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The beautiful Greek island of Lesvos is the place to be to witness the spectacle of Europe’s spring migration. This is the “Point Pelee” of Southern Europe for birds returning from their winter in Africa. Birding on a Greek island … is this real? Unpack once, set your watch to island time, and fill your day with birds!
From the little town of Skala Kalloni, we explore the island’s varied countryside, historic villages, and friendly people. This is the third largest island of the chain (large enough to have extensive pine and hardwood forests), much less visited than the other islands, and a place people describe as feeling like the “real Greece.” Meals here are a true bonus to the birding. Whether searching out the island’s special birds, like Krüper’s Nuthatch and Cinereous Bunting, or marveling at the continual stream of fabulous birds, there is no shortage of memorable sightings. We also take time to enjoy some of the island’s 70 species of orchids.
Weather always plays a part in the spectacle of migration. With clear skies and fine conditions, birds may fly over the island and we spend time looking at the resident European birds and shorebirds. If there are winds or storm fronts, we may have incredible “falls” of birds. Either way, birding Lesvos is a fantastic experience. From the slopes of Mount Olympus, to the island’s sparkling rivers and lakes, to picturesque fishing villages alongside beautiful golden beaches, we witness landscapes that have inspired artists for many years. And, best of all, your visit is timed with the birds!
- Relax, and unpack once at our comfortable and eco-friendly hotel
- Plenty of terns and waders on the pond right next to our hotel
- In salt pans see Pallid Harrier, European Roller, Little Owl, and dozens of Red-footed Falcon
- Explore nearby sheep fields for Short-toed, Golden or even Lesser or Greater Spotted Eagles
- Watch for rare Cinereous Bunting on Lesbos’ volcanic western side
- Eat lunch at Ipsilou Monastery, built in 800 AD and a good place to see migrant fallouts
- Explore around the town of Sigri looking for hundreds of shrikes and buntings in the shadow of a pretty Turkish castle
- Walk the eastern side’s pine forests for Krüper’s Nuthatch
- Enjoy pre-breakfast walks to a nearby pond for Little, Spotted, and Baillon’s Crakes
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Sun., April 28: Arrival in Lesvos
Welcome to Greece! Arrive today in Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos. Also known as Lesbos, this 600+ square-mile island in the Aegean Sea is renowned for its ancient history, incomparable natural beauty, and tradition of hospitality. You may wish to arrive early to take in the capital’s fabulous art museum and to appreciate the local shops and galleries. Mytilene is a city on seven hills, crowned by a castle, and is a manageable size to explore. Home to the University of the Aegean, there are concerts, cafes, a lively market, and waterfront.
After your arrival, we make our way to the small fishing village of Skala Kalloni, the base for our tour. If we have time before dinner we take a short walk to see how the spring migration of countless birds is progressing. Our hotel is perfectly located beside wonderfully bird-rich habitats, includes a reed-fringed pool right next to the hotel, which can be a magnet for water birds and marsh terns.
Accommodation at Kalloni Bay Hotel (D)
Mon., April 29 – Sat., May 4: Birding & Exploring Lesvos
Skala Kalloni is a classic fishing village, known for its sardine fishery. Its rich agricultural valley is backed by thousands of olive trees on the hills, and like Canada’s Point Pelee, birdwatchers gather here from all over the world. This is the perfect location from which to explore this wonderfully scenic island; we can enjoy short drives to a variety of habitats that attract overwhelming numbers of migrants! If conditions are right you can witness breathtaking numbers of birds and it is not unusual to see hundreds of Red-backed Shrikes and Black-headed Buntings, or up to fifty Red-footed Falcons perched along telegraph wires.
From the moment you step outside the hotel door you are in bird heaven! The pond beside our hotel can be alive with Whiskered, White-winged, and Black Terns hawking insects just a few meters in front of us. A further search of reedy edges can produce Glossy Ibis, White Stork, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Garganey, Black-winged Stilt, and occasionally something more unusual such as Great Bittern, Great Snipe, or Spotted Crake. Streams of Barn Swallow can often be accompanied by a few Red-rumped Swallow, Sand Martin, and wheeling flocks of Common Swift that could have Alpine and Pallid among them. Yellow Wagtail of several very distinct races, including the very smart Black-headed, vie for our attention, while Spanish Sparrow, Turtle Dove, and a raptor or two make the first hour of birding all you had hoped for.
