, which combines camping and glamor, gets more chichi every year. The reason? Travelers are looking for luxury lodgings that meld all the aspects of five-star roughing-it and expect way more than just a spruced-up tent. These days, in-the-know excursionists often skip the tent entirely, opting to stay in tree houses, thatched-roofed palapas and cave-style homes, in destinations like Tulum, Mexico, to Cappadocia, Turkey. The idea is to take in the great outdoors, of course, without leaving too many modern amenities behind. If you want to stick with tradition, however, make sure your tent is at least grounded somewhere spectacular, with a private chef on hand for all the luxuries of a five-star hotel in a far-flung locale.
Tree houses may seem very “Peter Pan,” but hotels are returning to these childhood roots and taking rooms off the ground for rooms that can’t possibly get any closer to nature. As if Scandinavian design wasn’t already the perfect blend of sleek minimalism and practicality, a few top architects got together to create tree rooms in Harads, Sweden, perched 14 feet above the ground with waterfront views of the Lule River. Each room at Treehotel is built organically into the trees with designs from the natural (bird’s nest) to the supernatural (UFO)—and all with a heavy emphasis on sustainability with chemical-free wood floors heated by hydroelectric power to the low-energy LED -system lighting and eco-friendly products. Head inside via a cleverly disguised drawbridge or ladder and you’ll experience a bit of a time warp, with rooms outfitted in a style that’s a throwback to the decades between the 1930s and 50s.
Come winter, Tulum, Mexico is the playground for the fashion set, with models posting pics on Instagram of their high-end eco retreats. While there’s plenty of super chic hideaways in this beach town just an hour south of the more party-central Playa del Carmen, there’s still a few bare-bones spots that are much more than a step up from camping, yet still lacking modern luxuries like air conditioning. A few miles down the beach road Carretera Tulum, you’ll feel like you’ve made a wrong turn until you stumble across Papaya Playa, hidden down a dirt path with only bicycles out front marking the entrance. What started as a pop-up hotel four years ago has turned permanent, with the allure being that at any moment the oceanfront palapa-like cabañas can be dismantled and disappear, so the rugged coastline will once again look deserted. While the spot claims to be “no frills”—which means no power outlets in the thatched roof, open-air rooms lit by just a few lights and candles—you’re still oceanfront, waking to the sound of the waves, with furnishings like hammocks swaying on your personal terrace (things get more ritzy with private Jacuzzis, if you happen to be in one of the newer beach houses). The point here is to be as close to nature as possible, with just the slightest hint of luxury thanks to the pristine location and authentic cuisine served in hanging beach beds.
With a soft opening this past summer in Cappadocia’s characteristic caves and stone houses, the House Hotel Cappadocia could easily come off as another one of Turkey’s sleek new boutique hotels if you didn’t spot the remnants of its original design, as well as the fairy chimneys spiraling high in the distance. Blending elements of the past with modern touches, each of the 29 rooms is different (45 more are on the way in January 2016), featuring natural stone walls and original fireplaces, with the addition of Turkish marble floors, frescoes and regal standing tubs for a very lavish version of cave dwellings.
Photo courtesy of Pierre Turtaut
You may not associate the word camping with places like Nice or Monaco, but drive an hour and a half north into the mountains you’ll come across a very luxe version of a tent—a bubble dome sitting near the Valberg ski slopes. Set at the entrance of the Mercantour National Park in the village of Beuil, La Bulle du Cians shows off some of the best views of the countryside through the ball’s transparent top half, which doubles as your very own planetarium-style ceiling for stargazing—telescope included. Don’t worry about roughing it too much, though. The all-white bubble is heated and has a private bathroom and simple, Scandinavian-style décor with an actual mattress (no sleeping bags here), so you can lay and watch the stars from bed. And in case you were missing a gourmet French meal, that can also be arranged at the nearby cottage, La Fripounière.
Photo courtesy of COMO
The Asian COMO Group has a flair for setting up shop in exotic locales with high-end sanctuary-style hotels that seamlessly meld into the landscape, and its two Bhutan properties are no different. The 29-room Uma by COMO, Paro in the Paro Valley (pictured at top) and Uma by COMO, Punakha overlooking the Mo Chu river in the Punakha Valley, featuring just eight rooms and two villas, easily combine to form the ultimate Himalayan trek through three valleys visiting some of the most scenic spots in the Buddhist kingdom along the way, from 15th century fertility temples to mountain passes like Dochu La, overlooking Buddhist shrines and prayer flags. While the trekking is bookended by spa stays at both of the Shambhala retreats, the one-night camping expedition isn’t too shabby, either, posting up in a carpeted, fully equipped tent at the Bumdra Monastery under the Cliff of a Hundred Thousand Prayers, with some of the best views of the Himalayas—plus ponies to carry your luggage and cooks to whip up mountainside feasts.
Top photo: Courtesy of COMO Hotels and Resorts
Lane Nieset is Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.