Decades of David Attenborough documentaries have opened our eyes to our planet’s astonishing biodiversity, from the lush rainforests of the tropics to the vast penguin colonies of Antarctica. Yet with so many fantastic tour operators specialising in wildlife holidays to all corners of the globe, it’s easy to overlook the rich ecosystems and remarkable species that we have on our doorstep here in Europe.
A European wildlife-themed tour is a way to reconnect with nature, learn more about the challenges that our native species face, and discover another side to familiar destinations. It’s also a great option if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint by holidaying closer to home, and you may find you return from your trip with a new-found passion for the natural world, or a desire to learn more about conservation and rewilding.
So this year, why not swap the Serengeti for Spain, the Amazon for the Azores, or the Galapagos for the Outer Hebrides? To inspire your next trip, we’ve picked out seven of the best wildlife destinations in Europe...
The forests of eastern Finland are one of the best places in the world to view brown bears safely at close quarters, and an encounter with these magnificent beasts is an unforgettable experience. Explore! offer a popular 4-day ‘Brown Bear Weekend’ break, where you’ll spend the night in a hide observing bears, with the chance to also see owls, wolverines, foxes and elk.
Spain is not the first country that comes to mind when you think of wildlife, yet this is where you’ll find the world’s most endangered cat species, the Iberian lynx. On Shearings’ 8-day ‘Traditions of Andalucia’ tour you’ll have the opportunity to visit Doñana National Park, situated just a few miles from the Costa del Sol and home to wildlife including lynx, wild boar, mongoose, deer and Spanish eagles.
Iceland is best known for its geothermal wonders and otherworldly landscapes, but it’s also a fantastic wildlife destination, particularly once you take to the water. Discover The World offer a special ‘Into the Blue - Whale Watching in Iceland’ tour which includes whale watching excursions in three different locations, with the chance to spot species including sperm whales, humpbacks and orcas. And keep your eyes peeled for Iceland’s rich birdlife, including puffins, white-tailed eagles, guillemots, kittiwakes and eider ducks.
The craggy coastlines and brooding islands of western Scotland support a magnificent array of wildlife, including dolphins, seals and seabirds galore. Set sail from Oban on St Hilda Sea Adventures’ 5-night ‘Inner Hebrides Wildlife Cruise’ and search for otters, sea eagles and maybe even a spot of sunshine as you cruise amongst misty lochs, ancient forests and colourful fishing harbours.
Belarus is probably not even on your radar as a holiday destination, but this enigmatic former Soviet state is one of the last places where you can still see the primeval forest that once carpeted Europe. On Intrepid’s 9-day ‘Highlights of Belarus’ tour you’ll visit Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, part of the UNESCO-listed Bialowieza Forest, home to centuries-old oak and pine trees, wolves, elk and European bison, the continent’s largest land mammal.
Romania is home to a surprising diversity of landscapes, and much of the country remains wild and untamed. Spend 11 days exploring with Exoticca’s ‘Mysteries of Transylvania & Danube Delta’ tour and you’ll experience the best that the country has to offer, from the mountains that inspired Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ to the incredible birdlife of the Danube Delta. This important wetland habitat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to species including pelicans, egrets, vultures, eagles, cranes and ibis.
This Portuguese archipelago out in the Atlantic is perhaps stretching the geographical definition of Europe, but it’s still a relatively short flight to get here from the UK. On land you’ll find spectacular volcanic scenery, pretty villages and bubbling hot springs, while the surrounding seas are rich in marine life. Saga’s 14-night ‘Whale Watching in the Azores’ itinerary takes you to four different islands in search of cetaceans, with the chance to spot humpback, fin, pilot, sperm and sei whales, bottlenose and common dolphins, and perhaps even the magnificent blue whale
Rajasthan conjures up images of maharajas and palaces and is regarded as one of the most colourful and exciting states in all of India. Marvel at the beauty of this region’s diverse landscapes, as you travel across deserts, lakes and national parks.
Marvel at magnificent temples, see the World Heritage Rock Fortress at Sigiriya, search for elephants and other wild animals at Yala National Park, discover the fascinating caves at Dambulla and explore the ruined cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
This fascinating tour will entice even the most widely travelled individual. Southern India is very different from the north, providing stark contrasts between spices, food, cultures and climate.
From the desert forts of Rajasthan, past the magnificent Taj Mahal and on to holy Varanasi – this tour covers many of northern India’s incredible highlights.
Become acquainted with one of the most vibrant countries in the world. Embark on a journey from the deserts of Rajasthan in the north, to the backwaters of Kerala in the south, to experience this land of extraordinary contrasts.
Enjoy hiking in some of the most beautiful scenery on earth - the spectacular and rugged Rocky Mountains. Visit stunning national parks, including Kootenay, Yoho and Jasper discovering unspoilt views of jagged mountain peaks, glaciers and waterfalls as we explore on foot.
Verdant rainforests and dramatic landscapes are the setting for this hiking adventure in Madagascar.
This trip crosses five Central American countries in just two weeks, taking in rich wildlife, rainforests and volcanoes, as well as sacred Maya sites, revolutionary cities and local indigenous villages.
High amongst lofty mountains, embark on an incredible journey through the breathtaking Indian state of Sikkim and the magical kingdom of Bhutan, a lesser known but truly spectacular section of the Himalayas
Colombia is currently one of South America’s most exciting destinations, with a rich cultural heritage, many areas of outstanding natural beauty and a notoriously friendly and welcoming population.
Joining an adventure deep in to the heart of India, we discover magnificent wildlife and scenery in four different national parks that have one wonderful thing in common: Bengal tigers!
On this trip through Argentina and Chile, we walk among the glacial lakes and mountain ranges of Torres del Paine National Park, discover the captivating city of Buenos Aires and admire views of the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier.
On this trip through Argentina and Chile, we walk among the glacial lakes and mountain ranges of Torres del Paine National Park, discover Buenos Aires and admire views of the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier
Based in the historic town of Tavira, this walking trip combines scenic coastal and inland walking.