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Navarra in Winter - Realm of the Wildcat

Tour Code: ESP29

A 6-day holiday to look for the elusive Wildcat and other wildlife among the dense forests, uplands and remote valleys of Navarra in northern Spain.

6 days from £1195(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1045 SRS: £130


We became smitten with northern Spain’s little-known Navarra region whilst researching our popular ‘Navarra - Birds & Wines’ tour. A recent winter reconnaissance trip there brought to our attention an unusually obliging population of Wildcats which are thriving, and relatively frequently observed, in this rodent-rich region. Searching for this elusive and sought-after feline will be the main focus of this new short break, as well as enjoying the area’s other birds, mammals and spectacular Pyrenean scenery. We’ll hope to see winter parties of Snowfinch and Alpine Accentor and explore canyons and forested limestone gorges for Peregrines, eagles and Wallcreeper.

  • Watch for Wildcats from strategic viewing points in a Pyrenean valley
  • Lammergeier, White & Black-backed Woodpeckers plus Wallcreeper
  • Look for Crossbill, Snowfinch & Alpine Accentor in forested gorges & higher slopes
  • Optional day’s skiing in French Pyrenees!
  • Venture into the heart of Ptarmigan territory near La Pierre Saint Martin
  • Pyrenean canyons home to Golden Eagle, Chough, Eagle Owl & Crag Martin
  • First-class hospitality & local wines
  • Stunning Pyrenean scenery
  • Led by expert naturalist guides

 

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Comfortable family-run hotel, all rooms with private facilities.

Wildcat

Wildcat

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Biarritz; transfer Isaba

Day 2/5 Daily programme of Wildcat-tracking and birdwatching excursions

Day 6 Fly UK

Whilst natural history tour groups have traditionally based themselves in neighbouring Aragon when visiting the Spanish Pyrenees, we found ourselves smitten with the delights of the autonomous region of Navarra when researching our popular spring tour, ‘Birds and Wines of Navarra’. A more recent reconnaissance additionally brought to our attention an unusually obliging population of Wildcats, relatively frequently observed, together with a mouthwatering selection of birds, amongst them Lammergeier, both White-backed and Black Woodpeckers, and Wallcreeper. When set against the sparkling late winter backdrop of the snowy Pyrenees, with Common Cranes and Honey Buzzards migrating north for the spring, we found it a combination too good to resist! 

Wildcats are exceedingly difficult to observe in the British Isles, our subspecies Felis silvestris grampia being confined to the most inaccessible corners of the far north and west of the Scottish Highlands. Severely threatened by hybridisation, some reports fear less than 100 animals remain in the wild. In Spain, however, Wildcats are widespread. Although never easy to see, they thrive in the untamed areas of the country, having benefited from the recent widespread movement of Spain’s rural population into the cities, leaving much of Spain’s rolling and sometimes mountainous interior virtually uninhabited. 

The areas in which we have been watching Wildcats in Navarra centre on strips of rough pasture at the base of broad Pyrenean valleys. Horses graze here, and elderly shepherds clothed in ubiquitous blue overalls and flat caps attend to their daily business. Horse feed and ramshackle sheds attract rodents and, where mice thrive, the Wildcats won’t be far away. The cats are most active in the first hour after dawn and in the hour preceding dusk. During these key periods we will hope for a Wildcat sighting by scanning for this enigmatic predator from strategic viewpoints using telescopes, or alternatively, by driving slowly along the country lanes, stopping frequently to scan.

During the rest of our time in Spain, we will focus on the forested limestone gorges and uplands of northern Navarra, together with the higher slopes of the north-western Pyrenees. The latter will likely be covered by extensive snow at this time of year, and cold weather gear will be necessary.  Crossbills are very common and easily observed in the extensive conifer forests, and we will also look for loose winter parties of Snow Finch and Alpine Accentor opportunistically on the look-out for titbits.  At any given moment a Lammergeier can appear in the sky above our heads, and exceedingly close views are a possibility at some stage during our stay. Planning our daily activities around the prevailing weather conditions, the French ski resort of La Pierre Saint Martin nearby might even tempt some in our party to don skis for a day! ... especially as one of the chairlifts accesses the heart of Ptarmigan territory. 

The forested limestone gorges of Navarra play host to the sport of canyoning in the summer months. However, we will be content to admire the varied and fascinating scenery, looking out for Golden Eagles, Peregrines, Choughs, Crag Martins and Eagle Owl. We will also go in search of Wallcreeper, one of the most sought-after of all mountain birds. A denizen of the high Pyrenean rock faces where they breed in summer, they descend in altitude during the harsh winter, often taking up residence on man-made rock faces such as dam walls or on church spires. We will visit a handful of locations in search of this beautiful bird, a mosaic of fluttering grey, black, burgundy and white.

This tour to Navarra offers you a range of little-explored Spanish habitats and their associated wildlife with some first-class hospitality, hearty mountain food washed down with local wines and, with luck, a sighting of a Wildcat together with a range of impressive birds and scenery.

Dawn in Navarra (Jose Ardaiz)Navarra steppes - Roncal (Jose Ardaiz)Alpine Accentor (Jose Ardaiz)Navarra (Jose Ardaiz)Wildcat, Navarra (Julian Gayarre)Male Wildcat, Navarra (Amy Horn-Norris)Wildcat, NavarraWildcat, Navarra (Jose Ardaiz)Wildcat, Navarra (Jose Ardaiz)Wildcat, Navarra (Julian Gayarre)Wildcat, Navarra (Dominic Boyer)Wildcat, Navarra (Julian Gayarre)Chamois, Navarra (Jose Ardaiz)Citril Finch (Jose Ardaiz)Navarra (Jose Ardaiz)Wildcat, Navarra (Jennifer Horn)Wildcat (Dominic Boyer)Wildcat, Navarra (Julian Gayarre)Male Wildcat, Navarra (Amy Horn-Norris)Wildcat in the Navarra snowWildcat, NavarraNavarra sunset (Jose Ardaiz)Navarra sunset (Jose Ardaiz)Navarra plains (Jose Ardaiz)Navarra sunset (Jose Ardaiz)
Mr & Mrs J.
Derbyshire
Leaders both went over and above expectations in their quest to find wildcats and other desired species whilst also exercising a caring, friendly attitude towards group members.
B.M.
Northumberland
We were particularly impressed at the way Naturetrek and the hotel dealt with our son's food intolerances. Every care was taken with meals in the hotel and picnic lunches.
H.I.
East Sussex
Thank you for another terrific holiday. I particularly like my fellow travellers as we are all like-minded people. It was great to see the wildcat, but my particular favourite was the wallcreeper. Sadly, the heavy snow curtailed some of our trips but it was certainly pretty; and amusing when we were towed out by a snow plough!
J.H.
Cambridgeshire
We thoroughly enjoyed the Navarra in Winter trip. We went because we wanted to see wildcat and wallcreeper and so were delighted that we saw both. The scenery was magnificent, especially the rocky gorges and the views of the snow-covered high Pyrenees. The accommodation was warm and comfortable and the freshly cooked food was excellent. Our guide, Byron, who accompanied us from the UK, was very knowledgable and efficient, and our local host and naturalist, Julian, was both knowledgeable and very helpful at times.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Sun 11th March 2018 - Fri 16th March 2018

YES

£1195

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1045 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

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Andy Tucker
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Tour Reviews

Leaders both went over and above expectations in their quest to find wildcats and other desired species whilst also exercising a caring, friendly attitude towards group members.
Mr & Mrs J., Derbyshire