For the real adventurer, an Arctic wilderness trip offers incredible opportunities to see some of the most majestic animals in their natural habitat. On the island of Spitsbergen, you can spot polar bears, walruses, narwhal and beluga whales, and Arctic foxes.
Over in Norway and Iceland, an abundance of stunning wildlife makes for fabulous photography opportunities, from orcas, humpback and killer whales, to puffins, eagles, elk and dolphins. And, of course, there's also the possibility of seeing the sky awash with the Northern Lights.
Track the mysterious grey wolf in Sweden, or spend the night in your own lodge hide while getting up close to brown bears and wolverines in Finland.
Thought you had to head to South America to see a flamingo? Think again! They can be viewed in their thousands in the wetlands of the Camargue region in southern France, along with the area's beautiful white wild horses.
And did you know that you can actually see a magical blue whale in Europe? At up to 98ft in length, it is the largest animal known to have ever existed. And you can take a four-hour trip to the Azores, an island in the North Atlantic, and possibly see these majestic creatures on their annual migratory journey. The Azores is known as something of a whale sanctuary, with 25 different species passing through the islands.
If you're looking for a bit of heat with your wildlife-watching trip, fly into Montenegro and track the elusive and rare Balkan lynx.
Closer to home, the Scottish Highlands offers a wealth of wildlife experiences, boasting puffins, whales, seals, dolphins, and even the golden eagle amongst its dramatic landscape.
See our round-up of the best Europe safari holidays below.
European safari holidays
European safari holidays
You don’t have to jet off to Baja California to see the mighty blue whale - it can be found making its annual migratory journey north past the unspoilt islands of the Azores, off the coast of Portugal. Fin whales, humpback whales, sperm whales and dolphins are just some of the other wonderful cetaceans that you'll be watching out for in the spring and early summer - good times for spotting both migrating and resident whales and dolphins. The islands of the Azores are also a Geopark – a nationally protected area which works closely with UNESCO – and recognised as an important area for whale and dolphin watching with some 25 different species passing through or frequenting the waters. Book it: Saga Holidays offers 14 nights from £2,149pp based on departure 7 April 2018. Price includes: 14 nights in hotels; 14 breakfasts, four lunches and 13 dinners; return flights and transfers; expert wildlife host; and a local guide. Visit saga.co.uk/specialinterest
or call 0800 092 0803.
In the winter months, large numbers of herring migrate to Andfjorden, which attracts large groups of killer whale, together with fin, minke, sperm and humpback whales. Enjoy a short break, based in the Norwegian village of Andenes, that offers three four-hour whale watching trips, accompanied by marine biologists. On these boat trips, you may also spot white-sided dolphin or the white-tailed eagle. Other highlights include: a guided evening walk to Andenes harbour to spot the Northern Lights - positioned overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this is the perfect location for excellent photographic opportunities; a morning elk safari amidst the snow-covered landscapes – these elusive mammals can often be seen in the early hours after sunrise; and a trip to Inga Sami Siida – a small Sami family business located on Hinnoya – to experience Joik (traditional song of the Sami people) and feed the reindeer. Book it: Wildlife Worldwide offer a four-night trip. Priced from £1,695pp sharing, including return international flights from the UK (London to Andenes, via Oslo and Tromso / Bodo and Oslo), 4 nights’ B&B accommodation, three whale watching boat trips, Northern Lights excursion and moose/elk safari with Wildlife Worldwide. Visit wildlifeworldwide.com or call 01962 302086.
For a real adventure, take a Jeep Safari into the Camargue – flamingos, white horses, black bulls and over 400 species of birds can be seen here up close and personal. You’ll be awed by the sight of flamingos in their thousands standing together in many of the park’s shallow expanses of water. The famous Camargue white horses also roam wild here and it is possible to stop and stroke them and see their beauty first hand as they graze in fields. Plus there is so much more from black bulls to rare birds and many variety of waterfowl. Each jeep driver has incredible local knowledge and you’ll learn interesting facts like what makes the flamingos pink (they are born white). Book it: This trip can be enjoyed whilst on a Rhone Route Mediterranean river cruise with A-ROSA from Lyon down to the Med and back. Priced from £1349pp in July 2018 to include deluxe cruise accommodation with all meals and drinks, a private VIP home pick-up service (within 50 miles of departure airport), Eurostar travel to Lyon and overseas transfers. Based on two sharing. Visit cosmos.co.uk or call 0800 440 2797.
