The idea of ‘Glamping’, a portmanteau term created by combining Glamorous + Camping that may sound contradictory together, makes it sound like an oxymoron. However, this idea has been widely celebrated over the last decade, and emerged as a new category being explored by the luxury hotel industry as well as the camping world.
From the thousands of glamping resorts across the world packed with all the amenities that can be associated with luxury namely comfort, a clean environment, air-conditioning, heating, and shower facilities, many of these luxury stays go beyond to give guests swimming pools, balcony decks, spa rooms, designer furniture décor et al.
We take a look at eight glamping sites that are redefining the luxury landscape with unique designs and techniques that have been explored in distinctive contexts across the world, keeping in mind natural habitats and climatic conditions. The results stand out to be magnificent examples of design and execution.
1. Four Seasons Golden Triangle Resort, Thailand
Crafted by celebrated interior designer Bill Bensley, the villas are reminiscent of 19th-century adventure expeditions with handcrafted furniture, hardwood floors and traditional thatched roofs. The resort has a total number of 16 rooms made up of 15 originally themed tents and one two-bedroom villa called the Explorer’s lodge.
Located in the legendary Golden Triangle – where Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Laos meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers, the Four Seasons Golden Triangle Resort is scattered across half a mile of rolling forest-covered hillside.
Exquisite metal craftwork created by local artisans and an array of explorer-themed antiques – vintage compasses and rifles and primitive fishing implements – are some of the delightful elements that can be found in the interiors. Comfortably spaced for privacy and quietude, the tents are connected by a quaint brick trail lined with bamboo.
The five deluxe tents feature private outdoor whirlpools that take the experience to one of added luxury. Decorative features unique to each tent range from framed artworks to a personal library based on themes such as elephant, hill tribe, bird watcher, opium, textile, amongst others.
The safari-style Explorer’s Lodge is a jungle refuge with a spacious deck, featuring an outdoor plunge pool and stunning views. Camp manager Tobias Emmer says, “Expect to hear birdsong from the spa, cicadas humming at night, frogs calling, and even an elephant or two chatting in the distance! If you wake up early enough one morning, you can soak in the thick fog banks as they wash away to reveal the lush bamboo jungle just a few feet away.”
2. Wild Coast resort, Sri Lanka
Wild Coast Tented Lodge is a 36-tent safari camp located on the edge of Yala National Park, in the south of Sri Lanka. Its organic architecture integrates seamlessly into the site, which comprises dry-land forests that merge into the rugged sandy coastline overlooking the Indian Ocean. The five-star eco-resort is designed to give visitors an intimate experience, celebrating the flora, fauna and culture of the area with minimal intrusion on the landscape. A multidisciplinary team consisting of Nomadic Resorts, an architecture design and project development company, and Bo Reudler Studio, an interior design firm, put together the resort with Resplendent Ceylon, a subsidiary of Dilmah Tea.
Positioned at either end of the site, the main facilities have been designed as outcrops of boulder-like pavilions clustered together organically. Larger open-air volumes intersect with smaller enclosed domes that house more private functions. Each cluster, which resembles a leopard paw print, overlooks a watering hole designed to attract wildlife. Guests can admire the wildlife from the safety of elevated decks at the front of their tents.
The vaulted construction is crafted from a woven grid shell bamboo structure clad in reclaimed teak shingles. Large, arched openings and high vaulted ceilings create a strong sense of space while concentric ventilation slits help reduce the volumes to a more human scale. As the shingles weather, the buildings will age gracefully over time, and gain a patina that naturally complements the surrounding stone.
Capturing a sense of discovery, adventure and enchantment, the interior combines ecological luxury and local elegance using local materials such as stone, quartz and mud brick are paired with a rich palette of copper, brass, terrazzo, wood, bamboo and textiles. Solar panels on the roofs of the back-of-house spaces produce up to 40% of the camp’s energy needs while being built with the help of the local community.
Sustainability, landscape and heritage are intertwined in the design of this safari camp in Wild Coast Tented Lodge in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka.
3. Aman-I-Khas, Ranthambore, Rajasthan, India
A wilderness location and a sensitive connection to Rajasthan’s history and culture, Aman-i-Khás is an outpost on the threshold of Ranthambore National Park inspired by lavish Mughal hunting parties of the olden times. Each of the ten soaring guest tents is intricately furnished as it lies in the lap of the Aravali hills of rural Rajasthan in northern India.
Set in a sunlit landscape lined with dhok trees and brushwood, each of the tents at a height of six metres is sheltered with a canopy to create airy living, sleeping and bathing spaces divided by white cotton drapes. The tents are 108 sqm each with solid floors, hardwood, canvas walls and a sun deck. Surrounded by wildlife, guests may be able to catch a glimpse of tigers and other wildlife. The resort also offers rejuvenating spa treatments, the traditional step-well pool surrounded by sunny terraces with loungers, sheltered by a grove of trees and a communal fire-pit.
