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At the junction of two continents, onthe outermost fringe of habitation,Iceland was born millions of yearsago from the depths of the ocean. Thisspectacular island sits astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, that great cleft in the Earth'scrust that runs north to south through theAtlantic Basin and which is slowly,centimetre by centimetre, widening theAtlantic Ocean and pulling the Americasand Europe/Africa apart. This irrepressibleforce of nature has created an islandblessed with some of the most spectacularlandscapes on Earth, a place wheregeology and geography text books cometo life and where the explosive processesof land formation can be watched in action. While Iceland's vast interior covers morethan 50,000 square kilometres and isdominated by volcanoes, glaciers andendless stony deserts, its coastal regionsare, by contrast, vibrant, colourful andproductive, and none more so than atOræfasveit in the south-east. Oræfasveit isone of the most beautiful and multifacetedregions in the whole of Iceland, isolatedand squeezed between the Atlantic'spounding surf and the enormity of theVatnajökull icecap. Although popular in thesummer, few travellers venture here inSeptember to enjoy the spectacularscenery in all its autumnal glory.Iceland is also one of the main staging-posts along the Atlantic 'flyway' for birdsbreeding further north, providing anopportunity to refuel on their long migrationsouth. The plaintive cries from flocks of Golden Plover drift over russet-colouredmoorlands, while Gyr Falcons patroloverhead and small parties of geese brieflyreunite, joining Whooper Swans to grazethe autumn grasses before continuingsouth. Along the coastline PurpleSandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin and Knoteagerly feed and are joined from time totime by chattering flocks of Snow Buntings.The unambiguous sound of Great NorthernDivers enhances the otherworldlyatmosphere at Thingvallavatn, andBarrow's Goldeneye are often encounteredon the River Sog. We begin our holiday with a 3-hour flightfrom Heathrow to the international airport atKeflavik. From here we will drive, byminibus, through ancient lava fields to ourfirst hotel close to the most celebrated ofall Iceland's landscapes, Thingvellir. This isa very special place. Not only is Thingvelliran iconic place in Iceland's history (thesetting for the world's first parliament), butit sits astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge itselfand is one of the few places where you canwalk from Europe to America in just a few steps! At the end of September theheathland is also awash with the subtlerusset-brown, yellow and fiery-red hues ofautumn. Gullfoss, one of Iceland's mostspectacular waterfalls, thunders nearby,while no visit to the region is completewithout time-watching the geothermalfeatures and boiling mud pools at Geysir. Next we head east along the south coast toSkaftafell, passing an inspirationallandscape of golden grasslands, softcushions of green and grey Rhacomitrummosses, weird black lava formations andlofty rhyolite mountains en route. It is nosurprise that the area surrounding Skaftafellwas declared a national park in 1967 and,covering nearly 5,000 squarekilometres, Skaftafell National Park is thelargest single protected area in Europe.Our hotel for the next two nights lies in theshadow of Iceland's highest mountain withviews of its dramatic snow-bound 2,200-metre peaks.One of the most majestic naturalspectacles in Iceland is the ice-lagoon atJokulsarlon on the edge of theBreidamerkurjokull Glacier. The lagoon isfilled with icebergs of every conceivableshape and size which have calved off theglacier and then become trapped.Jokulsarlon is renowned for its uniqueinterplay of light and ice and, since there isno better way to appreciate this spectaclethan from the water, our tour includes aboat ride on this amazing lagoon.All too soon we must retrace our journeyback to Keflavik, through a landscape ofcountless waterfalls that plunge fromtowering cliffs into the valleys below. Forour final two nights we will be staying at theaptly named Northern Lights Inn. We mustkeep our fingers crossed for clear skies sowe can make use of the hotel's newobservatory and watch for the etherealflickerings of the Aurora Borealis. Finally, onour last full day, we will explore the capitalbefore - weather permitting - taking awhale-watching cruise out of Reykjavik.This will offer an opportunity to enjoy someof the amazing marine mammals thatinhabit Iceland's rich coastal waters, aswell as an interesting variety of seabirds.Sightings usually include Minke Whale andWhite-beaked Dolphin, and perhaps evenOrca or Humpback Whale for the fortunatefew - a fitting finale to our time in Icelandbefore we return to Keflavik Airport for ourflight home. 83Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Keflavik and transferThingvellir.Day 2Thingvellir.Day 3/4Skaftafell National Park.Day 5/6Keflavik.Day 7Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotels throughout, allrooms with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price except forevening meals. Allow £30 per dayfor these.GradingGrade A. Easy walks, althoughsometimes on rough terrain.FocusScenery, autumnal colours andwildlife.LeaderMalcolm Stott.Single room supplement£295.Web quick search: ISL03Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationIceland in Autumn - Glaciers,Icebergs & WaterfallsA 7-day holiday to southern Iceland focusing on the island's spectacular landscapes, migrating birds and the Northern Lights. Sunday 15th September - Saturday 21st September Cost: £1,595´KEFLAVIKREYKJAVIKBLANDAHVITATHJORSÀLAGARFLIOTJÖKULSÀSKAFTAFELLJOKULSARLONICELANDVATNAJÖKULL(ICE)BLUE LAGOONSNAEFELLSNESPENINSULATHINGVELLIRIce-lagoon, JokulsarlonWhite-beaked DolphinNorthern Lights

