The area in which we search for Wolves during this tour lies in northern Spain, deep within the mountains of northern Palencia, where a landscape of sweeping ridges and broad valleys, together with an open habitat of extensive heathland and mixed forest, permit us to patiently scan wide areas for our quarry. The ancient villages in the rugged Palentian Mountains are today largely deserted, left for reclamation by Wolves, Brown Bears, Wild Boar, and numerous Chamois, Red Deer and Roe Deer, not to mention a host of smaller mammals. Our base for our exploration of this wildlife haven is a cosy, family-run hotel. From this, we will explore the mountains with our local guides, spending the majority of each day on foot, either walking from our base or accessing remote valleys by 4WD, before returning each evening to a hearty meal. Over many years, we have built up a detailed knowledge of Wolf-watching in the area, and we offer you the best chance of sighting wild Wolves in Europe!
- 80%+ chance of views of wild Iberian Wolf – one of Europe’s most exciting mammals
- Wild Boar, Red Deer & Roe Deer regularly seen
- Outside chance of Wildcat and Cantabrian Brown Bear
- Great birdwatching, especially birds of prey (up to 12 species seen on most tours)
- Tasty regional cuisine, with wine included
All included in the cost.
Our accommodation is a cosy, welcoming, family-run hotel.
Day 1 Fly Santander; transfer to the hills
Day 2/4 Daily programme of Wolf-tracking and/or birdwatching excursions
‘It is very difficult to see the Wolf’, said Señor Mozo. Then, indicating numerous points all over a large map of the area, he added, ‘he can be anywhere’! Our chances of a Wolf sighting looked slim, yet, by the time of our first tours in March 2006, Naturetrek staff had paid 14 visits to the region and had successfully encountered Wolves on all but one of those visits. We have been delighted that this success rate has proved sustainable whilst visiting in groups, with 90% of our tours to date having seen Wolf. We have also seen Wild Boar and 16 species of birds of prey. Wolf-watching can, indeed, seem very difficult during the long hours that need to be put in to track down such a notoriously elusive animal, but we believe that on this tour you have as good a chance as any of actually seeing a Wolf in Europe!
The Cordillera Cantábrica and its outlying ranges hold the vast majority of Spain’s 2,500 to 3,000 Wolves and are the stronghold of the species in Europe. This is a population that has increased markedly since an estimated all-time low of just 500 individuals in 1970. The depopulation of Spain’s rural regions, as Spaniards have increasingly migrated into the cities, has benefited the Wolf, as has a changing attitude towards an animal that was once viciously persecuted. The ancient villages of this particular region in Spain are largely deserted, with hardly an occupied house in each. For this reason, so too are the mountains … left for reclamation by Wolves, Brown Bears, Wild Boar, and numerous Chamois, Red Deer and Roe Deer, not to mention a host of smaller mammals such as Iberian and Brown Hare, Beech Marten, Pine Marten and Wildcat.
Our base for this Christmas-time exploration of this little-known mountain wildlife haven is a cosy, welcoming, family-run hotel. The cottages lie on the doorstep of a truly wild landscape, comprising high mountain ridges rich in alpine flora (although not at this time of year of course), jagged crags and cliffs, and vast oak and Beech forests which support seven packs of Wolves and a high percentage of the endangered eastern population of the European Brown Bear. Looking for Wolves requires a great deal of persistence, patience and stealth. It also requires a lot of luck, not least with the weather! During the early and late hours of each day, our local Spanish naturalist guide, Tino, will use his 4-wheel drive vehicles to take us to remote viewpoints for opportunities to scan from high ridges for Bears, Wolves, Wild Boar and other mammals. He will make us feel very much at home, sharing a rich passion for, and knowledge of, these mountains … and regaling us with tales and photographs of close encounters with both Bears and Wolves. Tino is an expert in finding and interpreting animal tracks and signs left by Wolf, Brown Bear, Fox, Beech Marten, Badger, Wild Boar and deer, and will give us a masterclass in tree identification. We’ll also learn about the medicinal, culinary and other uses which the various plants and fungi that we shall see are put to.
A range of habitats can be found in close proximity, with a full suite of raptors present, including resident Golden Eagles and Peregrines and both Griffon and Egyptian Vultures. Black and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers both breed here, the latter possibly being easier to see here than throughout much of the rest of its range.
Flexibility will be the key to this tour and, whatever time we arrive back at our base, we can be sure that a hearty meal will be waiting for us each day on our return from the wilds of this forgotten corner of Europe. It will be hard to leave!