Low Is The New High Luxury: The Best Glamping In The World
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If you’re a luxury lover, then you already know that “glamping” – a portmanteau (or mash-up) of the words “glamour” and “camping” – is now a Big Thing. But that “g” can mean different things to different people. If you’re looking for capital-G Glamour, here are the glamping spots all over the world that are calling your name.
While it may seem like a new fad, glamping has actually been around for centuries. The extravagant African safaris taken early in the last century by the wealthy and their entourages — complete with fine china and silver, platform tents and Frette linens — were the precoursor to modern-day glamping.
Today the phrase is used across a very wide spectrum of amenities and price points, and includes far more than just tents. You can also sleep in yurts, tepees, tree houses, Airstream trailers, and igloos. Glamping.com lists nearly 800 locations worldwide, including lodges, tree houses and cabins — basically, any destination in a natural setting with “luxury-level” service.
Why has glamping made such a spectacular comeback recently? It’s reportedly a $45 billion global industry, and still growing quickly. The most common explanation is that wealthy travelers have become bored with the usual five-star hotels and resorts, and are looking to experience forests, deserts, rivers or mountains and their local wildlife up close. Just not too close. And still with all the 5-star amenities.
What’s not to like? Done well, a glamping vacation offers all of the upside of spending time in the Great Outdoors without any of the downside: the splendor of the wilderness plus really splendid meals, wine and sleeping quarters. Someone else to start the campfire and pitch the tent, and carry any necessary gear. Oh, and there’s running water. In case that’s important to you.
Intrigued? If you’re as fussy as we are, and as determined to find a truly 5-star-level glamping destination, then read on. We’ve asked around and done some digging, and here are a dozen uber-luxurious glamping locations where personally, we’d happily camp out for a long weekend or more (we’ve omitted all African safari camps, as they’re a genre unto themselves):
1. Dunton River Camp, a former 19th-century cattle ranch turned luxury resort in southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, has been winning rave reviews. Composed of just eight tents pitched on wooden platforms, the 500-acre retreat in Cresto Ranch, Colorado, is ideal for gatherings with family and friends. Half of the luxury tents are nestled in the Aspen trees at the base of the mountains; the other half are perched along the banks of the West Fork of the Dolores River. There’s fly-fishing, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking by day, along with rock climbing or mountaineering. You can opt to visit a natural hot spring at nearby sister property, Dunton Hot Springs. When night falls, the guests convene for cocktails and dinner al fresco near the property’s original farmhouse. All tents have a shower, gas stove, telephone, and Wi-Fi—plus two mountain bikes.
2. The 37,000-acre Resort at Paws Up in Missoula, Montana was one of the first modern entrants into glamping – the resort’s tents sport framed art on the walls, rugs on the wood floors, bathrooms with heated floors and clawfoot bathtubs, and plush duvets on the log-frame beds. Last year Paws Up introduced the first three-bedroom, two-bathroom tents, available in its North Bank Camp . The accommodations mimic a typical 5-star hotel room, with prices to match: a two-bedroom tent “suite” with a Japanese soaking tub and king-size bed is $1,555 per person, per night. Activities include horseback rides, cattle drives, scenic hikes, and guided floats down the river. Come evening, there’s a dining pavilion and lounge; a fire pit; and personal chefs and camping butlers.
3. Collective Retreats is heralded as as the ne plus ultra in glamping tour operators; the company has been establishing seasonal “pop up” luxury camps since 2015, when it opened in Vail, Colorado. While the camps in Yellowstone and Vail have operated for multiple seasons, the newest site, Collective Governors Island, just opened in July with 37 tents on the car-free island in New York Harbor. Guests can catch views of the Statue of Liberty while biking around Hills Park, unwind in the iconic Hammock Grove, and meander through the many mansions-turned-art-exhibits on the island. The camp even has its own restaurant and massage services. Book carefully: only the “Summit Tent” units have their own bathrooms. The soon-to-open Outlook Shelters are re-purposed shipping container suites with a king-size bed, mini-fridge, bathroom, and heating and air conditioning. The container’s sides fold out to provide a 180-degree glass-encased bedroom with stunning views of the harbor.
If your goal is an escape from New York City, consider Collective Hill Country, the company’s other new opening this summer. Set on a 225-acre ranch near Austin, Texas, the resort offers activities like horseback riding and winery tours. Guests in its 12 tents can dine on gourmet campfire dishes like jalapeño and Cheddar grits and wild boar osso buco.
Or for a little bit country and a little bit refined, there’s Collective Hudson Valley, located at Liberty Farms, a working organic farm in Ghent, New York, not far from the “Brooklyn North” village of Hudson. With easy access to stylish boutiques and quaint shops, this is definitely not your typical camping trip. In early 2019, the company will open a new glamping site in Sonoma, California, in the heart of wine country.
4. The Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel, offers an over-the-top glamorous glamping experience on the 10th floor of its iconic location overlooking Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. The property’s 2,140 square foot Veranda Suite includes a 16-foot diameter tent fitted with a crystal chandelier, marble lamps, fur rugs, Four Seasons linens, and an outdoor fireplace. If you change your mind about weathering the elements, just step inside, where a lovely traditional suite awaits.
