Winning tip: Car-free in Norway
Thanks to Innerdalen’s preservation status, the campsite at Renndølsetra is a vehicle-free zone, a 3.5km walk from the car park. But it’s worth the effort – rolling hills, rivers, a glacial lake and the pyramid peak of Innerdalstårnet. The site is on a dairy farm, and there are also grass-roofed bunkhouses. The on-site cafe sells its butter and cream, but burning off the calories is easy. The owner, Eystein, pointed out local hikes, and a bracing dip in the lake is a must.
• Tent pitches £6.30pp, innerdalen.com
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Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print, and the best entry each week (as chosen by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet) wins a £200 voucher from hotels.com. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage
Glacier experience, Norway
A couple of years ago we found the most amazing campsite surrounded by glaciers, mountains and huge waterfalls in the Jostedal national park. The campsite, Melkevoll Bretun, included a free sauna, a beautifully designed barn for cooking and eating with huge glass windows offering panoramic mountain views, and a camping experience in a “stone-age” cave. Our children, aged 11 and 9, really enjoyed the natural bouldering course and the trails around the campsite connecting it with the surrounding nature.
• Motorhome, caravan, tent and car: £16 + £3 per person, child (4-12) £1, melkevoll.com
Black Sea pitch, Romania
My recommendation is Gura Portitei, a thin sliver of sand separating the Black Sea from the Danube delta. There are tent pitches, and cabins from £6 to £20 a night, alongside a hotel and a restaurant. Reached by ferry or two-hour speedboat journey across the lake, the location is less of a tourist magnet than resorts in the south. The true star here is the delta, a unique and protected natural area offering boat trips, fishing and excellent food.
Mountain eco, Slovenia
Koren campsite is in a magnificent setting by the Julian Alps and on the banks of the Soča river, with its canyons, gorges and waterfalls. It was one of the first Slovenian campsites to be awarded the Ecolabel for sustainable tourism. There are tent pitches, but we stayed in a beautiful wooden eco-lodge for six. Numerous activities are on offer, many water-based. Kayaking was the highlight for us, while the kids loved the on-site climbing wall. The shop sells local organic produce.
• Adult from €12.50, child (7-12) €6.25, under-7s free, glamping huts (sleeps two) from €40, chalets (sleeps four+two) €200, kamp-koren.si
Baby-friendly camping, Germany
Attention to detail made Camping Bankenhof on Lake Titisee so pleasurable – low washbasins, baby bath and family shower cubicles – all spotless. There were even emergency dummies! The year-round site offers activities for all ages, including bikes and go-carts. We took advantage of the Konus card, which gives free access to local buses, trains and trams. We visited Freiburg and the Hasenhorn mountain coaster – one of the longest toboggan runs in Europe and a huge hit with the kids.
• From €26.50 for two adults, 3-5 years €3.50, 6-15s €5.50, camping-bankenhof.de
Eiger and more, Switzerland
Waking up each day to the north face of the Eiger, whether it’s bathed in sunshine or shrouded in mist, is very special. And even more so at night, when the light of the Stollenloch (doorway in the wall) twinkles within the towering black outline. But the Eiger isn’t the only mountain. Soaring peaks dwarf you in every direction. Camping Eigernordwand in Grindelwald is lovely. Both the pitches and facilities are super-clean, it’s well- priced for the budget traveller, and only a short walk downhill from Grindelwald station. The staff are laid-back and friendly. I’ve stayed twice and can’t wait to return next year.
• Adults from £8.50, child (3-14) £5, eigernordwand.ch
Alpine lakeside, Switzerland
Trudging uphill, carrying overloaded backpacks, sweating in the high summer heat, I was sceptical that whatever lay at the end of this hike would be worth the effort. Then the sparkling light on Lac de Champex came into view. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to drink it or swim in it. A few paces further on is the sweet and simple Camping Les Rocailles, a small campsite with basic but functional amenities whose real draw is the location. Under a glacier on the Tour du Mont Blanc route and with that lovely lake a little further along, it’s the perfect base for adventures on foot or by bike.
• Adult €8, child (5-12) €5, hikers’ package for two or more €15pp, champex-camping.ch
Europe’s highest, Switzerland
Surrounded by sharp peaks and glaciers, Camping Arolla is the self-styled highest campsite in Europe (1,950 metres), offering immediate access to excellent hiking and climbing from its few grassy terraces. The best pitches are fringed with wildflowers against a backdrop of larch and pine. It’s a very special place to roll out of bed in the morning and breathe the freshest Alpine air. It has modern facilities and a good shop selling camping supplies and local food and drinks (try the apricot wine), plus some tents for hire. There are restaurants down in the village half a mile away.
• Two adults, tent and car from £21.50, camping-arolla.com
Free natural highs, Tenerife
There is a network of free campsites across the island, but Zona Acampada Chío is our favourite. The facilities are basic – toilets, barbecue area, playground – and it’s at around 1,700 metres, so you need pretty good gear, which you have to carry 400 metres from the car park. But the solitude, peace and views more than make up for it. On a clear day you can watch the sunset over La Gomera before setting off early to climb Teide volcano, the highest point in Spain.
• Free, centralreservas.tenerife.es
Fire and brimstone, Iceland
Very green and with lots of space to run around, Reykjavik Campsite has communal barbecue and cooking areas, bike hire and hostel facilities on site. The campsite is next to a de facto spa with a 50-metre outdoor pool, hot pots and steam bath, with affordable (state-subsidised) entrance fees and open till 10pm each day. But when the sulphurous spa water courses from the campsite’s own showers, even washing in the small hours in the mysterious light of the simmer dim (summer twilight) is to be immersed in a unique kind of luxury.