Skala Kalloni is perched on a wide bay with views of two mountain ranges. All week, we only have short distances to travel with some of the best birding sites literally on our door step. The east and west rivers with their weedy Tamarisk-lined banks can hold a whole host of interesting species. Depending how shallow the river is, it can attract endless numbers of European Bee-Eater, waders including Wood Sandpiper, Green and Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Temminck’s and Little Stint, Squacco Heron, White and Black Stork, Little and Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Gull-billed Tern, and the elegant Ruddy Shelduck. Along the edges, we can look for Common Nightingale and Eastern Olivaceous, Great Reed, and Cetti’s Warblers. Sometimes we get Savi’s and River Warblers here and by the end of the week, the superb Black-headed Bunting and flocks of dazzling European Bee-Eaters have appeared.
Between the East River and the nearby saltpans, several arable fields can attract flocks of Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers and occasionally we see a few ghostly Pallid Harrier, as well as gorgeous groups of Collared Pratincole, Lesser Gray and Woodchat Shrikes, European Roller, Little Owl, and up to fifty Red-footed Falcon. Crested Lark and Corn Bunting are common and the area always holds a surprise or two. The saltpans yield many more wading birds with Wood Sandpiper being the most common, along with elegant summer plumaged Marsh Sandpiper, stunning plum-colored Curlew Sandpiper, close views of Temminck’s and Little Stints, Kentish Plover, huge flocks of Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Pied Avocet, Little Gull, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, and the motionless
Stone Curlew. Over the years, groups have seen Dalmatian Pelican, Spur-winged Plover, Cream-colored Courser, Black-winged Pratincole, and Caspian Plover … so once again we could have a nice surprise! This area is also traditionally a good spot to see the attractive Ruddy Shelduck.
The surrounding sheep fields can hold flocks of Greater Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, and Red-throated Pipit with beautiful brick-red throats. Up to four races of Yellow Wagtail keep us working hard and we constantly keep an eye out for raptors and terns passing overhead. This is a great place for seeing some of the more unusual species such as Caspian Tern, Lanner Falcon, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Golden or even Lesser or Greater Spotted Eagle.
Heading inland from the salt pans, we can drive into a beautiful wooded valley full of oaks and olive trees. It is here that we should see our first Masked Shrike, Sombre Tit, Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Pied Flycatcher, Long-legged Buzzard, or even a Rufous Bush Robin. As Hoopoe lazily drift by and Golden Oriole fill the valley with their flutey calls we look for the shy and difficult Olive Tree Warbler, a bird that is a late arrival and only really possible toward the end of our stay.
We also explore the wild rocky north coast, making a few stops to look for breeding Ruppell’s Warbler and Eastern Orphean and Bonelli’s Warblers, plus Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Peregrine Falcon, Goshawk, Crag Martin, Rock Nuthatch, Alpine Swift, and along the coastline the rare Audouin’s Gull, and flocks of Yelkouan Shearwater with even the possibility of the potential “new” Scopoli’s Shearwater. With views of the Turkish coast in the distance, this area sees many migrants leaving the island and a nearby inland lake can be a great place to find Ortolan Bunting, Hobby or something a little unusual such as Thrush Nightingale, Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, Great-spotted Cuckoo, or the rare White-throated Robin.
The western side of the island with its arid volcanic hillsides is home to one of the birds everyone wants to see: the rare Cinereous Bunting. Lesvos is one of the best places in the world to see this little-known species, and we hope to find them singing from the rock strewn hillside. Here too are Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Isabelline and Black-eared Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, and more chances for Rock Nuthatch. We learn a bit about the local geology here, too, including the local petrified forest.
Ipsilou Monastery is one of our favorite picnic stops; set on top of a small hill we can enjoy superb views of the west coast. Dating from 800 AD, it is the oldest monastery on the island, with tall walls and arched gates. If weather condition are right, this spot receives amazing falls of migrant birds; we saw a flock of 27 Levant Sparrowhawks very low over our heads on one tour and often get Honey and Long-legged Buzzard and Short-toed Eagle. The surrounding trees and bushes can hold Collared, Spotted, and occasionally Semi-collared or Red-breasted Flycatchers, Golden Oriole, Chukar, Wood Lark, and Wood, Eastern Bonelli’s, Icterine, Barred, and other warblers. This is also a good spot for butterflies with Southern Festoon nearly always present.
