Unbeknownst to most, Europe is not only quaint villages with romantic atmospheres and ancient architecture. While you can find all of these in almost every European country, the continent is also home to some of the world’s most breathtaking natural spectacles and incredible wildlife attractions. In fact putting together a shortlist of the wildest places in Europe is no easy feat as the continent has so much to offer from dramatic skies and scenery to waterfalls and glaciers.

Here are the 14 wildest places in Europe:

 

 

1. Kainuu, Finland

The Kainuu region is the northernmost part of the Finnish Lakeland, right on the border of Lapland. Come summer it is a holiday paradise with picturesque blue lakes and rapids, and in the winter it transforms into a white paradise with snow-covered forests.

Hossa National Park is the most famous protected area in the region thanks to its unspoiled nature with crystal clear waters and the historical rock paintings of Värikallio, the ideal place to get to know the vast Taiga forests.

The 14 Wildest Places In Europe
A brown bear in Kainuu Forest, Finland | Pixabay

Friendship Park near Kuhmo is a reserve dedicated to the conservation of the rare and protected wild forest reindeer as well as some of Europe’s largest predators – the brown bear, wolf, wolverine and lynx. If you’re lucky you can even see Moose and various birds of prey.

Peak season for wildlife viewing is between spring and autumn, as the daylight hours are longer and animals are far more active, but winter trips offers its own magic with snowy scenery and Narnia-esque landscapes.

The park’s predators are mostly nocturnal and sightings during the day are extremely rare however it is still advised to use wildlife paths with caution and respect.

 

2. Azores Islands, Portugal

The Azores are a pristine archipelago consisting of 9 islands, under the flag of Portugal. Without doubt one of the wildest places in Europe, these incredible islands are home to volcanic mountains, picturesque hillside roads, waterfalls and ancient fishing villages surrounded by vast unspoiled wilderness.

A history of limited flights have kept these islands a relative secret from the rest of the world but as new routes begin to open up, this tropical paradise is becoming increasingly popular among travellers looking to experience all that they have to offer.

The 14 Wildest Places In Europe
A small island on the Azores, Portugal | Pixabay

The waters surrounding the islands are a haven for wildlife and the density of marine life is almost hard to believe. Here you can snorkel with seven different species of dolphin and encounter a plethora of other marine life: humpback whales, orcas, manta rays and sea turtles to name a few. The region is one of the best places in the world to see whales with sightings reported on 99% of whale watching tours.

The Azores are vibrant in the spring and colourful flowers dot the landscape as far as the eye can see, and the general peak seasons runs from April to September.

 

 

4. Eisriesenwelt, Austria

The Eisriesenwelt caves are the world’s largest accessible caves, spanning almost 2 million acres with 42 kilometres of icy passages. The cave entrance was first discovered in 1874 and was thought to be the ‘gate to hell’ according to Austrian folklore. Thanks to this eerie narrative, no one dared to enter then caves until 1979.

Posseltalhe Ice Cave, Austria | Eisriesenwelt Werfen

A tour through this icy paradise is a truly unique experience, as you traverse a series of wooden steps and pitch-black passages in order to find incredible frozen waterfalls and giant natural ice columns. The highlight of the cave tours is the Eispalast or ice palace, where the the ice twinkles under the light of a magnesium flare.

Even during the hot summer months, entering the caves is like stepping into a freezer so be sure pack warm clothing.

 

5. Faroe Islands

Arguably the continent’s best kept secret and without a doubt one of the wildest places in Europe, the Faroe Islands is a group of 18 volcanic islands tucked between Iceland and Norway.

A waterfall flowing into the ocean in the Faroe Islands | Pixabay

Here you’ll find some of the most breathtaking views that Europe has to offer and some of the most remote, unspoilt wilderness to go with. The archipelago offers a plethora of unique attractions like: steep cliffs, vast hiking trails and rocky coastlines with waterfalls running into the ocean. Oh and how could I forget the puffins and grass-roofed houses!

The population of all 18 islands is only around 50,000 and due to their remoteness, the islands tend to never get overcrowded, however the Faroe Islands have become somewhat of an Instagram sensation in recent times and the annual number of visitors.

 

 

5. Svalbard, Norway

Halfway between the Scandinavian Peninsula and the North Pole, you’ll find the enchanting archipelago – Svalbard, the northernmost region of Norway.

Svalbard is a popular name in fiction and adventure novels, and for good reason – along with being the home of the world’s northern most settlements, the islands are rich in wildlife, arctic landscapes and remote wilderness as far as the eye can see.

