Europe’s Best Campsites
Last month we picked out a few great sites across the UK, but just over (or under) the water there is the whole expanse of Europe to choose from.
Europe is vast, but camping offers a great way to explore on a sensible budget, giving you a good chance of meeting new people along the way. If you’re travelling with children you can be sure that they’ll be off making friends before you have even considered who your neighbours might be.
Whether you’re hiking with a lightweight tent, cruising in a hired motor home, or even driving your own, the variety available to you stretches from the mountains and fjords of Norway, to the sun baked shores of the Mediterranean. Travelling west to east, from the sometimes wild Atlantic coasts of Portugal and France across to the Black Sea resorts of Bulgaria and Romania. And while camping feels like it’s a pursuit of the wild outdoors, it doesn’t have to be. Many forward thinking European cities offer well planned municipal sites at the edges of interesting towns and cities. Even London boasts five sites within the M25, but they’re not the sorts of places that you could amble on foot to Madame Tussauds from.
With 28 member states in the European Union we can’t hope to do justice to every country here, but let’s have a look at a few highlights.
My first experience of organised camping on a grand scale came from France and these days Eurocamp is a one stop portal for many visitors to France and beyond. Eurocamp now has 171 sites across 11 European countries with Denmark and Croatia being the least expected.
France offers everything you could ask for from the bling of St Tropez, to remote mountain sites in the Pyrenees, and yes you can even camp in St Tropez – the Kon Tiki Riviera Village, on the Côte d’Azur gets you in among the jet set, but staying in thatched cabins along the beach. How good to kick back in the knowledge you have paid so much less to stay there than almost anyone else you can see.
For an entirely different French experience look to Les Châtaigniers, a campsite in Arcizans-Avant, right up in the Hautes-Pyrénées with stunning pristine mountain countryside all around, and destinations such as Lourdes and Andorra nearby.
Now let’s head north to somewhere less expected.
Sweden is well equipped for camping with many municipal and private sites, most offering the option of basic cabins or pitches for tent or motorhome. Don’t be put off by reports of Sweden being punishingly expensive, it’s more like Britain these days, although it’s beautiful neighbour Norway charges eyewatering amounts for pretty much everything, especially alcohol. You’ll find wonderful sites within a short drive of some of the major cities like Gothenburg or Stockholm, or you can truly get away from it all by heading north to somewhere like Björkliden which is 200kms inside the Artic Circle! You can cross-country or downhill ski here in winter (though we’d advise renting one of their lovely cabins then), and you might just catch the northern lights.
Bulgaria probably doesn’t spring to mind as an obvious camping destination, but if you want to try new experiences head east and see what it’s all about before it becomes too popular. Veliko Tarnovo is one of the country’s oldest towns, and the campsite by the same name offers good facilities 15 minutes out of town, and a short walk to the local village. Their site extols the virtues of their hotel standard facilities, and reviews back up those claims.
Slovenia. Staying in the former eastern Europe, how about trying the Soca Valley. Kamp Koren is in a clearing in the woods. You’re part of everything, including various sports activities, yet with far more privacy in the woods than at your usual site. The owner is a genial sort and well connected. He can arrange everything from a history tour to caving, or a different sort of caving – that of visiting the local wine caves. Of the adrenalin options available paragliding at least gives you the chance to see the area from the air, providing you’re not too terrified to open your eyes.
We can’t hope to do justice to the 28 European countries in a few hundred words. Invest in a couple of guides such as those from Alan Rogers, pour yourself a glass of your favourite tipple and plan your route from the comfort of the sofa. Or just set off and see where you end up. Camping feels like it should free the spirit a little and so a more spontaneous approach could be ideal.