• From £15pp (maximum stay seven nights), reykjavikcampsite.is
Cliffs and craic, Ireland
Near Kilcar in County Donegal, Derrylahan Independent Hostel Campsite is a lovely grassy flat site with spectacular views into Slieve League and a beautiful hidden beach a stone’s throw away. It’s two miles to the villages of Kilcar and Carrick, where there’s a renowned music scene and excellent hospitality. The waymarked path to the highest sea cliffs in Europe runs past your tent. Shaun, your host, is the most knowledgeable local guide imaginable, the whole place is on a working farm with chickens cows and sheep. Oh, and there’s a well-equipped camp kitchen and drying room (sometimes it rains in Donegal).
• From €8pp, derrylahanhostel ie
Venice over the water, Italy
Camp cheaply on the Venetian lagoon at Camping Fusina, with perfect views over to Venice. This indisputably hidden gem, nestled scarily between a cargo boatyard and heavy industry, is nevertheless a wooded paradise with a laid-back hippy vibe and stylish, beautifully shabby 1950s architecture. You can walk five minutes to catch the ferry to Venice, or simply watch the vast cargo ships block out the sky as they chug to the dock next door. Unforgettable.
•€12pp in high season, campingfusina.com
Fever pitch, Italy
Secluded and peaceful Camping Milano, on the western outskirts of the city and just short hop from the San Siro stadium, makes a convenient base from which to explore this high-fashion Italian city at high-street pricing. With an impressive selection of pitches, tents (small tent €6.50, tree tent for two €30), plus cabins and luxury eco-suites (€100 for two) it offers plenty of choice, and an excellent slice of pizza with a cold beer in the campsite bar after a busy day of shopping and sightseeing. Perfect for footy fans, trade show visitors and those seeking a budget weekend break.
• Adult from €9, 3-10s from €7, small tent from €6.50 a night, campingmilano.it
On the waterfront, Italy
Just metres away from the beautiful but busy shores of Lake Garda, Camping Brione is a gem. It sits on the edge of Riva del Garda, surrounded by majestic mountain massifs. The tent pitches areon terracesdotted with fragrant fruit trees that provide a welcome refuge from the summer sun. The pitches are small but private and really do offer sanctuary from the motorhomes below and the hustling town beyond. Perhaps the real secret to Brione is its evening “pasta party”, an affordable three-course buffet. It’s an insight into Italian communal meal times, which leaves a smile on your face.
• Adult from €7.50, 3-14s from €5, pitch from €7.50, campingbrione.com
Bright days, dark skies, France
Amid pinewoods in the Cévennes, Domaine de Pradines is my all-time favourite campsite, with wild camping, camping close to facilities, cabins or glamping in yurts. Facilities include a pizzeria, shop, playground and pool, but it was the Unesco-listed surroundings and night sky that won me over. The campsite deliberately doesn’t have much artificial light, so you can view the night sky in all its glory. One night we saw three shooting stars.
• Adult from €6.50, 4-15s €4.50, yurt (sleeps two) from €45, domaine-de-pradines.com
Leisurely Loire, France
There is a campsite near Tours in the Loire Valley called L’Orangérie de Beauregard, which is perfect for visiting chateaux in the region. Opened last year, it is family- and pet-friendly, has a lovely swimming pool and impressive restaurant. Activities include kids’ clubs and wine-tasting sessions. There are also plenty of local vineyards and markets to stroll through.
• From €30 a night for two, orangeriedebeauregard.com
Gorge on France
For fantastic family camping, close to the river and set in a beautiful gorge, I recommend Camping Domaine Chasteuil at the entrance of the Gorges du Verdon. There’s great walks, canyoning, rafting, bird-watching and cycling opportunities (we always take bikes). Children can have fun floating down the river on big air rings. The campsite has large pitches, a swimming pool, and the warm and welcoming staff are happy to put on entertainment for younger children if required. The beautiful town of Castellane sits at the head of the gorge, with great places to eat and wonderful markets.
• Adult from €14.50, under-6s free, chasteuil-provence.com
Provençal waterside, France
Camping du Brec is a campsite on a stunning lakeside in Entrevaux, south-east France. Our kids loved the free kayaking and paddleboarding and the friendly owners, Claire and Eric, organised a day’s climbing for us in the mountains. I took part in the yoga each morning by the ake. The picturesque village of Entrevaux is a short walk away. If you seek a non-commercial atmosphere with plenty for the kids to do, shady pitches and a evening in a lovely lakeside bar amidst the mountains, this is a campsite for you.
• From €26 a night for four, camping-dubrec.com
Olive grove, Provence
Les Olivettes, in Les Mées, north of Aix-en-Provence, is a stunningly calm campsite. There are some areas with pre-pitched safari tents, but we stayed in our own tent in the Olive Grove, and all the sites are well thought-out, spacious and beautifully landscaped with trees providing shade and privacy and mosquito-repelling plants. The pool, kids’ area and kitchen and bathrooms are spotlessly clean and the whole place evokes a luxury that can be difficult to achieve at a campsite. It is is well-placed for exploring both the Luberon and the Verdon.
• Pitch for up to six from €15 a night, campinglesolivettes.com
Animal magic, France
La Ferme de Croas Men campsite in Brittany is as close to perfect as you could find for a relaxed family holiday. There are some marked pitches but we chose to camp in the field opposite the farm donkeys where you can choose your spot. The kids loved visiting the animals, the interesting farm buildings and the fresh croissants and homemade apple juice for breakfast. Our two youngest got chickenpox on the first day but we managed to entertain them on the campsite until they weren’t infectious thanks to the lovely (and immune!) neighbouring families. Other plus points are the bathrooms, the indoor spaces with toys, the parks and the donkey rides. A great holiday.
• Car, tent or caravan and two adults €14.44, extra over-7s €3.50, under-7s €2, ferme-de-croasmen.com
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