“Spring Flowers, photography, history and walking”
**We are now taking bookings for our annual 10-Day spring guided tour, Crete in Bloom, commencing 22nd April 2020. Early booking is recommended**
From coast to mountain top, Crete has a unique range of wild flowers and birds. The profusion of flowers and orchids, including 150 endemic species, is at its best in April and May when we are pleased to offer our Wild Flower and Walking Week “Crete in Bloom”…now in its 27th Year.
Expert guidance will be provided by Dr Stephen Waters and Clive Daws, both of whom have led field excursions for many years. They will provide advice on botanical and environmental issues as well as nature photography and birds. On our holidays in Crete, you could be partaking in excursions, including trips to coastal sand dunes, to the snowcapped peaks of the White Mountains, to the high plateau of Omalos, to the orchid meadows at Spili and to the Imbros Gorge.
2016 saw the introduction of new outings and a rest day at the weekend for those wanting to enjoy terrace time or plan their own day which proved highly popular.
See Itinerary further below
Crete in Bloom includes Pure Crete Category B self catering accommodation in the village of Aptera, North Western Crete, airfare (from Gatwick) expert guidance, all excursions, transfers and the first evening meal costs £1191 per person for 10 days and is suitable for single travellers, couples and small groups.
The Crete in Bloom week was reviewed in the Bulletin of the Ecology and Conservation Studies Society, some of whose members took part in the tour.
They commented: ‘This was such a successful and incredibly interesting field trip that full coverage of the week’s activities would occupy a complete Bulletin… The great thing about the holiday was that at all times we felt unrushed. Thanks to our leaders Stephen and Clive… there was a perfect balance between looking at the flowers and other natural history by day and enjoying meals together in the Taverna in the evening.’
Below Dr Stephen Waters and Clive Daws in the field:-
Other comments from clients:-
“Superbly devised and led. It was a privilege to learn from Stephen and Clive. The week surpassed all expectations” Mrs C
“A very enjoyable week with a well organised daily programme. The leaders were tireless in their efforts, thank you.” Mrs R
“We thoroughly enjoyed our action packed week in Crete. It was well organised and run in a nice relaxed style and good fun with fellow botanisers. We liked the varied locations with the mix of habitats and places of general interest. We all appreciated Steve and Clive’s extensive knowledge and patience!” Mrs B
“It was a brilliant week again. Stephen and Clive are stars! Booking for my third year says it all i think” Miss Prime
“We just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed our recent “Crete in Bloom” weeks holiday. Everything about it was great, in fact it is the first holiday we have taken that exceeded our expectations! Mr and Mrs B
“The holiday far exceeded our expectations. The tour leaders and drivers were very knowledgeable and worked very hard to make our holiday so enjoyable. The whole experience was very relaxed even though we covered a large area of the West of Crete and saw many plants we would never have found on our own. Every level of experience was catered for and the enthusiam of the leaders for their subject was obvious. We found the Crete in Bloom booklet very useful. We would like to thank all the people involved, including our fellow participants, for making it such a wonderful week.” Bill and Jackie Barrett
“This is the third Wild Flower Week that i have spent with Pure Crete. In 2007 i came in the Spring and Autumn and promised myself that I’b be back – and this year i was! I cannot speak too highly of the whole experience – the beautiful flowers and Stephen’s expert botanical knowledge, the charm and character of the Cretan houses that ive stayed in and the evenings spent at the Taverna Ta Aptera with excellent food, friendly service and good company.” Mrs J Negal
‘Ana Malai was a beautiful house with a fine view of the mountains and conveniently near the office of Stephen and Clive. With their long experience Stephen and Clive were able to take us to the best sites for Spring Flowers, and they and Sue went out of their way to help everyone. Clive was particularly helpful when you phoned him before we booked and told him that we wanted to know more about the walks, he phoned us straightaway giving us the reassurance we needed to make an immediate booking. When we were in Crete he often saw us at tavernas and would offer us lifts back to our accommodation’ Mr and Mrs Shepherdson
‘We had a wonderful week with them- they were so very considerate as well as being such excellent guides. A very happy week!’ Mrs H
‘Thoroughly enjoyable holiday. All of the field trips were very worthwhile. The days well organised but with a relaxed feeling. All of this largely due to our knowledgeable friendly and experienced leaders’ Richard and Ruth Olney.