The limestone Sorrento Peninsula isfamous for its beautiful coastalscenery. On its southern side, highcliffs shelter such historic towns as Amalfiand Positano. From its northern edge,splendid views unfold over the Bay ofNaples, to Vesuvius and Capri. Down themiddle of the peninsula a mountainousspine rises to 1,300 metres, forming atypical limestone scenery of weatheredpeaks and deep gorges. These provide afine range of habitats where a rich andvaried flora is found, together with a wealthof attendant insects and other animals.The peninsula also lies on a majormigration route, and at the time of ourspring visit the resident bird populationshould be swollen by large numbers ofmany passage species. This is an unusualNaturetrek destination for it differs from themajority of our other tours by being basedin a bustling, busy tourist region. However,for those looking to combine historicalsites with natural history, we feel this is anexcellent choice. The excitement of visitingCapri and the treasures of Pompeii willmake the inevitable crowds seeminsignificant and they will be left behind aswe seek to discover the region's richnatural history by means of an ancientnetwork of tracks, many well way-markedby the Club Alpino Italiano.We begin our holiday with a flight toNaples, just an hour's drive from Sorrentowhere we will be based throughout thisholiday in a comfortable hotel offeringspectacular views over the Bay of Naples.Sorrento is an attractive mix of ancientcathedral city, working town, port and busyresort. As a centre for communications it iswell placed to provide the various meansof transport that will assist us on ourexplorations. Here many will have their firstview of the distinctive local Italian Sparrow,whilst the monotonous but cheerful jinglingsong of Serins can be heard everywhere.We will begin our programme of walks onthe coast, enjoying woodlands carpetedwith Cyclamen repandum, and open cliff-top grasslands bedecked with Cistusspecies, the colourful Tree Spurge,broomrapes and orchids, of which Orchisitalicais the most common andwidespread. This is the typical habitat ofSardinian and Subalpine Warblers, TawnyPipit, Blue Rock Thrush and the ubiquitousFan-tailed Warbler. Here, as on all ourwalks, there are beautiful views along thecoast and across to the mountains. Youwill need plenty of film on this holiday! A short boat journey, during which we willlook out for Cory's and MediterraneanShearwaters, takes us to the island ofCapri. Here we will walk to the highestpoint, where Peregrine Falcons breed onthe steep cliffs and passing migrants aresometimes numerous. Amongst the latterwe should see Alpine, Pallid and CommonSwifts, Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, Wheatears,and a variety of shrikes and warblers.Once again we should find a good varietyof orchids, including the local form of theLate Spider Orchid (Ophrys fuciflora ssp. oxyrrhynchos).Vesuvius (1,277 metres high) has aninteresting flora that illustrates well thecolonisation of lava flows. The endemiclichen Stereocaulon vesuvianumandMount Etna Broom (Genista aetnensis) areparticularly noteworthy. A car park near thetop makes exploration easy, and the walkto the summit is made well worthwhile bythe fine views, the Rock Thrushes thatinhabit the crater, and the birds of preyoverhead. At the foot of the mountain liethe excavated ruins of the Roman city ofPompeii. These show the incredibledestructive power of Vesuvius, whichengulfed not only Pompeii but also thenearby town of Herculaneum. If you havepreviously seen no more than our humbleselection of Roman ruins in Britain, thenyou will be quite unprepared for the scaleand beauty of these buildings, and theskills and planning that went into them.There is no doubt that our visit to Pompeiiwill richly reward a little time off from ournatural history explorations. Monte Faito isa very different mountain. A long ridgereached by cable car, the woods at itssummit are carpeted with Anemoneapennina, blue and white, whilst in theopen areas we should find both Romanand Sicilian Orchids (Dactylorhiza romanaand D. markusii), and Provence Orchid(Orchis provincialis). Around its rockyoutcrops a more montane flora occurs -crucifers, violas, Doronicumandsaxifrages. The views back to Vesuvius,across the Monti Lattari massif and southover to the Bay of Salerno are magnificent.The picturesque little village of Neranoprovides the backdrop for anotherstunning walk through olive groves anddown to the coast at Ieranto. Orchids areparticularly numerous here, with Sawfly,Mirror, Bumblebee and various TongueOrchids delighting the eye, while butterflyspecies likely to be seen include abundantCleopatras and Swallowtails, SouthernFestoon and various blues.We will finish our tour with a furtheropportunity to examine the garrigue, andthe more open mountainsides, as wefollow a path along the flanks of MonteCerrasuolo, which rises to 750 metresabove Positano and offers wide viewsaround the many bays of the southerncoast. These rocky areas are a goodhabitat for Italian Wall Lizard, CommonLizard and Moorish Gecko for, asthroughout this holiday, whilst it will be theflowers that hold our primary focus, we willnot ignore the many other attractions ofthe area - the reptiles, birds, butterfliesand history. Above all, the SorrentoPeninsula is able to offer a broad-rangingholiday amongst magnificent scenery,combining fascinating historical sites withthe wildlife that lives alongside them. Italy - The SorrentoPeninsulaAn 8-day exploration of the rich Mediterranean and mountain flora, birds and butterflies of this relatively undiscovered area!Wednesday 10th April - Wednesday 17th April Cost: £1,295Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Naples and drive toSorrento.Day 2/7A daily programme ofbotanical and naturalhistory walks from ourbase in Sorrento. Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA comfortable and friendly hotel inSorrento, all rooms with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade B with oneoptional B+.FocusPlants, birds, butterflies andreptiles, plus a little history!LeadersPaul Harmes (botanist) and DaveNevitt or Terry Goble (ornithologist).Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsAvailable on request, with orwithout car rental.Web quick search: ITA0384Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryNAPLESVESUVIUSSORRENTOCAPRIAMALFISALERNOMEDITERRANEANSEAGULF OFSALERNOGULF OFNAPLESITALYAbove PositanoSardinian WarblerViola eugeniae