A little under 40km northeast of Alexandhroúpoli, the Dhadhiá Forest Reserve stretches over 352 square kilometres of protected oak and pine forest covering a succession of volcanic ridges in the Évros Valley. The diversity of landscape and vegetation and the proximity of important migration routes make for an extremely diverse flora and fauna, but raptors are the star attraction, and main impetus for this WWF-backed project. In all, 36 of Europe’s 38 species of diurnal birds of prey, including eagles, falcons, hawks and buzzards, can be sighted at least part of the year. The region is also one of two remaining European homes of the majestic black vulture, the other being the Extremadura region of Spain.

The reserve complex

After a drive of 7km through the rolling, forested hills, you reach the reserve complex, with its information centre and exhibition about the region’s wildlife. All cars – except for a tour van which makes sorties several times daily (€3) – are banned from core areas totalling 72 square kilometres, and foot access is restricted to two marked trails: a two-hour route up to the reserve’s highest point, 520m Gíbrena with its ruined Byzantine castle, and another ninety-minute loop-route to an observation hide overlooking Mavrórema canyon from where griffon vultures and other raptors make up the bulk of sightings.

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