The west coast itself especially, around Sigri, is a very fertile area that can be exceptionally good for migrants with incredible numbers present on a good day. The village is marked by a Turkish Castle at the harbor, built in 1746. It’s not unusual to see hundreds of shrikes or buntings and careful searching can reveal Wryneck, Great Snipe, Levant Sparrowhawk, Collared Pratincole, Great Reed Warbler, and Lesser Gray Shrike, while flocks of Red-footed Falcons and Lesser Kestrels hunt over the fields.
Lesvos is very rich botanically, with two species of pine, as well as oaks, laurels, rhododendron, chestnuts, and other tree species. The island’s proximity to Asia Minor (Turkey) and complexity of microhabitats in the mountainous terrain create biodiversity. The Persian Squirrel is a notable mammal. Weasels, foxes, and hares are here, and in the wetlands, otter.
The pine forests on the eastern half of the island hold the other star bird: the diminutive but delightful Krüper’s Nuthatch. It is not always easy to see, but we make a special effort to catch up with this highly localized bird, which is on the western edge of its range here. In addition to the nuthatch, we can also find Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Woodchat Shrike, and some very good flowers including many species of orchid.
Another area where we traditionally take a pre-breakfast walk, is around a small pond where Little Crake and sometimes Spotted and Baillon’s Crake can be seen very well. There are often a few Black-crowned Night-Heron and Squacco Heron to be seen, while Red-rumped Swallow pose on the reed tops where they have spent the night. Reed, Sedge, and Great Reed Warblers can certainly be heard, and we will search for Savi’s and possibly River Warbler, as well as Little Bittern. This is a magical place for photography in the early morning light.
Birding this beautiful unspoiled island is not the only thing that will have you wanting to return. The setting is stunning, wildflowers and butterflies abound, and the sense of history we find while wandering is magical.
Accommodation at Kalloni Bay Hotel (B, L, D)
Sun., May 5: Departures
After some morning birding, we depart the area and head back to Mytilene for international flights out. (B)
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the journey (main tour) is $3790 DBL / $4285 SGL, from Mytilene, Greece. Tour cost includes all accommodations, meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, other park and program entrance fees and miscellaneous program expenses. Tour cost does not include: round-trip transportation from your home city to Mytilene, optional activities, or items of a personal nature like laundry, telephone charges, maid gratuities, or beverages from the bar.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival and Departure Airport: Mytilene International Airport (MJT)
Arrival Details: Plan to arrive April 28, no later than 2:00 PM.
Departure Details: Plan to depart May 5, at your leisure.
Travel Tips: If you arrive early to rest up from your travels, we recommend the Theofilos Paradise Boutique Hotel. It’s located right in the middle of the old Mytilene town and steps away from the harbor and market area. We can pick you up at this hotel on the first day of the tour. If you’re interested in exploring the capital city of Mytilene, there are plenty of things to do! One of the most popular things to see is the Castle of Mytilene, built in the 6th century. It’s one of the largest castles in the Mediterrean and has amazing views of the Aegean Sea. If you’re a history buff, then you must visit the Archaeological Museum of Mytilene. Exhibits feature a collection of floor mosaics dating to the 2nd century and a vast collection of sculptures from various periods in history. Does shopping or trying a local café sound more appealing? Then head down to the harbor area for a stroll along the waterfront with many shops and restaurants. All of these attractions are within walking distance of the Theofilos Paradise Boutique Hotel, but taxis are also available.
Visas are not required of US citizens for stays of this length. Expected changes to entrance requirements in Europe have been delayed until 2025. More information is available at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website.
