Now more than ever before, we’re beginning to appreciate the peace and serenity that comes from exploring truly wild areas. In these remote pockets of dense woodlands, gorges and rolling valleys, flora and fauna are left to flourish, while secluded mountain villages remain largely unphased by the passing of time.
So, why not take the opportunity to explore new places in Europe that are firmly off the tourist trail? We’ve collected some of our favourite remote spots in Europe where you can enjoy excellent wildlife spotting, extensive hiking trails, skiing and nature rafting excursions, that will make you feel like you’re venturing deep into the wild.
1. Wild Finland
As we’re edging into the beginning of the spring and summer months, Finland goes through a transformation from its snowy, winter wonderland landscapes to endless meadows filled with wildflowers and thawing waterfalls bursting back to life. On our Wild Finland adventure, we wander through the hidden trails, secluded nature paths and across hanging bridges in Oulanka National Park. Amidst its scotch pines and spruce forests, the only sound you’re likely to hear is the babbling brooks, gushing river rapids and the thundering roar of waterfalls in the distance.
For the adventurous, there are also opportunities for nature rafting and husky walks, as we make our way along the Little Bear Trail. Another reason to head to Finland in the summer is to enjoy extended explorations in the wild. With up to 22 hours of daylight in the summer months, this trip gives you a great chance to make the most of your holiday experience.
Imagine basking in the midnight sunshine on the terrace having a couple of local pale lagers with friends or unwinding in a steamy outdoor hot tub after a full day of exploring the majestic Finnish wilderness – if that isn’t the perfect way to kickstart your first adventure post lockdown, then we don’t know what is.
2. Yagodina: Bulgarian realm of the brown bear
With seven distinct mountain ranges, you’d be surprised to know that a third of Bulgaria’s terrain is mountainous. Their diverse landscapes boast a fascinating variety of flora, fauna and unique geology which offers wildlife-lovers a great glimpse into some of the last remaining primaeval corners in Europe.
On our Bulgaria: Realm of the brown bear trip, you’ll be accompanied by European brown bear expert, Julian Perry, as you embark on daily hikes through prime brown bear habitat. Spending a week in the rugged Rodopi Mountains, you’ll have the opportunity to record tracks, scats and collect images from several camera traps that show signs of bear activity. This footage offers the ongoing brown bear conservation project key research into the daily lives of brown bears in the region.
Our wilderness adventure gives you unique insight into the ecology and behaviour of these elusive carnivores. Two nights of the trip you’ll also be able to visit a constructed bear watching hide, where if you’re lucky, you may get to see bears interacting with each other in the wild.
Aside from bear-tracking, the Rodopi Mountains are also known for their rare bird species, so keep an eye out for black storks, Levant sparrowhawks and Eleonora’s falcon. This epic trip into the untamed Bulgarian wilderness is great for travellers who are seeking to find solitude in nature, but also for wildlife enthusiasts who are keen to understand the brown bear’s way of life.
3. Mosstrond, Norway
Once you head off the beaten track in Norway to Mosstrond on the edge of the Hardanger Plateauyou’ll find a fantastic base for truly isolated, off-track skiing. With chances of spotting elk, wild reindeer, prehistoric musk oxen, and Arctic foxes on your travels through the forests, our Cross-country Skiing: Mosstrond trip begins by setting out across the frozen lake of Møsvatn. Passing the remote farm of Fornes, a settlement that dates back to the Middle Ages, the ski tracks take us on an incline to the hills overlooking the lake of Store Hovstjorni.
Next, it’s onto Laksanuten where you’re met with rugged panoramas overlooking the Hardangervidda and the impressive mount Gusta before making the exhilarating descent into the upper Komdalen valley. With the opportunity to discover new ski routes and secluded tracks every day towards areas left seemingly untouched by tourism, this trip is perfect for those looking to explore the spectacular Norwegian wilderness.
4. The Carpathian Mountains, Romania
Explore one of the most beautifully wild and fascinating regions in Europe. Boasting the highest concentration of lynx, wolves and brown bears in the Carpathian Mountains, Romania’s dense virgin forests remain largely undisturbed from the rest of the world. Europe’s second-biggest mountain range after the alps has a lot to offer wildlife enthusiasts who are looking for those truly remote places to reconnect with nature and spot some of the most unique wildlife on the continent.
On our Carpathian Walking and Bears trip, you’ll take hikes through the deep canyons, Primeval Beech forests and bat caves towards the unique Kalibash villages of Magura and Pestera. After visiting the mediaeval town of Brasov and Bran Castle, famously known as the residence of Count Dracula, you’ll enjoy a full day exploring the Postăvarul Mountain. Famous for its local bird species, you may be able to spot, alpine swifts, woodpeckers, buzzards, wallcreepers, golden eagles and the elusive Ural owl, if you’re lucky.
This trip also offers an exhilarating evening tracking brown bears near the Barza Valley and includes a visit to Europe’s largest brown bear Sanctuary, Libearty, in Zarnesti. Here, you’ll be able to learn more about the remarkable work the sanctuary is doing by rescuing the bears and giving them a new lease of life within large naturalistic enclosures, along with how they are educating the public to ensure the protection of these iconic wild bears for generations to come.
5. The Rodopi Mountains, Bulgaria
The Rodopi Mountains are Bulgaria’s most expansive mountain range. In summer, open pastures burst into a sea of wild thyme, purple lilacs, orchids and primroses.
Aside from its spectacular flora, this region is also ideal for travellers who are looking to retrace the storied footsteps of Orpheus through the mighty Devil’s Throat Cave in the Trigrad Gorge. Legend has it, that this cave was where Orpheus emerged from the underworld, after an unsuccessful attempt to rescue his wife Eurydice from the hands of Hades. On our Rodopi Mountains trip, you can visit these two notable places, before traversing the highest peaks in the region, Mt. Golyam Perelik (2,191m) and Mt. Golyam Snezhnik (2,188m).
Apart from excellent hiking opportunities in the Bulgarian wilderness, you’ll also enjoy observing a variety of rare butterflies and birds while making the exhilarating ascent up to the central ridge of Mt. Sveti Iliya. Keep your eyes open for butterflies like the oriental marbled skipper and Freyer’s purple emperor, alongside vibrant, tropical-looking bird species such as the orange-crowned hoopoes, rainbow-hued rollers and European bee-eaters. Unique animal encounters like these will make you feel like you’ve truly ventured into the wild.
At Exodus, we passionately seek to improve life through travel. Through our Nature First commitment, we are planning to become Nature Net Positive by 2024 which includes halfing our carbon footprint by 2030. We’re also protecting our world’s wildest landscapes through innovative nature restoration projects that play an indispensable role in removing carbon from our atmosphere.
To help this conservation effort, we have entered a long-term partnership with NGO Rewilding Europe, together launching the Nature & Carbon Corridors Project. This project aims to rewild 5,000 hectares of the Italian Apennines over the next 5 years to enable the increase of the endangered Marsican bear population and many other native species in the region. As part of this project, we’re dedicated to rewilding 100 square metres for every passenger who travels with us. So, with every trip you take, you can travel with confidence knowing that you’re helping in the effort to make Europe a wilder place.
If this has encouraged you to start planning your next exploration in the wild spaces of Europe or further afield, why not browse our full collection of wilderness trips by clicking here.