Whether you are on holiday for a weekend break or a long stay, fitting in a trip to see beautiful wildlife and stunning landscapes is a great way to truly escape the hustle and bustle. Discover your holiday destination by immersing yourself in their natural world by seeing wild animals and beautiful scenery.
Croatia, located in south eastern Europe, has a vast coastline on the Adriatic Sea and borders various European countries including Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. There are four types of biogeographical regions in Croatia; Mediterranean, Alpine, Pannonian, and Continental. Thus the country has one of the richest biodiversity in Europe, with over 37,000 known species in Croatia. Their stunning landscapes vary with the mountainous Dinaric Alps, islands and islets, and deep caves (which Croatia is renowned for, some reaching over 1,000 metres in depth).
The most iconic natural landscape in Croatia is the Plitvice Lakes in the Karlovac county located near the Pula Area. It is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia, founded in 1949 spanning over 300km2. In 1979 it was granted UNESCO world heritage status. The breath-taking lakes are famous due to their stunning turquoise coloured tones that vary depending on the sunlight and minerals in the water. The lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean rivers. There are 16 in total that are interconnected with a series of waterfalls over dolomite and limestone cascades. The main attractions to see within the park are the ‘Great Waterfall’ also known as ‘Veliki Slap’, and the ‘Kozjak Lake’. The remainder of the park is covered in thick forest populated with deer, brown bears, wolves, boars, multiple rare bird species, and Eurasian lynx. Previously extinct in this part of Europe, the largest species of lynx the ‘Eurasian Lynx’ was reintroduced to Slovenia then began to inhabit Croatia - in the national park there are now numerous mating pairs. Furthermore Croatia has one of the highest populations of brown bear in Europe and it is featured on the Croatian currency – the 5 Kuna Coin! The Park has over a million visitors annually and is open every day all year. There is a small entrance fee of 55 Kuna (approximately £6.50) during off peak season and 250 Kuna (approximately £30) during July and August. No matter what time of year the Plitvice Lakes national park is enchanting covered in snow, falling red autumn leaves or at the Hight of summer. For more information about the park visit the Plitvice Lakes website.
Croatia has some stunning nature and wildlife to show off. If you want to head to more national parks there is more to choose from including Krka, Paklenica, Northern Velebit, Risnjak, Brijuni, and Kopački Rit. You can also take boat tours from Split to various surrounding Croatian islands (there is 1,144 of them!), channels, and lagoons. These tours are perfect for spotting playful Adriatic dolphins - the local dolphin species that is smaller than the common dolphin.
Turkey is a diverse country with many different geographical and climatic regions. This transcontinental Eurasian country is predominantly on the Anatolian peninsula in western Asia and partly on the Balkan peninsula in south eastern Europe. It is surrounded by a whopping four seas; the Black Sea to the north, Mediterranean Sea to the south, Aegean Sea to the west, and the Marmara to the northwest. Turkey is a fountain of flora and fauna; home to 11,000 species of flowering plants which have given birth to many of the world’s cultivated crops such as wheat and other cereals. You can find a bountiful of their wild ancestors throughout the country.
The Bosphorus strait also known as the ‘Strait of Istanbul’ is an international significant maritime waterway in north western turkey. The world’s narrowest strait connects multiple seas and specifically connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Forming part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, the Bosporus together with the Dardanelles form the Turkish Straits. The waterway has been of the highest importance since ancient times and historically it was known as the ‘Strait of Constantinople’. The wildlife within and over the body of water is vast. Observe the migration of avian birds flying from north Africa in the spring and autumn. Remarkable numbers of raptors, black storks, and white storks pass over. The most awe-inspiring display is when over 250,000 white storks over the course of a few weeks make their passage. And there is even more to see with three different species of porpoise inhabiting the water; the bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, and harbour porpoises. Whilst enjoying the wildlife there are also plenty of other attractions to enjoy simultaneously as the Bosporus has over 620 waterfront houses and palaces built during the Ottoman period. Palaces such as the Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Yıldız Palace, Çırağan Palace, Feriye Palaces, Beylerbeyi Palace, Küçüksu Palace, Ihlamur Palace, Hatice Sultan Palace, Adile Sultan Palace and Khedive Palace.
If you want to explore even more of a different side to Turkey, the narrow coastal strip between the Pontic Mountains and the Black Sea is home to the Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests, which contain some of the world's few temperate rainforests. If you want to head to some national parks the Antalya Area is a good spot. You are spoilt for choice with the option of Mount Güllük-Termessos National Park, Beydağları Coastal National Park, Köprülü Canyon National Park, and Altınbeşik Cave National Park.
Poland is located in central Europe with a largely temperate seasonal climate. It is bordered by the countries Lithuania, Kaliningrad (Russia), Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany. And to the north west is bordered by the Baltic Sea. The Baltic coastline starts at the Bay of Pomerania and ends at the Gulf of Gdańsk with the Bay of Puck and the Vistula lagoons intersecting in-between. Poland is lucky to be home to animal species that have died out in other parts of Europe including the European Bison (Wisent) – Europe’s heaviest land animal. It also hosts many other rare large European mammals such as the Brown Bear, Grey Wolf, and Eurasian lynx. Poland also has the largest White Stork population in Europe with over 40,000 breeding pairs, they inhabit the lake districts and wetlands in the national parks and nature reserves. In the surrounding area of Krakow there are 6 national parks with Ojcow National Park just a 15 minute ride away from the city centre.
For a true experience of wild Poland visit the ancient Białowieża Forest, one of the last remaining parts of the European primeval forests. The entire forest covers large areas of eastern Poland and Belarus. The border between the two countries within the forest there as multiple border crossings for hikers. Often referred to as the “last untouched wilderness of Europe", the Polish Białowieża National park covers an impressive 105km2 and the entire forest stretches over 3,000km2. The Białowieża National park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only one in Poland for natural property. The forest is named after the village located at the heart of it meaning ‘White Tower’, which stemmed from the white hunting manor of the King Władysław II Jagiełło. Approximately 150,000 tourists visit annually, guided tours in the strictly protected areas of the park can be arranged on foot, bike or by horse-drawn carriage but is limited to no more than 20 people. The defining feature of the forest is its biological diversity as it conceals rare species such as pygmy owls and European Bison. The symbol for the forest is in fact the Bison itself, which was saved from extinction. The forest is home to over 800 European bison and has a breeding centre under landscape protection. The forest also has a lot of ancient pedunculate oaks some of which are individually named.