For the unapologetic lovers of luxury among us, tents have traditionally been a big no-no. Acceptable on safari, perhaps, but preferably avoided anywhere outside the veldt. But times are changing, and glamping – to its fans, the best of both worlds – is on the march.
Admittedly, posh camping isn’t exactly a new phenomenon; safari enthusiasts have been shipping king-sized beds, Persian rugs and private chefs to camps across Africa since the start of the 20th century, while festivals around the world have been offering well-appointed teepees, yurts and bell tents for over a decade. It’s only more recently that luxury travel companies have begun to get in on the act, pitching tents in some of the world’s most wild and wonderful locations with levels of service to match.
What’s most exciting is that these camps are allowing intrepid holidaymakers to visit places too remote for traditional accommodation. Take Antarctica’s White Desert Camp: the continent’s first and only luxury camp provides a base for skiing, climbing, trekking and flights to the South Pole, alongside award-winning food, fur-clad furniture, free-flowing champagne and private-jet transfers. In India, The Ultimate Travelling Camp, and Kaafila Camps take guests on nomadic journeys through the north and central regions of the country, respectively. These mobile operations erect camps whenever and wherever the weather is best, taking in brooding forts, untouched palaces and dramatic mountain ranges along the way. Forget bricks and mortar – it’s canvas that will get you to the farthest corners of the Earth.
Recently, luxury travel companies have got in on the posh camping act, pitching tents in some of the world’s most wild and wonderful locations, with levels of service to match
Dar Ahlam Nomad Camp
Prepare to relax, soak up your sandy surroundings and do very little else at the Dar Ahlam Nomad Camp, just south of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco’s Sahara Desert. With its amazing location, miles off the beaten track, seclusion is very much the name of the game here. The tents are larger than most, offering double beds, living rooms, private terraces and en-suite bathrooms with shower facilities, while the decadent Berber fabrics and pictures hung on the walls give them a surprisingly homely feel. Choose between dining by the campfire or deep in the dunes – the local cuisine of harira and tagine should set you up nicely for an evening of intimate stargazing.
Wild Coast Tented Lodge
Let’s use the term “tent” loosely when referring to Resplendent Ceylon’s luxury cocoon and urchin tents. Yes, they’re canvas domes, but ones with glass windows and doors, four-poster king-size beds, chandeliers and air-conditioning. Located where the Yala National Park meets the Indian Ocean, the camp offers exceptional wilderness experiences, including game drives (the area has one of the densest leopard populations in the world), and incredible deep-sea fishing from the nearby town of Weligama. Back in camp, traditional Sri Lankan dishes are given the Relais & Châteaux treatment in the elegant bamboo Dining Pavilion, while the Sanctuary Spa showcases native ingredients, such as Ceylon tea and cinnamon.
Uyuni Salt Flats Adventure
Not content with merely glamping? Try a six-night adventure through the wild and otherworldly landscapes of Bolivia and Chile. The trip, which ushers guests from La Paz to San Pedro de Atacama, via Salar de Uyuni and Sajama National Park, takes in South America’s best altiplanic lagoons, geysers, giant cacti, mountains and flamingos, while spending your nights in luxury camps. Guests will stay in state-of-the-art yurts and dome tents, furnished with wood-burning stoves, private bathrooms, Andean textiles, and fitted with huge bay windows – perfect for admiring the salt flats from your toasty double bed. Your adventure takes you through Valle de la Luna (The Moon Valley).
On the edge of Botswana’s vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans – an extinct super-lake that once covered most of the country – San Camp is a tiny oasis of civilisation. Each of the camp’s six tents (the Stewart Granger Memorial Collection of 1940s safari tents) is beautifully appointed in old colonial style, with four-poster beds, bucket showers, paraffin lamps and chaises longues. What they lack in electricity and running water, they make up for in 360-degree panoramas and total silence. Activities revolve around game drives and lessons from the local Zu/’hoasi bushmen. Alternatively, take a quad bike and head for the horizon, where eventually you’ll find a number of curious archaeological sites, and, with a bit of luck, the mystical Kubu Island.
Zion National Park
According to astronomers at the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the night sky in Utah’s Zion National Park is as dark as it gets anywhere on land, making it one of the best places in the world for stargazing. Here, miles from the artificial light of civilisation, you’ll find a small gathering of canvas safari-style tents with en-suite bathrooms, wood stoves and private decking – great for family getaways (the Stargazer tent even has a window above the bed). By day, the surrounding canyons and cactus gardens provide the perfect setting for horse- and bike-riding excursions, rock climbing and kayaking. If that feels too adventurous, take a Jeep safari, for a day of incredible panoramas, or a helicopter flight to discover Utah from a whole new perspective.
Aurora Safari Camp
Rustic teepees (or lavvus, as they’re known locally) in Swedish Lapland might not look particularly luxurious – occupying perhaps the more camping end of the glamping spectrum – but get some wood in the stove and before you know it, you’ll have the cosiest tent this side of the North Pole. The Aurora Safari Camp is the brainchild of Fredrik Broman, a professional photographer who will give you essential tips on how to capture the Northern Lights. When you’re not staring skyward, go husky sledding or moose watching, race across frozen lakes on snowmobiles, or try your hand at ice-fishing and snowshoeing. Head back to camp for a lakeside sauna and a hearty meal, but be sure to keep those logs on the fire.
From March until May, the new Trollaskagi Camp is a great location for an action-packed few days on Iceland’s Troll Peninsula. The six-tent camp is a picture of high-end Nordic design: cosy rugs, pale woods, extra-thick duvets, crackling wood stoves and gigantic windows. The beds are even on casters to get the best view of the Northern Lights. By day, go heli-skiing, cat-skiing (from peak to ocean!), ski touring, snow-shoeing, horse-riding, dog-sledding, whale-watching, snowmobiling and more. By night, soothe your weary limbs in the Scandinavian hot tub, catch up with your camp mates over a delicious Icelandic supper, then retire to the library dome where you’ll find a selection of books, board games and movies.