Sweden has an inordinate amount of animal life with moose, roe deer beavers, foxes and red squirrels all to be found. Head out on a wildlife tour in Bergslagen Forest, Skinnskatteberg - a haven for moose, beavers and wolves and just two hours’ drive from Stockholm. Following a guide on a four-day Sweden wildlife tour lets you learn as you explore with bird calls deciphered and animal tracks uncovered, especially when tracking through the realm of the wolf. Book it: Responsible Travel offers four-day wildlife tour from £874pp excluding flights. Price includes: 3 nights’ accommodation, 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 3 evening meals. There are weekly departures through July and one departure in August and September. Visit responsibletravel.com or call 01273823700.
Embark on an action-packed adventure in the remote wilderness of the island of Spitsbergen, where you can spot the mighty polar bear. Best Served Scandinavia offer an action-packed escape to Nordenskiöld Lodge, at the edge of the blue glacier on the shore of a faraway ice fjord. You’ll kick off in Norway’s capital Oslo where there’s a day to explore the city’s museums and galleries. A flight the next day takes you up North to Svalbard’s largest town, Longyearbyen for a night at the Basecamp Hotel before heading off for thrilling days of Arctic exploration. The journey then continues north to Billefjorden and Adolfbukta passing wildlife that might include walruses, belugas and polar bears. There’ll also be glacier hiking, kayaking, sea safaris and guided nature tours that explore the unique flora, fauna and landscapes of the lodge’s stunning setting. You’re never far from Arctic wildlife in this remote setting – with seals, whales, Arctic foxes and, if you’re lucky, the magnificent polar bear all having been spotted close to the lodge. Each evening, return to the lodge for relaxing hot tub soaks and delicious dinners, including a shore-side barbecue on day three. Book it:Best Served Scandinavia offer an 8-day tailor-made tour from £2,785 per person including flights, 1 night Saga Hotel on a B&B basis in Oslo, 2 nights Basecamp Trapper’s Hotel on a B&B basis, 4 nights Nordenskiöld Lodge on a full-board basis, and all activities at Nordenskiöld Lodge. Visit best-served-.co.uk.
North Cyprus boasts miles of unspoilt coastline and Alagadi Beach, a prime spot just a few kilometres east of Kyrenia, is amongst the island's finest. Flanked by the majestic Five Finger Mountains and not a sun bed in site, it is little wonder that endangered Green and Loggerhead turtles have chosen to make this their home. Time a visit just right and you could be lucky enough to see the turtles both nesting and hatching: nesting peaks in late June/early July and can be observed until early August, nest excavations and hatchling releases take place from 20 July until late September. The Marine Turtle Research Group has been carrying out important conservation work in North Cyprus for over twenty years. Turtle numbers are dwindling, to the extent there are thought to be just 400 Green and 2,000 Loggerhead females breeding each year in the entire Mediterranean. The biggest threats to their existence include habitat loss, incidental capture by fishermen and climate change. North Cyprus boasts some of the last undeveloped sandy beaches in the Mediterranean, and it is this which makes it so attractive to the turtles. If you want to experience something really special during your holiday in North Cyprus, it is possible to get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures by volunteering or arranging, in advance, to participate in a night watch, nest excavation or hatchling release. Visit:Cyprusturtles.org and welcometonorthcyprus.org.
Visit the National Park of Prokletije and the remote mountains of Hajla to spot animals such as Balkan wolves and jackals, bears, roe deer, chamois, badgers and the elusive Balkan lynx. The Balkan Lynx is considered ‘critically endangered‘ on the IUCN Red List. It’s also a great spot to go hiking in the country’s breathtaking mountains, discover Montenegrin culture, the fabulous hospitality of its population and its gastronomy. Book it: Evaneos Travel offers a 10-day package tracking the Balkan Lynx. Prices start from £1,310 per person, excluding international flights. Package includes accommodation, meals, transfers, guides and park fees. Visit evaneos-travel.com or call 0117 205 0264.
Much of eastern Finland, close to the border with Russia, is carpeted in unspoilt and wildly beautiful taiga forests that are home to native wildlife. -You can go on a holiday where each night is spent in lodge hides, offering the rare opportunity to get up close and photograph some of Europe’s last brown bears, as well as learn about Finland’s local carnivores, from wolves and wolverines to lynx. For birders, there’s the chance to look for eagles and even spot some of Finland’s famous owls – the great grey owl, hawk owl and pygmy owl. Book it:Regent Holidays offers a seven-day Bears, Wolves & Wildlife Adventure. Departures are available in the summer months, between May and August, when the region is not covered by a thick blanket of snow. From £1,819 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from London Heathrow, car hire, accommodation throughout and most meals. Visit regent-holidays.co.uk or call 020 7666 1290.
