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Dates & Prices


Dates: 21 – 28 June 2019 TBC

Price: £1,395

Single Room Supplement: £200

Deposit: £150 per person

Price Includes: All meals, accommodation, ground transport, services of guides, ferry & entrance tickets, holiday report and donation to Butterfly Conservation

Not Included: Flights, travel insurance, drinks and any other personal items.

Conservation Donation: 10% of profits donated to Butterfly Conservation.

Leader: Tõnis Tasane + Jon Dunn

Group Size & Travel: Minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 guests plus 1-2 leaders.

Grade: Gentle paced and generally easy

Holiday Highlights

  • Enjoy butterflies such as Baltic Grayling, Scarce Heath, Scarce Fritillary, Bog Fritillary, Cranberry Blue, Woodland Brown, Large Copper, Clouded Apollo, Northern Chequered Skipper, Poplar Admiral etc
  • Led by first class team, including Jon Dunn (experienced guide & author of forthcoming book Orchid Summer)
  • Several nights of moth trapping
  • A wildlife wilderness featuring a diverse range of habitats – including flower rich meadows, natural forests and massive bogs
  • Wide selection of dragonflies too; Bog & Baltic Hawker, Arctic Bluet, Ruby, Yellow-spotted and Dark Whitefaces 
  • Floral delights – including several orchids such as the beautiful Lady’s Slipper Orchid & the endemic Saaremaa Marsh Orchid
  • Tour supports Butterfly Conservation

An exclusive holiday opportunity to enjoy the butterflies, moths & flora of Estonia, led by leading local lepidopterist Erki Õunap & Orchid Summer author Jon Dunn!


An exclusive and unique holiday led by a leading Estonian lepidopterist, featuring a fine selection of butterfly & moth species as Baltic Grayling, Scarce Heath, Scarce Fritillary, Bog Fritillary, Cranberry Blue, Woodland Brown, Large Copper, Poplar Admiral & Northern Chequered Skipper

Woodland Brown

Despite its small size and northern position Estonia is a wonderful place to see butterflies and dragonflies.  Because of its history, large parts of the country have remained completely wild, while farming methods in many areas are not intensive, resulting in a mosaic of excellent habitats such as numerous flowery meadows, natural forests and massive bog areas.  As a result we have many insect species which are rare elsewhere in Europe, such as Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne), Moorland Clouded Yellow (Colias palaeno), Large Copper (Lucaena dispar), Siberian Winter Damsel (Sympecma paedisca) and Lilypad Whiteface (Leucorrhinia caudalis).

There is a large overlap of southern and northern species here.  Many species with a more northern distribution reach the southern part of their range including butterflies such as Baltic Grayling (Oeneis jutta), Lapland Ringlet (Erebia embla) and Northern Chequered Skipper (Carterocephal silvicolus) plus dragonflies like Bog Hawker (Aeshna subarctica) and Arctic Bluet (Coenagrion johanssoni).  Weaver’s Fritillary (Clossiana dia), Woodland Brown (Lopinga achine) and many other species reach their furthest north, particularly where limstone reaches the surface.  For other species this is the centre of their distribution in Europe including several of the delightful ’Whiteface’ dragonflies such as Ruby, Yellow-spotted and Dark Whitefaces (Leucorrhinia rubicunda, L. pectoralis and L. albifrons) as well as the coastal Baltic Hawker (Aeshan serrata) and butterflies such as Cranberry Blue (Plebejus optilete) Bog Fritillary (Proclossiana eunomia) and Cranberry Fritillary (Boloria aquilonaris).

Outline itinerary (see more details by clicking on the holiday itinerary tab above)

Day 1 Arrive in Tallinn & travel to central Estonia

Day 2 Rabivere & Aegviidu

Day 3 To South-East Estonia, Kärkna & Laeva

Day 4 Järvselja & Uulika

Day 5 Piusa & Värska

Day 6 To Saaremaa, Puhtu-Laelatu

Day 7 Saaremaa island

Day 8 Departure

Day 1 TALLINN, to central Estonia: We will pick up you from Tallinn Airport and drive to the central region of Estonia. After the check-in at the hotel (Hansa Hotel or similar) we will have a first dinner together and discuss our plans for the week ahead.

Day 2 RABIVERE & AEGVIIDU:  Today we will visit Rabivere Bog and Aegviidu military area. The landscape of Aegviidu military area offers lakes alternating with glacial eskers and moraine drumlins. This area, together with Kõrvemaa military polygon is called ‘Estonia’s Switzerland’.  The area is most attractive for butterfly enthusiasts in midsummer, as peat bogs alternating with dry sandy habitats create a basis for an particularly interesting complex of butterflies where bog species can be found side by side with dry heathland specialists. For example, Moorland Clouded Yellow (Colias palaeno), Large Blue (Maculinea arion), Eastern Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes vicrama), Cranberry Fritillary (Boloria aquilonaris) and Titania’s Fritillary (Clossiana titania) can all be seen within only few hundred meters during a good day in early July.

