What's the attraction?
Who can resist a foreign field with frills? Like Britain, Europe has been embracing the great outdoors with the introduction of quirky and luxurious accommodation, from treehouses to geodesic domes that offer affordable indulgence. Some are equipped for self-catering while others offer on-site restaurants, bars and other facilities. Camping portals such as canopyandstars.co.uk and coolcamping.co.uk have expanded their focus from luxury sites on home soil to France, Spain and beyond. Other resources include campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk, camping-france.com, easycamping.it, and goglamping.net.
La Jaima (00 34 637 063 003; rental-tent-rural-spain.com) is a Bedouin tent set in the bucolic grounds of a guesthouse near Dénia on the Costa Blanca. A rich colour scheme, complemented by ornate furnishings and plump cushions, combine to create an exotic escape. Open April to September, from €395 per week for up to four sharing.
At Haut Toupian (00 33 4 66 50 40 71; bit.ly/NeTwd2) in the hills of the Ardèche, guests in the safari-style tents are spoilt with extras such as bathrobes and evening dinners. Open April to October, from €785 per week for two, with breakfast.
Keep it in the family
The Lodge Suites offered by Selectcamp (0161 241 7637; selectcamp.co.uk) offer luxury camping with holiday-park facilities. The large tents, sleeping up to two adults and three children, are fitted out with four-poster beds and roll-top baths. Meanwhile, the five campsites that feature these canvas palaces – Del Sole, Le Pianacce, Norcenni Girasole Club, Weekend in Italy and Les Ranchisses in France – feature swimming pools, playgrounds, sports facilities, and kids' clubs. Open April to October, minimum two nights, a week during high season costs around €745 for five sharing.
At Cerza Safari Lodge (00 33 2 31 31 82 30; cerzasafarilodge.com) in Normandy, France, guests staying in its comfortably furnished wooden lodges, yurts and "zoobservatories" (two-storey wooden wigwams) can count lions, zebras and snakes among their neighbours. Open February to November, yurts April to September. During high season, lodges cost €860 per week for up to six, yurts €130 per week for up to five, and zoobservatories €150 per night for four people.
On the beach
A pine forest on Spain's Costa de la Luz is the idyllic location for Casas Karen (00 34 956 437 067; casaskaren.com), where accommodation options include three chozas – traditional thatched straw houses – five minutes' walk from the beach at Los Caños de Meca. The chozas provide rustic luxury for two to four sharing, furnished with handmade wooden beds and African rugs. Open year-round, from €240 per week.
Portugal's Alentejo region is gaining in popularity among foreign visitors, with miles of unspoilt coastline. Here, the golden sands of the Costa Vicentina – Europe's biggest coastal natural park – run down into the Algarve. Close by, A Terra (00 351 936 914 279; aterra.com.pt) is a collection of beautifully furnished Rajasthani tents and tepees set in fields near a lake. Open April to October, from €53 per night for two, including breakfast.
Is it a chalet, or a safari tent? At Huttopia Rambouillet (00 33 1 30 41 07 34; huttopia.com), in a forest near Paris, the two have been fused to create cahuttes. These wooden cabins with terraces, set on stilts and sheltering beneath canvas canopies, make the most of indoor-outdoor life. Open March to November, minimum two nights, from €99 a night for up to five sharing.
Or float away in a Camping Raft (camping-raft.com), a wooden tent set on barrels, sleeping up to four, available at sites in Belgium and The Netherlands. You reach your floating raft by canoe. Three nights from €150 for two.
Return of retro
Twentieth-century Americana is celebrated at BelRepayre Airstream & Retro Trailer Park (00 33 5 61 68 11 99; airstreameurope.com) in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, where Airstream trailers dating from the 1940s to the 1970s have been restored. Open April to September, from €110 per night for two.
Bright contemporary styling enhances the white simplicity of the two pods at Otro Mundo (00 31 614 360 523; otro-mundo.com). The accommodation is set on terraces where vines once grew, in the Sierra del Segura, near Alicante in Spain. Open May to October, from €70 per night for two sharing.
Who said that?
"There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing."
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
"Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel industry."
Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
"The first axiom for camp is... do not make yourself uncomfortable for want of things for which you are accustomed."
Taken from 'The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook', 1890
Fields of glory
You'll need your own tent for these five campsites, where the luxury is the location. Pitch up behind one of St Tropez's most famous stretches of sands, Pampelonne, at Les Eucalyptus (00 33 4 94 97 16 74; leseucalyptus.fr). Open May to September, pitches from €16 per night. Hikers can use Camp Liza (00 386 5389 6370; camp-liza.com), on the Soca river, as a gateway to the Slovenian Alps. Open year-round, €12 per adult per night. An olive grove provides a shady spot for campers at Tartaruga Camping (00 30 2695 051 967; tartaruga-camping.com), overlooking Laganas Bay on the Greek island of Zante. Open April to October, from €4.40 per adult per night. Enjoy laid-back beach life on Tavira island in Portugal, just outside the old colonial town of the same name, at Camping Tavira (00 351 281 32 17 09; campingtavira.com). Open April to September, from €9.50 per night for an adult and tent. Camping Harmonie (00 370 614 21560; harmonielitouwen.nl) is a peaceful retreat in Lithuania with attentive owners that's a train ride from Vilnius. Open year-round, €17.10 per night.
"Luxury camping has spread its canvas wings and is taking hold in Europe. With longer summers, warmer weather and landscapes that make you want to sleep under the stars, it was only a matter of time. Luxury camping on the Continent means Moroccan tents among orange trees, roulottes hidden in wine country, and hidden cabins on private lakes."
Alastair Sawday, founder of canopyandstars.co.uk
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