The Iberian lynx is the world’s most endangered feline. While still on the brink of extinction, numbers are slowly increasing and now there are over 450 cats in the wild. Head to the hills of the Sierra Morena in Andalucia, which is the best preserved Mediterranean forest in the Iberian peninsula and where you can see wolves, otters, wild boar, mouflon and red deer as well as the Iberian lynx. There’s impressive birdlife too, with large populations of griffon vultures as well as good numbers of rare black vulture and the Spanish Imperial Eagle. Book it: NatureTrek offers six-day trips from £1195, with multiple departures in between October 2017 and January 2018. Visit naturetrek.co.uk or call 01962 733051
Scotland is a superlative wildlife destination, and so close to home. Head to the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda for puffins and much, much more. Explore by boat and on foot the pristine Outer Hebrides island chain on Scotland’s far west coast, discovering its abundant wildlife, including some of the rarest nature in Scotland. Enjoy coastal and glen hikes and a boat trip to the archipelago of St Kilda (a double UNESCO World Heritage Site). During May, witness the spring migration of skuas to their summer breeding grounds – one of Scotland’s great nature events. You may also spot golden eagles, white tailed sea eagles, puffins, basking sharks, whales and dolphins. Plus soak up the rich flora of the islands found in the famous coastal ‘machairs’ or flower meadows. Book it: Wilderness Scotland offers Wildlife Adventures Outer Hebrides & St Kilda from £1,595pp, including 6 nights’ B&B accommodation, some meals and boat trips. Set departures: 12 May and 14 July 2018. Visit wildernessscotland.com or call 01479 420020.
Iceland's remote Snaefellsnes Peninsula reveals a variety of wildlife in the winter landscapes. Dominated by the snow-capped peak of a 1,446m-tall volcano, the craggy landscapes are home to Arctic foxes and white-tailed eagles, while the coastal waters feed orca, white-beaked dolphin and seabirds such as gannet, fulmar and eider. Once darkness descends, there is every chance of seeing the Northern Lights, too. Book it: Discover the World offers four nights from £1,471pp (two sharing) including flight credit, transfers, full board at Fosshotel Hellnar, two whale watching boat trip excursions, a full day tour of the Peninsula and the services of a driver and guide throughout. Visit discover-the-world.co.uk or call 01737 214 291. Departs February to March 2018.
The fact that there are bears in Greece is one of Europe’s best kept secrets. But the total brown bear population in Greece is 475 to 500. Northern Greece is home not only to brown bears but also red deer and wolves inhabiting its black pine and beech forests. This region is also bird watching central, with rare species including the eastern imperial eagle and golden eagle, and the beautiful shore lark. Balmy weather and bear-watching? What are you waiting for? Book it:Responsible Travel offers a five-day holiday. Priced at £549pp excluding flights. The small group holiday includes hikes that follow brown bear trails, led by a national park ranger, as well as talks and guidance by a local conservation charity that works to protect the bear population. Visit responsibletravel.com.
The clear waters off the Ayrshire coast are teeming with marine life from 30ft-long basking sharks to dolphins, minke whales, and seals. Ailsa Craig (pictured above), the iconic volcanic plug, is now a wildlife sanctuary. Home to over 40,000 birds, including puffins, guillemots, gannets and razorbills and, with a summit at a height of 1,100 feet, it really is the perfect setting to discover the vast array of wildlife living in this spectacular Scottish home. Stay at Glenapp Castle, a beautiful baronial hotel tucked away on the breathtaking Ayrshire coast, with an extraordinary location that makes it the ultimate spot for a magical sealife safari. Further afield are the beautiful Isles - the Isle of Mull is littered with otters and golden eagles, Jura is home to red deer, and Islay is scattered with tens of thousands of wintering Arctic geese. Take a trip up to Scotland, pack a delicious picnic and hop on Glenapp Castle’s boat for the ultimate safari. To avoid the choppy seas, this route is best done in the summer months. Book it: From £195 to £250 per person (minimum 4 people). Visit glenappcastle.com or call 01465 831212