Explore Macedonia's nature before it changes!

 

Overview

Macedonia is a tiny country that most people are not familiar with. But as a home for animals and flowers it is hard to find a greater richness of wildlife in eastern Europe. The country boasts over 200 species of butterflies and considering its size, there is possibly nowhere else in Europe to rival Macedonia!

Its varied landscapes and position at the crossroads of the Balkans combine with traditional land practices to create the right ingredients for abundant and diverse wildlife. Across much of Europe increasing prosperity has seen the disappearance of traditional farming, but almost one third of Macedonia is still covered with grazed steppe areas. And whilst the numbers of sheep are declining rapidly, the hillsides are often grazed to their summits.

The landscapes themselves are reason enough to visit, but we will also try to look at anything that moves or blooms! Stunning butterflies and great range of birds are an obvious focus, but flowers and other insects also abound and promise plenty of Balkan specialties, not to mention a great diversity of lizards, snakes and turtles.

We will be looking out for raptors like Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Imperial Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Lanner, Lesser Kestrel and Long-legged Buzzard, whilst among the many butterflies we hope to find such delights as Eastern Festoon, Krueper´s Small White, Yellow-banded Skipper or Iolas Blue.

Itinerary

Tour itinerary

Day 1 Arrival at Skopje, Macedonia

The journey takes approximately 3-4 hours and if our flight is early enough we can stop briefly at one of the butterfly along Vardar river. Dry area east of Vardar river will be our first choice. It is home to several butterflies with an extremely restricted European range. The many flowers and other insects found here are different to what we expect to see in other sites.

Our hotel is located on the edge of a small town. Just across the road there is a field track that leads through vineyards, fields and roadside grasslands: an ideal place for a pre-breakfast or pre-dinner walk, with Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Syrian Woodpecker, Crested Lark and some of the commoner butterflies. Nature here still reaches into almost every settlement. Overnight in Kavadarci.

Day 2 Vardar river and areas nearby

Only some 15 miles from our hotel on the eastern bank of Vardar river there are low hills intersected with flat stream valleys. As the driest area of Macedonia they have a true Mediterranean appearance (and indeed they belong to Submediterranean region). We will search carefully to find some of the many animals and flowers: Vetch Lathyrus clymenum, Pale Bugloss, Pyramidal Orchid, Hairy Flax or Corn Cockle should be blooming, strange armour-plated grasshoppers can be found in the bushes, with Horned Praying Mantis in the grass and snakes underneath stones. The dry streams have surprising inhabitants – Little Ringed Plovers.

Particularly interesting bird species include Black-headed Bunting, Spanish Sparrow, Olivaceous and Orphean Warblers, Short-toed Eagle, Bee-eater and Woodchat Shrike.

The butterfly season should be more advanced here, with Cardinal, Little Tiger, Osiris and Zephyr Blues, Lesser Fiery Copper and Southern White Admiral. We will walk quite slowly, in order to see as much as possible.
Afterwards we will look for Lesser Grey Shrike and other farmland birds just mile or two towards the river, where we may also spot a Freyer´s Purple Emperor. On the way back we will stop once again in a village to observe the large colony of Lesser Kestrels there.

Over 130 pairs still breed underneath the old roofs and the sky is full of them in the late afternoon. This is said to be one of the last large colonies in the Balkans but new ones have been found recently in Macedonia. No wonder when the country is so little explored and there are no more than two or three dozens of birdwatchers.
Overnight at Kavadarci

Day 3 Vitachevo and lake Tikvesh

We will make an early start at 7am from our hotel in order to be at a vulture-feeding site in good time to see the raptors circling over the hill. The drive is appr. 30 minutes, followed by a 10 minute walk. The sun will be shining in the best direction for observation at that time of day, and we will be looking for the Griffon and Egyptian Vultures that come to feed here, plus Levant Sparrowhawk and Lesser Spotted Eagle, which also often occur in the area. We will be at 2700 feet here, and the season will be well behind what we have already seen in Kavadarci town. Besides some early season butterflies like Duke of Burgundy there could also be tortoises (Testudo hermanni and graeca) and some interesting passerines.