The 14 Wildest Places In Europe
A polar hunting on the ice in Svalbard, Norway | Pixabay

Its remote location means that Svalbard has been able to retain the pristine natural wonders that the arctic circle is famous for and develop its reputation as the wildest place in Europe. Dark and icy for two-thirds of the year, it’s landscape is comprised of serrated peaks reinforced by rock that plunges deep into the ocean. During these winter months, the Northern Lights can often be seen lighting up the skies.

Svalbard is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and the arrival of summer is the ideal time to see the region’s main attraction – polar bears.

Boat cruises will get you up close and personal with the bears as they swim and hunt on floating packs of ice. You could also be lucky enough to spot: seals, arctic foxes, walruses and an array of stunning birdlife ranging from puffins to purple sandpipers.

 

6. Vatnajökull National Park and Stokksnes, Iceland

Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland is home to the largest glacier on the continent, covering an area of more than 8,000 square kilometres. Iceland is most definitely one of the wildest places in Europe, and even though it is a really small country, it has so much to offer!

Spanning all the way from the Öxarfjörður fjord in the north to Sellandafjall Mountain in the south, the national park boasts natural scenery that looks like it came straight out of a Sci-fi movie and the kind of beauty that will render you speechless.

The 14 Wildest Places In Europe
Black sand beach and the Vestrahorn in Stokssnes, Iceland | Pixabay

The awe-inspiring glacier offers spectacular ice cave adventures and the surrounding landscape of Vatnajökull encapsulates mountains, valleys, picturesque black sand beaches and active volcanoes. The national park is also home to Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur, as well as the world’s longest sight line.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or keen on an epic Instagram opportunity then the Stokksnes peninsula (within the national park) is definitely worth a visit.

Stokksnes is located near Höfn, the small fishing town where the park‘s visitor centre is located. This breathtaking region is a paradise for adventurers with everything from insane mountain slopes, rolling black sand dunes, epic glacier lagoons and many other out-of-this-world geographical features that are bound to leave you wondering if you’ve somehow stumbled upon an alien planet.

 

 

7. Dartmoor, England

Dartmoor – the wild heart of Devon – was one of the first national parks to established in Britain and stretches over 250,000 acres of English countryside.

On sunny days the atmosphere is idyllic; ponies roam the lands as they please and sheep graze at the roadsides. The moors are characterised by rugged grazing land, wooded valleys and scattered granite tors, which provide awesome view points over the landscape when climbed, and historical remains are plenty.

The 14 Wildest Places In Europe
Sunrise on a winter’s day in Dartmoor, England | Pixabay

These famours tors were formed around 280 million years ago as the granite which forms dartmoor cooled and solidified.

Dartmoor is a popular location for outdoor activities such as: hiking, cycling, riding, climbing and white-water rafting, and a variety of rustic pubs and country hotels are available to seek shelter from the weather when needed.

When the weather turns and the sleeting rain and mists arrive, the moors transforms into an eerie wilderness where spooky tales can indeed seem very real.

Today Dartmoor is home to about 33,000 people and renowned as one of the wildest places in Europe and incredibly popular for tourists.

 

8. Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled in Slovenia is a town straight out of a disney film, located below the highest peaks of the Julian Alps. The site of the lake’s picturesque blue-green water hardly seems real, and situated in the middle of the lake is Bled Island, the only island in all of Slovenia. On the island you’ll find a quaint church, which tops off the postcard-esque setting.

For decades Lake Bled has been impressing visitors with its wealth of natural beauty, history and mythical powers for rejuvenating the soul.

The 14 Wildest Places In Europe
Lake Bled, Slovenia | Pixabay

Traditional wooden boats – called pletnas – take visitors across the lake onto the island. These boats are operated by standing rowers known as pletnars. Climb the stone steps to reach the Assumption of Mary Church, and ring the church bell – legend has it this will make your wishes come true! The island is also the best location to take in the views of the medieval castle which clings to a rocky cliff face as well as the Julian Alps and Karavanke.

Lake Bled is Slovenia’s most popular travel destination and is a hot spot for hiking, biking and water sports. It can tend to be quite busy and overpriced during the summer months.

 

9. Danube Delta, Romania

Romania’s Danube River Delta is arguably the best place to photograph birds in Europe!

When comparing European wetlands, few can match up to Danube Delta when it comes to size and wildlife diversity. After passing through 10 countries and absorbing countless smaller waterways, the Danube river empties into the Black Sea, creating a unique landscape made up of sandbar islands, semi-sunken forest, vast reeds and rural villages, most of which are only accessible by boat. This combination makes the 1.5 million acre delta a haven for waterbirds and other bird life.

Boat tours on the Danube Delta, Romania | Pixabay

When visiting Europe’s largest marshland, try a Danube river cruise or hire a kayak and explore the plethora of reeds and reed-beds which create an excellent environment for over 300 bird species including millions of Egyptian white pelicans who arrive in the spring to raise their young, while equal numbers of Arctic geese come here to escape the harsh Northern European months.

