Let Greece put a spring in your step as the countryside, emerging from its winter slumber, bursts into a riot of colour.
It is one of the best places in Europe to see wild spring flowers which fill meadows and gorges with all the hues of the rainbow, and you don’t have to be a botanist or flower expert to enjoy the spectacle.
Feast your eyes on the easily recognisable vistas of poppies and anemones – in a variety of colours but mainly every shade of pink, and also a rarer red variety – yellow daisies, iris and gladioli. You may also be lucky enough to spot orchids – indeed, in some places they grow like roadside weeds.
Many of the flowers are steeped in Greek mythology, whose influence is clear from the number of names so familiar to us today.
Anemones are said to have emerged from the tears of Aphrodite as she mourned the death of lover Adonis while iris was named after the goddess of the rainbow.
It is difficult to single out a particular place to enjoy the annual rites of spring. However, the Peloponnese is one of the best on the mainland and among the islands Greece’s largest, Crete, boasts a world biosphere reserve in the Samaria Gorge.
Among the tall, ancient cypresses, the gorge is home to numerous shrubs and herbs – including healing dittany, familiar to Harry Potter readers – and plants like the peony, cyclamen, crocus and more orchids, including the rare, endemic cephalanthera cucullata.
High waters may make the 16km gorge impassable from winter to early spring, however, so it’s worth checking before a visit.
Apart from the wildflowers another bonus of visiting Greece and her islands in the spring is that it is the time for orange blossom – heaven scent, indeed.
You can find groves near most destinations, including popular Zante, which is also home to anacamptis orchids and local varieties of limonium, woodruff and micromeria, while among the Cyclades the volcanic sweep of Santorini is a spectacular setting for flowers including purple papavers and capers.
Poet and writer Vita Sackville-West was so impressed by the ‘mats of the wild flowers of Greece’ after visiting Crete, as well as Delos, in the 1930s that she set about trying to recreate the experience at her Sissinghurst Castle home in Kent.
The famous garden is now owned by the National Trust and this area is being reworked under the guidance of Chelsea gold medal winning garden designer Dan Pearson.