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In June 2022, I was impressed to discover the natuurkampeerterrein (natural camping area) near Groesbeek, The Netherlands. In character, it was a lot like National Forest campgrounds in the United States: quiet, beautiful, generally unstaffed, basic facilities, and most of all, a huge amount of space in huge spots located along multiple loops. Even if it were full, one can enjoy privacy, as the space per person is probably at least a factor 100 more than on commercial campgrounds. That those exist in such a highly densely populated country as The Netherlands was very surprising to me.

Do such types of campgrounds exist in Germany or elsewhere in Central Europe? Concretely, I mean campgrounds with basic facilities in a forested or otherwise natural environment, where visitors have relatively much space and privacy even when most or all spots are taken.

Some photos of the camping area I stayed at in The Netherlands:

Campsite at the Groesbeek Natuurkampeerterrein
Campsite at Natuurkampeerterrein near Groesbeek, The Netherlands.

Another campsite at the same Natuurkampeerterrein
Campsite at Natuurkampeerterrein near Groesbeek, The Netherlands.

By comparison, this is what a full campground in Central Europe may look like. Scenic, but not particularly enjoyable for me:

Campground Güntlenau near Glarus, Switzerland, June 2019
Campground Güntlenau near Glarus, Switzerland, June 2019.

I was very surprised by the natuurkampeerterrein in The Netherlands, because despite growing up there, I didn't know this existed. From the name, I had expected something like the campgrounds operated by Nivon, which are nice, but still normal campgrounds. I had otherwise only seen such natural campgrounds in North America and Spain.

Does this type exist in Central Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary)?

NB: this is different from the Trekkingplätze that do exist in Germany. The German Trekkingplätze are restricted to transportation on foot (maybe bicycle is allowed) and have very limited facilities. They can be compared to the former paalkamperen in The Netherlands or backcountry campsites in North America. The natuurkampeerterrein has no such restriction and is accessible by car — it's frontcountry camping.

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    To understand you correctly: You are looking for camping sites that include facilities (and probably cost a few bucks to use), not only a place where camping in the forest is allowed?
    – PMF
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 13:32
  • @PMF Yes, that is correct.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 14:26

1 Answer 1

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Here's an idea which might or might not suit you.

If you are in a somewhat larger group, and know what to do, there are places somewhat like these run by scouts (or maybe other youth organisations, too), which are also open to the "general public", althouth few people utilize that.

Random examples:

Now, what do I mean by "somewhat" and "know what to do"?

  • These facilities are intended for scouts -- so maybe they do only accept youth groups, or only groups of a certain minimum size, or only for multiple days, etc. Or the operators are just suspicious of anything else than scout groups. (But if you are a scout, and just explain you're on a private trip, there's hope.)
  • When you are accepted, they do give you a lot of freedom. Most are staffed by volunteers, often pensioners, and not run very businesslike ("I'll open the toilets for you the day before, firewood is in the shed, call me if you need anything").
  • On the other hand, that also gives you responsibility: you are expected to behave well, and clean stuff after you (often including toilets!). Leave the place better than it was before.
  • Conditions can vary from perfectly maintained and comparable to regular grounds to "unfit for use" with moldy interiors and dirty facilities (which scout groups will not like, too, but still bear -- no use in reporting or sueing your fellow vulunteers). It's "use at your own risk".
  • They are (usually) not "nature sites" in the sense as US national park camp grounds are. But they tend to be less civilied and groomed, farther from civiliation, and next to woods or nature where scouts have space for scouting activities.
  • They typically include stuff not available in usual camp sites: wood to chop for yourself, huge fireplaces, logs for building wooden constructions, beer tables, and lots of other equipment cheaply or for free.
  • They are difficult to find for the general public (often intentionally so). Most get known by word of mouth. Often they are only announced over old group home pages, and listed nowhere else.

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