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Flower holidays

Flowers    

Floral delights
Whether you love to spend time identifying the flora lining the path or simply like the idea of walking amid carpets of flowers, the holidays below promise plenty of colour and variety in spring and early summer, as well as some rare and very impressive trees.

 

Giant holly trees in Sicily’s Madonie Mountains
Madonie Mountains, Sicily
It is hard not to be impressed by the stand (the largest in Europe) of gigantic, 300-year-old holly trees that survives in Sicily’s Madonie Natural Park; by the last few examples of the endemic Nebrodi fir that has survived unchanged here for 10,000 years; or by the displays of anemones, peonies, narcissus and rare wild tulip between mid-April and mid-May. Besides the flora, what makes this holiday so special is the real sense of getting away from it all – the sense of space and the absolute tranquillity, broken only by the occasional cry of a royal eagle, are striking.
Orchids in Alicante’s secret mountains
Alicante
In the secret mountains of Alicante, one-thousand-metre-plus limestone peaks, dramatic ravines and panoramic ridges combine to offer fantastic walking. This is a region best enjoyed ‘out of season’ (July and August are too hot), the most special time being spring, which arrives early in these mountains, heralded by the almond blossom in February and continuing with spectacular displays of lime-loving plants – Spanish foxgloves, vivid yellow Phlomis lychnitis, and orchids such as the showy violet limodore Limodorum abortivum – that last until June.
Carpets of colour in secret Algarve
Algarve
Head to western Algarve and you will find pretty villages immersed in silent hills, quiet beaches backed by honey-coloured cliffs, and dramatic Cape St Vincent. The diversity of walks is astonishing, as is the wealth of flowers that can be found in late March and April: common mallow, yellow sea aster, Barbary nut, tassel hyacinth, hollow leaved asphodel, cistus, spurge, pitch trefoil, Dove’s foot cranesbill, mirror and naked man orchids, and many more. The even wilder Costa Vicentina is also a haven for flora, with around 750 species, many of them endemic.
‘Living fossils’ in Andalucía
Grazalema Sierra, Andalucia
Beautiful paths wind through the limestone landscapes of the Grazalema Sierra, linking one of Andalucía’s best-known features, its white towns. Linger on the footpaths and you’ll discover a less well-known feature: the rich flora which thrives in this unusually (for southern Spain, at any rate) green and fertile area. Orchids, scillas, lilies, saxifrage and wild peonies are among the hundreds of species that arrive with spring. The star of the show is the pinsapo fir, a relict of the forest that cloaked the mountains of southern Spain and Morocco in the Tertiary Age.
Madeira, the ‘floating garden’
Madeira's exotic flora
Madeira is remarkable for two reasons: the levadas carved into the slopes which make navigation so easy (leaving you to focus on the views!) and the abundance of flora. There is a curious mixture of the familiar, the clearly-related-to-familiar, and the exotic, some of them deliberately planted by the levadas. Depending on the month, you could see storksbill, Nile lily, violets, fuchsias, Madeiran cranesbill and the beautiful Pride of Madeira. Adding to the exoticism are the pockets of native evergreen Laurissilva forest, luxuriant ferns and botanical gardens with plants from across the globe.
Endemic Pyrenean flora in Catalonia’s mountains
Sempervivum in the Catalan Pyrennes
Nothing beats the thrill of walking in the Pyrenees. As well as panoramic high passes, timeless stone villages, and inspirational views of the chain from Puigmal to Mount Canigou, you will come across a variety of flowers, from Monkshoods to Martagon lilies with tall stems and maroon spots, and from Pyrenean gentians to Pasque flowers, as well as burnt orchids, bog asphodel, wild daffodils, alpine toadflax and many more. Don’t spend all your time scanning the ground, however, as you’ll miss out not only on the views, but also on sightings of buzzards and other raptors.
A riot of colour on Cyprus
Flowers on the Akamas Peninsula
Many surprises lie in store for the first-time visitor to Cyprus: the soaring, pine-clad mountains; the numerous tiny, frescoed churches; the wealth of archaeological sites; the warm hospitality extended by everyone you meet; and, if you travel in March, the riot of colour provided by the anemones, cyclamen, iris, gladioli, tulips and crown daisies on the Akamas Peninsula. Nearby, you can visit the Baths of Aphrodite, where she is said to have bathed after her trysts – the cult surrounding the goddess of beauty and love adds yet another fascinating dimension to this captivating island.
Wild flower meadows in the Alps
Leutasch Valley, Tyrol
Iconic peaks such as the Eiger and Matterhorn in Switzerland, the Dachstein in Austria, the Zugspitze on the Austrian-German border, and the Sciliar in Italy’s Dolomites lend romance to the scenery in any season. Travel in early summer, however, and the views are enhanced by the blues, purples and yellows of the flowers – different types of gentians, crocuses, narcissi, Pasque flowers, anemones, oxlips, snowbells, cranesbills, bellflowers and Alpine sea holly, to name but a few. The higher into the mountains you go, the further you seem to travel back into spring, the cooler temperatures resulting in later flowering.