Imagine this: You’re traversing the sand dunes of Mongolia on horseback; or flying across the Antarctic ocean on a private charter; or taking a bumpy jeep over India’s Kunlun mountain range. When you finally get to your destination — which can pretty much be described as the middle of nowhere — you are, somewhat magically, presented with the ultimate in travel luxuries. A beaming butler offers you a refreshing wet towel and a welcome tipple. There is a gourmet farm-to-table meal being prepared for you. And you have a comfortable bed, electricity and running water. What more could an adventurous globetrotter want?
More than just “glamping”, these swish establishments offer all manner of creature comforts in places where there is none.
Welcome to the world of pop up hotels, which have boldly set up where no man has set up before. More than just “glamping”, these swish establishments offer all manner of creature comforts in places where there is none. For example. Chamba Camp Thiskey in the rugged region of Ladakh, India comprises a fleet of Maharajah-style tents that are furnished with ensuite bathrooms and butler service. Others, like Whichaway Camp in Antarctica are only open during the six months in a year when travellers are able to access this frigid region.
“Today’s traveller is increasingly searching for a one-off experience that can be tailored for their needs alone, and the more unique it is, the better, says Nico Heath, the co-founder and director of Lightfoot Travel, which can organise stays at both Chamba and Whichaway. “More than ever people are coming to us craving to discover more remote and unusual places and to immerse themselves within a new local culture.”
“We have 400 horses in one of the most beautiful valleys in Mongolia. We have archery, mountain biking, kayaking and of course, horse riding every day. If anybody can find anything more adventurous, more remote or more cultural, then sign me up.”
Gordon Oldham, founder of The Pavilions
That’s exactly what The Pavilions’ summer pop-up camp in Mongolia’s Orkhon Valley National Park is all about. From June to September, this boutique hospitality brand has set up swanky versions of traditional gers for intrepid adventurers to get a taste of what it means to live in the Mongolian Steppes. The Pavilions’ founder Gordon Oldham, says, “We have 400 horses in one of the most beautiful valleys in Mongolia. We have archery, mountain biking, kayaking and of course, horse riding every day. If anybody can find anything more adventurous, more remote or more cultural, then sign me up.”
Here are five pop up hotels to catch soon, if you can.
Chamba Camp Thiskey, India
When: May to October
Forego the trekkers lodges to live like a luxe nomad at Chamba Camp in India’s beautiful Ladakh region. The plush Maharajah-style tents are individually designed and furnished with ensuite amenities, four poster beds and hot and cold water on tap. A slew of esoteric cultural activities, from taking part in an early morning prayer ceremony at Thiskey Monastery to seances with the village oracle can be arranged. Other highlights include rafting down the Indus river or cycling down a 5,300m mountain pass. In your downtime, there’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book from the camp’s on-site library.
The Pavilions, Mongolia
When: June to September
Consider this a swanky version of a summer camp. The Pavilions group is running a four-month pop-up camp in Mongolia’s Orkhon Valley National Park, featuring 20 luxury gers, traditional Mongolian lodging, for those who want to commune with nature. In a nod to the proud Mongolian tradition of horse rearing, there will be a troop of some 200 horses at the camp, which are available for activities including polo matches and horseback riding. Other outdoorsy experiences include archery, kayaking and rock climbing. The camp is also equipped with a spa offering traditional healing massages with a shaman. Best of all, proceeds will fund educational programmes for local Mongolian children.
Whichaway Camp, Antarctica
When: Mid-October to March
In inhospitable, frigid Antarctica, the six state-of-the-art dome-shaped pods at Whichaway Camp truly offer the ultimate in hospitality. Located in the depths of the frozen continent below a 200ft ice cliff, the heated pods are a spacious 6m in diameter by Antarctican standards and can house the most important furnishings including double or twin beds, a writing desk and an ensuite toilet and wash basin. At the camp, personal guides can arrange just about any activity for the budding polar explorer, ranging from penguin, whale and seal spotting to abseiling and technical rock climbing.
Serengeti Safari Camp, Tanzania
When: All year, but at different locations
The great Serengeti wildebeest migration is one for the bucket list and there’s no better way to watch it than by having it right at your doorstep, which is what the Serengeti Safari Camp does. This mobile camp moves every couple of months to follow the movement of the migration. The tents include all manner of modern conveniences including plush sofas, comfy beds and safari-style bucket showers with hot and cold water. There’s candlelit main dining tent, a separate library and bar tent on the site. Seasoned travellers may have heard of other mobile safari camps but this one’s the OG.