Or maybe you're more of a wildlife person? In that case, you'll be blown away by our spotter's guide to the best whale watching in Iceland.
Camping Arolla, Switzerland
Europe’s highest campsite (at a lofty 1,950m) is set in Switzerland's Val d'Hérens and, wow, what a place to be outdoors. From most of the flat, grassy pitches here the Swiss Alps are in full view, including the 4,000m peak Mont Collon. The hiking is inevitably amazing, with many trails leading to the mountains but also the glorious Lac Bleu. Facilities are first-rate (electrical points for pitches, wifi, hot showers) with 2021 seeing the opening of a new mountain café: La Chotte, a short walk from the site, does local beer and raclette cheese and views of two other peaks, Pigne d’Arolla and Aiguille de la Tza.
Route de Tsalion, 8, 1986 Arolla, Switzerland
Fly to Geneva
Honestly, just about every campsite in Iceland (there are 170 of them) looks like the would-be set of a Game of Thrones prequel. So take you pick, and accept that a strong sense of 'you against the elements' is a given. Our choice? For its proximity to the wild, rugged coast of the Snæfellsjökull National Park, Ólafsvík is more or less a large grassy field with a picnic table and basic facilities. But the drive from Reykjavik is sublime and for hiking access to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, it’s unbeatable.
Hvalsá, 355 Ólafsvík, Iceland
Fly to Reykjavik
Cilrath Wood Camping, Wales
Set on a self-proclaimed 'secret pasture' close to the small town of Narberth, Pembrokeshire, this totally off-grid woodland campsite is set on ancient farmstead and offers beautiful views of the Preseli Hills (and is a mere 20-minute drive to some of west Wales's finest beaches in Saundersfoot and Amroth). Pitches are limited to ten and facilities are minimal but decent (hot showers, compost toilets). Still, despite the seclusion, there’s sociability too: some evenings see gatherings at the Grumpy Farmer, a barnhouse whose owners host camp-wide get-togethers.
Cilrath Fach Farm, Narberth, Wales, SA67 7EY
Fly to Bristol
One of the shrinking number of European countries where wild camping is legal, Sweden has 29 national parks in which to pitch up. While none of them will disappoint, Skuleskogen National Park in Västernorrland is particularly alluring – combining woodland wilderness, craggy mountainscapes and a beautiful stretch of Baltic coastline. As with all Swedish parks, you can camp anywhere from May to September for a maximum of three nights (or there are free-to-use cabins to take shelter in freak bad weather).
Kustvägen 31, 870 31 Mjällom, Sweden
Fly to Stockholm
Forest Days, Spain
Is 'wild glamping' a thing? Well, if it is, this tiny, four-tent glamp-site in Catalonia is about as close as it gets. Around an hour-and-half's drive from Barcelona in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this site offers a serious urban disconnect without compromising on comfort. Each bell tent contains a raised, super-king-sized bed, each with their own solar-powered shower and eco bathroom. But the nature is the real draw: the beautiful woodland, of course, but there’s also a secret, swimmable waterfall a short walk from every pitch. Heaven.
25286 Navès, Lleida, Spain
Fly to Barcelona
The Little Wild Campsite, England
Wild, or semi-wild, campsites are on the rise all over the UK – in his recently published book, Almost Wild Camping, author James Warner Smith lists 50 of them. Still, for £9 per night, this quiet, lonely field on the south coast of Cornwall has rustic charm to spare. Set on a hill overlooking Mounts Bay, facilities are basic in the best possible way (no electricity, compost loos) and there’s easy access to nearby beaches and the famous South West Coast Path.
Ashton, Helston, United Kingdom
Fly to Newquay
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Wild camping in Norway is legal – which means a sometimes prohibitively pricey place to visit can be done on the cheap for outdoorsy types. Still, whatever the budget, few regions here pay such large natural dividends than the country’s northerly Lofoten Islands. And while beaches tend to be off limits even in countries where wild camping is legal, well, not in Norway. Take your pick of stunning, often-empty beaches such as Uttakleiv, Skagsanden or Kvalvika, where a stream provides fresh drinking water.
Le Grand Champ, France
It feels like a world away from the swank ski resort of nearby Chamonix: this small, secluded, family-run campsite isn’t totally off-grid (there are hot showers, a laundry service and wifi). But with hedges cleverly separating each tent, campers feel gleefully alone on their own grassy terraces, with nothing but the snow-capped Aiguille du Midi mountain for company. Wild camping is illegal in France but, with an eco-footprint as light as this, Le Grand Champ comes very close. The snag? It’s only open in July and August. Booking ahead might be anathema to this list, but you probably should.
167 Chemin du Glacier de Taconnaz, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
Fly to Geneva
Lahemaa, Saaremaa and Lake Rae, Estonia
Wild camping isn’t just legal in Estonia but actively encouraged. In fact, any national park managed by the Estonian State Forest Management (RMK) includes a designated (and free) camping area with very basic facilities (usually just a toilet). Popular off-grid camping areas include Lahemaa National Park (nearish Tallinn), the Baltic island of Saaremaa or super-remote Lake Rae which, among its many natural highs, includes three bonfire areas and free-to-use firewood stored in sheds. Even woodland campfires are OK in Estonia. The free RMK app has full details: rmk.ee.
Fly to Tallinn
Camping de Roos, Netherlands
Wild camping in the Netherlands is illegal but, for low-impact, edge-of-nature camping, this eco-minded, family-friendly site by the River Vecht in the centre of the country makes a happy stand-in. Yes, it’s big (280 pitches) but, with 27 hectares of space, it doesn’t feel like it. Plus, they take their environmental impact seriously: no cars, timed showers, recycling bins and wild swims in the gorgeous river instead of a pool. Ideal for families with kids on their first nature camp.
Beerzerweg 10, 7736 PJ Beerze, Netherlands
Fly to Amsterdam
Lima Escape, Portugal
Set in Portugal’s Peneda-Gerês National Park – an hour or so from Porto – this beautiful, all-bases-covered campsite is huge with plenty of comfortable facilities. Even so, with cleverly spaced pitches (and 70,000 hectares of woodland to explore) it still offers that secluded, wild-and-free feel. There’s a ton of outdoorsy things to do here: hiking, wild swimming, stand-up-paddle-boarding... it goes on. The best tent pitches overlook the slow-flowing River Lima. Or there are glamping huts and stilted treehouses if you want the back-to-nature reboot without roughing it.
Lugar de Igreja 4980-312 Entre Ambos-os-Rios, Ponte da Barca, Viana do Castelo, Portugal
Fly to Porto
Campeggio Lo Stambecco, Italy
Italy doesn't allow wild camping but this unsung, country-rustic hideaway in north Italy's Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso – a couple of hours north of Turin – might be the next best thing. Sure, some parts of the campsite can feel busy but the long-grass pitches on the quieter fringes, surrounded by wildflowers, feel happily untamed. And those views. Set in the Aosta Valley, there are countless hikes into the beautiful, snow-capped mountains including a section of Alta Via 2 – the serious summer Alpine climb from Courmayeur from Champorcher.
Frazione Valnontey, 4, 11012 Cogne AO, Italy
Fly to Turin