‘The holiday was very flexible and relaxed and could be enjoyed at a number of different levels depending on botanical knowledge’ Dr K Charman, Nothumberland
‘Clive and Steve are very well informed and caring – nothing was too much trouble and they made the week worthwhile and fun’ Dr P Roberts, Suffolk
CRETE IN BLOOM ITINERARY
Crete in Bloom 22 April, 2020
Occasionally we may need to rearrange or alter these plans, bearing in mind that flowering seasons vary from year to year. On most days you will set out in the morning, taking a packed lunch and return late afternoon or early evening.
There will be opportunity at the beginning of the week to stock up with groceries and other provisions – brief stops for shopping on other days.
Day 1 (Wednesday) Those arriving in Crete transfer from the airport to settle in at the houses during the afternoon. Evening: Introduction, illustrated talk about the island and its plants followed by complimentary group meal at the Aptera Taverna.
Day 2 (Thursday) Morning: Shopping trip to nearby port of Souda (groceries, bank, post office, Chemist etc.) Afternoon: Walk to the Aptera archaeological site, with many features of botanical and historical interest.
Day 3 (Friday) We drive to the Omalos Plain with anemones and other colourful flowers, often in great abundance. In the afternoon we walk to the mountains above to see scillas and crocuses.
Day 4 (Saturday) Stop at Vrysses for shopping and refreshment. On to the flower-rich Minoan tomb site at Armenoi. After lunch, sand dunes and other coastal habitats. Later, we visit the village of Maza, with a tiny but beautifully frescoed Byzantine church, and have the evening meal at the local taverna.
Day 5 (Sunday) Free day. Relax, or explore Aptera village and its surroundings, or go further afield if you wish, but you will need to meet costs of transport etc.
Day 6 (Monday) Keen walkers go down the Imbros Gorge at the south of the island. This is the habitat of numerous endemic Cretan plants, as well as offering spectacular scenery. The walk is about 8km, and rough underfoot in places. Those who prefer a more restful day may visit the seaside village of Hora Sfakion , and can view the impressive Aradena Gorge, rejoining the walkers in the afternoon.
Day 7 (Tuesday ) Phaistos, an important Minoan site in the South of the island. As well as the archaeological interest there is a good range of orchids and other flowers in the surrounding area.
Day 8 (Wednesday) Visit to Chania, with museums, markets and other features of interest. Lunch at tavernas of one’s choice. Afternoon: Either inland to Therisso Gorge or Agia Reservoir.
Day 9 (Thursday) Visit the town of Spili near the centre of Crete. The fields above the town have an impressive range of orchids, often accompanied by fritillaries and scarlet tulips.
Day 10 (Friday) Visit to Allied War Cemetery at Souda Bay, if time permits, before being transferred to the airport for an afternoon flight home.
Recommended Plant Handbooks
This list is provided by Clive Daws and Stephen Waters. Other books and guides to Crete can be found by clicking on the Books, Guides and Map page.
Prices (where indicated) are approximate.
Blamey, Marjorie and Grey-Wilson, Christopher (1993 onward) Mediterranean Wild Flowers / Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean.
Harper Collins / A&C Black / Domino Books. Several hard- and soft-cover versions (contents very nearly identical) published at £16 – £25. ISBN 0002199017 / 0713670150. Some are of interest to book collectors, which can inflate prices drastically for particular copies!
Colour paintings of over 1500 species from all around the Mediterranean, plus many line drawings of details used in identification. An excellent, book, particularly if you expect also to visit other Mediterranean locations.
