Approximately 5km beyond the village of Theologos to the south is Petaloudes, the ‘Valley of the Butterflies’– too renowned, perhaps, for the good of the insects themselves (access by admission fee, July–Sept 8.30–6; unrestricted and free at other times of year). This is a densely wooded valley, coursed with streams and criss-crossed by wooden walk ways and bridges which aim to contain visitor access to the remarkable spectacle of the large numbers of a single species of colourful moth which congregate here during the summer months. Less than 2km uphill, beyond the Petaloudes Valley, is the monastery of Kalopetra, built in 1784 by Alexander Ypsilantis, Prince of Walachia (modern-day southern Ro mania), who had been exiled by the Turkish authorities to Rhodes . The setting is peaceful with fine views. Beyond the turning for Theologos the main coast road passes through Soroni. A turn to the south leads (3km) to the wooded rural monastery chapel and curative spring of Aghios Syllas or Soulas (‘Saul’). The final chapter of Lawrence Durrell’s Reflections on Marine Venus is dedicated to the extraordinary ritual, athletic, racing, eating, dancing and drinking celebrations that occur here on the saint’s feast day (29–30 July), and which are a rich example of the continuity from pagan to modern in the rural Greek world. Petaloudes These are not technically butterflies, but a kind of moth which has habitually been drawn to this valley to mate in the summer by the number of storax trees that grow here. The moth, first studied in the Himalayas but later found on several continents, is a tiger-moth of the species Callimorpha (or Euplagia) Quadripunctaria (the second epithet referring to the pattern of the Roman numeral IV, visible on its upper right wing). They are generally referred to as ‘Jersey tiger moths’ in English. They come in large numbers from around the island and perhaps as far away as the Turkish coast to aestivate here, drawn by the humidity and the presence of the thin and smooth-limbed, Styrax officinalis and Liquidambar orientalis trees which line this valley and whose sweet smelling, golden-coloured resin—a principalredient of incense—attracts them. The moths are present and mating in greatest numbers from July to September, after which time they leave the area to lay their eggs elsewhere. The next generation will return again the following year to the valley. The grey-coloured moths rest with the head pointing downwards and their wings closed: but, if disturbed, they reveal the brilliant orange of their lower wings as they fly— often in considerable numbers—forming a silent, shimmering cloud of colour. Visitors anxious to see this display have for decades disturbed the creatures with clapping and noises, and this in turn has caused a marked decline in numbers. Some recent measures to control access (to the point even of a network of closed-circuit television cameras) as well as strenuous appeals for silence have helped to stem the de cline to some extent. The endemic bellflower Cam panula rhodense can also be seen in this area.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.