Afterwards we drive back towards Tikves lake and take a cruise. The lake stretches along the Crna river for some 20 miles and is surrounded by scenic hills and cliffs. Our boat, which takes 40 people and is ideal for the comfortable observation of wildlife, goes to Kamenica bay first. We stay on the boat and near a cave church will try to spot an Eagle Owl, though much luck is needed.

Red-rumped Swallow, Crag Martin, Great Egret, Black Stork, both vultures, Short-toed and Golden Eagle should relatively easy to spot, as they are almost certain to appear in the air at some point! The second place we head for is Polosko, with its 14th century church.

There we stop for an hour or two to look around. More birdwatching and this time with more passerines; we could see Rock Nuthatch and, if fortunate, also Rock Sparrow.

The area is rich in bats but we are more likely to see Wall Lizards and Green Lizards (Lacerta trilineata), snakes and butterflies. The trees and bushes are also of interest: Macedonia has many species that do not occur in the temperate zone – Bladder Senna, Holly and Macedonian Oak, Nettle Tree, Manna Ash, Christ´s Thorn, Hop Hornbeam, Terpentine Tree, Oriental Hornbeam or Almond Pear, to name a few. Picnic lunch on the boat. Overnight in Kavadarci. 

Day 4 Tikvesh region and Drenovska klisura

We have already explored areas east and south of Kavadarci and today head in the other directions. West of the confluence of the Crna and Vardar rivers there are large grazed areas of steppe. This is a widespread habitat in Macedonia but our only chance to explore it properly. Although the numbers of butterflies here is not especially great, there is a rich diversity of species.

Mountain Small and Eastern Dappled Whites, Purple-shot Copper, Large Blue, Oriental Meadow Brown and Twin-spot Fritillary all occur here, as well as birtds such as Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark and Cirl Bunting. We can also hope for the rare Lanner and will check the sky regularly for Long-legged Buzzard.

Again near Vardar river there is a hill overlooking the whole basin. The extraordinary circular view is worth the walk alone and gives views over hundreds of vineyards interspersed by grassland and also over mountain slopes. We can hope for more than just wonderful vistas, however: Imperial Eagle and Peregrine both breed on the high electricity poles, whilst Calandra Lark inhabits the hills and Golden Oriole and Black-headed Buntings sing from the roadside. Roller breeds in the area and it is best spotted from our bus as it sits on a wire looking for prey.

We continue after brief stop for a light lunch. Then, some grasslands with bushes and forest steppe areas near Faris will keep us occupied the whole afternoon. Orchids should be out here, including Lady Orchid as well as other flowers like Pheasant´s Eye, Field Gladiolus and Black Garlic.

We will search for butterflies in shady places amongst the bushes: Iolas Blue, Blue-spot Hairstreak, Twin-spot Fritillary and Russian Heath all occur here, whilst along the roadside we will look for various skippers including Marbled, Oriental Marbled and Inky. In the meadows there are Hungarian Skipper, Anomalous Blue, Freyer´s Fritillary, Balkan Marbled White and foresters and burnet moths. And finally the small stream running across the field track should host gatherings of Osiris and Zephyr Blues, Yellow-banded Skipper and Marbled Fritillary. Many beetles occur here and Stonechat, Rock Bunting, Red-rumped Swallow, Hobby and Egyptian Vulture are some of the local birds likely to be encountered. Overnight in Kavadarci

Day 5 Prilep, Pletvar massif

We travel west to Prilep today. After a one hour journey from Kavadarci through forested hills an impressive limestonemountain rises up just before we arrive in Prilep. Luckily, the road crosses this range at some 3000 feet and we will take a longer break at this elevation. Pletvar is home to Macedonia’s only endemic butterfly, Macedonian Grayling, but we will be too early to see it. Instead, there will be many other insects and flowers to enjoy, including some spring species up here, due to higher altitude.

