Whether you’re after a two-week getaway or a short weekend break, wildlife holidays in Europe will be packed full of surprises. Find your perfect trip here.
Why choose Wildlife Holidays in Europe?
Our second smallest continent really is something a little bit special.
The Guinness World Records says that it takes just 24 hours to drive across 17 countries in Europe. But whoever did that wasn’t hoping to spot a Cantabrian Brown Bear or a nesting Crane. Europe is home to a staggering 1,000 species of birds, mammals and plants, and has over 200 types of habitat. Here you’ll see some of the most stunning scenery in the world that is wonderfully rich in wildlife.
Photo credit: More Than Birds, Brown Bear, Spain
While we might think of Europe as a place of city breaks and delicious local dishes, step into the countryside and there is a whole new world out there waiting to be explored. Just head to the luscious, green wetlands of southern Spain or the icy tops of the Alps and you’ll take in Europe’s astonishing variety for yourself.
Europe’s Surprising Wildlife
The diversity of wildlife you’ll see in Europe is astounding. From the slinking Eurasian Lynx deep in the deciduous forests of Russia and Western Europe to the clown-faced Puffin found diving off the coasts of Britain and Northern Europe – you can find animals and birds in the most spectacular of places.
Photo credit: Living Doñana, Sergio Gonzalez, Iberian Lynx, Spain
Reindeer, Brown Bears and Ibex are among the many large mammals roaming across Scandinavia, Spain and Italy, while Northern Gannets, Great Bustards, Bearded Vultures and Cranes soar through the skies.
Certain species are endemic solely to Europe. While there are 700 bird species across Europe, just ten of these can be found nowhere else in the world. These include the European Crested Tit with its high, trilling call, and the Spanish Imperial Eagle, with its 2.2m wingspan.
Rewilding the Continent
In recent years, many species have been almost completely lost from their natural habitats. That’s why there are many important conservations projects underway to bring animals back from the brink. Rewilding Europe is an organisation helping wildlife and making the continent an even more exciting place for nature-lovers.
Projects in the Danube Delta – in Romania and Ukraine where the Danube meets the Black Sea – have seen incredible comebacks. In 2014 beavers bred in the area for the first time in 200 years! There is also been a healthy population of wild boar, white-tailed eagles and golden jackal numbers in the area.
Photo credit: Bunica Maria, Lorenzo Sestieri, White-tailed Eagle, Romania
With these projects on the increase and so much out there to see, there’s never been a more exciting time for you to book your wildlife holiday in Europe!
The Best Short Wildlife Breaks in Europe
Got a spare weekend coming up? A short break is perfect for giving you some wildlife wins.
Doñana National Park
A real paradise for bird-life. Doñana National Park in Andalusia, Southern Spain, is considered one of the most important areas for wildlife in Europe. At more than 200 sq km, it is home to many waterfowl including Marbled Teal and White-Headed Ducks as well as raptors such as the Egyptian Vulture.
One holiday to this fascinating range of habitats will make you want to return time and again. Get to know the stone pine woodland, reedbeds, rice paddies, open grassland and heathland, freshwater pools and coastal sand dunes and Doñana’s famous marshes. It’s no wonder this National Park is a haven for birds!
The Strait of Gibraltar is right at the centre of the world’s best bird migrations. At 14km across, the Strait is the smallest stretch of water between Europe and Africa, making it the ideal place for birds to cross the Mediterranean every spring and autumn.
Thousands of raptors like the Short-Toed Snake Eagle and Griffon Vulture can be seen making the flight, buoyed by the uplifts rising from the Rock of Gibraltar. But lookout to the water and you’ll find rare seabirds too, including Scopoli´s and Balearic Shearwater and Storm Petrels, meaning you’ll never be short of things to spot in just a short trip.
Ebro Delta birding
Another incredible region of Spain is the Ebro Delta in Catalonia. Lying halfway between Barcelona and Valencia, on a wildlife tour here you’re in with the chance of seeing rare herons like the Little Bittern and raptors such as the Red-Footed Falcon.
Photo credit: Ebro Delta Birding, Al Henderson, Greater Flamingo, Spain
Why not take a boat trip up the Ebro, Spain’s longest river? Here you’ll spot waders like the Black-Winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis and plenty of Flamingoes as you make your way through this beautifully rugged wetland.
Yorkshire wildlife safaris
The UK also has a lot to give. A birding trip along the Flamborough and Filey coastline means seabirds galore.
Photo credit: Yorkshire Coast Nature, Steve Race, Puffin, England
Sit back with a cup of Yorkshire tea while spotting Honey Buzzards, Goshawks, Fulmars and Puffins in this very special location in England. Why not try a day trip or maybe a long weekend so you can really get your fill of Yorkshire sea air?
Birding in North Wales
Whatever the weather, birding in Wales always has something special to offer. With its array of habitats including rocky coastal cliffs, scenic lakes and blanket bog, North Wales is a hotspot for Choughs, Puffins, Kestrels and a massive troop of waders.
Explore national favourites like the Great Orme, Colwyn Bay and the remote outskirts of Anglesey to get your wildlife fix!
The best wildlife holidays in Europe
But, sometimes a short stay just isn’t enough! Take a look at the breath-taking birds and beasts a longer wildlife holiday in Europe can bring.
