The ultimate guide to luxury camping
Luxury Travel By Brian Norton | March 29, 2018
There’s a whisper of nostalgia about a night spent under canvas: the promise of simple, adventure-packed days, topped off with long, lazy nights beside the fire. Today, however, you can leave the tent pegs at home, thanks to a growing collection of luxury camping hotels around the world. With chrysalis-like cabins in Sri Lanka to shepherd’s huts in the Cotswolds, lakeside yurts in Patagonia and temple-gazing tents in the Himalayas, it’s never been easier to slum it in style surrounded by the world’s most dramatic landscapes. Follow our pitch for the best glamping destinations around, and find your private slice of Swallows and Amazons seclusion.
The Other Side, BahamasBest for: coastal canvas
A long track leads the way to this secluded spot on the island of Eleuthera, a fine finger of land that forms part of the Bahamas archipelago. On reaching the Other Side, you’ll find four communal pavilions, holding a restaurant, games room, library and honesty bar, plus three shoreline sleeping tents with hardwood floors, four-posters and terracotta-potted palms. Ensuites promise monsoon showers and twin sinks, but surely the most enticing bathing spot is the hotel’s pool, which shoots out into the Atlantic, surrounded by sunken daybeds and cerulean waters.
Hilly Huts at the Fish Hotel, United KingdomBest for: country cabins
Cradled by Cotswolds’ countryside, the Fish Hotel is a genteel sort of place, with classically styled rooms looking out at the 400-acre Farncombe Estate. However, mindful of Britain’s enthusiastic adoption of luxury camping, the hotel has some surprises in store this year, starting with its quintet of shepherd’s huts. Launching in March, they’re fitted with a flock of perks, including a log-burning stove, underfloor heating, a stash of vintage Penguin books, a free minibar and ensuite bathrooms with walk-in showers. Outside, each hut has a private deck with a fire and hot tub. The Hilly Huts are just the start of the hotel’s glamping ambitions for 2018: look out for treehouses in May and Hideaway Huts come summer.
Patagonia Camp, ChileBest for: southern stargazing
Encircled by lichen-draped lenga trees, Patagonia Camp stares out across mirror-like Lake Toro, a short drive from Torres del Paine National Park. Your base is one of 20 luxury yurts, poised on the forested hillside, with views of the park’s eponymous peaks. Each dome-like den has insulated, lattice-braced walls, wedge-thick beds, ensuite bathrooms and a circular roof light for spying the skies of South America’s final frontier. Wraparound decks furnished with Adirondack chairs frame the outside of each yurt, some of which have private Jacuzzis.
Wild Coast Tented Lodge, Sri LankaBest for: parkside pitches
There’s nothing quite like the chrysalis-style cabins at this far-flung Sri Lankan retreat. Poised between the country’s wave-lapped southern coast and wildlife-packed Yala National Park, they seem to mimic their natural environment, with organic carapace-like shells, surrounded by lush tropical greenery. Inside, however, the scene is firmly of the man-made variety, with canopied beds, swirling ceiling fans and heritage safari furniture. Free-form plunge pools add the final flourish – ideal for cooling down after game drives to spot elephants, sloth bears and leopards.
Dunton River Camp, United StatesBest for: waterside wilderness
Sister property to Dunton Hot Springs, this riverside Rockies retreat stands on the former site of Cresto Ranch, a 19th-century cattle farm. Surrounded by 500 acres of free-range grazing, it’s been transformed into a summer-only camp, with eight elevated, prospector-style tents, fitted with stoves and cow-hide rugs. Fly-fishing is the main hook here, thanks to the camp’s location on the banks of the Dolores River. But there’s also horse riding, mountain biking or hiking in the San Juan range for those who prefer land-based activities. By day, serrated mountain scenery and forest pines surround you – plus visiting hummingbirds that dart into camp to feed. Come nightfall, congenial company awaits at farm-to-fork meals and fireside gatherings.
Galapagos Safari Camp, EcuadorBest for: wild neighbours
Had this light-touch, luxury camp been around in Darwin’s day, his stay on the Galapagos might have been a touch more comfortable. Indeed, this jungle-wrapped dwelling is somewhat evolutionary: a land-based lodging on a string of islands that are usually seen by boat. Pitched in the highlands of Santa Cruz island, these 10 teak-floored, safari-style tents let you access both sides of the Galápagos: spying flagship species such as giant tortoises and vermilion flycatchers amid the pit craters and lava tunnels of these volcanic isles; as well as vessel-based visits to nearby islands and the surrounding marine reserve.
Amanwana, IndonesiaBest for: offshore indolence
Aman Resorts is way ahead of the curve when it comes to luxury camping, having launched super high-end tents at Aman-i-Khás in India’s tiger-prowled Ranthambore National Park and also at Amanwana. Set on the Indonesian island of Moyo, east of Bali and Lombok, this exotic paen to pitching features both ocean-facing and jungle-ensconced tents, featuring Indonesian interiors and the suave minimalist accents that have become the brand’s calling card. Beyond the tents, there’s scuba diving in the Flores Sea and hiking trails through tropical forests to glimpse deer, macaques and wild boar.
Chhatra Sagar Tents, IndiaBest for: just deserts
This camp stands on a raised bank overlooking a reservoir that was built in 1880 by local nobleman Chhatra Singh to harvest monsoon rains. By the 20th century, the area had become lush and green – a bona fide desert oasis – and hosted legendary sporting parties with high tea and exotic dinners, followed by nights under canvas. Today, that rich history is recreated by Singh’s great grandchildren, who provide Rajput-style tents facing out across the lake, adorned with handcrafted furniture and colourful Indian motifs. Trips to rural Rajasthani villages and local bird-watching tours can be arranged, before a torchlit dinner back at camp.
Chamba Camp Thiksey, HimalayasBest for: high standards
Amid the stupa-strewn landscape of the Indian Himalayas, this camp recently took home the Above & Beyond prize at the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards. And it’s not hard to see why. From its elevated perch in the Ladakh Valley, it glances across to Thiksey Monastery, a hilltop Buddhist landmark that rises from the mountain reaches. Fourteen luxury tents enjoy butler service, private decks and Ayurvedic bath products. Local dishes of Himalayan rainbow trout and delicately spiced thali platters are delivered to the candlelit dining tent each evening, alongside vegetables and herbs from the on-site organic garden. By day, hiking, archery and village visits provide all-action diversions.
Magic Private Camps, UAE and OmanBest for: total privacy
This luxury mobile camp pitches up at desert destinations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman. Like a scene from Lawrence of Arabia, you’ll be picked up and whisked across the sands for some dune bashing, followed by a sunset drink atop a pyramid-like mound, and a ride to your candle-lit camp. Whether you choose the golden sands of Dubai, the russet-red dunes of Abu Dhabi or the wind-whipped Wahiba folds of Oman, the accommodation is in luxury off-grid bell tents with private ensuites, set up for you alone. Half-board meals are prepared by a chef and served in a Bedouin tent, followed by sweet tea and shisha beneath the Arabian night sky.
Featured image is Chamba Camp Thiksey