Once upon a time, camping involved either shivering in a sleeping bag or sweating under a tent. But a new, luxury camping trend has guests sleeping under all sorts of exotic roofs, including Mongolian-style yurts, safari tents, dramatic Bedouin tents, straw banda and even Native-American wigwams. The market for posh camping is booming; not only has the number of sites increased, but sites have become more extreme in terms of location and luxuries available. Here are the top six sites for luxury camping:
Minaret Station, New Zealand
This newly opened spot is the first camp pitched at the end of a dramatic valley in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, and it’s only accessible by helicopter. Despite its remote location, the level of luxury here is outrageous: Each tent is fully carpeted with sheepskin and has a deck with a hot-tub. Guests can unwind in the shared Mountain Kitchen, complete with a library, dining room and open fires.
Longitude 131, Australian Outback
What could be more romantic than waking up in the wilderness of the outback to watch the sun rise over Uluru (Ayers Rock)? Guests at any one of these cabins with tented roofs don’t even have to get out of bed to marvel at this dawn spectacle. All they have to do is flick a switch and the blinds will rise. www.longitude131.com.au
Kinnikinnick Farm, Illinois
Camping here is less tent, more cabin; but still, the experience gets you back to nature, like a return to “Little House on the Prairie.” The tents are set on a working organic farm in the middle of rural Boone County, Ill., just 85 miles northwest of Chicago. There’s an emphasis on leaving the modern world behind and enjoying the countryside, with farmyard animals for the kids to meet and long slow-food dinners made with farm-fresh produce. A new camp near San Francisco is set to open in 2012.
The Serai Jaisalmer, India
This luxury 21-tent camp in the Great Thar Desert, just outside the medieval fortress town of Jaisalmer, boasts its own spa. The entry-level tented suites, set up on a base of local stone, have their own lounge area, bedroom, bathroom and outside deck. They share a swimming pool, al fresco bar, library tent and a dining tent where guests can dine on dishes using produce from the camp’s organic vegetable and herb garden. Meanwhile, the Luxury Tented suites have private walled gardens and pools, and the Royal Suite boasts a private spa, pool and separate dining and lounge tents. Guests can take a camel trek across the desert, visit the fabled desert kingdom of Jaisalmer or venture to the Mulana Dunes, which are for guests only. www.transindus.com
Clayoquot, Vancouver Island, Canada
This luxury eco-retreat might be located in the Canadian wilderness, but it’s just an hour away from Vancouver via seaplane. Only open from May to September, there are 20 tents offering guests a well-deserved night of sleep after a day spent doing lots of outdoorsy activities like mountain biking, fishing, climbing, kayaking and bear-watching. There are additional tents for dining and spa treatments, and there’s a games tent designed with the leather and dark wood of a gentlemen’s club.
Uma Paro — Bumdra Wilderness Camp, Bhutan
Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas, is very remote. The state has restricted contact with the modern world and has strict limits on tourist numbers. But guests at the luxurious Uma Paro hotel are offered exclusive access to the Bumdra Wilderness Camp, a remote spot in a clearing under the epic Bumdra monastery, offering breathtaking views of the iconic “Tigers’ Nest” Taktsang Monastery and the rest of the Himalayas. www.seasons.co.uk