We will also try another elevation and a different habitat at the village of Belovodica, some 700 feet lower. Still on limestone, but here with more bushes and some trees. Butterflies could include Grecian Copper, Northern Wall Brown, The Hermit, Krueper´s Small White or Clouded Apollo alongside birds such as Subalpine Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Alpine Swift, Booted Eagle or Cirl Bunting. There will be an optional short walk in Prilep after we check in. Overnight in Prilep

Day 6 Prilep area, Mariovo

We will drive out of Prilep towards the Greek border, only some 35km away but we may take over an hour thanks to the winding road and scenic views. Shortly after Prilep there will be good views of a traditional Macedonian village, and then we venture into a forgotten region where the few remaining people struggle to graze their animals across the vast expanses.
We end up at a limestone area that provides a perfect place to explore – grassland, rocks, stream valley, small gorges or dry slopes with trees and bushes.

Of the birds that breed in the area we should see Black-eared Wheatear, Rock and Ortolan Bunting, Rock Thrush, Rock Partridge, Peregrine and again Griffon Vulture and Bee-eater.

Wealth of flowers will include a few new orchid species (Violet Birdsnest, Toothed, Lady), pansies, louseworts, milk-vetches, knapweeds and others. We can take our time and thoroughly explore this site.

Butterflies are especially worth mentioning as here we can see a very nice cross-section of local species. Iolas Blue, Grune´s Orange Tip, Eastern Greenish Black Tip, Eastern Wood White, Black-veined and Mountain Small White, Chequered and Eastern Baton Blue, White-banded Grayling, Lesser Spotted and Marbled Fritillary, Nettle-tree Butterfly and Camberwell Beauty are all here.

We will travel some 2 miles further during afternoon break and briefly visit the traditional village of Vitoliste. Once it had 400 people, today less than 100 remain. Ruined houses stand alongside those that are still inhabited, and elderly ladies still chat in frontyards as if it was another century. Overnight in Prilep.

Day 7 Babuna Mts., Pelagonia plain

Right after breakfast we set off on a short journey north of Prilep, where we explore two adjacent areas: the foothills of the Babuna Mountains and the Pelagonia plain. Babuna rises just from Prilep town as a series of rugged rocks. We will go to the low lying part that continues as Pelagonia – the only flat landscape we will come across in Macedonia. The mosaic of grassy patches, fields and solitary trees will hopefully provide a number of new species.

We will look for Powdered Brimstone, Niobe Fritillary, Southern Small White, Eastern Rock Grayling, Eastern Festoon and Lesser Spotted Fritillary.

Examples of the local flora include Mediterranean Hartwort, Yellow Wort, Common Rue, Bug, Man and Adriatic Lizard Orchid, Alkanna, Mallow-leaved Bindweed and Salsifi. If time permits we may climb to St. Archangel Michail – a large monastery with fascinating views of the whole area and breeding Blue Rock Thrushes. Overnight in Prilep.

Day 8 Transfer to Skopje

We return to the airport via the same route and stop for the last time at the Vardar river or near Bogdanci, where the dry hill with evergreen vegetation hosts more Mediterranean flora and fauna. The journey back to Skopje takes approximately 3 hours from Prilep.

What's Included

Included:

- Transportation

- Accommodation in hotels (hotel category can be chosen in accordance with Your request)

- English speaking tour guide

- Taxes

Not included:

- Transfers to Macedonia

- Single room and half board supplement

- Additional meals and beverages

- Optional excursions and visits

- Insurance

Dates & Prices

2014 Scheduled Dates:

* We can arrange this tour whenever You desire. 

Number of Participants:

2 - 12

Tour grade:

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Prices: 

Confidential prices for TOs available upon request. Price depends on the number of participants.

Additional information: 

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