7 unique camping ideas you can do on your next trip

Photo taken by Jonathan Duron

Nothing beats the spontaneity of sleeping outdoors. On one day you can have the gift of blue skies. On another, you can have a canopy of stars to stare at before falling into a deep slumber. You can pitch your tent next to a crystal clear lake or hang your hammock between two palm trees, falling asleep to the melodic sound of the waves lapping on the shore.

On your next trip, why not fulfill your camping dreams with adventures that are out of the box? Kick up your outdoor daydreams a notch with these extraordinary ideas. 

  1. Camp at a wonder of the world 

Where better to spend the night than a place of historical and architectural significance? There’s an array of options to choose from. You can do the four-day Inca Trail in Machu Picchu, stay the night in a lavish Bedouin tent in Petra, Jordan, pitch your tent near Mexico’s Chichen Itza or hike the wild Jiankou Section of the Great Wall of China. 

My campsite at the Great Wall of China
Overlooking the hamlets and the rest of the unrestored Great Wall

In addition to the opportunity to marvel at humanity’s past achievements or experiencing real magic evoked by being enmeshed in wonder, campers who are looking for a unique stay can find it by sleeping on a significant monument of humanity’s brilliance. 

After all, how often can one say that they camped at a wonder of the world? 

  1. Spend the night in a lighthouse 

It’s not exactly outdoors, but don’t you just adore the idea of setting down your sleeping bag and mattress in a structure that’s known to keep ships out of harm’s way? 

A lighthouse in the middle of the Andaman Sea. I spent the night here when I had to take shelter from a storm.

Picture this: falling asleep to the aroma of briny air, listening to the music of singing birds and crashing waves, rare sightings of marine animals like dolphins or whales and in some cases, learning a thing or two about the lighthouse’s history as well as its surrounding wildlife. If you’re being hosted by a lighthouse keeper, you can also hear interesting stories about their profession or their personal lives. 

Taking shelter in a lighthouse satisfies all your senses and gives you a unique story to tell when your friends ask you about your best camping experience. 

  1. Going nomad in a yurt 

Yurts are integral in a nomadic lifestyle. These portable shelters are covered and decorated with animal skins or felt and are commonly used by nomadic herders in the steppes of Central Asia, Mongolia and Tibet. It’s a perfect option for all seasons, since it remarkably retains heat and has the ability to protect its inhabitants from strong gusts of wind and heat during the hot summer months. 

A yurt in Chyrkchyk, Kyrgyzstan.
Central Asian yurt interior

Depending on where you stay or which country you’re visiting, yurts are usually equipped with beds or mattresses for guests to sleep in. There could be a tiny table for you to eat in and a portable stove that you can sit next to so you feel all warm and cozy. Unfortunately for the picky few, restrooms are located outside these dwellings. 

Nevertheless, wherever you might encounter the possibility to sleep in a yurt, you can guarantee that your surroundings will always be beautiful—verdant pastures, snow-capped summits, tranquil lakes. 

You can even take part in various nomadic activities and camping activities, especially if you’re being hosted by a nomadic family. They’re usually very accommodating to travelers. In my experience in Kyrgyzstan and in Tibet, I never needed to book anything to be able to camp in a yurt, so if you have the chance to spend the night in these traditional houses, don’t pass up. 

What’s inside a Tibetan yurt
  1. Conquer your fears through creepy camping 

I did this by accident, but if you’re definitely looking for a night to remember and a night that will make your heart race, try setting up camp in a mystic mountain, a foggy forest, or actual haunted campsites.

Eerie trail in Gunung Jasar, Malaysia

Although appearing to scare, most of these places offer more to see or hear than disturbing accounts. They can be filled with interesting wildlife you haven’t encountered before. Besides this, you can seek out paranormal experiences, have your own Blair Witch moment, or simply enjoy the eerie environment. 

This option is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you want to go beyond spooky campfire stories and see  if the urban legends are true, you can spend the night in an area shrouded by haunted tales or local lore. 

My accidental campsite on a spooky mountain where authorities told me that several people disappeared and were never found.
  1. Brave the snow

For most voyagers (myself included), cold nights equate to misery, but you can’t deny that winter camping also has its own magic—virgin snow resting on the branches of pine trees, captivating landscapes draped in a powder white blanket, blissful silence and solitude at the absence of day hikers and other campers. 

Fresh snow resting on our tents during a November hike in Kyrgyzstan’s Chuy Region. Photo from @ol.the.road
My largest group hike EVER!! Missing this mfs!! Photo from @ol.the.road

Cold weather camping is definitely possible, and waking up to a winter wonderland is a spectacular experience. However, even the most amazing sights won’t make up for a terrible night enduring freezing temperatures in your tent, so prepare and collect all the essential gear to stay warm and survive subzero extremes. Wear the appropriate clothes and Insulate your tent by reducing space. Bring a buddy with you or attach an emergency blanket to your tent ceiling. Don’t forget the age-old hot water bottle trick too! 

Much like camping in the spring and summer, make sure that the weather conditions are favorable and gather some information about your trail and terrain. For emergency purposes, take the number of the nearest ranger station or give them a heads up that you will staying outdoors. 

Remember that winter camping is not a joke, and getting a good experience from it is anchored greatly on comfort and practicality. 

  1. Ditch the tent 
I just decided to ditch the tent one day and spend the night on my mat.

Want an unobstructed view of the stars at night? Ditch the tent and settle for spreading your sleeping bag to gaze at the sky while lying down. Opt for the hammock when lounging in the woods, so that you can see how the trees stretch their arms out to the heavens. Fair warning, though. This option is only advisable for countries or areas with warm weather and where there are no risks to encounter wild or venomous animals. 

  1. Sleep on a city’s bustling rooftop 

Too busy to get out of the city? Don’t have time to go on an actual trip abroad or out of town? You can still find a way to enjoy and explore the concrete jungle by searching for a rooftop with a breathtaking view of the city skyline. You can also look up glamping options, which are being provided by luxury hotels and accommodations who want to keep up with hospitality trends and give guests the perfect staycation experience. 

(Bonus crazy and risky tip: You can even sneak in a building just like a travel buddy and I did years ago in Thailand! It definitely adds thrill to the adventure!) 

Making our mark on Wannasorn Tower, Thailand.
Our beautiful view of Bangkok City, Thailand.

For a look at other accommodation experiences, check out 5 eco-friendly alternatives to hotels. 

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