The dramatic twists and turns of the Dalmatian coast and its myriad islands present a beguiling landscape, ripe for exploration. Spring sees the waysides coloured with wild irises, bold spurges and bright macchie shrubs, and hidden among these are a plethora of delicate orchids, fritillaries, anemones and cyclamen. The rugged limestone mountains hug the coast and in places rise steeply into different worlds where late snow is fringed by crocuses and pretty dog’s-tooth violets. The cooler, more humid hinterland offers a great contrast to the Mediterranean coast and nestled among their emerald beech woods is the waterfall wonderland of Plitvice.
For those able to arrive before midday, we will spend the afternoon in the far south of Croatia where damp grasslands have white Bellevalia romana among Anemone hortensis and Serapias lingua. Rocky macchie is rich in orchids with lots of Ophrys sphegodes, along with Orchis simia, Anemone apennina and delightful stands of elegant Fritillaria messanensis and patches of blinding white Ornithogalum and lemony Ranunculus milleifolia. Near the coast we will find lilac-blue Campanula lingulata. Overnight Dubrovnik.
Inland hills and plateaus have many orchids, Orchis pauciflora, O. simia, which here hybridises with O. anthropophorum. O. quadripunctata grows near similarly coloured Anacamptis morio and areas of seasonally wet rubbly flats have abundant Ophrys sphegodes, Scilla litardierei and sky-blue Hyacinthella leucophaea. Other limestone areas have Fritillaria graeca and there are viewpoints with stands of wild irises, impressive Euphorbia characias, three species of asphodels and scattered throughout pink Anemone hortensis. We will return in the afternoon to spend time in the architecturally stimulating old city. Overnight Dubrovnik.
The northern end of the long Peljesak peninsula has more species of orchid such as Orchis italica, O. quadripunctata (some very tall), other forms of Ophrys sphegodes, O. lutea, as well as wild wallflowers; Erysimum cuspidatum, the lovely campanula-relative Edraianthus tenuifolius clings to rocks with Linum tauricum and by the coast there are plentiful Helianthemum (sunroses) and hopefully still some Fritillaria graeca. After a day spent exploring we will cross over the new bridge to spend the night at Ploce.
Mount Biokovo is an interesting and unexpected high mountain area that rises steeply from the coast, with the highest motorable road in Croatia and spectacular views of the Dalmatian coast. Here the Mediterranean flora meets cooler European vegetation and beech woods clothe the upper slopes. Among these, near the summit, we hope to find the lovely Erythronium dens-canis, together with Crocus sieberi near late snow. Open meadows have the first Narcissus poeticus, pink and yellow colour forms of Dactylorhiza sambucina should be starting to flower along with the mahogany bells of Fritillaria montana. There will be an afternoon visit to another, lower, mountain where wild tulips; Tulipa sylvestris grow in the scree with mats of Globularia cordifolia. Lady orchids and Cephalanthera longifolia occur in the adjacent wooded areas. Overnight Makarska.
Driving north along the coast there will be patches of violet Iris pallida and Convolvolus altheoides before we begin the climb into the Velebit highlands from where there are dramatic views of the long island of Pag as we climb into the Velebit highlands to where (snow permitting) we can find Crocus veluchensis around late snow patches. The area is swathed in beech forests and we can take a slow route to Plitvice through these woods, stopping from time to time for Omphalodes verna, patches of Helleborus cyclophyllus, Primula veris and P. vulgaris. We will continue on to the wonderful Plitvice National Park in the afternoon.
A full day in this superb scenic park to enjoy the many beautiful waterfalls, lakes and beech woodlands that are bursting into fresh leaf, where there will be golden Anemonoides ranunculoides, plentiful Dentaria enneaphylla, primulas, Chamaecytisus hirsutus, Pulmonaria angustifolia, cerise-and-mauve Lathyrus verna and other woodlands plants, possibly even late Hepatica nobilis. The various water features are swathed in Petasites albus in various stages of flowering and seeding. Helleborus niger is common, and will be in fruit now, and quite photogenic.
First we’ll drive on to Paklenica for a walk up into the dramatic limestone landscapes, where Cyclamen repandum grows in superb drifts and Corydalis ochroleuca can be found on the rocks with Hesperis laciniata, Aristolochia pallida, Viola riviniana and perhaps higher up some late-flowering Fritillaria graeca. Driving south we’ll stop at the remarkable botanic garden in the grounds of the Ostrog primary school near Trogir, which contains a diverse collection of flora from around the world, from palms to redwoods, monkey puzzles and tree peonies. There will be a visit to a nearby orchid area to look for some new species; Ophrys bertolonii, O. scolopax and O. arachnitiformis amidst some lovely displays of Crepis rubra and Anchusa cretica before we drive on to Dubrovnik.
22-29 April 2023
Per person: 2065 Euros
Single supplement: 350 Euros
Minimum number of participants 10; maximum 14.
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