The sun was high in the sky when former US president Theodore Roosevelt and his son arrived in the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya, in 1909. He was accompanied by 250 African carriers, guides, British big-game hunters and scientists. They had embarked on a one-year journey into the African ‘bush’, to the heart of the then Belgian Congo, to kill as much big game as possible in the name of science. They travelled overland by train, by steamship along the Nile and on horseback and camel across the savannah. Local carriers carried tonnes of equipment intended to make the journey of these prominent travellers as comfortable as possible. In the evenings, the carriers set up impressive tent villages, and a number of the tents were furnished with many of the Western world’s comforts of home, including elegant latrines. Roosevelt’s tent was also reputed to have a hot tub and a private library with more than 60 books. It is easy to picture him sitting and reading in the setting sun in front of the tent wearing his ‘granny glasses’ and pith helmet – with a rifle within easy reach, of course.
In the wake of Roosevelt’s African adventure, it became popular for prosperous American and European travellers to go on safaris in Africa. But despite their longing to go hunting, they were reluctant to give up the comforts of home. So they usually lived in safari tents, equipped with all the luxurious trappings they were accustomed to back home. Everything from real beds to power generators, foldable bathtubs and cases of champagne. Obviously, this type of accommodation had the added benefit of usually protecting the occupants from predatory lions during the night, malaria mosquitoes or green mambas seeking shade. And so the ‘glamping’ concept as we know it today was born: a pleasant combination of the comforts of home with the great outdoors.
Nomadic peoples have lived in large parts of the world for thousands of years. For example, the indigenous people of North America once lived in tepees. Even today large segments of the populations of Tibet and Mongolia live in yurts, and the Bedouin people of the Arab and Syrian deserts still live in tents, too. To them it is part of their culture, but in the Western world, most will still associate the concept of ‘spending the night in a tent’ with low-budget family holidays of the 1980s, evoking memories of endless hours of riding on the back seat of a smoke-filled estate car listening to cassette tapes. Along with folding chairs, hot dogs, drinking Danish Jolly Cola from glass bottles, brushing your teeth in the bushes and sleeping in cold and clammy nylon sleeping bags. But this accommodation concept has taken a quantum leap since then, and spending the night in a tent is no longer a cheap alternative to an expensive hotel room. It is often a deliberate, personal choice not necessarily prompted by the constraints of a threadbare holiday budget. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2009, a new type of luxury emerged. Large parts of the Western world were more or less compelled to make a break with consumerism as a ‘religion’ and with mortgaging one’s home to far beyond what it was worth. We’ve now learned that life is still worth living without a designer lamp over the dining table. We can do Planet Earth and ourselves a favour by reducing our level of consumption. This new type of luxury is more about coveting the ‘commodities’ we deem to be scarce: time, attention, intimacy, freedom, balance, tranquillity. The many surveys about why people choose glamping clearly show that ‘glampers’ generally give high priority to many of the same things: ‘essential’ luxury, outdoor
activities, good service, eco-friendly conditions and a sense of adventure and escapism. Many of them want to get back to basics, and to them, glamping is an opportunity to turn off their smartphone, take a break from monitoring their social media 24/7 and choose to be available only to those around them in the moment.
If you want to spend the night outdoors, but preferably not in a sleeping bag on a mattress, there are many options on Bornholm. One of the favourite spots for this is at the edge of Rønne on the way towards Allinge: Nordskoven Strand Camping, in a large, beautiful area of old trees, bordering directly on woods, beach and the sea. The campsite features four different glamping areas, all of which are inviting and evocative. There is a Moroccan area for romantic, adventuresome souls seeking to withdraw in luxurious surroundings, slightly detached from everyone else. There is a tepee area for free-spirited campers who prefer a more primitive setting. Then there is the Nordic section with bright, big-family tents, and, lastly, the large bell-tent campsite with a total of 15 bell tents that can be set up as separate camps for families and friends on holiday together. Obviously, it still possible to get together with the other campers, like at the campsite’s cosy campfire areas, and many communal activities are possible, from tree climbing and concerts to yoga and sauna. Nordskoven Strand Camping is suitable for both couples and families with children, and the glamping season at this venue runs from mid-June to the end of September.