Items of Note
This is a standard birding tour with regular birding walks. We usually break the day into two parts with a pre-breakfast excursion, followed by a full day out with picnic or taverna lunch. Weather can be unsettled; expect everything from bright and sunny weather to some cooler weather with the chance of an odd shower so prepare for all eventualities.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
James P. Smith
James brings some twenty five years of guiding experience to Naturalist Journeys. Originally from Sheffield in the United Kingdom, he discovered a love for guiding in Israel in 1995 where he helped establish the Kibbutz Lotan Center for Birdwatching in the Southern Arava Valley. Since then, he’s led hundreds of tours throughout the Northern Hemisphere for a number of UK-based tour companies. His trips to Israel and North America are especially close to his heart but he’s also led or co-led tours to Mexico (Veracruz), The Gambia, Kenya, Iceland, Scottish Highlands, Spanish Pyrenees, Central/Southern France, Greece (Lesvos), and India (Goa). An accomplished illustrator, James placed runner-up in the British Birds “Bird Illustrator of the Year” competition in 1992 and went on to have his work published in numerous birding magazines and journals. He also co-authored the two volume set A Guide to the Birding Hotspots of Israel (Published in 2000 by the Israel Ornithological Center and the S.P.N.I.). He returns to Israel every year to lead trips and remains an active member of the Israel Rarities and Distribution Committee. When not leading tours he can be found at home in Western Massachusetts with his wife Susannah and their young son Matan.
Other trips with James P. Smith
South Texas Birding & NatureDecember 2 - 10, 2023
Trinidad & Tobago: Incredible Birds & Wildlife FULLJanuary 19 - 28, 2024
Belize: Three Great Lodges Full! Check out our Best of Belize tour in FebruaryFebruary 1 - 11, 2024
Belize: Three Great Lodges Full! Check out our Best of Belize tour in FebruaryMarch 6 - 16, 2024
Lesvos, Greece: Migration!April 20 - 27, 2024
Summer in Costa RicaJuly 17 - 24, 2024
- South Texas Birding & Nature
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Make sure your passport is valid for six months AFTER your return date from Greece. The passport must have at least six months validity remaining to be allowed entry.
- Visas are not required of US citizens for stays of this length. Expected changes to entrance requirements in Europe have been delayed until 2025. More information is available at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Greece and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “General Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Plan your flight reservations arriving into and out of Mytilene International Airport (MJT). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Arrival in Mytilene International Airport (MJT)
Please note: If you are delayed in travel, please refer to your emergency contact list, and contact your ground operator, with a copy to our office. You may also phone or text your guide. Quite a few of your guides will set up a WhatsApp connection so you can also reach your guide by phone.
Please plan to arrive by mid-afternoon on your tour start date. We have about an hour or so drive to the hotel, and may make some birding stops. Your emergency contact / hotel list (to be sent ahead of departure) will be helpful at Immigration when they ask where you are going. We will let you know the pickup arrangements a few weeks before the tour.
If you arrive early and plan to rent a car, an INTERNATIONAL driver’s license is required in Greece.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Departures from Mytilene International Airport (MJT)
We will return to Mytilene on your tour end date in time for flights out – our group shuttles will be in the morning, if you depart later than mid-day from Mytilene, enjoy some local birding and you can taxi back to the airport later in the day.
A Passenger Terminal Facility Charge is levied on all passengers leaving Greece at ticket issuance or at airport of departure in Greece. Check with your airline to see if this has been included in your fare.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passports, Visas & Documents
U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least 6 months beyond the date of reentry. We advise having at least one blank passport page for entry stamps.
It is recommended to check for changes 60-90 days before your tour departs but, at the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required of US citizens for stays of this length. Requirements requiring visitors from more than 60 visa-free countries (including the U.S.) to get a travel authorization when entering Europe for brief stays have been delayed until 2025. Learn more at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website.
You may also visit the U.S. International Travel Information for Greece website.
As a precaution for lost or misplaced important documents that you are carrying with you (including, but not limited to, your Passport, visa, luggage barcodes, even credit cards), we highly recommend you bring color copies as a backup and leave copies with your emergency contact person at home. If not photos or PDF scans stored on your phone, then at least color copies stored in a separate location from your originals. Exercising this precaution will expedite the process of replacement and recovery as well as reducing the stress, inconvenience and costs that losing these items would cause.
General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!
We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency.
Vaccinations: The CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. Check the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) website for Greece for other helpful information or reach them by phone at (800) CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). Consider bringing copies of your vaccination records with you.
Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers.
Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s). If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.
Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.
Altitude sickness: It can affect some and, if there is a concern, be prepared. The most general symptoms are headache and occasionally fatigue and dizziness. You’ll want to take it easy, particularly at first. These symptoms can be reduced by resting, drinking plenty of water and taking aspirin. If you have worries about the altitude, ask your physician about medications that may be right for you.
