“To say that the wolf suffers from a bad reputation is like saying the great white shark isn’t everyone’s favourite fish.” *
When we think of wolves, we think of aggressive, powerful and intelligent animals with a sinister edge because of the wealth of stories, films, books and even fairy tales depicting them this way.
In fact, they are beautiful and fascinating creatures and not so easy to spot nowadays. They are protected by EU law but countries like France, Finland and Germany have introduced aggressive measures to limit population, including culling.
But the Eurasian wolf is a lovely creature, so if you want to hit the trail, here are four wonderful wolf destinations from all points of Europe to set you prowling towards the nearest airport!
NORTH – The surrounds of Stockholm, Sweden
You can find Sweden’s densest population of wolves two and a half hours’ drive from the capital, in the Malingsbo-Kloten Nature Reserve. Local guides take you through known wolf territory into the densely forested region of Bergslagen. If it’s autumn or Winter, you’ll even be able to go snowshoe hiking in deep snow as you track down your wolves and offer them one of your Swedish cinnamon buns!
SOUTH – Sierra de la Culebra in North-West Spain
The name means “Snake Mountains”, referring to the winding and undulating landscapes. Traditionally the wolf has been the sworn enemy of Spanish livestock farmers and shepherds. Local folklore has a saying; “¡El mejor lobo es lobo muerto!” (“The only good wolf is a dead wolf!”).
But issues like de-population and shrinking resources mean ‘wolf tourism’ is more warmly welcomed nowadays. Because rural society is dying out, the wolf population has grown. There are a healthy 10 wolf packs currently roaming the reserve and you’ll easily find locals only too ready to lead you in the right direction for a super sighting.
EAST – The Carpathians (Romania)
The Carpathian Mountains cover a major part of Northern Romania and are also home to the largest number of wolves in Europe. Virgin beech and pine forests are the perfect wolf playground, even if thick tree cover means sightings can’t easily be guaranteed.
The alpine meadows that wind up to Ciuma Peak are a wolf hotspot, and so is the spectacular Zarnesti Gorge in Piatra Craiului National Park. Seeing a Transylvanian wolf will send shivers down your spine, though in the land of Dracula’s home (Bran Castle), chills in the spine are pretty common!
WEST – The French Alps
There are about 360 wolves in France, mostly roaming in the Maritime Alps in packs of six to 15 individuals. Wolves round here were practically hunted to extinction in the 1930s but gradually, wolves from Italy have repopulated the area (It’s uncertain if they speak French). Trips in this part of the world allow you to go off-piste with a wolf-tracking expert, learn about wolf behaviour and how to identify and interpret animal tracks, and hopefully see a few wolves in action!
*Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/c341b948-7c43-11e2-99f0-00144feabdc0