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For the adventure-seekers who fancy themselves as the next Bear Grylls and those who simply want to connect with nature, we’ve found some of the world’s best destinations – from Africa to Antarctica (via northern England) – for wild camping, glamping and everything in between.
Pitch Up at the World’s Best Campsites
1. Loch Lomond and the Tossachs, Scotland, UK
The Tossachs are often called the Highlands in miniature, with scattered peaks, romantic lochs and wild rivers scouring the landscape. It’s an ideal backdrop for an outdoorsy trip, with various sites to make sure that everyone’s a happy camper, including sprawling caravan parks and secluded wild spots – best to read Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code before you visit.
2. Miyajima, Hiroshima Bay, Japan
Japan has much more to offer besides neon-lit cities. Pass Miyajima’s floating Itsukushima Shrine and you’ll see why this place is nicknamed “Island of the Gods”. Forest-shrouded Buddhist temples and ancient rock formations give way to unspoiled beaches – do say “hi” to the island’s domesticated deer as you explore. Miyajima is a 10-minute ferry ride from Hiroshima, so carrying camping gear isn’t a huge bugbear, though cabins are available.
3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, US
You’ll need to obtain a permit to wild camp in this national park, though we recommend skipping the admin and pitching up on one of the sites that skirt the canyon rim (the North is harder to reach and attracts far less visitors than the South Rim). Take time to admire the dramatic sunrise before heading out on trails that trace the Colorado River.
4. Sardinia, Italy
Camping doesn’t have to be all about mountains and forests. The postcard-worthy Sardinian coastline is among the best places to soak up the Mediterranean climate and is flecked with campsites. Laze on fine-sand beaches or venture inland and savour even finer Italian fare.
5. Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
Canada’s largest national park is also one of the country’s most scenic (think: snow-capped Rockies, glassy lakes, fragrant pines) and is a year-round camper-friendly destination. After days spent swimming in hot springs and following some of the 600 miles of hiking trails, bed down in a tent or rent a cabin.
Camping at the bottom of the world – in Earth’s largest, coldest desert – is not for the faint hearted. You’ll have to join an expedition to get there, and follow strict rules (no food or drink, no going to the toilet) because of the ecologically sensitive environment.
7. Corcovado National Park, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Skip the Costa Rican resorts and camp in one of Central America’s largest rainforests. The park is home to around five per cent of the world’s biodiversity, so between hiking and swimming in waterfalls, there’s plenty of wildlife spotting to keep you occupied.
8. Everest South Base Camp, Nepal
It would be remiss to overlook the world’s highest campsite when it comes to magical locations. At an altitude of 5,364m, Nepal’s South Base Camp pips the North Base Camp in Tibet (which sits at 5,150m). It takes around 11 days to trek there from Lukla Airport. May is the most popular time to make the journey, but between September and November the skies are at their clearest, and the views of the Himalayas are simply stunning.
There’s little more romantic than feasting around a desert campfire, amber sparks fluttering into the inky sky. Many glimpse Wadi Rum’s martian landscape on brief excursions from Aqaba or Petra, but if you have the time (and cash) stay in one of its permanent Bedouin-style camps for a more immersive experience.
10. Uluru/ Ayers Rock, Northern Territory Australia
While you can set up your tent near Bondi Beach or in Victoria’s Grampian Mountains, there’s little so something-to-tell-the-grandkids as staying by Uluru (Ayers Rock). Camping near the national park’s sacred sites is prohibited, but nearby Ayers Rock Resort has a pool, an outdoor kitchen and laundry facilities. From here, sunrise and sunset are spectacular.
11. Waldseilgarten, Bavaria, Germany
This Bavarian mountain resort takes camping to the next level – literally; campers stay in tents hanging from tree branches in the forest canopy. Those brave enough to make the ascent by rope will be rewarded with views across the mountains of Pfronten.
12. Ladakh, Kashmir, India
Tucked between Pakistan, Tibet and Xinjiang Province, Ladakh – the “Land of the High Passes” – showcases the Indian Himalayas at their most surreal. Camping is a great way to explore (there are several pre-erected sites if you don’t fancy lugging your own tent), and brings you closer to the area’s gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) and remote villages.