Rabivere Bog provides some historical thrill, as artifacts dating from the 17th century have been found (including a woman’s buried body with clothing and silver jewelry, well conserved in the acidic peat). It was once a lake that has been gradually changing into swamp. There are interesting karst areas around the bog, while the water that is flowing out from the bog, disappears quickly under the ground. In addition to Early Marsh Orchid one can find other notable plants such as Saussurea esthonica – an Estonian endemic. Butterfly species are good here, for example Bog Fritillary (Proclossiana eunomia), Frigga Fritillary (Clossiana frigga), Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia), Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) and others. Dinner at the guesthouse (Mooste Viinavabrik Guesthouse).

Day 3 South-East Estonia, KÄRKNA & LAEVA: Early in the morning, we will enjoy a mammal safari searching for Elk, Wild Boar, Red and Roe Deer. An open vehicle will help us to get good views of the different mammal species. The area is a mixture of old forest, open clearings and fields. The safari trip passes several feeding stations for Elk and Wild Boar where both mammals can be seen regularly. We will also try to get sightings of another nocturnal mammal – Raccoon Dog.

On our way to South-East Estonia we will visit Kärkna forest near Tartu town. The remarkable fact is that we have almost continuous forestry data from this site since 1844. Therefore thorough forestry studies have been taken place here, now statistically linked with GIS. In Kärkna, founded in the early 13th century at a major ancient road there once was a Cistercian monastery, demolished by the Russian army in 1559. The most interesting butterfly species here are Scarce Fritillary (Euphydryas maturna), Woodland Brown (Lopinga achine), Poplar Admiral (Limenitis populi), White Admiral (Limenitis camilla), Purple Emperor (Apatura iris), Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia), Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas) and White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album).

The nearby area Laeva is a well known site for good raptors – so it is always worth looking up to check the sky. Quite often Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles can be found hunting in this area. The bog itself is good breeding habitat for several birds, such as Wood Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Red-backed and Great Grey Shrike. We will arrive to Mooste later in the afternoon and eat our dinner at the Mooste Viinavabrik Guesthouse.

Day 4 UULIKA BOG  &  JÄRVSELJA FOREST: Today we will go to Uulika bog in Tartumaa County, not far from Lake Peipsi. The bog is a rather compact massif about 2km x 3 km, next to valuable virgin forests of Järvselja reserve. Several valuable protected  species can be found there – in the surrounds one can encounter Ural and Eurasian Pygmy-Owl and Three-toad Woodpecker.  In small forest roads – a Hazel Hen might suprise you and Red-breasted Flycatchers are not uncommon here. Creeping Lady’s Tresses and Wolf’s-foot Clubmoss grow in the surrounding forest. Potential butterfly species are Cranberry Blue (Vacciniina optilete), Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus),Idas Blue (Plebejus idas), Moorland Clouded Yellow (Colias palaeno), and if you are VERY lucky, some worn specimens of Bog Fritillary (Proclossiana eunomia).

After lunch we will have a few kilometers walk around Järvselja along the forest roads. Järvselja is surrounded mostly by moist habitats, target species would therefore be Large Chequered Skipper (Heteropterus morpheus), Large Copper (Lycaena dispar) and Pallas’ fritillary (Argynnis laodice).

Järvselja is also famous for a high diversity of longhorn beetles, as several Estonian rarities (Pachyta lamed Leptura thoracica, Anoplodera variicornis and Necydalis major) have been recorded here. Careful checking of flowering umbellifers is therefore certainly worth considering. Dinner and overnight will be at the Toosikannu Ale-Sepa Guesthouse.

Day 5 PIUSA  &  VÄRSKA: The first destination of the day will be a railroad dam and surrounding heath forests with pine-trees near Piusa and Veski villages, South-East Estonia. This location with its partly forested and partly opened xeric/mesic sites are by far among Estonia’s most species-rich butterfly sites. These sandy sites are of high botanical interest. The most interesting species are Arenaria procera, Yellowgreen Catchfly (Silene chlorantha), natural Hen and Chickens Houseleek (Jovibarba sobolifera), Sheep’s Bit (Jasione montana), Dwarf Everlast (Helichrysum arenarium), several wintergreen and orchid species. Lepidoptera highlights include Large Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus alveus), Moorland Clouded Yellow (Colias palaeno), Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia), Pearly Heath (Coenonympha arcania), Sooty Copper (Lycaena tityrus), Purple-edged Copper (Lycaena hippothoe), Purple-shot Copper (Lycaena alciphron) etc. There is a slight possibility to see Large Blue (Maculinea arion) as well but the abundance of this species in Piusa region has severly declined during recent years.

It is also good site to get sightings of Greenish Warbler, an eastern bird speciality and quite often Golden Orioles can be heard calling in nearby forests. If you are lucky you may find some breeding woodpeckers, especially Black and Grey-headed Woodpecker.