We have no fixed itinerary once we arrive in Lesvos as this tour is during the prime migration time. As such, we need to remain very flexible. We will visit many different areas and birdwatching sites during the course of the trip and several we may return to time and time again. You will be briefed at breakfast on where we will be going for the day once we have determined the weather situation! Realistically and for maximum flexibility, we recommend you make the same preparation each day as far as gear to bring etc., so we have maximum flexibility. It is entirely possible that we will change our itinerary mid-day so be open and ready for that!
Most days will start with an optional pre-breakfast excursion lasting 1-2 hours to one of the many excellent birding spots close to the hotel. After breakfast we will usually head out for the day, and provided the weather is fine, we will have a picnic lunch at one of the numerous interesting and attractive places on the island. Generally, we will be out birding until about an hour before dinner/log call at around 8 PM.
The tour is not a strenuous one but in a couple of places we will walk on stony ground and up rocky valleys. Leisurely walks of up to 1km over easy terrain will be all that is required. We may predict our itinerary the night before but decide each morning.
Weather & Climate
Average temperatures are highs 75°F (24°C)/ lows 59°F (15°C) during our trip. Lesvos has a pleasant Mediterranean climate, which gives the island plenty of warm sunshine and not much of a chance of rain. The weather, of course, is unpredictable and a range of clothing should be packed. The temperatures can be in the 80s while it can be decidedly cold first thing in the morning. Dress in layers and always have rain gear and you should be fine!
Food & Drinks
Greek cuisine is considered to be very healthy and provides a delicious experience for travelers! Please advise us as soon as possible of your dietary preferences or restrictions. If there is anything you particularly don’t like to eat, it is useful for us to know. With enough advanced notice we are usually able to accommodate most special requests. In the hotel, meals are mostly served buffet style, so you have many choices. If you have dietary restrictions, it is best to ask servers for the appropriate information about the food. We appreciate your flexibility and openness to the new and foreign foods that you may experience on this trip.
As with any travel, minor intestinal problems are possible, so we suggest bringing a remedy for traveler’s diarrhea. Please discuss appropriate medication with your physician.
Tap water is not considered unsafe, however, if you prefer to drink bottled water, you can purchase it at the hotel. Tap water is okay to use for brushing your teeth. On particularly hot days be sure to increase your intake of fluids.
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Please, pack light and carry your medication, airline tickets, passport, visa, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your CARRY-ON.
Please note that that luggage will be transported with you in the vehicles. Only bring luggage that you can comfortable carry yourself. Soft luggage is much easier to pack in the vehicle than more rigid hard-sided pieces. So, if you have the choice, please use soft luggage. Be sure to have your name, address, and itinerary on the inside of the bag, as well as a luggage tag with your name on the handle. It is recommended that you limit yourself to one checked suitcase and it is wise to check with your air carrier on luggage restrictions before your fly. Please remember that your carry-on bag must be able to fit under the seat. You will want a daypack for field trips, so this is the ideal carry-on.
Dress is very informal and comfortable throughout the trip. You may wish to change for dinners, but casual dress is suitable at all locations. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Lightweight, long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. But if you like to wear them, by all means bring some shorts. Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy and things that are comfortable and easy. A jacket should be enough in the cooler mornings and evenings. We strongly recommend neutral or dark-colored clothing for every wildlife area that we will visit on the tour. Clothing should be unobtrusive, i.e. no bright yellows, reds or white, as this can disturb wildlife and makes us very conspicuous.
Throughout your tour, you will be staying at The Kalloni Bay Hotel. This is a comfortable, good quality hotel. All rooms have a private toilet and a bath or shower. Hairdryers are not provided; please bring your own if you think you need one. There are no laundry facilities or services available at the hotel. You may want to pack clothing that is easy to hand wash and is fast drying to launder in your room. If you would like to request laundry service, it may be possible to arrange in nearby Kalloni village. The front desk of the hotel can assist with this.
TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!
The Euro (EUR) is the currency in Greece. For the current exchange rate, please refer to online converter tool like www.xe.com, or your bank. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as the local currency, an ATM card, and a credit card.
