Evros Delta

Thrace

Just southeast of Alexandroupoli, where the Evros River reaches the Aegean, 188 sq km of coastal lakes, lagoons, sand dunes, swamps and reed beds harbour an immensely rich amount of wildlife. In the spring migrations, thousands of wader birds pause here to feed in the nutrient-packed waters. The protected western section, including the Anthia Marshes and Drana Lagoon, is accessible via the visitor centre in Loutra Traianoupolis. The eastern portion is reached via Feres, but is sometimes closed by the military.

Gushing from Bulgaria's Rila Mountains, the 530km-long Evros (Maritsa) River winds through Turkey into Greece's Evros prefecture, where it forms part of the Greece–Turkey border. The delta came under threat in the 1950s due to drainage works that attempted to prepare the land for cultivation. Fortunately, since 1974 half of the delta has come under Ramsar protection, allowing its fauna to flourish.

An incredible 325 bird species have been observed here. Three species of European swan glide through these waters, while geese forage through meadows, including endangered lesser white-fronted geese, who winter here. Meanwhile eagles (spotted, white-tailed and imperial) wheel overhead along with more common buzzards and hen harriers.

There's more to the delta than just feathered friends. Forty species of mammal live around the delta, including prowling wild cats and boar in winter, and sousliks (European ground squirrels) scamper along the banks in summer. The waters are also home to 28 reptile species, including terrapins and water snakes.

To freely explore the eastern section, near Turkey, you should have a police and army permit, arranged two weeks in advance by the visitor centre. Fax or email with your full name, date of birth, passport number and expiry date. In practice, some boat captains based in Feres offer unofficial tours, but it helps to have some Greek.