5. Under Canvas operates seasonal glamping resorts near National Parks, among them Yellowstone, Zion and Glacier. Last month, it opened Under Canvas Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, on the grounds of an old gold mining settlement. The pop-up will remain through October 1, 2018. The solar-powered forest compound houses 80 four-person tents, each with a wood stove and some with their own bathrooms and king-sized beds. It’s pet-friendly, and you won’t find a better secluded view of Mount Rushmore. The kitchen packs box lunches for those heading out to climb, bike or take Jeep safaris. Also new, and open from September 13 to November 13, 2018, is the Grand Canyon glampground located outside Valle, in northern Arizona on 160 acres of beautiful piñon and juniper forest. It’s about 20 minutes from the South Entrance Station to the Grand Canyon — and it’s also a great jumping-off point to take a drive along the iconic Route 66. Finally, on September 20, 2018, Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains will open in Gatlinburg, Tenn., with 54 tents on 200 acres near the national park.
6. The Rosewood Luang Prabang, which just opened in March, 2018, is set in a forest near the Laotian city. The property has six deluxe tents with wraparound decks among its 23 guestrooms (from $724). Guests of the tent suites have access to the resort’s many amenities: a pool, tented spa villas, restaurant and activities such as cooking classes and Mekong River cruises. These jewel-tone decorated tents provide lush jungle views, king-size beds, and clawfoot bathtubs. And since the site is only a ten-minute drive from Laung Prabang, you can also easily explore the city, should you desire.
7. Celebrated designer Bill Bensley, who designed the tents at the Rosewood Luang Prabang, also designed the brand-new Capella Ubud, which just opened in Bali in June, 2018. The stunning Indonesian retreat hosts 23 tents (all but one are one-bedroom), furnished to evoke 19th-century colonial travel. Even the gym is based under canvas, as is the Officers Tent lounge (from $838, including breakfast).
8. The Redwood and Canyon Glampsites at Ventana Big Sur on California’s Central Coast are just off the Pacific Coast Highway. Each tent has a king-size bed, a fire pit, a picnic table, power outlets, electric lamps, and a shared Bath House. Full access to the main resort’s amenities is available for an additional fee. While the Redwood tents are closer together, the Canyon Glampsites are tucked away and accessible only by foot, making a stay there an even more immersive and profound natural experience, even as 5-star civilization is just a short walk away.
9. Heritage Tours’ new three-suite Thaalab Sahara camp in the western Sahara is the ultimate in high-low luxury. It’s a two-day drive into the desert from Marrakech (guests are accompanied by an expert Heritage Tours guide). Once there, guests can experience an incredible immersion in the traditions of desert life: camel rides, traditional foods, and more. The tents are outfitted with king beds, Moroccan rugs and textiles, and custom ceramics.
10. Nanuku, an Auberge Resorts property on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, offers a spectacular overnight glamping experience that’s absolutely cinematic. Guests are transported to the uninhabited two-acre Nanuku Island, where by day they can lounge on the beach, explore the forest, fish, snorkel, and relax in hammocks among the palms. A personal chef will whip up dinner (fresh from the sea) and light a cozy fire before departing, leaving you and your companion(s) in a luxurious tent for the night on your own private island. Come morning, guests are greeted with a breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs. Seriously? We’re all in.
11. Tucked into a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island, Clayoquot Wilderness Reserve offers a luxurious mix of rugged terrain and all the right amenities. Accessible only by seaplane, helicopter, or boat, the Relais & Chateaux camp features 25 creamy-white tents—each outfitted with cast-iron fireplaces, leather furniture, and private decks overlooking the Bedwell River or the rain forest. Activities include bear- and whale-watching excursions, fishing, paddle boarding, or a helicopter trip to Cloud Camp at the peak of Ursus Mountain to swim in an alpine lake. The gourmet meals are crafted from ingredients that are almost entirely grown, foraged, and harvested in the Clayoquot Sound.
12. Aman-i-Khás in Rajasthan, India. Aman Resorts are known for their intimate, stylish retreats. But it may surprise you to learn that the brand can also provide the ultimate glamping experience. Aman-i-Khás, in the Ranthambore National Park just outside Jaipur, is a 10-tent retreat like no other. Set in a brushwood forest, it features soaring 20-foot high Mughal-style tents with chandeliers, air conditioning, stand-alone showers and soaking tubs, and a personal butler – all clustered around a communal outdoor fireplace. Inside each tent, cotton drapes separate sleeping, dressing and bathing sections. Guests can take guided tiger-tracking hikes, where they may also see leopards, hyenas, crocodiles, antelope, deer, and beautiful birds. There are also early morning hikes to the historic Ranthambore Fort. Meals are served in the softly-lit dining tent, and spa treatments are also available. From $1,000 per person per night.
Because many of these luxury glamp-sites are so small – 8-12 tents – we suspect that in many cases, the entire property is booked by one group – a family, a group of friends, a corporate event, something of that sort. Which would be totally fun! Whether you go solo, as part of a pair, or with the whole gang, this luxury travel trend is one you probably don’t want to miss. We can’t decide which one of these is our dream vacation — what do you think? Tough call.