When we were young, we loved nothing better than pitching our tents somewhere in the woods, sitting around a campfire, roasting sausages, and feeling like adventurers. As we get older, the same pull of nature and sleeping under the stars persists, but we crave a little more comfort. Thin sleeping bags spread on bumpy soil doesn’t do our backs and bones any good.
The solution is a trend which has become more and more popular in recent years and not only with the 50-pluses: glamping. The word has been created from a combination of camping and glamour, and that’s what we will show you here: the best places in Europe where you can, in comfort and sometimes even luxury, sleep close to nature without the hassle of pitching your tent and trying to build a fire.
Pods, bubbles, treehouses, and yurts are among them. The imagination of the companies that run the sites knows no bounds, but they all have one thing in common: They are in spectacular European locations and are never far from other interesting sights when you wish to go on a short trip.
1. Orion Treehouses, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France
Located in the valley of the medieval village of Saint-Paul de Vence in the south of France, Orion Treehouses are a wonderful nature experience ideal for couples. Four tree houses surrounded by deep woods and lush gardens are built into the trees and reached by wooden staircases. The houses are rather small -- they accommodate two people, but two have bunk beds for kids. They are grouped around an ecological pool, which means it’s kept clean by plants, stones, and sand, with no chemicals to irritate your eyes or skin. You wake to bird song and the rustle of leaves in the wind and bathe in a teak tub. Breakfast is served on a terrace overlooking the pool or brought up to your room. You can enjoy outdoor yoga, massages, or have a sauna in a barrel-shaped shed.
The hosts working in the complex are ever-changing freelancers ready to fulfill your every need, as true hosts should. They are of a variety of nationalities, which gives the whole experience an exotic flair.
Just five miles inland from the Mediterranean, the Orion complex is located between the coastal towns of Nice and Antibes, with Nice, just 10 miles away, hosting the nearest international airport. Spring to fall are the best times to visit -- even the summer months are never too hot because you are in the trees and near the sea. In 2021, they fully reopen after Easter.
Orion only serves breakfast, but there is no shortage of fabulous restaurants in Saint-Paul or Cagnes-sur-Mer. If you don’t want to hire a car, they will arrange a taxi for you. A must visit is medieval Saint-Paul-de-Vence, famous for its artists, museums, and galleries.
2. Little Hut In The Vineyard, Saint-Ciers-du-Taillon, France
Queen Marie Antoinette of France loved to play at shepherdess, and so can too in the Little Hut in the Vineyard. This is a romantic getaway for a couple, not suited for kids. Perched on a vineyard just an hour from Bordeaux and in the middle of France’s wine country, the “hut” is a comfortably converted former shepherd’s dwelling with a rounded roof. Accessed by a timber deck with outdoor furniture and your own Webber grill, inside is a cozy double bed, a wood-burning stove, a compact bathroom, a kitchenette, and amenities you will be surprised to find in such a relatively small space. There is even a swimming pool and beaches within a 20-minute walk. The opportunities to get in touch with nature are the surrounding vineyards, hike-able woods, and birds singing in the trees. It’s self-catering, so you can get everything to prepare your own succulent meals in the village where it is located, Saint-Ciers-du-Taillon.
For an unforgettable day trip, make your way to Bordeaux. The best time to visit is summer, but bring warm clothes. Fall and spring can be even more romantic because it’s harvest time for grapes in the fall.
3. Olimia Adria Village, Podcetrtek, Slovenia
Apple orchards, seven mountains and seven valleys, thermal springs, woods and deer -- that just about sums up what you will find in Podcetrtek in Eastern Slovenia. In the middle of all these natural treats, you find your super glamping site in Olimia Adria Village.
Here you stay in tents, but of the most luxurious kind. You’ll have a terrace, soft beds, a fully equipped bathroom, and your own private hot tub in front of your tent. Breakfast is served on your terrace. The complex is divided into two zones, one for families and one for adults. In between, brooks, a pool with thermal water, wooden pathways, different kinds of saunas, and more. All the staff speaks fluent English.
