Camping has traditionally brought sophisticated urban dwellers out in hives, but the emergence of glamping—a hybrid of “glamor” and “camping”—has changed things. Now, luxurious yurt and tepee sites boast 100% cotton bedding, organic welcome hampers and indecently abundent tea lights. So no more struggling with a tent and airbed!
Glamping sites range from little more than a pre-erected tent with simple Ikea furnishings to something more akin to an upmarket hotel. Along the way many have missed the point—either too basic or too plush and removed from the natural surroundings.
Here is a look at five luxury camping sites that have achieved the perfect blend, providing absolute immersion in the great outdoors whilst maintaining a just-so degree of indulgence and luxury:
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Torres del Paine National Park contains some of the most achingly beautiful mountain & glacial scenery you’ll ever see. Ecocamp, a collection of luxury geodesic domes, is set slap bang in the middle of this wild landscape. The domes feature round windows in the ceiling so you can fall asleep spotting shooting stars. The camp is the HQ for some of the best trekking on earth with the famous four day W Circuit on the doorstep and, of course, magnificent day walks on offer. Washing facilities are shared in the basic domes but those unwilling to share can opt for the luxury en-suite domes.
Outside Sedgefield, Garden Route, South Africa
Situated in an impossibly steep densely forested valley are a handful of treehouse lodges and a communal reception and pool area. Each treehouse is perched privately on the valley sides with verandas and open baths overlooking the beautiful view; no treehouse is visible from another. The structures are half timber and half canvas, evoking a luxury safari tent ambience, and come incredibly well stocked with Webber barbecues, discrete compost toilets, baths and a kitchen fit to grace many a home.
Note that guests tend to have a polarized response to Teniqua Treetops. Some absolutely loved it (including Spot Cool Stuff). Others come expecting luxury by numbers and leave bemoaning the admittedly outsized spiders that occasionally graced the treehouses.
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Dyfi Valley, Wales UK
Situated deep within Welsh national forest land, accessible only by a long and winding unmetalled road lies Eco Retreats. Five tepees and an incredibly spacious yurt are scattered widely in a beautiful wooded valley complete with a gentle mountain stream running through the heart of the site.
The greatest hardship here is getting your luggage (and victuals) from the car across the stream to your luxury tent. Inside, the yurt is the largest and most indulgent space, featuring a wonderful fireplace, comfortable bed, solid wood kitchen and cosy sheepskin rug. At the centre of the yurt is a transparent roof window creating a delightful airy ambience. The tepees are smaller, cosier and more rustic—you could almost imagine yourself a Sioux Indian returning to your tipi after a long day rounding wild horse. Outside each is a firepit and you are invited to collect fire-wood from the forest. Facilities are earthy to say the least, with a composting toilet and solar shower situated close (but not too close) to each tent.
Kolarbyn Forest Huts
Lake Skärsjön, Sweden
Undoubtedly the most primitive luxury camping site reviewed in this article, there are no showers and the accommodation is fairly primitive (bring a sleeping bag), but this being Scandinavia there is a floating sauna on the lake.
Guests tend to convene round the communal fireplace at night, but each hut has its own fire too. The nature is key here, the huts hark back to the simple dwellings of charcoal burners of old and the owner Marcus is an incredibly passionate naturalist putting on highly rated wolf and moose tours.
Ningaloo Reef, Australia
At the other end of the spectrum from Kolarbyn is Sal Salis. Sal Salis offers nine spacious wilderness tents that are the epitome of what you would expect from a luxury hotel. 100% cotton linen (500 threadcount), en suite bathrooms, views to die for, but crucially no TVs, telephones or dreaded minibars.
The tents are sat within blindingly white sand dunes, just yards from the sea and the world renowned Ningaloo Reef. The reef is one of the best places on earth to see and swim with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.
Book for two or more nights through Spot Cool Stuff and with a a Mr. & Mrs. Smith membership card ($25 or £15 per year) and get treated to a complimentary scenic charter flight from Learmonth Airport to Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef.
Glamorous thanks to Ben Colclough for guest writing this post. Ben writes for the adventure travel specialists Tourdust.com and is lucky enough to count staying at luxury camping sites as his job. You can follow Tourdust on Twitter @Tourdust.