Visit This European Wilderness For Incredible Views Of Wildlife

As we face up to the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, our natural landscapes have never been more important. As well as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they provide essential habitat for wildlife and offer an opportunity for visitors to experience the best of our native nature. Certainly, when it comes to discovering the fauna and flora in the northern reaches of Europe, few areas can beat the stunning scenery of Wild Taiga in Finland — part of the largest wilderness on the continent.

Located in the east of the country, and following the border with Russia, this precious expanse of pristine nature is made up largely of "boreal" (or "snow") forest. Encompassing everything from ancient evergreens to crystal-clear lakes and roaring rapids, this Lord-of-the-Rings-esque landscape feels like an epic adventure at every turn. There's even the chance to see it all against the beautiful backdrop of the Northern Lights, if timing — and luck — are on your side.

Furthermore, the area offers one of the best places in Europe to spot native animals in their natural habitat. The landscape here is home to all sorts of wildlife, ranging from beavers, moose, and flying squirrels to wolverines, grey wolves, and even brown bears. Several of these species are either rare or extinct in other European countries. So, for those wanting to see wildlife up close, Wild Taiga is the ideal destination.

Our top tips for a wonderful wildlife adventure

On a practical note, Wild Taiga is centered around the areas of Kainuu, Kuhmo, and Suomussalmi, with several small airports a short distance away. One of these, Kajaani, has a direct flight to the capital, Helsinki, and the town offers train and bus connections, too. There are several car rental companies here as well. In terms of accommodation, from camping and log cabins to family-run hotels, there are plenty of nice places to stay across the region. So, the only other thing left to decide is what time of year to visit.

Well, for wildlife watching at least, the best time to come is in the summer, from May to September, when the sun barely sets. This means you get lovely long days to explore the wilderness trails or join one of the many organized excursions. It's also mating season for the bears, so a great time to see them, and the area around Kainuu is renowned as the best in Europe for photographing these impressive animals. During the summer months, other wildlife tends to be more active, too.

In the wintertime, however, the landscape transforms into a veritable Narnia. All the lakes freeze over, icicles start to form, and the spruces are laden with a thick layer of snow. While the bears are generally hibernating at this time of the year, you can still spot wolves, wolverines, and eagles — and, though there's little daylight, when the sun does break through, it's magical.

What else to see and do in the region

Suffice to say, whatever time of year you choose to visit, there is always something special to see in Wild Taiga — and no end of ways to explore it. From hiking, canoeing, or cycling to skiing, snowshoeing, and winter-biking, visitors here have plenty of options. What is more, these activities can all be done either alone or on an organized tour.

Certainly, a visit to the Hossa National Park, at the heart of it all, is a must for nature lovers. Here, the hiking terrain is among the best in the region with some 56 miles of dedicated trails. The park is also home to rock paintings dating back to the Stone Age. Elsewhere, the Petola Visitor Centre in Kuhmo offers the chance to learn about the large carnivores that live in the region — and, not far from there, you can even enjoy a guided swim down the rapids in a waterproof floating suit.

Beyond all the stunning nature, there are a few other surprises in store as well. Among the most unexpected is the impressive art installation near Suomussalmi, "The Silent People", comprising nearly a thousand straw-headed sculptures. Elsewhere, in Kaunisniemi, there's the Soiva Metsä — Musical Forest — home to playable instruments that double as pieces of art. So, when you factor in all of the breathtaking scenery and incredible wildlife to be found here, too, this European wilderness really is in a league of its own.