After a nice lunch at local tourist farm we will stroll along a boardwalk at Kuresoo bog near Värska, in order to see more interesting butterfly species, such as Cranberry Fritillary (Boloria aquilonaris) and Cranberry Blue (Plebejus optilete). Dinner and overnight will be at the Toosikannu Ale-Sepa Guesthouse.

Day 6 To Saaremaa, PUHTU-LAELATU: On our way to Saaremaa island, we will visit Puhtu-Laelatu Nature Reserve. Wooded meadows are sparse natural stands with a grass cover that needs regular mowing and they are the most species-rich ecosystems in Estonia. Some plant communities of wooded meadows are among the most species-rich in the world. The best example of that will be Laelatu Wooded meadow with up to 76 vascular plants per square metre! Walking through the woods we may find Early Purple & Bird´s-nest Orchids, Bulbous Bittercress, Norfolk Scullcap, White Swallow-wort and some naturalized Martagon Lilies.

Later in the afternoon we will take a ferry to Muhu island and drive westward. After check-in and a short rest we will eat our dinner at Pilguse Guesthouse or similar.

Day 7 KOGULA  ALVAR  &  VIIDUMÄEToday we reach Saaremaa island which is the largest island in the Moonsund archipelago. This part of Estonia is mostly either dry alvar-like landscape or wooded meadows, partly overgrown by deciduous woods. There are also many small and shallow bays on clayen shingle soils, therefore partly overgrown with reeds and other macrophytes (bulrushes, cattails, bur-reeds and water parsnips), there are also sea-shore meadows and with Sea Milkwort, Blackgrass and Creeping Bentgrass and dunes with Spurious Butterbur, Marsh and Dark-red Helleborine.

The day begins by visiting Kogula alvar, which is situated between Kuressaare and Viidumäe reserve. Alvar meadows in Saaremaa are usually on very thin calcareous soils with limestone bedrock. Soil may occasionally be missing, while bare shingle is exposed. Yellow Bedstraw, Mountain Everlasting (Catsfoot), Sheep’s Fescue, Pyramidal Orchid, Musk Orchid, Green Strawberry (Fragaria viridis), Snowdrop Windflower, Lady’s Fingers, Goldmoss and White Stonecrop – these are some plant species from these communities.

We also expect lots of butterflies such as Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia), Nickerl’s Fritillary (Mellicta aurelia), Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina), Large Blue (Maculinea arion), Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) and the Small Blue (Cupido minimus) and others. Juniper trees growing in this alvar is another great habitat for passerines, like Scarlet Rosefinch, Red-backed Shrike and Barred Warbler.

After a lunch at Lümanda the next stop will be in the Viidumäe Nature reserve (Mäepea wooded meadow). Viidumäe is famous for its historically evolved semi-natural diversity. There are several different wood ecosystems, fens, swamps, wooded meadows and alvar meadows around. The Rauna Hill nearby Viidumäe was emerging from the early Ancylus Lake stage of the Baltic Sea about 10 000 years ago, while later sea stages have broken some coastal cliff formations, now situated quite in the middle of the island. More than 700 species of vascular plant species are found here (including endemic Rhinanthus osiliensis). The fauna of butterflies and moths consist of 675 species. Let us name some of them: Woodland Brown (Lopinga achine), Scarce Fritillary (Euphydryas maturna), in late June  Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja). Viidumäe is also good place for several forest birds, like Nutcracker and Red-breasted Flycatcher. At night we will have the chance to do some moth trapping. Dinner will be at the Pilguse Guesthouse or similar.

Day 8 Departure: We will return to Tallinn for homeward flights.

John, Estonia 2015…

A fascinating tour in one of Europe’s less well-known butterfly hot spots with plenty of interesting Northern European species to see. Well chosen hotels in quiet locations. The first one in the converted vodka distillery was particularly interesting with a beautiful lakeside setting. Although the weather was far from ideal we still managed to find a lot of interesting butterfly species. It was particularly good to spend some time with Erki who advised us well about what we were likely to see and where to go. We would not have found the Moorland Clouded Yellow site if he hadn’t taken us there. I would recommend this trip highly to anyone who is seeking a European holiday in somewhere other than the traditional ‘alpine’ butterfly locations.

Great personal service with helpful & knowledgeable guides on all kinds of wildlife. Our guide Rob has excellent butterfly knowledge, is very calm and patient and has a great way of interacting with the clients. He made sure I didn’t miss any of the goodies that were found. The local guides were knowledgeable, skilled, enthusiastic and keen to give us an authentic Estonian experience. Two very interesting and contrasting areas of Estonia chosen to be based in. Breakfast buffets were excellent at the first location and very good at the second location. The lady who took us out on the last day for our Tallinn tour was very knowledgeable and was very open to our weird request of including a trip to the natural history museum in it. She stayed over her allotted time and was in no hurry to dump us when our time was up. The trip report was also made an excellent souvenir of a truly memorable holiday!