Valley of the Butterflies

Approximately 16 km south west of Rhodes, is a strange, almost mythical valley, the famous Koilada ton Petaloudon (Valley of the Butterflies). In the summer months it is literally flooded with thousands of butterflies. Covering the trunks of shady plane trees and pine trees they are attracted to the area by the scent of Oriental Sweetgum trees and come to the area in search of respite from the heat. The most common is the Rhodes Butterfly, a rare subspecies of the Jersey Tiger Moth, whose scientific name is Euplagia quadripunctaria rhodosensis.

This unique habitat, containing rare flora and fauna, forms an almost magical landscape composed of many colourful flowers. The valley is 6 km in length and is landscaped with ponds, bridges and paths making it easier for the thousands of visitors, including scientists, who visit each year to enjoy this rare spectacle of nature.

A climb to the top of the valley is very rewarding. On a small plateau on Mount Lefkopoda is the historic monastery dedicated to the Panagia Kalopetra. Tradition says that it was built by Alexandros Ypsilantis, a Greek prince of Wallachia and Moldavia, either after his daughter was cured of tuberculosis by drinking water from a therapeutic spring or after having survived a severe storm at sea guided by a light emanating from the area. By the early 20th century the monastery had become very active in the field of education. It was cenobitic (a monastic tradition that stresses the importance of community life) monastery, with cells accommodating the monks’ living quarters and reading rooms.

Natural History Museum of Petaloudes

Founded due to the need to collect scientific information on the flora and fauna of the valley’s rare habitat coupled with the intention to raise awareness about its ecological importance and the Rhodians love of the beautiful land, the museum is housed in a building originally constructed by the Italians in 1930.

Specially made display cases, replicating the conditions of the natural environment, contain various exhibits, including several endemic and rare species living in the area as well as rocks and mineral. The centrepiece of the museum however is a special incubator where, in a highly controlled greenhouse-like conditions, the life cycle of the various butterflies can be observed.

The museum also serves to monitor and protect the valley ensuring, through a CCTV system, that the passage of tourists does not disturb the site’s delicate ecological balance. Additionally there is a library and a valuable botanical and entomological laboratory which assist scientific research and study into the local ecosystems.

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