Fielding, John and Turland, Nicholas (2005) Flowers of Crete. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
£55. ISBN 184246079X. Magnificently-produced book, full of valuable information on Crete, its plants and their ecology. Splendid photographs, which include most species of the island’s flora. Only drawback: large and heavy to carry, weighing 3.04 kg (6 lb 11 oz).
Papiomitoglou, Vangelis (2006) Wild Flowers of Crete. Mediterraneo Editions, Rethymno, Crete, Greece. £16.50 ISBN 9608227771.
Good photos and descriptions of over 500 species you are likely to meet on the island. Just about pocket size, probably the best of the compact Cretan flower books.
Orchids (Remember that nearly all orchid species are spring-flowering.)
Kretzschmar, Horst, Kretzschmar, Gisela and Eccarius, Wolfgang (2004)
Orchids Crete & Dodecanese. Mediterraneo Editions, Rethymno, Crete, Greece. £22.50. ISBN 9608227429
Excellent photographs, identification details and distribution maps.
Other books, including older and more specialised works
Many of these, inevitably, are out of print but are worth considering if you can spot them secondhand at a favourable price.
Alibertis, Antonis (1998) The Orchids of Crete and Karpathos. Heraklion, Crete, Greece.
A fully-illustrated guide, including hybrids and special forms, for the orchid specialist.
Alibertis, Chryssoula and Antonis (1989) The Wild Orchids of Crete. Heraklion, Crete, Greece.
Earlier edition. Species cover similar to the 1998 version but many of the illustrations differ.
Clauser, Marina and Innocenti, Andrea (1999) The Flora of Crete. Bonechi, Firenze, Italy.
Excellent photographs of many of the most characteristic species of Crete.
Huxley, Anthony and Taylor, William (1989) Flowers of Greece and the Aegean. Hogarth Press, London. Has helpful additional information, e.g. on herbal uses of plants, and their local Greek names.
Jahn, Ralf and Schnfelder, Peter (1995) Exkursionsflora for Kreta. Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart.
Keys and short descriptions for all the Cretan flora. The only compact and reasonably accessible book aiming for this level of cover. Illustrations are confined to photos of about 100 species, mostly endemics. Available only in German. Good, but not for the faint-hearted!
Polunin, Oleg (1980) Flowers of Greece and the Balkans. Oxford University Press.
A thorough work, more authoritative than most of the popular books.
Schnfelder, Ingrid and Peter (1990) Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean. Collins, London.
Good for general use, with top-quality photographs, but less cover of the Cretan endemic species.
Sfikas, George (1987) Wild Flowers of Crete. Efstathiadis, Athens, Greece.
Pocket-size, and deals specifically with Crete.
Sterry, Paul (2000) Collins Complete Mediterranean Wildlife Photoguide. Harper Collins, London. A wide range of illustrations – but don’t be misled by the word complete – there’s no way of getting photos of everything into one fieldguide.
Fassoulas, C. (2004) Field Guide to the Geology of Crete. Natural History Museum of Crete, Heraklio. Deals with Cretan geology mainly from the structural standpoint
Grove, A.T. and Rackham, Oliver (2003) The Nature of Mediterranean Europe An Ecological History. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.
Rackham, O. and Moody, J.A. (1996) The Making of the Cretan Landscape. Manchester University Press.
Checklists and Distribution Atlases
Barclay, Colville (1986) Crete, Checklist of the Vascular Plants. Englera, 6. Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum, Berlin – Dahlem.
Turland, N.J., Chilton, L. and Press, J. (1993) Flora of the Cretan Area. Annotated Checklist and Atlas. HMSO (Natural History Museum), London.
Chilton, L. and Turland, N.J. (1997) Flora of Crete A Supplement. Marengo Publications, Retford, Nottinghamshire. Additions and updates to the 1993 book
Flora & fauna
Photographs by Clive Daws and Stephen Waters
Hyla arborea, treefrog