain ranges -the Kerkes and Ambelos - rising to nearly1,500 metres. These ensure the islandremains relatively green and fertilethroughout the year, in contrast to the morebarren, less mountainous neighbouringislands. They also contribute to an extremelyvaried landscape, and a wide range ofhabitats. These attract many migrant birdsfor, like nearby Lesbos, Samos lies on themain migration route along the Turkish coast.Bee-eaters will be amongst a range ofcolourful migrants we enjoy, whilst in themountains we should find a good variety ofresident birds of prey. The island's variedhabitats also support a rich and uniquespring flora comprising a mix of easternMediterranean plants as well as localisedmontane species.Samos, thankfully, remains comparativelylittle-visited and undeveloped. Hills arecrowned with old churches and monasteries,and unspoiled mountain villages still foster atime-honoured lifestyle, offering travellers awarm welcome in traditional village tavernas.Best of all, a network of ancient tracks, manyof them paved, allow us to explore the islandas much as possible on foot as we searchfor and enjoy its natural history from our hotelin Karlovassi in the north-west of the island.From this excellent harbour base we will firstexplore the nearby coast and headlandalong to Potami. Here, in the Cistus scrub,we should find such orchids as Orchis italica,Ophrys fuscaand Ophrys speculum, as wellas Gladiolus illyricusand the strange Clathrusruber, a bright red fungus. On the shore areYellow Horned-poppies, whilst Cory'sShearwaters may be observed gliding out atsea. A damp area, where a stream joins thesea, proves excellent for dragonflies anddamselflies, and spectacular butterflies suchas Swallowtails complement the fine flora. On another day we will walk further, towardsthe two bays of Mikro and Megalo Seitani,following a path that hugs a spectacular andwild coastline. Audouin's and MediterraneanGulls, as well as Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear and Black-headed Bunting,are likely to be amongst the day's highlights,together with such new plants as Sword-leaved Helleborine, HelichrysumandDracunculus vulgaris. We will search, too, forthe chameleons which are found here.On the south-eastern corner of the island,close to Turkey, is a seasonal lake at PsiliAmos. In spring this is home to a flock ofGreater Flamingoes as well as Cattle Egrets,Little Bitterns, Ruddy Shelducks and otherwaterbirds. It is also a key staging post formany migrants, so virtually anything canmake an appearance. Plants are alsoabundant and we will look for orchids suchas Pyramidal, Orchis anatolicaand the localHorned Woodcock, (Ophrys scolopaxssp.cornuta) amongst the carpets of CrownDaisy. We will combine this excursion with avisit to Pythagorion's interesting and ancientruins which, also being surrounded byflowers, are likely to satisfy even the mostsingle-minded botanists amongst us!The lower slopes of the Ambelos providegood easy walking. Here streamsidemeadows hold an excellent flora and awide variety of dragonflies anddamselflies. Spring plants include Paeoniamascula,Anemone blanda,Lithodorahispidula,Scilla bifoliaand Broad-leavedHelleborine. The song of Nightingales fills the air in this picturesque region andour progress may be marked by thescolding rattle of Sardinian Warblers in thescrub and perhaps the song-flight of aRüppell's Warbler. We will also exploreother foothill regions, particularly along thesouth coast, looking for such birds asHoney Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard,Bonelli's Eagle and Black-headed Buntingand such new plants as Orchis fragrans,Sawfly Orchid and Honeywort. At a higheraltitude, the rocky plateau at the summit ofMount Karvouni rears up above the pineforest and can be reached by a goodpath. Here we are in a very different world; plants cling to rocky crevices in thistypical alpine habitat and many sport theintense colours of high mountain plants,veronicas, saxifrages, geraniums anderodiums being particularly obvious. Birdsof these higher elevations include Chukar,Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and Goshawk.There is also much to see on the walk tothe summit, in particular a variety oforchids including Late Spider, Orchismascula ssp. pinetum,Orchis tridentata,Dactylorhiza romana,Neotinea maculataand Violet Limodore. After our week-long exploration of Samosby means of day walks and otherexcursions, we will have experienced asound introduction to the diverse delightsof the island and its wide range of wildlife,yet without exhausting the sheer variety ithas to offer.The Island of SamosA 9-day holiday on the Mediterranean island of Samos in search of spring flowers, insects and migrating birds.Friday 19th April - Saturday 27th April Cost: £1,295Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London forSamos.Day 2/8A daily programme ofbotanical and naturalhistory walks from our base in Karlovassi.Day 9Fly London.AccommodationA comfortable family-run hotel inKarlovassi, with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A. Day walks only. FocusPlants, birds, butterflies and otherinsects.LeadersPaul Harmes (botanist) and TerryGoble (ornithologist).Single room supplement£150.Web quick search: GRC06114Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryKARLOVASSIPYTHAGORIONAMBELOS MOUNTAINSSAMOSMEDITERRANEANSEAMEDITERRANEANSEASAMOSView towards Seitani BaySubalpine WarblerClathrus ruber