Rønne Youth Hostel is also situated in Rønne, in the midst of a wooded area near the Citadel museum and the Galløkken nature area. In the area around the cosy, red-painted Rønne Youth Hostel, it is possible to stay in either a tepee or a bell tent, and it is only 200 metres from Rønne’s newly laid beach where you can take a morning dip.
Further north is Nordliv, in Hasle, only a stone’s throw from Hasle Smokehouse and Hasle Common. This is a setting for five white big tents – safari-like – on a large area near Hasle Lystskov and the coastal beaches south of the town. You get town, beach and woods – all in one. Nordliv has a rustic outdoor kitchen where campers can cook meals together, and it is also possible to buy breakfast in the café. Nordliv is a lively venue, excellent for big-family holidays, and it is open for glamping from mid-June to mid-August.
Eco Beach Camp is located in south-east Bornholm and is the only glamping site situated right on a beach. The glamping-only venue enables you to enjoy both your cup of morning coffee and the sunrise while wiggling your toes in the sand. The twelve bright tents are well spaced, making it ideal for those who truly want to slow down, relax and forget their daily worries. Glampers can also take part in meditation, yoga, groove dancing, paddle boarding, and other activities. The site’s beach café serves breakfast and lunch, and everything is organic, sustainable and free of plastic, in cooperation with the organisations Bye Bye Plastic Bornholm and WeFood. At Eco Beach Camp, you’re close to nature, and you minimise the environmental impact of your stay at the same time. If you prefer ‘slow living’, luxury and nurturing body and soul, Eco Beach Camp is highly recommended. Glamping is available here from mid-June to late August.
If you’re not on the lookout for sand between your toes, but give higher priority to relaxing, green surroundings, then Rø Jordbrug is the oasis for you. There are only two tents at the site – the Forest Tent and the Meadow Tent – both with views of the sea, their own outdoor kitchen and an outdoor shower. The Forest Tent is situated in the woods with animal and
bird life close by, while the Meadow Tent is situated in gentle meadowland with evening sunshine. It is possible to get lost in your own world here, and a sumptuous breakfast basket with produce from the site’s own production of eggs and other foods is discreetly delivered to your tent. Rø Jordbrug cooperates with local producers, and the tents are furnished with woollen duvets from a local duvet producer, Bornholmerdynen. All visitors are welcome to take part in the site’s sustainable farming activities which include chickens, sheep and a vegetable garden, from which you are even allowed to harvest produce. Rø Jordbrug is open for glamping from late June to mid-August.
Bornholm’s first and oldest glamping site is located near Østerlars: Stavehøl Secret Camping and Guesthouse. As the name implies, the site is secluded from the surrounding world. It features three glamping tents, all near wild nature and woods along Kobbeåen Stream, which flows over the renowned Stavehøl waterfall close by. This peaceful site has room for experiencing nature and yourself in it, and it is safe and exciting to go exploring here, totally in keeping with the original glamping spirit. The tents are of oriental origin. The yurt and the bell tent evoke an atmosphere of adventure and homely cosiness nestled in the scenic Bornholm countryside. There is also a campfire area and a cosy communal guesthouse with a lounge area featuring a library, Wi-Fi, kitchen and bathing facilities. You can glamp here from mid-June to late August.
In other words, Bornholm has a wide range of options for spending the night in venues other than holiday homes, hotels and guesthouses. And no matter how we live our everyday lives, most of us will identify with the desire to break away from our predictable daily lives, plunge into an adventure and get actively and authentically close to nature. As long as we can return to dry, warm luxurious digs at nightfall. Because when you get right down to it, there’s a little bit of Teddy Roosevelt in all of us.