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Cyprus (south)


Sardinia: the mountains and the south

FRANCE: The Cévennes and Vercors

ROMANIA: The Transylvanian Area

The Dolomites, north Italy

The Pontic Alps of north-east Turkey

South Africa: Drakensberg & Kruger


How to Book

Sunvil, Our Booking Agent

July 7th –- 21st 2014

The Pontic Alps of north-east Turkey

Price: £ 2395 inc. flights, £1965 ex. flights

Leaders: Bob Gibbons, Andy Byfield and Kate Clow

The high mountains and steppe country of north-east Turkey are exceptionally beautiful and unspoilt, with spectacular flowers and butterflies, and a wonderful selection of birds. Our two week tour takes in both sides of the fabulous Kaskar massif, using high passes and tracks leading to traditional grazing pastures to get close to the snowline and the special flowers. After 9 days here, we continue eastwards towards the Georgian border to sample the high grasslands, flowery steppes and marshes of the far east of the country.

 A spectacular display of flowers in a high yayla, Kaskar mountains
A spectacular display of flowers in a high yayla, Kaskar mountains.
We leave Gatwick in the morning to arrive in Trabzon by the evening. We’ll spend the first two nights in Trabzon, giving time for an easy local trip to a flowery pass, and the spectacular ancient Sumela monastery, perched high on a cliff. Then we move eastwards to our base for the next four nights, among woods and meadows below the Ovit Pass. From here, it’s a short trip to the pass itself, or to stunningly flowery high ‘yaylas’ – traditional alpine pastures - alive with butterflies and other insects. On day 7, we cross the pass to the drier southern side of the range and move to our next base at Barhal, beautifully sited on a river below the high peaks. From here, we sample the rather different, but equally flowery and spectacular, southern forests and meadows. After 3 nights here, we move on further eastwards to spend most of the rest of the trip in a perfect location below the Cam Pass, in chalets set amongst flowery meadows from where we can reach the wonderfully flowery eastern steppe grasslands, marshes full of orchids, and endless hay meadows, and some different high alpine meadows. Finally, we continue eastwards to the town of Kars, through bird-rich scenery, and we use the opportunity to visit the extraordinary deserted ‘lost city’ of Ani, right on the Georgian border.

The striking Geranium psilostemon growing in high mountain pastures photo © Bob Gibbons
The striking Geranium psilostemon growing in high mountain pastures
The flora of this remote corner of Turkey is exceptional, not just immensely rich and varied, but filled with particularly beautiful flowers. Almost everywhere you look in the higher areas, there is a sea of flowers, many familiar from gardens. Plants such as the magenta and black Geranium psilostemon, sheets of the large betony Stachys macrantha, groves of the tall yellow Inula orientalis, and clumps of the lovely pink daisy, Tanacetum coccineum fill the mid-altitude pastures. Higher up, there are pink primulas, deep blue gentians, marsh orchids, endemic bellflowers, louseworts, butterworts, and dwarf Delphinium species, to name but a few, and if we’re lucky, we may catch the last Crocuses in flower. Orchids are common throughout most of the area, from the enigmatic Ghost Orchid in high forests to the yellow Globe Orchid or the curious Steveniella in the meadows.

Alpine flowers at 2700 metres on the Ovit Pass
Alpine flowers at 2700 metres on the Ovit Pass
The eastern steppe country has high grazing pastures stretching into the distance, and patches of strikingly flowery hay meadows or marshes with orchids and wild gladioli. Plants such as Oriental Poppy, the gorgeous large yellow knapweed Centaurea macrocephala, Delphiniums and wild lilies are abundant and native here. The butterflies at this time of year are spectacular, both in quantity and diversity. Many uncommon european species are more abundant here, mixed with more eastern species such as Caucasian Apollo, Caucasian Spotted Fritillary, and Nickerl’s Fritillary among others.

Intensely flowery meadows on the plains near Ardahan: photo © Bob Gibbons
Intensely flowery meadows on the plains near Ardahan
If we’re still within the breeding season, the birds can be wonderful, with such species as Common Rosefinches, Snowfinch, Lammergeier, Shore Lark, Red-fronted Serins, Black Vultures, several species of harriers and many others. At this time of year, they should still be nesting or feeding young. There are even Brown Bears and Wolves in the area, though we are not especially likely to see them.

We spend the last night at Kars, and fly home the next day.

The tour price includes flights and all transport during the week, full-board, and services of leaders throughout, including pre-tour information and post-tour lists. ∆ tour grade, though most days easy.

Tour code: NHT/14/07

Price: £2395 incl. flights, £ 1965 ex. flights

Single room supplement: £200

Deposit: £450 plus insurance

Bookings to Sunvil

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