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 | The Wildest Places In Europe

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 | The Wildest Places In Europe

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.

3. 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 by Eisriesenwelt Werfen | The Wildest Places In Europe

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.

4. 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 | The Wildest Places In Europe

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 | The Wildest Places In Europe

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.