The nearest international airport is in Vienna, Austria, from where you can take a train. If you want to venture further afield, you can walk along the rivers Bistrica and Sotla, explore the vineyards and fine wines, and see churches and castles in Olimje, where one of the oldest monasteries in Europe stands. It can get cold in Slovenia in winter, so the best times to visit are spring, summer, and fall.
4. Eco Yurts At Finca De Arrieta, Lanzarote, Spain
Lanzarote is the most easterly of the Canary Islands, just 70 miles off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also my favorite island of the Canaries because of its eye-catching volcanic landscape, plants, art, and many diverse sights.
Lanzarote’s natural beauty is the ideal setting for Finca de Arrieta, a complex of 17 yurts of a variety of sizes, suitable from just two people to families with kids and larger parties. They are modeled on the original Mongolian yurts but are finished to the highest standards, with double beds, bathrooms, kitchenettes, and walled gardens. Others have bamboo dining huts, hot tubs, and original antique Mongolian and Balinese furniture.
Located in the Temisa Tabayesco valley and only 15 miles from Lanzarote Airport, private airport transfer is available. Beaches are nearby, as well, and you can order picnic baskets for a day out at the beach.
Stargazing in the extremely clear skies of the Canary Islands is a favorite night time experience. The sculptures in Europe’s only underwater museum are must-sees, as well. You have to dive, but even beginners are taken good care of. If you prefer sightseeing that doesn’t involve diving, drive around and look at the many statues created by local artist Cesar Manrique that have shaped the image of the island.
The proximity to Africa means that Lanzarote has a mild climate year-round.
5. Whitepod, Morgins, Valais, Switzerland
Head to the village of Morgins in the Swiss canton of Valais to find a bigger and more luxurious nature adventure in the Whitepod complex. You’ll find a luxury eco-hotel and chalets, but the greatest fun are the pods. There are 18 pods spread out over the property, each with a different theme. Pods large glass spheres constructed entirely of triangles. They give you fantastic views over the mountains and the valley. Water is connected to the main hotel, and the pods are heated by pellet stoves. Meals are catered by the hotel restaurant and brought up to your pod.
The nearest airport is Geneva, from where there is a bus service to Morgins. Morgins is a great destination in summer and winter, but winter is the most exciting season when everything, including your pod, is covered in snow. You can ski or have a unique adventure by taking an excursion with a husky-drawn sleigh. Either season, staying in these pods is really like sleeping outdoors but without the cold or wet weather, insects, or the need to cook.
6. Culture Campsite, Rotterdam, Netherlands
This glamping site in the Netherlands had to be included not so much because it gets you in touch with nature, but because of its unique architecture -- and that it’s a prime example of city camping. The objects you sleep in at Culture Campsite come in a great variety of forms and shapes, but all very small. Just look at the names of the units: Sweet Potato, Scuba, Little Pea, Honeycomb. They are all pretty basic, but you sleep in comfort, have a bathroom, and several even have outdoor space with garden furniture. All are surrounded by gardens and flowers, so you are close enough to nature.
For day trips, there are, of course, the fabulous cities of Rotterdam and Delft.
7. Airstream Campsite, Venice, Italy
We can’t forget to mention a stay in these iconic American Airstreams, “transported” to Europe. These round-roofed silver caravans stand on a site in Cavallino-Treporti, just a few miles from Venice. Surrounded by woods and rich vegetation, the gleaming caravans come with an extra bell tent for kids and fully equipped kitchens and baths.
To get to Venice for a fantastic day trip, take the bus to Punta Sabioni and from there a ferry to Venice.
Most of our suggestions are rather luxurious, a few are more basic, but what all have in common is restricted space. Therefore, travel light, but bring some warm clothes (even if you go at the height of summer), a potent torch, and insect repellent.