The delta boasts a vast network of canals, waterways, forests and small islands, waiting to be explored.

 

 

10. Connemara, Ireland

There are few places quite as beautiful as Connemara on a sunny day, with its untamed landscape highlighting glacial lakes and mountains. The spectacular region is one of Ireland’s most iconic destinations.

Made up of a group of small islands, some inhabited and others long deserted, much of Connemara’s wild beauty can be attributed to its remote location and sometimes harsh conditions, but a constant flow of visitors over the last two centuries proves that its a destination worth visiting.

The 14 Wildest Places In Europe
A hiking trail in Connemara, Ireland | Pixabay

Situated west of Galway, the quaint villages that make up Connemara host vibrant communities with multiple hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Because the area is remote and somewhat isolated, cultural traditions have remained and Irish is the first language of many residents, particularly along the south coast.

Here you’ll find Connemara National Park, a vast expanse of bogs, lakes, mountains and vistas and along the coastline there are tiny coves, bays and fishing villages.

Connemara is a place for long walks, bike rides and appreciation of dramatic Irish wilderness.

 

11. Scottish Highlands, Scotland

The Scottish Highlands are one of the wildest places in the UK and are full of things to do, ranging from majestic wilderness areas, historical castles and small villages crammed with fresh local food and fascinating culture.

The highlands are often referred to as ‘the Scotland of your imagination’ – and for good reason – with vast open skies, dramatic landscapes and ancient remains left over from the regions turbulent history.

Highland Bull on the Scottish Highlands, Scotland | Pixabay

Their are plenty of hiking opportunities through the majestic mountains and along the mystic lochs. You can also witness dolphins playing along the Moray Coast, appreciate the exceptional seascape of the North Highlands and walk in the shadow of Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis.

One of he most beautiful places in the Highlands are the lonely isles, which can only be reached by boat and support a vast amount of bird life and the iconic highland cows!

 

 

12. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s most popular travel destination. Located in the country’s heart near the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the area is made up of sixteen inter-connected lakes that cascade into each other through a series of waterfalls and streams of turquoise water.

Set within a woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, wild boars and rare bird species, clouds of butterflies float over the network of wooden walkways that allow you to explore this 75,000 acre national park. The magnificent lakes alone stretch over eight kilometres.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia | Pixabay

It can take upwards of six hours to explore the lakes on foot, or if walking isn’t your thing you can shave a couple hours off by taking advantage of the park’s free boats and buses.

From Entrance 2, a short bus trip and you’ll find the upper lakes, from here you can wander back down to the shore of Kozjak, the park’s largest lake, where a boat will pick you up and take you down to the lower lakes, where you’ll find Veliki Slap, the tallest waterfall in Croatia.

 

13. Białowieża Forest, Poland

The largest remains of a once vast wilderness area, the Bialowieza forest is one of the wildest places in Europe. Spanning over 350,000 acres, the forest is a haven of wild woodland, dense river valleys and 500 year old oak trees. The area is located where the far east of Poland and the far west of Belarus meet, on the watershed of the Baltic and Black seas.

The 14 Wildest Places In Europe
A herd of Bison in Białowieża Forest, Poland | Pixaby

The forest is prime habitat for some 900 European bison, vast herds of elk and the continents most charismatic carnivores, namely otters, lynx and wolves.

Despite the many living trees, the most popular hike in the forest is to the fallen Jagiello Oak, a 400-year-old giant that blew down in 1974.

Named as a Unesco world heritage site, Białowieża is home to irreplaceably biodiversity but is currently under threat from logging.

 

 

14. Mercantour National Park, France

Less than an hour from Nice and the link between the southern Apls and the Mediterranean, Mercantour National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Hike or bike the 1700 km of trail that run through deep forested valleys, get wet on a whitewater rafting adventure, or explore remote high altitude terrain on a ski touring trip.

Mercantour is a relatively unknown natural paradise, alive with fauna and flora, which includes half the total number of plant species known in France. The landscape offers a variety of natural wonders from olive groves to Alpine pastures and from larch forests to snowy peaks. All of which contributed to it achieving ‘national park’ status in 1979.

Allos lake, Mercantour National Park, France | Pixabay

If you’re up for a 10 kilometre hike, you can discover 3,000 year old rock carvings in Vallée des Merveilles. Walks along the lower meadows and woodland areas can reveal tremendous amounts of wildlife like; stags, roebucks, hares, wild boars, birds of prey and maybe even a wolf if you’re lucky!

If a 10km hike is not challenge enough for you then take on one of the parks many imposing peaks, with the Brec du Chambeyron being one of the tallest at 3000 metres.