Camping can evoke a number of memories: singing around a campfire, bonding with nature, sleeping under the stars – or rainy days sat under a sodden sheet of canvas. Not terribly glamorous. However, things have changed… Imaginatively it’s been labeled ‘glamping’, but silly names aside, these boutique campsites are finally making the pursuit of the great outdoors possible for those of us who like our creature comforts.
Yurt Works, Cornwall, UK
Yurts are traditionally the dwellings of Mongolian nomads (who call them gers), but these days it seems that every festival-going fashionista is calling one home – temporarily at least. Yurt Works have been organising yurt-stays on Bodmin Moor since 2001, and seem to have the whole boutique-camping thing down to a tee. Leave your car behind and take a short walk through the tress to the campsite, where just three yurts are available, sleeping 2-6 people. Unlike your usual camping ground there is plenty of privacy, actual double beds, loads of brightly coloured cushions and even bathroom and shower yurts, complete with bath (oh the luxury!). Just to complete the wholesome picture, there are plenty of coastal paths, woods and beaches nearby.
Pansea Ksar Ghilane, Tunisia
Few things have a more romantic aura than setting out ‘English Patient’-style into the Sahara desert, admiring ancient ruins from atop your camel and returning at night to a wilderness camp with only the rustle of the sand to keep you awake… Well, until you get lost in the dunes and a scorpion decides to make a home in your shoe. Panasea Ksar Ghilane in Southern Tunisia has all the romance of camping in the desert, but with some added organisation and luxury. 60 spacious linen tents feature double beds, flooring and pretty decorations, and there is also a hammam and restaurant on site. But, of course, there are also those all-important camel (or 4×4) rides into the desert.
Accessible by 4×4 from Djerba (3 hours), Douz and Tozeur (4 hours)
Camping in the snow – am I insane, I hear you cry! No, not when it comes to Whitepod, a ‘village’ of ecological white, pod-like structures1700m above sea level at Villars, Switzerland. Each of the five pods acts as either a single or double bedroom, complete with wood-burning stove and insulated walls, keeping you super snug as you enjoy the snowy scenery. In the middle of the ‘village’ is a central chalet, where food, showers and, spa treatments are available. Despite the spa-credentials (they have a great range of treatments engineered for post-snow soothing, and offer detox and relaxation weekends) this isn’t your traditional spa bolt-hole. Access is only by ski or snowshoe, and the majority of guests come to indulge in outdoors activities: off-piste skiing, horse riding, dog sledging, ice climbing… If that’s a bit energetic, opt for one of those detox and relaxation weekends: massage, yoga, snow-shoeing and plenty of delicious locally sourced or organic food. A true winter wonderland.
Le Camp France, France
A carved double bed, rustic, wooden furniture and a natural swimming pool – no, this is not your average school holiday camping trip in France. Le Camp is a family-run campsite in the valley of Aveyron, about two hours north east of Toulouse. It is a serene get-away with real green-credentials. Five tents blend in with the natural landscape, featuring wooden furniture (from a sustainable sawmill), pale canvas and extra-king-size beds. The shower-house has an interesting indoor/outdoor shower, with plenty of hot water and local organic soap products – you can bring your own, but they have to be eco-friendly – and the used water is recycled for irrigation. There’s also a shared kitchen with all the mod-cons, a natural swimming pool (one of France’s first!), and plenty of areas to wander, relax or take a sunny afternoon nap in nature.
Kolarbyn Eco-lodge, Västmanland, Sweden
You’re not going to see the big five, but a wildlife safari in Sweden offers more animal magic than you might think. Some of Europe’s traditional beasts are still roaming around the north, so book yourself onto a Wolf Howling Tour, Moose Safari, Beaver Watching Tour or horse-back safari. Accommodation is billed as ‘Sweden’s most primitive hotel’ – perhaps not the most tempting tag line, but the eco-friendly forest huts and wooden cabins have a certain amount of charm, and are less ‘primitive’ than the name suggests. Sheepskin rugs, proper beds and wood heaters keep you comfy, while produce from local farmers keeps your stomach full and you conscience clean. Your stay will also help raise funds to protect endangered species, with SEK 50 from every Moose Safari and Wolf howling tour being donated to WWF. When you’re not out finding rare and beautiful fauna, take a wander around the local flora: blueberry forests, lakes and trees.
Altiplano tipis, Spain
Granada might be famous for the opulence of the famous Alhambra palace, but travel an hour outside the city and you’ll discover an entirely different style of living. Altiplano Tipis are three five-meter north American style tipis four miles from the town of Baza. Fully furnished (for a tipi!) with double bed, feather duvet, and a private shower in a nearby cave structure, these aren’t your typical tents. Biodegradable soaps and products are provided so that the waste water can feed the organic garden, which in turn produces yummy meals for guests. If you really just can’t cope with canvas, there’s also a troglodyte cave dwelling with double bed, en-suite shower room and wood-burner. Granada is just an hour away, and there is plenty to do locally: markets, kayaking in Lake Negratin, national parks to explore and authentic cafes and bars in the nearby villages and towns.