Top 7 bear watching vacations in Europe

Bear watching vacations in Europe are a great way to unlock the continent’s wilderness regions in the company of local experts. This is your chance to camp out in bear hides, check camera traps and track brown bears using radio technology and good old-fashioned backwoods know-how. Or you can set off on an expedition cruise to the Arctic, where polar bears hunt the ice. From Romania’s Carpathian Mountains and the Northern Pindos in Greece to Finland’s Wild Taiga and the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria – read about our best bear watching vacations in Europe.

1. Volunteering with bears in Romania

Situated in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, Libearty is the biggest sanctuary for brown bears in the world. Volunteers are needed to work alongside local staff and animal experts to ensure rescued bears have a chance to rehabilitate and be released into the wild. If they can’t be released, the wild forested enclosures provide the perfect place for brown bears to live out their days in peace.
Staying within the medieval city of Brasov, volunteers will have a chance to go bear watching in the Transylvanian woods and learn more about the sanctuary’s conservation and rehabilitation programmes. With opportunities to prepare food and observe everyday behaviours close-up, this is a really rewarding hands-on experience.

2. Polar bear expedition in Norway & Russia

Spend two weeks searching out polar bears in Norway’s Svalbard – the best place to see them in Europe. You’ll travel on an expedition ship of up to 114 passengers, shoving off from Longyearbyen in Norway and sailing across the Barents Sea and over the Russian border to Franz Josef Land. On-board lectures and guided hikes will teach you about the calving icebergs, glaciers, ice floes and basalt cliffs you sail and hike past, as well as the walruses, huge seabird colonies and whales that share the polar bear’s fragile and shrinking territory.

Our top selling trip: Luxury Arctic cruise in Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land
All our trips: Spitsbergen vacations
Read more: Polar bear watching in Norway guide

3. Bear tracking in Greece

Discover the wild Northern Pindos region of mainland Greece that’s home to hundreds of brown bears, as well as wolves, deer, golden eagles and European beavers. Tracking bears in the company of a wilderness ranger is the best way to go bear watching in Greece. Setting out on the hiking trails that lead through the mountain foothills and thick forests of Northern Pindos National Park is a real adventure.

Using a combination of radio tracking, camera traps and expert local knowledge, you’ll have every chance to observe telltale signs of bears as well as the possibility of spotting a brown bear in the wild. Staying at a guest house on the shores of Lake Kastoria also offers easy access for daily attempts to observe bears in their natural environment. Plus, it’s an ideal setting for bird watching in the wetlands – don’t forget your binoculars.

Our top selling trip: Brown bear tracking in northern Greece
All our trips: Mainland Greece vacations
Read more: Bear tracking in Greece guide

Our top Europe wildlife Vacation

Northern Greece bear conservation tour

Northern Greece bear conservation tour

Brown bear conservation in Pindos & birds of Prespa Lake

From 850 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Europe wildlife or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

4. Bear watching in Finland

One of the best ways to go bear watching in Finland is at night from the comfort of a purpose-built hide. Not only will you be able to take advantage of the hide’s excellent camouflage, but you’ll also be accompanied by an expert wildlife watching guide. A bed and toilet provide a couple of home comforts but, other than that, you just need to be patient and wait for the moment the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and someone whispers, “There’s one!”
This is also an amazing opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of Europe’s top predators. Wolverines, wolves and lynx are all known to inhabit the Wild Taiga landscapes of Finland, close to the Russian border, along with elk and wild reindeer.

5. Polar bear cruise in Spitsbergen

One of our travelers called cruising in Spitsbergen “an emotional rollercoaster”. Small ships have panoramic bridges, open deck areas for wildlife viewing, a library and lecture programme, and a fleet of small Zodiac boats at the ready for landings on ice shelves and seal beaches. And where there are seals, there are polar bears. You’re in excellent hands here, guided by marine and natural history experts.

Our top selling trip: Arctic icebreaker cruise, Spitsbergen
All our trips: Spitsbergen vacations
Read more: Polar bears in Norway guide and Spitsbergen travel guide

6. Bear watching in Bulgaria

The forested foothills of the Rhodope Mountains lie to the south-east of Sofia. This is about as far from the busy Black Sea resorts as you can imagine – which is good news for anyone keen on bear watching in Bulgaria. Join a small group and enjoy a whole week of bear tracking both day and night.

Accompanied by a brown bear watching expert, this is a great way to get to know an area of Europe that’s still wild. The densely forested Bulgarian wilderness provides protected habitat for wildcats, wolves, badgers, pine martens and Balkan lynx, as well as a good number of brown bears. You’ll stay high up in the mountains in the village of Yagodina, where you can access the trails, hides and cave systems of the Rhodopes as well as the rural traditions of Bulgaria.

Our top selling trip: Brown bear watching vacation in Bulgaria
All our trips: Bulgaria vacations
Read more: Bulgaria bear watching travel guide

7. Bear tracking & whale watching in Wild Taiga

Head up to Finland’s Wild Taiga region on the border with Russia and you’ll come face to face with protected wilderness areas that few people get to see. This is where you can go bear watching from secret forest hides and find out more about traditional Finnish culture as you stay in a lakeside village and learn about life here.

While in this remote region of Europe, you might as well hop the border into Russia and spend a few days on the Solovetsky archipelago. Local wildlife guides can take you out onto the White Sea, where belugas and marine mammals surf the waves.

Our top selling trip: Finland wildlife vacation, whales and bears
All our trips: Wild Taiga vacations
Read more: Finland bear watching guide and Wild Taiga travel guide
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Gary Bembridge] [Polar bears: Riviera Travel] [Volunteering with bears in Romania: Julien Lavergne] [Finland bear watching: Gary Bembridge]