13. Denali National Park, Alaska, US
At once beguiling and forbidding, Alaska’s eight national parks set the scene for an unforgettable camping getaway, and Denali National Park, crowned by Mount McKinley, is among the most beautiful. Watch out for grizzly bears.
14. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Narok County, Kenya
Together, the Mara’s wildlife and the culture of the local Masai people make camping in this national reserve nothing short of marvellous. Stay in one of the permanent camps here and you’ll likely hear animals calling from the comfort of your tent. By day, spot the big five on safari or visit between July and August to witness the annual wildebeest migration.
15. Simien Mountains, Amhara, Ethiopia
This Ethiopian mountain range and national park remains unspoiled thanks to its Unesco World Heritage Site status. Get a front-row seat to its natural beauty and exotic wildlife by pitching up in a tent – Sankaber, Geech and Chenek are among the most picturesque campsites and are situated along popular trekking routes.
16. Patagonia, Argentina & Chile
South America’s southern tip is an explorer’s nirvana. Argentina’s National Route 40 (known as the Patagonian Highway) may be sparse in parts, but there are campsites en route and free camping is allowed. The road runs 5,000km from the Bolivian border to Tierra del Fuego in the south, where you can cross the Chilean border and set up camp by Lago Blanco.
17. Landmannalaugar, Iceland
Landmannalaugar is the pearl of the Icelandic highlands, with rhyolite mountains streaked cyan, red and ochre. Book a hut or pitch up in the base camp for unrivalled access to the lava fields, geothermal springs, wildflower meadows and – if you’re lucky – the Northern Lights. It’s an ideal stopover on the Laugavegur Trail, which starts and ends here.
18. Skåne County, Sweden
Take a walk on the wild side across Scandinavia, where Allemansrätt – a right to roam policy – means that nature is not just to be gawped at but embraced. Grab your gear and set up camp wherever takes your fancy – though we recommend the tranquil beaches, lakes and forests of Skåne, Sweden’s most southerly region.
19. Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru
The 170km Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit is among the toughest alpine treks with 20 jagged mountains connected by glacial lakes. Those willing to tackle the route (between May and September is best) will be rewarded with pit-stops at campsites above the 4,000m treeline, condor sightings, natural hot springs and encounters with traditional Andean culture.
20. Hossa National Park, Suomussalmi, Finland
In wild, northeastern Finland, Hossa is a patchwork of crystalline lakes, rivers and spruce forests. Days are best spent hiking, cycling, canoeing and admiring the centuries-old shamanic paintings of Julma-Ölkky and Värikallio. Wilderness huts, campfire sites (with firewood), camping grounds and dry toilets make spending nights here all the more inviting.
21. High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Adventure seekers, take note. Travel along the ancient mule paths of Morocco’s Jurassic peaks and you can expect to see desert, snow, fertile valleys and Berber villages. Guides are recommended, and will often use a camel to help with your gear. Jebel Toubkal is a popular stopping point, but the grasslands by Jebel M’goun are more peaceful.
22. Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Mount Cook (“Aoraki” in Maori) is New Zealand’s highest mountain and its surrounding area offers some of the country’s best camping, with skyscraping peaks, glaciers, snowfields and, come evening, an unpolluted star-studded sky. South Island is an outdoor playground – explore.
23. The Lake District, Cumbria, UK
It’s unsurprising that the deep tarns and bracken-clad fells of this northwestern region inspired Wordsworth. With more than 1,800 miles of footpaths and England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike), it’s a walker’s paradise. Sail Windermere or visit Beatrix Potter’s home before perusing Keswick’s quaint shops or picking up a slice of Grasmere gingerbread.
24. Hang Sơn Đoòng, Quảng Bình Province, Vietnam
Near the Laos-Vietnam border, Hang Sơn Đoòng (the world’s biggest cave, believed to between two and five million years old) is so big that it has its own river, jungle, weather system and 70m-tall stalagmites. Permits are required to enter, and the waiting list is long. Alternatively, join a multi-day camping tour: they are expensive and physically demanding, but well worth it.
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