Danube Delta in Romania
Purple Herons, Pelicans and plenty of ducks – this region of intricately woven marshes and lakes is packed with 300 species of bird. How will you know where to look first?
Photo credit: Bunica Maria, Andrei Prodan, Pelicans, Romania
The Danube Delta in Romania, where the Danube meets the Black Sea, is the home of many successful conservation projects and is now deeply rich in wildlife. Discover many different waders and waterfowl as well as the East Asian Raccoon Dog, Wild Cats, Wild Boars and the Eurasian Otter.
The Delta is the second largest in Europe and truly holds something for everyone.
Brown bears in Spain
Catch a glimpse of rare Cantabrian Brown Bears across the north of Spain. These incredible creatures (Ursus arctos) live in isolated pockets in the west Cantabrian Mountains. While they were almost extinct in the 1980s, this isolated Brown Bear population is now starting to recover – and you can see them in their natural habitat!
Take a wildlife trip to discover these majestic bears as they come to life at sunrise and sunset. Watch through telescopes to follow the life of the Brown Bear and uncover its secret world deep in the wilderness.
Iberian lynx tours
The Iberian Lynx, found in south-western Spain, is famous for its spotted tawny coat and distinctive bearded face with long black ear tufts. This beautiful cat can grow up to a metre in length and is a sight to behold as it stalks and pounces on its prey!
Photo credit: Living Doñana, Sergio Gonzalez, Iberian Lynx, Spain
Grand-scale conservation efforts in the past two decades have brought the Iberian Lynx back from near extinction. From just 100 of these stunning creatures left in 2002, there are now 404 Iberian Lynx across Spain. Now is the best time to see the Iberian Lynx in over a century.
Iberian Lynx Conservation
It is quite amazing how successful the Iberian Lynx reintroduction programme has been and the results achieved in less than four years. They are a magnificent animal to see in the wild, and there are starting to be sightings beyond the heartlands of Andalucia.
Martin Kelsey, Birding Extremadura
Birding in Extremadura
Head over to raptor central as you explore Extremadura. Just one of the many incredible wildlife holiday destinations that Spain has to offer, lying south-west of Madrid on the Portugal border, tours can get you close-up and personal with the breath-taking Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle and Booted Eagle.
Photo credit: Martin Kelsey, Birding Extremadura, Spanish Imperial Eagle
Head across the farmland and mountains of the region and you might even be in with the chance to see the Lesser Kestrel and the Eurasian Black Vulture. This truly is a top spot for Europe’s most exciting birds of prey.
Wildlife Specialist Tip
The cork oak forests of Extremadura and Andalucía are home to the mighty Spanish Imperial Eagle. This very rare species, found only in the Iberian Peninsula, has come back from the brink of extinction in recent years. At one point, the world population was down to as few as fifty pairs; but today, thanks to careful conservation measures, there are almost 400 breeding pairs.
Pyrenees and Alps Tours
If you’re looking for postcard-perfect scenery and an extreme landscape for your holiday destination, then look no further than a wildlife tour of the Alps and Pyrenees. Test your stamina with a hike up to high altitudes where you’ll get 360-degree views of rural France and Spain.
Photo credit: Salva Fauna, Jonathan Guillot, Alpine Ibex, France
Alpine flora is amongst some of the most exciting and delicate in the world so keep a swift eye to the ground. Book a trip to the Alps if you want to find some of the world’s rarest orchids including the Lady’s Slipper Orchid and birds like the Alpine Chough and Rock Ptarmigan. These unforgettable places could be the wildlife trip of a lifetime.
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Dolphin and whales in the Azores
Currently one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries, the Azores is the perfect place to see whales. Located 1,500 kilometres off the coast of mainland Portugal, the Azores is the brightest wildlife gem in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Azores, Portugal
Throughout April and May, Blue, Sei and Fin whales are at the top of your must-see list, while humpback whales can be seen closer to the end of the season in October. You can spot Sperm Whales all year round, as can cetaceans like Bottlenose, Atlantic Spotted and Common Dolphins.
Not only is the Azores a hotspot for wildlife, the volcanic scenery that shapes the island is absolutely breath-taking. Once you’ve had your fill of whale watching, there’s plenty of time to kick back in the sun on these tropical islands.
Wolf watching in Scandinavia
Step off the plane in Sweden and head into the wild. Wolves are waiting.
It may come as a surprise that Eurasian Wolves were hunted to extinction in Sweden up until the 1960s. It was only when a pack of three hardy hounds came across from Russia that this now-protected species began to flourish.
Eurasian Wolf, Sweden
Today you can head to the deepest, darkest pine forests in Scandinavia to find out how to spot these amazing creatures. Their piercing gaze and howling call has put them at the height of the animal kingdom in Europe – and it’s not hard to see why. There are now more than 300 Eurasian Wolves in more than 40 different family groups across the country – we know you can’t wait to see them!
So whatever your favourite kind of trip, there is a wildlife holiday in Europe waiting for you. To find out more about wildlife holidays in Europe with local wildlife specialists, click here.
Jennifer Lane is a freelance nature and outdoor writer based in Manchester.
She has a varied career in magazine publishing and has written for the RSPB and British Vogue about her ‘unusual’ birdwatching hobby. In 2018 she won a Northern Writers’ Award for fiction and is currently working on her third novel for children.
Follow her hiking and wildlife trips on Twitter and Instagram.
Originally Published on: 22 Oct 2020