It is a verdant canyon, approximately one kilometer long, with ferns, plane trees, oak trees, pine trees, bay laurels and oriental sweetgum trees (“zities”). In fact, this is the only forest in Greece that includes oriental sweetgum trees (Liquidamar orientalis). A small river runs through the forest and in several places it forms waterfalls. Alongside the river a defined path follows its course. On the route, there are little bridges, steps, benches, all made of wood.
Here, from June through September, the butterflies of the Panaxia quadripunctaria species appear, which you will also meet under the synonym Callimorpha quadripunctaria. They are the ones with four orange dots on each wing. They are attracted by the scent of the juice secreted by the oriental sweetgum trees (which resemble plane trees). This butterfly species lives in other places on Rhodes as well, where there is abundant water (e.g. Salakos), but this is the only place so many of them gather together.
Butterflies sleep during the day and any disturbance of their sleep would result in unjustifiable loss of energy. So, leaving the path, smoking, whistling, clapping and shouting are forbidden. A few years ago the river waters had reduced due to extended periods of drought. The butterflies disappeared year after year and no one suspected the moisture deficiency. A study carried out by the Department of Environment of the University of the Aegean provided the solution with the use of a recycling system for the water in the ravine.
At the highest point of the trail in the Valley of the Butterflies is located the monastery of Kalopetra, built by Dimitris Ypsilantis in 1782.
– Entry to the Valley of the Butterflies is permitted the period from May 1st to October 31st, between 08:00 and 16:00.
– The valley is closed in winter.
– An old Italian mill by the river has turned into a refreshment bar-restaurant for visitors.
– In the same area there is a small museum of natural history, featuring samples of the valley’s flora and fauna, a butterfly hatchery –where a number of living butterflies reproduce and are sustained in a specially designed conservatory– and many butterfly species.