If, like me, you love to get amongst nature while you're travelling, you'll definitely want to add a few of these incredible places you can spot iconic animals in Europe to your bucket list. From the majestic hills of the Scottish Highlands to the sun-soaked beaches of Catalonia, there are some amazing pockets of wilderness still to explore in the most diverse continent in the world. Whilst many species have been driven out of increasingly urban areas in Europe, you can still see wolves, bears, eagles, bison, sharks and more - you just need to know where to look!
1. Flamingos Near Barcelona
An iconic, exotic bird that you might not expect to see in Europe, thousands of flamingos flock to the Ebro delta near Barcelona every year! Under two hours drive (or just over on the train) from the metropolis of Barca is the Delta de l'Ebre Natural Park . Here you can take an amazing journey by boat to see flamingos, eagles, and hundreds of seabirds.
Top tip: visit the Ebro delta in October or November for the best sightings of flamingos.
2. Seals, Dolphins and Sharks in the UK
Located on the captivating coast of Cornwall, Newquay boasts pristine beaches and a thriving marine ecosystem. Hop aboard a boat trip from Newquay Harbour and keep your eyes peeled for some of the most playful animals in Europe. You might be lucky enough to spot dolphins, seals basking on rocky outcrops, and even the occasional basking shark or minke whale.
Top tip: dolphins are commonly seen in Cornwall all year round, but the warmer, summer months are best for spotting them (and the calmer seas are less likely to make you feel queasy...).
3. Brown Bears and Wolves in Romania
The Carpathian Mountains, known as Europe's last great wilderness, offer refuge to remarkable species like brown bears, wolves, lynx, and chamois (a kind of cross-between goat and deer). If you are going exploring in Romania, make sure you take a trusted guide with you - if you want to see a bear or a wolf in Europe (from a safe distance) you'll need someone with you who knows how to track them.
Top tip: the best and most reliable way to travel to the Carpathians is by train - but make sure you plan your onward journeys well in advance.
4. Red Deer Rutting in The Netherlands
The Netherlands isn't really known for its natural beauty (it's a bit flat) but thanks to rewilding laws, it's become one of the best places to see animals in Europe. Just a couple of hours train ride from Amsterdam you can witness one of the most amazing natural spectacles in the world - the red deer rut. Head to the beautiful Wildebaanweg wild observation site in Het Nationale Park De Hoge Veluwe to see this iconic display of antlers, grunts and fights!
Top tip: the red deer rut begins in September and lasts until around early November.
5. Puffins and Golden Eagles (or Highland Cattle) in Scotland
One of the most-loved animals in Europe, puffins are a must see on your travels in Scotland. Just a short train journey from Edinburgh (and a beautiful boat trip) lies the Isle of May , which is home to a healthy colony of puffins, and the largest Atlantic grey seal colony in eastern Britain. If you're desperate to see the majestic golden eagle, travel North-East from Edinburgh to Glen Affric where you have a good chance of spotting one.
Top tip: If you don't have any luck finding the eagles, there's always some Highland cattle nearby to cheer you up!
6. European Bison in Poland
Once nearly extinct, the return of the European bison is one of the continent's best natural success stories in recent years. If you want to see these magnificent creatures in the wild for yourself, the best place to track them is the Białowieża National Park in Western Poland. For the best chance of spotting them up close in this ancient forest, you'll need to organise a tour with one of many companies in the area.
Top tip: bison mothers are massively protective of their calves, so if you do get lucky and spot them in the wild - keep your distance!