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Crete 20 - 27 October 2020
(or possibly 13 - 20 October 2020 *)

Autumn flowers and other wildlife in the cradle of civilisation.

* See below for options on flights. Knowing who is keen to go and when may affect the holiday dates.

Crete has been perenially popular in the Honeyguide programme for many years as a spring destination. This year, we are at last to visit in Crete's balmy autumn conditions to look for a range of autumn-flowering specialities and to enjoy any other wildlife we can find.

Cyclamen graecum
Cyclamen graecum

Greece's and Crete's good record on coronavirus is big factor. With travel to many other parts of Europe and beyond not recommended, Crete becomes an especially good choice for an autumn break.

We will follow our tried and tested routes, with places and people we know, so as ever we are based at the small and friendly Sofia Hotel in Plakias on Crete's south coast. Plakias, once a fishing village, is now a small town. It is ideally placed for local walks and excursions and has an impressive backdrop of gorges and mountains.

Plakias Bay
Plakias Bay (Ivan Nethercoat).

Flowers

Crete's rich flora of 1600 native species includes 140 endemic to the island. We can list (see PDF of Crete autumn flowers) nearly 50 species that flower in October. A few have a very long flowering season (such as rosemary); a few are winter-flowering and sometimes in spring we catch last-lingering blooms (such as mandrake and friar's cowl). There are several plants we see in leaf in April around Plakias, and now we'll catch them in flower, such as smilax, carob, chaste tree, sea squill and sea daffodil.

The bulk, however are autumn flowering specialities, and it's those that grow from bulbs and corms that are often favourites: daffodils, crocuses, cyclamen, autumn squill and yellow-flowered sternbergia.

Crocus laevigatus
Crocus laevigatus

Sternbergia grows in stony places including the very local Kotsiphou gorge. Of Crete's five species of autumn crocus, Crocus laevigatus is the likeliest in our area. Autumn squills should be widespread. Instead of the spring flowering Cyclamen creticum, we'll look out for autumn-flowering Cyclamen graecum. The tiny autumn daffodil (usually called Narcissus serotinus, though the eastern form is now separated as N. obsoletus) is always a delight.


Chough, often seen in Kourtaliótiko Gorge; chaste tree; Cretan grayling.

Birds

The mountains and gorges of Crete are a stronghold for birds of prey, with the largest population of griffon vultures in Greece. Bearded vulture (lammergeier), Bonelli's and golden eagles and buzzard are residents, as are crag martin, blue rock thrush, chough and raven. The hillsides and scrub support the resident Sardinian warbler. Many birds pass through on migration, pausing especially at wetlands, however small, including birds of prey, squacco heron, little bittern and various waders. Ayia reservoir is known for crakes in autumn as well as in spring.

Other wildlife

At this time of the year the commonest butterflies are likely to be the familiar painted lady, red admiral and clouded yellow, plus a good chance of Cretan grayling. The likeliest dragonflies are scarlet darter (broad scarlet), red-veined darter, common darter, blue emperor and lesser emperor.

There will be a range of other invertebrates, such as hummingbird hawkmoth and nosed grasshopper. If lucky, we may find a freshwater crab. The commonest reptile is Cretan wall lizard and others can include Balkan (stripe-necked) terrapin and Balkan green lizard.

Cretan wall lizard broad scarlet
Cretan wall lizard (often listed as Erhard's wall lizard - the taxonomy changes); broad scarlet dragonfly, near Moní Préveli.

Holiday details

As well as local walks, our minibus trips this week include trips to Moní Préveli, Kourtaliótiko and Kotsiphou Gorges, Frangokastello, Spili and Ayia reservoir.

Turkish Bridge, May
Turkish Bridge, near Moní Préveli (photographed in early May).

Price: £1,600 per person in single or twin room, for a full week (seven nights, Tuesday to Tuesday). There is no single supplement on this holiday. This price includes our taverna evening meals, plus picnics or an occasional taverna lunch.

En suite facilities

Flights: these depend on which dates work best for those wishing to come.

EasyJet from Gatwick, for 13-20 October, Tuesday to Tuesday
6/13 October: EZY8765 depart London Gatwick 09:30 arrive Chania 15:30.
13/20 October: EZY8782 depart Chania 14:35 arrive Gatwick 16:35.

