Monday, 2 June 2008

GREECE TRIP - DAY 2d - 29th May 2008

By this stage, as the afternoon wore on we decided to drive back via the Valley of the Butterflies. This is a very famous location in Rhodes, mainly because of its beautiful natural beauty, but also because of a curious natural history phenomenon that one may witness every summer. The Valley of the Butterflies is found on the western side of Rhodes island, approximately 27 km from Rhodes city and 5 km to the south east of Theologos village. It is a unique natural reserve. As its name indicates, this area is a lush green valley that gets overwhelmed from summer to autumn with moth-like butterflies of the Panaxia genus, species quadripunctaria poda.

During the rainy season, caterpillars of these butterflies are found in various areas around the Mediterranean Sea. However, in spring, after they pupate and become a butterfly, they fly to areas of high humidity in order to reproduce. They come to this valley in Rhodes, which is crossed by river Pelekanos and has quite lush vegetation. Many waterfalls are scattered all along it and the visitor can walk along the length of the river, on winding paths over picturesque wooden bridges up and down steps and in the meantime refresh body and soul. Over the years, the valley of butterflies has turned into a popular tourist attraction.

Every year, from June to September, thousands of visitors come to watch this lovely species of butterfly in its thousands, and walk through the cool, shady paths. The beauty of this place, the flowing waters and the shade of the trees make it ideal to rest, especially during the hot summer days. Small, wooden bridges cross the river and an uphill path leads to the Monastery of Panagia Kalopetra. Unfortunately, the high traffic flow and climate change have had a negative impact onto the butterfly population. We did not catch a glimpse of a single butterfly as it was too early in the season.

When one does visit the valley when butterflies are plentiful, one must remember that butterflies do not have a stomach. They just store energy in their body to use it when needed. They do not eat until the reproduction period, so when visitors disturb butterflies, they fly away and consume valuable energy. It’s strictly forbidden to disturb butterflies in any way and one must keep quiet and try not to disturb the butterflies.

All in all, this amazing valley constitutes an excellent destination for an excursion even without any butterflies flitting around. If one gets tired, one can have a drink or lunch in the picturesque taverns whose tables have a view towards the waterfalls and are shaded by the tall green trees. One may walk down the valley and with the same ticket gain entry into the modest natural history museum that has specimens of native animals, insects and plants. One may also familiarize oneself with the life cycle of the butterflies of the valley. However, be warned, the path down to the museum is winding, has many steps and seems much longer than its purported length of 300 metres!

By this stage we rather tired as we had packed a huge number of things into one day, and the jet lag was catching up with us again. We drove back to Rhodes via the new highway that approaches the City from the airport and takes one up through the gentle hills to the south of the city. There are many modern buildings here and one may see a huge number of department stores, car dealerships, furniture stores, luxury boutiques and many new villas and apartment buildings. There is quite a bit of money on show here. One drives into Rhodes from the South and then via the harbour. We parked the car behind the cathedral close to the Mandraki Harbour. One has to be careful with parking, as the city has installed parking meters and one may get a hefty fine if one parks indiscriminately. Fortunately our hotel was very close to the free parking behind the cathedral.

We freshened up and then walked to a restaurant and had a dinner of lamb on the spit with salad, chips washed down with a cold beer. Night life in Rhodes is varied and one has many choices, ranging from the Casino of Rodos Hotel, to many bars, night clubs and other night spots. However, it was an early night for us as the lack of sleep was rather acute!

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