4. Sandat Glamping, Bali
Located 3km from Ubud, Bali, the Sandat Glamping resort offers exclusive hospitality to a small number of guests to ensure privacy and tranquillity that reigns in the rice fields making it a very charming place. It has 8 luxurious eco-design structures that allows one to savour the exotic charm and contact with nature but in an environment filled with sophisticated luxury but discreetly offering great comfort. The resort accommodates five magnificent luxury tents in a safari style of 40 square metres each, with a private pool overlooking the forest surrounded by tropical gardens with a spectacular indoor bathroom. The other three luxurious tents, ‘Lumbung’, are typical barns with a characteristic thatched roof that almost touches the ground.
The designed camps are examples of modern ‘bio-architecture’ characterised by a winding staircase that recalls the shape of the neighbouring rice terraces, thereby connecting the different zones creating a unique environment of over 240 square meters. Dominated by an impressive wall that houses a collection of 101 mirrors, the white colour of the flooring creates a relaxing and fresh feel.
5. Glamp sites with Geodesic Spheres
a. Gaia Spheres, Italy
The Gaia spheres, awarded the UNESCO World Heritage title, are made up of geodesic domes are located in Langhe, Italy, emerging out of the natural setting of the Alta Langa. Langhe, a unique spot in Italy, is full of vineyards and picturesque hills where hazelnuts grow. It is rich in precious truffles, and guests can enjoy the serenity of the Apennine hills and lush oak and chestnut woods. The domes offer an ideal place to camp with luxury and enjoy the woods.
“The project was driven by the will to reconnect to nature and bring ourselves closer to the green, through the silence and the beauty of the landscape. After a long search, we found this special place, and we immediately fell in love with it and decided to move here from the city (Turin),” says owner Marketta Tengelova.
Each of the spheres offers a space of approximately 20 square metres, where guests can enjoy a comfortable double bed and a relaxing corner to get a splendid view of the surrounding area. The Spheres are a perfect place to enjoy the silence, digitally detox and wind down.
b. Domes de Charlevoix, Canada
The domes of Charlevoix, Canada designed by Canadian architecture firm Bourgeois Lechasseur architects, offers a unique experience of glamping with the three geodesic domes delicately placed in the landscape, offering a breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River. The clients are three young entrepreneurs from the Quebec City region who wanted to create an extraordinary rental project. The light implantation of the domes gives access to a unique landscape while preserving the surrounding nature. The dome is autonomous and comfortable, ensuring the occupants an eco-luxurious camping experience in sync with nature.
The domes are planted according to the topography of the site on the mountainside. A wooden deck receives the dome and houses an overhanging spa in nature. The triangulated structure is imported from Fdomes. A minimalist black volume of services is positioned in the centre: the faces open to house a kitchen, a bathroom, the main bed as well as a secondary bed above the volume. The grey canvas and the wooden fireplace create a warm and cosy atmosphere. The fenestrated part in the south offers a breathtaking view of the river and maximises solar gains. The heat accumulated in the concrete slab is redistributed in the cave at night.
c. Natura Glamping, Portugal
This glamping resort is located at an altitude of 925 m in a privileged location of Serra da Gardunha. It faces north with a splendid view over the Cova da Beira and Serra da Estrela. The Serra da Gardunha has a natural beauty and uniqueness, multifaceted and with special features, with special emphasis on Asphodelus Bento Rainhae, a plant species of community interest that has as its unique habitat in the Gardunha.
The geodesic domes at Natura Glamping offer unprecedented views of the natural surround and create a comfortable experience for camping with luxury.
6. Tree Tents
A contemporary take on the traditional off-grid woodland cabin, the Fuselage provides a homely refuge for lovers of the outdoors. Measuring 3x5m, the interior design aims to maximise space. With a watchful eye on the proportions of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, designer and owner of Tree Tents, Jason Thawley creates the impression of space in the interior with adaptable furniture, which maintains the minimalist feel.
The elegant aluminium outer skin encases its precision-engineered modular wooden and aluminium frame and creates a watertight shell that beautifully reflects the colours and movement of the woodland that surrounds it.
The Fuselage can withstand challenging natural environments. Its heavily insulated triple-layered walls, low-voltage radiant heating, micro woodstove and solar panels all make the Fuselage capable of withstanding harsher climates than many alternative structures. One of Tree Tents’ first Fuselages was installed this year in Northern Sweden, just a few hundred miles below the Arctic Circle.
As one enters The Fuselage the sensory experience of being immersed in woodland follows you over the door mat. The wooden interior and the calming warmth of the wood stove creates a homely space and huge windows are a recognition that the natural vistas are the best wall decoration of all.
“I designed the Fuselage to access some pretty extreme environments—allowing people to stay in these amazing locations with a structure that is both lightweight in construction but as tough as old boots!” says Thawley.
The Fuselage could very well become the follower of the idea of the geodesic dome being adapted all over the world in various glamping sites.