Scandinavia: Wildlife Destinations
Wildlife Highlights of Scandinavia
1. Cleft into the northern tip of Europe, Norway’s Varanger Fjord provides a sheltered refuge for large rafts of Steller’s eider and other sea ducks. During summer, the island of Hornøya is alive with nesting seabirds, such as Brünnich’s guillemot, puffin and kittiwake. Inland, the Arctic tundra and taiga forest is the haunt of the snowy owl.
2. World renowned for its winter displays of the Aurora Borealis, Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland is a brooding mountain wilderness with excellent hiking trails. Moose and reindeer are commonly seen.
3. Sperm whales gather in summer to feed off the continental shelf near Andenes in the Vesteralen Islands, Norway, while the islands themselves have spectacular mountain scenery and thriving seal and seabird colonies.
4. Taiga forest shimmering with countless lakes, the wilderness of northeast Finland is prime territory for brown bears and wolves.
5. Breeding cranes are the star attraction at Ånns Jön Wetlands, Sweden, where an observatory (annsjon.org) provides views across lakes and bogs teeming with ducks, divers and waders.
6. A popular hiking area, the Petkeljärvi National Park of Finland has glacial ridges (or eskers) cloaked in pine forest that is home to beaver, moose and wolf.
7. Consisting of more than 2,000 islands, Archipelago National Park, Finland, is ideal for a canoeing expedition in search of Baltic seal, moose and white-tailed eagle.
8. Covering a diverse range of habitats, from meadows and wetlands to evergreen forests and oak woods, Sweden’s Färnebofjärden National Park is rich in birdlife.
Martinselkonen Nature Reserve, Finland
Martinselkonen's star species: Brown bear • Wolf • Wolverine • Moose • Lynx • Great grey owl
Where Russia’s vast taiga forest spills across the border into northeastern Finland, it sets the scene for one of Europe’s most exciting wildlife encounters. Keeping an all-night vigil from a hide in the Martinselkonen Nature Reserve, you have an excellent chance (with near-24-hour daylight during summer) of seeing brown bears up-close. Sometimes more than 30 individuals gather to feed here, including mothers with cubs and solitary males. The bears usually emerge from hibernation in late April, with July and early August often being the best months to see cubs. Wolverine and pine marten are also glimpsed occasionally, along with taiga birds such as three-toed woodpecker, Siberian jay, rustic bunting and Siberian tit. The forest also offers a great opportunity to search for owls. Up to 10 species are found here, including the great grey owl.
Getting there Flights from Helsinki serve Kajaani, Kuusamo and Oulu – each offering access to the taiga wilderness of northeast Finland.
Getting around Walking trails in the forest.
When to go May to August.
Things to do Bear watching hides, hikes, birdwatching
Places to stay A refurbished former frontier guard station, the Martinselkonen Wilderness Centre sleeps up to 26 people and is approximately 270km from Oulu, 170km from Kajaani and 150km from Kuusamo. A 2km forest trail leads to various hides around a bear-viewing area. The larger hides have room for 10 people (including sleeping areas), while the smaller ones are designed to accommodate two or three people with a particular interest in photography. Feeders around the lodge attract woodpeckers and red squirrels, while nesting boxes have been put up for pygmy, Tengmalm’s and Ural owls.
Further information Finnature runs bear photography tours to Martinselkonen.
Iceland: Top 5 Things To Do
1. Spot ducks and divers around Lake Myvatn
A nesting site for red-throated diver and 25,000 ducks, including Barrow’s goldeneye and harlequin duck.
2. Search for minke whales in Skjalfandi Bay
Operating from Husavik, North Sailing’s oak-hulled herring trawlers are now used as whale watching boats. whalewatchinghusavik.is
3. Go to hell (and back)
Travel by 4WD to Askja where the explosion crater of Viti (Icelandic for hell) is surrounded by a surreal volcanic landscape. icetourist.is
4. Hike in Asbyrgi Gorge
A wooded oasis in northern Iceland, horseshoe-shaped Asbyrgi has carpets of wood cranesbill and is part of Vatnajökull National Park. visitnortheasticeland.is
5. See birds in West Fjords
Rising to 440m, Latrabjarg is the largest seabird cliff in Iceland with nesting colonies of razorbill, fulmars, guillemots and puffins. westfjords.is
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wildlife travel essentials: Scandinavia
WHEN TO GO
Wildlife-watching activities are available all year, but be prepared for severe winter conditions and mosquitoes in summer.
GMT (Iceland), GMT+1 (Norway, Sweden), GMT+2 (Finland).
WHERE TO STAY
Tourist office websites (below) have online booking facilities.