How better to lift the gloom of winter than an early spring visit to the Mediterranean, to experience some of its finest botanical jewels in combination with superb historical sites? This tour has both, set beneath the snow capped Taurus Mountains and blue skies, the ideal way to start the flower season.
Day 1 Arrival in Antalya
Upon arrival in Antalya airport we will transfer to our seaside hotel. Overnight Antalya
Day 2 Termessos & Karamanbeli Pass
One of the finest historical sites in the region will be our destination in the morning. A walk up through Mediterranean oak woods brings us to a fabulous set of ruins, still wild and unsanitised, with a wonderfully positioned amphitheatre, big underground cisterns and many immense sarcophaguses scattered across an extensive necropolis. It is among these we will seek out our first spring jewel; Crocus biflorus subsp. nubigena, each violet goblet lined outside with deep purple. Other early flora includes Anagyris foetidus, Coronilla emerus and the last flowers on cascading Clematis cirrhosa.
After lunch among the ruins we will drive onto a pass with scattered juniper trees and among these will be plentiful Crocus fleischeri, with feathery red styles, alongside Crocus biflorus subs. isauricus in various colour forms from white to mauve and the pale pink of Colchicum burtii and yellow Gagea granatelli too. On the way back a second pass will have pretty drifts of Crocus antalyensis. Overnight Antalya.
Day 3 Phaselis & Adrasan
Leaving the city behind we follow the convoluted and beautiful coastline west, passing through large tracts of Aegean Pine forest that comprise the Olimpos-Bey Daglari national park. The area is mainly limestone, with many caves and we’ll stop at one to look at the thriving population of Hyoscyamus aureus that grows around the entrance, each yellow flower embellished with deep purple. Phaselis Bay can be seen from here and we will visit the site, with its long promenade between idyllic coves and perhaps the first littoral flora coming into flower.
The fine scenery continues as we move onto the Adrasan Peninsula, descending to see the various colours of Anemone coronaria, Ophrys fusca, big stands of Asphodeline aestivus, Mandragora officinarum, impressive stands of Euphorbia characias and clumps of beautiful Iris unguicularis. The first flowers of Erophaca baetica may also be opening. We will spend the night near the long and picturesque beach at Cirali, where nearby rocks have early-flowering populations of sweet-scented Muscari racemosa. Overnight Cirali.
Day 4 Tahtali Dagi
The fast rising bulk of Tahtali Dagi (or Mount Olimpos) is unmissable, and it is a botanical hotspot with nearly 900 taxa recorded. Driving up to the cedar forest we soon encounter superb patches of Cyclamen alpinum including the occasional white form. The cedar woods are magical, with architectural layered branches and they stand out effectively with the snow-draped Taurus Mountains beyond. Grassy flats will have the golden flowers of Crocus flavus subsp. sarichinarensis, with variable outer tepals that can be beige-suffused or chestnut-striped. They grow with the diminutive Crocus danfordiae, in mainly bright yellow, but also pale lilac forms. The rocks have an abundance of Galanthus elwesii and depending on snow quantity we will access good areas of these, also finding sulphurous Eranthis hyemalis, blue Scilla bifolia and crystalline pink Corydalis wendelboi too.
The mountain track passes some fine views of the mountains, descending through cedars to inland villages. This cooler side has many more Cyclamen alpinum, but also some good populations of Crocus antalyensis with varied, violet forms.
Our return route takes us down a deep valley, where if we are lucky the first flowers on Ophrys argolica subsp. climacis and O. fuciflora subsp. lycensis can be found among more fine Iris unguicularis clumps. Overnight Cirali.
Day 5 Arykanda & Avlan Golu
Leaving the coast we head farther west and inland to the ancient site of Arykanda, where there is a well-restored theatre, agora and bath house. Up from here a side road leads to a high yayla where the cedar forest have plenty of Crocus biflorus subsp. isauricus and at the higher reaches Eranthis hyemalis too.
The star attraction today though is the population of Crocus baytopiorum, whose fabulous ice blue goblets are scattered across the rocky slopes of the forest, mixed with yet more good forms of C. biflorus subsp. isauricus and plenty of Cyclamen alpinum.
From here we will cut across country and back down to the warmer coast for the night at Simena, nestled among the intricate landscape of the Sicak Peninsula and close to a clutch of historical sites. Overnight Simena.
Day 6 Ak Dag & Simena
Another combination of culture and flowers today. There will be a morning visit Myra, with its wonderful rock cut tombs. Then once the air has warmed and awoken the flowers in the mountains, we will drive up to Ak Dag to see the distinct form of Crocus biflorus (akdagensis) growing around the reflective green waters of Yesilgol lake. There are impressive views of the Taurus stretching in all directions from here.
In the afternoon, the coastal areas will have superb big domes of Euphorbia dendroides in full flower and a side trip up to Asos Dagi, above Kas, will find white Crocus babadagensis and more Galanthus elwesii. We should arrive back in time to visit the sarcophaguses and fort above Simena. Overnight Simena.
Day 7 Xanthos & Baba Dagi
On our way to Baba Dagi, Lycia’s second coastal mountain (Tahtali is the first), we pass the former capital city of the Lycians - Xanthos, with its towering monumental tombs, fine theatre and promenade.
The coast straightens and then we reach the large town of Fethiye, above which Baba Dag rises steeply. This is the only known location of the stunning pure white Sternbergia candida, a wonderful endemic, which can be found among the cedar forests and high yaylas, alongside rich blue Chionodoxa forbesii. Other forms of Crocus biflorus can also be seen here. Overnight Oludeniz.
Day 8 Return flights
Both international and connecting domestic flights from Dalaman.