It will helpful to arrive in Greece with some local currency just in case you encounter an “out of order” ATM or a local bank holiday. You may exchange some money into Euros before your trip through your bank, an exchange office, a travel agent, a AAA office, your departing airport in the U.S. or the Athens airport. NOTE: Mytilene International Airport has ATMs, but the airport is small and they might not always be working. There are also ATMs in Lesvos, however, there won’t be much time to search them out once you are there. Try to arrive with some exchanged currency already on hand.
If you need more Euros, the easiet way is to withdraw funds from a local ATM. The ATM will give you local currency and your bank statement will show the amount withdrawn in US Dollars at the conversion rate of that day. Many banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure and become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Greece and will be accepted at the hotel. We suggest you have more than one card available. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express), if possible. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling in Europe to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges.
Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. That said, while we do not advise you that you bring them as your main source of funds, it might be nice to have one or two in case of emergency.
Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for your hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show our appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. Note that if there is more than one guide, this can be split among them.
*Please note that these suggested tips are quoted in U.S. Dollars. You will want to convert and tip in Krona but they will accept either currency – it’s just most directly useful in their local currency.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
To make International calls, the country code for the USA is 1. When calling the U.S. from a foreign country using a landline, you may want to use a prepaid calling card to avoid unexpected charges from the hotel. Calling cards can typically be purchased locally.
International calls to the United States: Dial 00 + (1) + country code + area code + number.
Cell phone service is available. Check with your carrier for coverage and turn on international service. If you bring the phone for internet and an alarm, but do not want charges, make sure you know how to turn OFF your cellular data function on your cell phone. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. It may be cheaper to rent an international phone or buy a SIM card in Greece. If you wish to use a local SIM, make certain that your phone can accept one.
Wi-Fi is available in the all rooms, lounge, and reception area at the hotel. If your phone can connect to WiFi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to WIFI, is to use smartphone apps like Skye, or Viber to send of text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
Greece uses 220V AC 50Hz. An international travel adaptor is needed and can be purchased in most airport departure lounges. Two round pins are the most frequently encountered sockets. Sometimes the sockets are recessed as shown so make sure your adaptor fits that type of outlet. Helpful information can be found at www.power-plugs-sockets.com
Lesvos, Greece is in the Eastern European Time Zone (EET), which is 7 hours earlier than New York City (Eastern Time). Greece observes Summer Time (or Daylight Savings Time). On April 29, sunrise will be at 6:20 AM and sunset at 8:06 PM. A great website if you want to tell someone to check ahead of calling you is www.timeanddate.com.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please Pack Light!
- Soft luggage is easiest for us to pack in the vehicles and duffle bags are a great choice
- Include your name and address on the inside of the bag and the luggage tag
- Most airlines charge for checked bags over 50 pounds
- We recommend that you double check with your airline a week or so before departure to verify luggage size and weight restrictions
- Pack medications, airline tickets, binoculars, camera, emergency contact information, and other essentials in your carry-on - you’ll want a daypack for field trips, so this can serve a dual purpose
- Dress is very informal
- In general, temperatures will be highs 75°F (24°C)/ lows 59°F (15°C) during our trip. Clothing should be appropriate for variable spring temperatures and conditions and outerwear should be wind and waterproof.
- Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing; they protect you from sun, insects, and vegetation
- Choose clothes you can get dirty and that are comfortable and easy to wear. Layering is your best strategy for comfort.
Clothing and Gear
- Long pants, 2 pair
- Shorts (optional)
- Long-sleeved shirts (2-3)
- T-shirts or equivalent (4-5 – remember you may be buying some anyway!)
- Personal underclothing and pajamas
- Thermal underwear upper and lower
- Socks – warm
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, dress, etc.)
- Bathing suit (optional)
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (gel bandanas work well to keep you cool)
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight hiking boots - waterproof
- Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
- Warm sweater or jacket; fleece fabric is ideal, but a sweatshirt will do.
- Wind and waterproof outdoor gear
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho (great if this doubles as windbreaker)
- Warm scarf
- Warm windproof hat
- Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets
Equipment and Miscellaneous
- E-ticket verification
- Passport, visa (if required), photo ID, travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
- A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
- As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the ID and entry stamp pages.
- Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear
- Umbrella (compact, not brightly colored!)
