One of the most beautiful places I’ve visited is the Valley of the Butterflies on the Greek isle of Rhodes. As part of a gap year, I was working as a shepherdess and staying with a farmer and his young family in the village of Theologos. Each day I would spend a few hours watching the sheep, daydreaming and dozing under the olive trees, then head off to the beach for more of the same, minus the sheep and plus a few waves.
I had one day off each week, giving me the chance to head out to Rhodes town to catch a ferry to one of the nearby islands. But I’d heard about the Valley of the Butterflies and was keen to see what it was. I could have caught the bus to Rhodes Town and then another bus out to the valley, but Theologos is set almost halfway between Rhodes Town and my destination, so when my host advised me that it’s an easy stroll, it made sense just to walk it.
I set off at 9am, trekking along sun-blasted roads in the rising heat. When I finally reached the natural park, it was like arriving at an oasis. It was only early June, so there weren’t the mass of Jersey tiger moths (Re the misnomer, I guess Valley of the Moths just didn’t sound so appealing!) swarming in the Petaloudes valley that you get later in the summer, but there were still enough to give the gorge an otherworldly feel, and the tourists were also in low numbers, which made it far more atmospheric.
If you want to get the full impact of the invasion, come in July or August when more than a million moths will have arrived to feast on pine resin before copulating and laying their eggs. Quite a sight to behold! On the downside this is also when crowds of the tourists visit, diminishing the tranquility of the place.
Personally, I think May or June are the better times to visit – sure, you’ll miss out on the clouds of copulating moths, but the valley will be far, far greener. You’ll have much of the park to yourself and will be able to wander around the shady forest paths to your heart’s content, enjoying the mist drifting from the many waterfalls and crossing the log bridges at your own pace, not the pace of the people behind you.
Find out more at www.rodosisland.gr.
Many thanks to PROTOUR and the Greek National Tourism Organisation for supplying these images.