Monday, August 27, 2018

Athens International Airport layover trip for Naturalists

Visiting two wetlands close to Athens Airport

Say some really good friends of yours have landed at Athens International Airport, their lay-over is only 3 hours long - can you take them for a nature-culture trip real fast?

Sure, I did this last when Volker and Dilek landed in Athens on their way to Vancouver from Izmir (early May 2016). I'm finally posting some of Volker's photos here. And I'm describing the experience for anyone to consider.

The trip from the Airport to Rafina (via Loutsa and the Artemis Lagoon) is about 16 Km. This experience can be strictly birding oriented (there are many other ideas from the airport as well). The most improtant thing is to realize that you can exit the airport from the Spata-Loutsa(Artemis) road just on the north side of the airport (so in no way should you take the Attiki Odos highway out of the Airport if you want to go to the east coast of Attika).

Stop #1 Artemis Lagoon and beach with a visit to the shrine of Agios Spridon. The view from here is incredible in early morning, even in summer. The Artemis Lagoon is best visited in Spring or Autumn (but winter is great too). In summer it must be early morning, since the beach is crowded and the beach bar music begins at about 9:00.

The small lagoon is great for birders but even non-birders will like the scene. Access to the lagoon is not straightforward (holes in fence) so a guide would help.

Stop #2. Bakery in Rafina. Take some Thessaloniki Rolls, maybe something else. Easy.

Stop #3. Rafina River Mouth. Spectacular at sunrise and even a few hours after that. Bird mostly in Spring and Autumn; winter usually has many gulls with a lull in early and mid summer.

Stop #4. Rafina Harbour. A ferry boat harbour and "almost" fishing harbour with small Cafes for enjoying a real Greek Coffee. Gulls and terns, sometimes cormorants and shag are present in harbour. Shearwaters seen on windy days. The fish monger sell all kinds of fishes, interesting to check this out (ask to take photos). Bustling place in summer, best off-season.

Then its back to the airport same way.

Emblematic at Rafina River mouth is the Little Egret - well one of the largest birds there (Photo Volker Bodegom).

Little-Ringed Plover, they nest at Rafina River. (Photo Volker Bodegom).

Volker got this amazing pic of a dog near a small flock of migrant stilts. At the Rafina River Mouth.(Photo Volker Bodegom).
Stilts at Rafina River Mouth, they are very rare visitors here. More common at Artemis Lagoon where they have nested in the past. (Photo Volker Bodegom).

These are peeps (American birder term). They called Little Stints (Calidris minuta) and are always a thrill to look at. (Photo Volker Bodegom).

Among the Little Stints was this Dunlin. (Photo Volker Bodegom).

At the bakery I am giving my friends a Greek food lesson. (Photo Volker Bodegom).
Yours and Volker at the little church of Agios Spiridon, the City of Artemida in the background. Note the clarity of the seas in this late spring wind-still day.
Fish mongers stall at Rafina Harbour.

Our Greek Coffee break at the harbour of Rafina. 

* A detail about my friend Volker Bodegom: We first met and became good friends in the late '80s in Vancouver (Greenpeace, Western Canada Wilderness Committee). These were times of incredible activism on the West Coast, we where so fortunate to live in these energetic dreamy times - passive resistance seminars, rallies, nature trips, conferences etc etc.. Volker is author of Bicycling Vancouver ( and has edited many works with Lone Pine Publishing... Here in Greece, so far away, we miss him and his lovely wife Dilek.