- Small flashlight/headlamp with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock, or use your cell phone (with cellular data turned off)
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional) - WILL be VERY useful for scanning
- Lens cleaning cloth
- Cell phone - Check on international plans/fees with your carrier
- Camera and extra batteries/battery chargers, film or digital chips, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
- Chargers for cameras and/or phones, and three prong adapters if needed
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
- Sunscreen/lip balmwith SPF
- Sunglasses with a neck strap
- Insect repellent (bugs shouldn’t be too bad)
- Toiletry articles
- Hair dryer, if needed
- Water bottle (or you can use one of ours and refill during the journey)
- Laundry soap for hand washing, travel sewing kit (optional)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Earplugs (if hotel noise or roommates snoring may bother you; these are optional)
- Reading light if you like to read at night (optional)
- Phrase book (optional)
- Trail food and snacks, e.g., dried fruit, nuts, cereal bars, or chocolate. Such items are easy to carry on the trail and come in handy mid-morning after an early breakfast (optional)
- Plug adapter
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical and First Aid Items
- Heath insurance and vaccination records (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
- Personal medications (and copy of vital prescriptions, including glasses)
- Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments (such as aspirin, eyewash, lip-balm, an anti-bacterial ointment, remedies for colds, headaches, upset stomach, nerves, insect bites, skin irritations, a general antibiotic recommended by your physician)
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van drives, etc.
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Foot powder, lotions for dry skin, general “comfort” items
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer
- Copy of eyeglass prescription, copy of medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Greece; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Merlin App – Europe Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Europe.
Collins Bird Guide App: The Ultimate Field Guide. (iPhone and iPad)
History & Culture
Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
The Island of Lesvos (Lesbos)
Mytilene – Capital of Lesvos
Kalloni (Municipal Unit) – Skala Kalloni (seaside suburb of Kalloni)
Ipsilou Byzantine Monastery – Lesvos
Basic Greek for Travelling
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Birding in Lesvos
Birds of Greece
Endemics of Lesvos
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark
Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest – Kalloni Environmental Information Center
Lesvos Biodiversity Observatory
Conserving the Black Pines of Lesvos
Conservation of the Island Wetlands of Greece – WWF Report 2014
Geology & Geography
Generalized Geological Map of Lesvos – ResearchGate
Geology – Lesvos Birders
Petrified Forest of Lesvos (UNESCO)
Geography of Lesvos
History & Culture
History of Lesvos
Culture & Antiquity of Lesvos
Culture of Greece
Interesting Greek Times Article “Local Olive Oil Producers from Lesvos Helping Their Island Recover”
Helpful Travel Websites
Mytilene International Airport (MJT)
National Passport Information Center
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Foreign Exchange Rates
U.S. Department of State International Travel Information – Greece
Center for Disease Control (CDC) – Greece
Canada Travel Advice and Advisories – Greece
Travel Health Pro (UK) – Greece
Electricity and Plugs – Greece
Date, Time, and Holidays – Greece
Photo credits: Banners: European Bee-eater by Gerard Gorman; Collared Pranticole by Peg Abbott; Greater Flamingo by Pieter Verheij Photography; Great Spotted Woodpecker by Pieter Verheij Photography; Mytilene, Greece, courtesy lesvosgreece.gr; Ipsilou Monastery, courtesy lesvosgreece.gr; Hoopoe by Gerard Gorman, Greater Flamingo by Pieter Verheij Photography; Mytilene, Greece, courtesy lesvosgreece.gr; European Bee-eater by Gerard Gorman; European Kingfisher by Tom Dove; Purple Heron by Peg Abbott; White Stork by Pieter Verheij Photography; Mytilene, Greece, courtesy lesvosgreece.gr; Ipsilou Monastery, courtesy lesvosgreece.gr; Sigri Castle and Town, courtesy lesvosgreece.gr; Red-footed Falcon, Steve Bird; Collared Pranticole, Peg Abbott; Pallid Harrier, Steve Bird; Spur-winged Plover, Steve Bird; Black-eared Wheatear, Pieter Verheij Photography; Pied Avocets, Steve Bird; Greater Flamingo, Steve Bird; Black-headed Bunting, Peg Abbott; Cinereous Bunting, Peg Abbott; Collared Prantincole, Peg Abbott; Corn Bunting, Peg Abbott; Kalloni Salt Pans, Peg Abbott; Subalpine Warbler, Peg Abbott; Thread Lacewing, Peg Abbott.