The northern mountain ranges of the Iberian Peninsula have become key sanctuaries for the conservation of Iberean wolves and Cantabrian brown bears in Spain. Can you imagine suddenly spotting a pack of wolves playing in broad daylight? What about secretively watching an imposing brown bear feeding on a hillside or walking around with its cubs?
Join us on an ecotourism adventure in Somiedo (Asturias) and Montaña de Riaño (Castile and Leon) to delve into the natural habitat of these iconic animals, learning about the vital role of responsible ecotourism for its conservation and the undeniable beauty of the natural spaces that shelter them.
In search of the majestic Cantabrian brown bear in Somiedo Natural Park, Asturias
Foto: Somiedo Experience
August and September are the best months of the year to spot Cantabrian brown bears in Somiedo Natural Park. The reason is very simple: two of the bushes that provide the bear’s favourite meal give their fruit during these months. These are the hazelnut tree and the goatskin bush (Rhamnus alpina) and seeing the bears feed in the higher areas of the park is an impressive experience worth watching.
Somiedo Experience is an affiliated company that offers wildlife watching activities, being the spotting of the brown bear their most popular one. The brown bear watching experience is suitable for all ages and last about four hours. There is a guided walk around the natural area to discover all about the ecosystem and the brown bear habits, followed by a two hour sighting in an area of good visibility where bears are oblivious of any human presence. The activity includes all equipment needed to watch the bears from binoculars to telescopes and the starting time is either at sunrise or sunset, which is when there are more chances of spotting bears in the wild. There is also a visit to “La Casa del Oso” (the bear’s house) in Pola de Somiedo, a place focused on raising awareness about the Cantabrian brown bear in collaboration with the Brown Bear Foundation.
Where to sleep in Somiedo
There are nine accommodation providers accredited by Soy Ecoturista in Somiedo such as hotels, rural hostels and houses and apartments. There is a lot to do and see in the area, so we highly recommend to stay for a few days, particularly if you are coming for a brown bear watching tour, since they start at either sunset or sunrise.
Spying Iberian wolves and bears in the wild in Montaña de Riaño, Castile and Leon
Foto: Aveshide/Wild Spain Travel
Still in northern Spain, the Montaña de Riaño and Mampodre Regional Park in Castile and Leon is one of the best spots in the country to watch Iberean wolves in the wild. There are 20 identified wolf packs in the park and surrounded mountains and the best time of the year to see them in action are August, September and October – although sightings in winter and spring are also possible.
Aveshide is a local ecotourism company affiliated with Soy Ecoturista that offers wild watching and photography experiences in the area. One of their most popular activities is wolf watching and this take place in small groups outings of 8 people together with 2 guides – the Regional Park imposses a group size of between 8 and 12 people. In case of brown bear watching tours, the groups can be slightly larger although it is not advisable to maintain a good experience. It is advisable to inquire to Aveshide in advance to find out what the access to the view points are like, since the distance and difficulty of the terrain can be a bit challenging for children or visitors with walking difficulties. The experience last between four and five hours and again, tours are scheduled for either sunset or sunrise.
The role of the guides in these sort of experiences is very important. They request the needed permits to access the park with vehicles but they also know the animals habits, traces, curiosities and issues related to their conservation and protection. They will teach you how to best use the equipment, where and when to look to get the best shot and they will tell you amazing stories of personal encounters with these iconic animals.
It is worth noting that Aveshide’s work is based on the principles of responsible wildlife watching and the company takes specific measures to ensure the impact of the tour is minimised. They collaborate with the local Administration and conservation entities by providing and sharing information gathered during the field trips, as well as carrying out educational work by raising awareness about the challenges faced by the wolf.
Where to sleep in Montaña de Riaño
There are six accommodation providers accredited with Soy Ecoturista in Montaña de Riaño that are a perfect base to explore the area and do some wildlife watching. You will find rural houses, hotels and apartments.
Other companies in Spain that offer brown bear and wolf watching
We invite you to discover other companies affiliated with Soy Ecoturista that offer responsible wilwife watching, in particular the brown bear and the Iberean wolf. Still in Montaña de Riaño you will find the enterprise Biosfera Aventura and Wild Watching Spain and in Fuentes del Narcea-Muniellos, Asturias, the company Bosque Activo.
The Ecotourism Club in Spain – Soy Ecoturista groups together destinations and companies which guarantee, by fulfilling a series of requirements, their commitment to conservation and local sustainable development. That is why it has created its own brand “Ecotourist in Spain” and the website www.ecotouristinspain.com, where you can find protected areas, accommodation and companies which offer their tourism services, as well as experiences and activities committed to the preservation of the area in which they take place.