Stand still…A butterfly might touch you!
A unique nature reserve is to be found inland on Rhodes, “Butterfly Valley” (in Greek “Petaloúdes”). Apart from its aesthetic value, it is also the site of the only natural forest of Liquidambar orientalis (Oriental Sweetgum trees) in Europe, and a resting point for the Jersey tiger (Panaxia Quadripunctaria), a nocturnal moth. An excellent place for families with children who wish to enjoy the beauties of nature and examine the life cycle of butterflies as part of their summer holiday.
You and your children will love the peaceful walk through the shaded, green valley with its small river and beautiful waterfalls. You are permanently surrounded by butterflies camouflaging themselves against the tree trunks as you walk up towards the monastery at the top, or rest for a while on one of the wooden benches along the way.
What to tell the children about “Petaloúdes” (Butterfly Valley):
Visitors can witness a spectacular phenomenon which occurs only rarely in nature. Huge numbers of butterflies congregate in this small valley during the final stage of their life cycle. Every year, at the end of the wet season (late May), thousands of butterflies attracted by the scent of the Oriental Sweetgum trees cover the entire landscape. They are actually adult insects that follow the waterways and migrate here to reproduce (females leave for other suitable areas to lay their eggs in the early fall) due to the high humidity of the area.
Hush, hush..butterflies are resting here…The moths cannot eat during this final phase of their life cycle, so they rest here to conserve energy. Any loud noise would force them to fly away, thereby consuming valuable energy. Observe them as they “sleep” well-camouflaged in black and yellow; in flight their cherry-red overwings flash. If you are quiet and still, they may even land on your arm –that would make a wonderful photo!
• Complete your tour with a visit to the Museum of Natural History:
In the Valley of the Butterflies, there is a museum housed in a nicely restored Italian house of the 30s. Here you will find extensive information about the flora and fauna in the reserve. The most interesting part of the museum is the hatchery, where a number of butterflies reproduce in a protected area in stable climate conditions and an ideal environment.
Petaloúdes is located in the northern part of the island, 26 km from the town of Rhodes, and 6 km from the western coast. Starting from Rhodes city you will find the valley between the villages Paradísi and Theológos along a small road that heads inland. Buses will also take you there.
When your visit to Butterfly Valley is over, you can carry on with your exploration of the island. Here are some suggestions.
After the Batterfly Valley
Butterfly Valley is surrounded by beautiful villages where you can take a break after a morning’s tour and get a taste of a more traditional way of life with the locals.
• Where to eat:
(1) Some of the best tavérnas are in Psínthos village. This classic small Greek village with flowing waters and aged plane trees reveals the beauty of the countryside of Rhodes. In the village square there is a church dedicated to Panayia Theotókos (the Virgin Mary). A typically rural festival takes place here every year on September 8, accompanied by good food, music and dance.
Taste: excellent grills and appetizers, pitta bread and fruits (complemented with cold retsína), and tasty mayireftá home-cooked dishes such as stuffed tomatoes and peppers, aubergine salad, youvétsi (meat stewed with pasta), dolmadákia (stuffed vine leaves, etc.).
(2) From Psínthos a small winding road leads north to Maritsá, a place buzzing with life. Along the high street, tavérnas and ouzerís serve delicious mezédes and finely cooked meat; for a few euros you can choose from half a dozen or so different dishes which change every day, such as chicken fillet with cumin, pansétta, assorted óspria (legumes), lamb or salads.
(3) In close proximity to Petaloúdes, there is another serene traditional coastal settlement awaiting you and your family: Theológos (also called Thólos). Enjoy: local cuisine in family tavérnas and restaurants, fine accommodation in hotels and apartments and swimming at the long sandy beach.
(1) From Psínthos, head to Afándou bay (on the east coast of the island, 18 km from Rhodes City) by car or public transport. Here you will find beach sport centres, sections equipped with umbrellas and sun loungers, plus food and accommodation. This extremely long sandy beach has room for everyone: families with ice-boxes and folding chairs, couples with tents, Brits with their hot dogs and beers at the canteen, young people racing their jet-skis, locals tasting fresh fish at the tavérnas. Alongside the coastal road you will also find Rhodes golf course.
(2) Moving much further to the south, there is a more family-oriented beach at Péfkos (or Péfki) 56km from Rhodes city. It is part of a larger resort area with hotels and fine rooms to let, a great favourite for Scandinavians, the British, Germans and Austrians. Pine trees “watch over you” as you swim at this small, yet beautiful, beach. The sea here is clear-crystal, with other smaller secluded beaches tucked in at the base of low cliffs. Along the main streets of Péfkos, just behind the beach, you will find mini markets, pharmacies, cafés, bars and restaurants. This is the ideal destination for those looking for a quieter place to use as a base for exploring the island, and many visitors return again and again.
(3) Again on the east coast, Vlýha beach is situated 47 km from the city of Rhodes, close to Péfkos beach. Children with buckets and spades and families from Líndos are the main guests on this beach. Vlýha is a pleasant beach, big enough not to become crowded, suitable for those who want to escape the central beach of Líndos. The sea here deepens smoothly and gradually. Enjoy a light meal (sandwiches, crepes, etc.), coffee and other beverages at the area’s small cafés.
Rhodes island boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, most of which have been awarded Blue Flags. With so many to choose from, you are sure to find one that is perfect for you and your children, whatever you want to do.