- 2 December 2021
Visit the Bear Sanctuary of Nymfeo immersed in the nature of Florina
In the area of Nymfeo at the region of Florina in northern Greece, one can find the one and only brown bear sanctuary of Greece. The animals that lived in precarious conditions before, now enjoy a safe environment within their natural habitat. Moreover, a few kilometers away you can find the Wolves Sanctuary too.
The Nymfeo village is very particular, not only because you get to visit the sanctuaries, but also because it a very beautiful and picturesque for nature lovers. You can stay at typical mountain villages. You can taste one of the best local cuisines of Greece and some of its most prestigious wines too. If you visit during autumn, you will be impressed from the foliage and the colors that surround you. During winter, snow is heavy there and the scenery is still magical, but the bears are hibernating.
The bear population in Greece and some fun facts
The brown bear population in Greece is estimated around to 450 (at least in 2015 that was the number) and live in two distinct geographical areas that are independent from eachother and don’t communicate. The biggest population lives in the area of Mount Pindos, north of the city of Ioannina, while the second lives at Mount Rodopi, a series of mountains northern of the city of Kavala and until the borders with Bulgaria.
Some fun facts about the bears. Did you know that during autumn a bear in Greece can travel a distance of more than 180 km to feed itself? An adult male bear weighs around 150-200 kg and is about 2m long. The bears don’t attack humans, unless they fear about the safety of their cubs or their own. An interesting fact is that the bears are good indicators of the ecosystem where they live in; where bears live, all the wild life can live too and have a future.
Who is Arcturos and the projects to safeguard the bears
Arcturos is a Greek non-governmental organization founded in 1992 at Thessaloniki with the scope of upgrading the sustainability and biodiversity in rural areas of Greece. It has implemented projects that aim to protect the mountainous ecosystems, with particular emphasis on bears and big mammals. It was thanks to Arcturos that in 1992 that Greece abolished the “dancing bears” practice.
Arcturos is the only organization that has systematically made the effort for decades to study the brown bears in the territory. The research follows a national action plan for the species protection in cooperation with the local authorities, in order to rehabilitate and reintroduce the brown bear cubs to their natural environment.
How to reach the Sanctuary that is immerged in a natural habitat for the bears
Until today (2021), 16 ex imprisoned bears are guests of the Sanctuary in a 22 hectares area in the region of Florina, Greece, noted as West Macedonia. A beeches forest was created, although the region is considered a natural habitat for the bears. The Sanctuary is divided in three parts, depending on the temperament and origin of the bears.
In order to access the Sanctuary, you park the car at the Nymfeo village. At the entrance of the village there is a big parking space, mostly full of buses. You can get closer to the Sanctuary by car if you drive through the village of Nymfeo, but my advice is to walk instead, since it a short walk and the village is very picturesque. It has only stone made houses and cobblestone streets, which makes it the perfect combination to the Sanctuary if you need to rest for an hour and enjoy a cup of coffee and a short walk.
The Bear Sanctuary is a short walking distance from Nymfeo village, at the end of a rural tree lined road, which is very striking during autumn. The entry fee to the park costs 6 Euro (adult, year 2021) with a guided tour that includes also the entry fee to the Wolves Sanctuary. Then you need a lot of luck to see the bears through a fence set up along the way. If they are out and about, you might get to see them by far or not at all. Or maybe they are ready to hibernate and have just lied down in front of the fence! That is the beauty of the nature!
The Wolves Sanctuary of Agrapida, a safe refuge for other animals
Driving down from the mountain village of Nymfeo, in a short distance you can find the Wolves Sanctuary. It is the only one in Greece where the animals have found a safe refuge. Also, this park is immersed in green, but it is a flat area. The Wolves Sanctuary is run by Arcturos and applies the same principals for the species protection. Here you can see a few wolf species and among them, if you are lucky, a completely white wolf of Italian origin.
Arcturos monitors the wolves’ high speed movements in northern Greece thanks to satellite systems. It is the only organization that carries out systematic studies for the safeguarding of the wolves for more than 15 years. In fact, they have created inside the Sanctuary a reproduction center of the Greek Shepherd dog.
If you are around the cities of Kastoria or Florina, pay a visit to Nymfeo and the Sanctuaries since, it could be an interesting experience for a day trip in autumn or in the summer.
You will be in direct contact with nature and if you are a Greek cuisine lover this region will not let you down since, it is very famous for its typical mountain food and wines. If on the other hand you are a snow lover, the area is ideal to go skiing too. The bears have chosen a lovely location!
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