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 in one such village, where our guide Tino and his wife Rosa have sympathetically restored three terraced farm cottages. From these, we will explore the mountains with Tino, 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, freshly prepared by Rosa. 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
Food and wine all included in the price.
Three old terraced farm cottages, beautifully restored. A mixture of private and shared facilities.
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 week-long exploration of this little-known mountain wildlife haven is in one such village. Here, our hosts have sympathetically restored three terraced farm cottages in a remote and tumbledown hamlet. The cottages lie on the doorstep of a truly wild landscape, comprising high mountain ridges rich in alpine flora, 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 and his wife, Rosa, 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.
The cottages are very much central to our daily outings, with the majority of each day spent on foot, either walking from our base, or more frequently in quiet locations accessed by vehicle. 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 cottages, we can be sure that a hearty meal, freshly prepared by Rosa, 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!
Excellent trip and Byron tried really hard to find a Great Bustard, and to find Wolves! The whole trip was brilliant. Thank you.
Our trip was wonderful. Our guide, Byron was so knowledgeable and helpful and made our trip so enjoyable. We are very amateur (but keen) birdwatchers but we were not made to feel so.
Mr & Mrs R.S.
The accommodtion was nice and warm, food very good and local wine excellent. Lee and James were excellent, professional, expert and caring.
Lee and Jamers were brilliant - they organised the days well, depending on the weather. Both are very knowledgeable about the birds and mammals. They were particularly helpful with making sure the photographers in the group got the best photo opportunities.
Overall the whole experience was fantastic. This was my first trip alone and also with Naturetrek. I did not feel left out at any point and would certainly book another trip with Naturetrek.
Mr & Mrs F.W.
Our trip leader was outstanding. We greatly appreciated his skill and remarkable range of his knowledge. He was unfailingly courteous to all, helpful and good company.
My main memory is of how good both tour guides were - efficient yet relaxed, friendly but not over-friendly, always approachable and knowledgeable ... Naturetrek's efficiency in arranging train travel to Spain and vegan food was very good.
This was a very good introduction to an area of Spain that I had not previously visited. It was very good to see the Great Bustard area and to see so many Harriers.
Good vegan food.
I thought the bird watching was brilliant - the Great Bustards and many raptors were magnificent. The hotel was very nice; if anything the pre-departure information undervalued the food, which was really good.
I chose the holiday primarily for the chance of seeing wolves, but there was an excellent balance between wolf watching and other wildlife.
Brilliant holiday! I thoroughly enjoyed every day. Brilliant leaders, accommodation, sites and lunches; everything was excellent. The leaders were very friendly. I had a holiday I will never forget. I saw everything the itinerary promised and more.
This was a really excellent trip. Byron was a charming, helpful and knowledgeable leader and guide and ably assisted by Ed. Our wolf sightings exceeded all expectations.
Both leaders were very good and helpful. They showed a great deal of patience and both knew their subject. They give Naturetrek a good name.
We had a brilliant time. Our guides were excellent - they couldn’t do enough for us. The rest of the group was good fun to be with. A really good trip! Thank you!
A superb short break. Breathtaking views of wolves - prolonged, pretty close, and in very good light! Lovely to see them doing their thing in such an unspoiled habitat. Plenty of time to relax in between the wolf-spotting sessions, too, which made the pace of the trip just right. The guides were brilliant - both Paul and Byron worked really hard to show us the wildlife and look after all our needs. They were very good at getting wolves and birds in the scopes for us so we didn’t miss anything. Both very nice people too! The wolves were the obvious highlight, but I was also delighted to see some new species for me, including Iberian Hare and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, and by far my best views of Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite too. The Red Foxes were also wonderful. Overall, hugely enjoyable, so a big thank you to the leaders, and to the hotel owner for keeping us all so amused and entertained, and well fed, at meal times!
The tour leaders provided brilliant lunches, and really put themselves out to get vegan food for me, the food was imaginative and nutritious. Well done and thank you.
Guides' attention to detail and personal attention was excellent. Their knowledge and expertise made the trip a great success ... Many thanks.
A most enjoyable trip. A couple of wonderful views of wolves. Weather fabulous. Guides couldn’t have given us a better trip, they were first class. Thank you Naturetrek. You have come up trumps once more.
M. & D.N.
Our two guides were brilliant and very knowledgeable - all came away with a better understanding of the habitats, flowers, butterflies, birds and mammals - 100%.
The tour leaders were excellent and the hotel very comfortable (good food, very clean etc.).
I just wanted to drop a line with regard to the tour report I received for my Wolves and Bustards trip last October - it was excellent. Our leader had clearly put a lot of effort into making it detailed and indeed personal to group members. I would be grateful if you could let Dave Pierce know that his work on it was much appreciated and it will serve as a valuable memento of a super trip.