Jet 2 flights from Stansted, for 20-27 October, Tuesday to Tuesday
20 October Jet 2 flight LS1429 departs Stansted 05:55 arrives Chania 12:05
27 October Jet 2 flight LS1430 departs Chania Stansted 12:50 Stansted 15:00

Deposit: £300

Maximum number: 5, with one leader (the maximum under Covid-19 rules).

Conservation project

The bearded vulture conservation project is run by the Hellenic Ornithological Society, BirdLife Greece.

Crete has the only breeding population in south-east Europe (6-7 pairs in 2013, with four nests); the species is practically extinct in mainland Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans.

Bearded vulture (Roger Tidman)

Lammergeier

Alongside survey, monitoring and raising public awareness, the long-term survival of Europe's rarest vulture is being tackled by site protection, food provision and the encouragement of traditional grazing systems. More on lammergeiers and other conservation matters on Crete here.

Leader

Chris Durdin is the driving force behind Honeyguide, running holidays since 1991. For many years he combined this with his work for the RSPB in Eastern England, often the Society’s spokesman, but has been concentrating on Honeyguide full-time since 2009. Chris is the co-author of a book about Norfolk’s cranes and leads regular walks on his local wildlife trust nature reserve, Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Thorpe Marshes. He’s also a barbershop singer. As a naturalist, Chris is an all rounder. Chris has regularly led or co-led Honeyguide's Crete holiday for many years.

Crete map
For prices, see Holiday Details at the bottom of the page.

travel aware logo

FCO travel advice for Greece here.


Travellers to Greece must complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 24 hours before travel: see https://travel.gov.gr/#/

Holiday reports

Autumn: there is no previous Honeyguide autumn report for Crete, but this is a good starting point:

Peloponnese (Greece) recce, November, which shows the potential for autumn in Greece and the islands, and is where some of these flower photos come from.

Spring

Holiday report April 2019

Holiday report 10-17 April 2018

Holiday report 17-24 April 2018

And so on ... there are many more Crete holiday reports from two decades of Honeyguide holidays here.

squacco heron (Dawn Stevens)

A squacco heron lands at Ayia Reservoir (Dawn Stevens).

Sternbergia sicula

Sternbergia sicula (taxonomists now 'lump' this into S. lutea).

Scilla autumnalis

Autumn squill Scilla autumnalis

Allium callismischon

Allium callismischon

Crete photos (spring)

Photos from April 2018: Ivan Nethercoat's photos on Flickrby Chris Durdin on Facebook.

Photos from April 2017 on Facebook here.

Crete gallery, photos by Ivan Nethercoat.

Crete orchid gallery

Photos from April 2012: by Honeyguide leader Tim Strudwick and Honeyguider Steve Kourik.

Griffon vulture

Griffon vulture (Steve Fletcher)

Honeyguide web pages about Crete

Crete Bird Reports. Collated by Stephanie Coghlan, made available on the internet through Honeyguide.

Cretan Bluet (damselfly).

Cretan flora through a macro lens

Our Crete orchids page and orchids gallery.

Crete flower books.

More on lammergeiers and other conservation matters on Crete here.

freshwater crab

Freshwater – or land – crab.

Kourtaliótiko Gorge

Kourtaliótiko Gorge.

Crete information and useful links

 

There are pictures of the Hotel Sophia - or Sofia - on its website here.

Sofia Hotel

Our transport on Crete is arranged by Ariadne of the locally-based holiday and travel service company www.authentic-crete.gr

More on vultures in Crete here.

www.cretewww.com is a website "dedicated to help record, conserve and promote the wildlife of Crete."

Cretan flora: an ID web guide

Crete pages on Fatbirder.com.

Useful link for Crete information, including weather: www.greekisland.co.uk

Fountains in Spili

Fountains in the square at Spili

Hellenic Ornithological Society

More information about the work to protect bearded vultures - as they prefer to call them in Greece - on the website of the Hellenic Ornithological Society and the Natural History Museum of Crete.

Chris Durdin

Chris Durdin

Facebook Honeyguide
... where there are many holiday photos to enjoy.

Atol protected

The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

Helping you enjoy wildlife – Helping you protect wildlife