Sharing campsites with others is a great introduction to the outdoors, with a few home comforts and the occasional kumbaya sing-along. Buuuut, if you plan on heading off-grid to seek the solace and solitude of nature, may I suggest something a little more wild?
As you can probably guess, the term ‘wild camping’ describes the act of camping anywhere outside an official campsite. And did you know, hidden in this modern world full of rules and regulations, there are still pockets where it’s completely legal to pitch up your tent and camp wherever you like?
In fact, a few nations embrace this concept so much, they’ve even created their own unique versions of “right to roam” laws. This basically grants you legal permission to wander their land and camp wherever you desire—with a few conditions, of course.
When done correctly, a truly immersive, free and peaceful night’s sleep is yours for the taking. Sounds pretty peachy, right? However, if you skimp on the planning, you're risking a hefty fine or worse—waking up on the barrel end of a shotgun-wielding farmer. Suddenly not so tranquil, eh?
As you might guess, the majority of countries are pretty uptight when it comes to where you can rest your head. And for the most part, information online is a bit, well, contradictory. Sure, you’ll find plenty of blogs and posts alluding to secret spots that are supposedly the holy grail for wild campers. But when it comes to laws and restrictions, the facts turn to tumbleweeds.
On the flip side, heaps of websites state that some countries have an outright ban on wild camping. Dig a bit deeper, though, and you may just find a few smaller regions where that’s not entirely true. Needless to say, I’ve done all the hard work by scouring government pages and reputable sources to put together a selection of spots where you CAN officially sleep in the great outdoors.
But first, let’s go over a bit of etiquette…
The golden rules of wild camping
Leave no trace
Arguably, the most important rule when it comes to exploring nature is to leave only footprints behind.
Something as silly as throwing a banana skin on the ground may seem harmless at first. But, that slippery yellow skin can actually take up to 2 years to decompose. Months later, that snack may be a distant memory to you, but for other campers, it’s an eyesore.
On a more serious note, making fires or using disposable barbecues can sterilize healthy soil and prevent plants from growing, along with leaving an unsightly charred patch on the ground. If you desperately need to make a fire or light up the grill, try to do so on sand, gravel or a flat rock instead.
Before you leave in the morning, it’s good practice to take a quick scan around and ask yourself: Can I tell someone has slept here? If the answer is yes, fix things to make it look the way it did when you arrived.
Only stay 1 night
You never know, you may have set up camp smack dab in the middle of some wild horse’s favourite hangout. To limit your impact on those ponies and the general environment, embrace the nomadic lifestyle by only staying one night before moving on. One evening shouldn’t cause much bother, but any more, and it looks like you're trying to evict nature from its own home. At the end of the day, you are the guest here, so don’t overstay your welcome.
On a similar note, you should try your hardest to blend in with nature as much as possible. Playing loud music and shouting at the top of your lungs are all big no-no’s when out in serene nature. Animals won’t like it, and neither will any passing hikers.
Although camping can be a group activity, don’t turn it into an alfresco party. Keep a low profile and let the sounds of nature soundtrack your evening, rather than your Spotify playlist.
Look out for ‘no camping’ or ‘Private land’ signs
Just because wild camping may be legal in a country, this doesn’t mean you should treat it as a free-for-all on any bit of land that takes your fancy. Do your research and keep an eye out for any indication that camping is forbidden. You are in the wild, after all, and there may be a good reason why some places are off-limits. So, unless you want to end up bear food, respect the signs.
10 legal wild camping spots
Now, on to the good stuff. Whether you're a camping newbie or a boondocking aficionado, you can handle anything on the list below, I promise. After hours of research, quadruple checking legalities and even some first-hand experience—without further ado, here are 10 locations you can legally wild camp.
1. Isle of Skye, Scotland
Kicking things off with the wild camping trailblazer that is Scotland. Ohhh, if only the rest of the UK could catch up with the Scottish Land Reform Act of 2003, allowing anyone the right to roam (and camp) on most unenclosed land.
In general, it’s a pretty safe place to have a snooze in nature, with no extreme weather or ferocious predators. Well…apart from the midges. But according to JFC’s resident Scotswoman, Avon’s Skin So Soft works a treat as repellent. And, you can always check the midge forecast (yes, that’s a real thing) if you're that concerned.
When you have an entire country to choose from, narrowing things down can get tricky, so my recommendation is the stunning Coral Beach on the Isle of Skye. It’s a relatively quiet bay with a glorious sunset over the horizon.
Reaching the Isle is fairly straight forward as you can either hop on a ferry or drive over the bridge on the A87. The nearest car park is around 20 mins walk from the beach, so don’t bring kit that’s too heavy to carry. You might also benefit from a windproof tent, as conditions on the Isle can get a bit breezy.
P.S. JFC-er Alex recently got in touch to share his own write-up of wild camping in Scotland too, just in case you're after a little more inspo :-)
2. Dartmoor National Park, England
You may have been following this one in the news recently, and if so, you know it’s kind of a hot topic. In case you weren't aware, wild camping in England is generally illegal, except in one beautiful little piece of land in the Southwest. A safe haven for wild campers all over the country: Dartmoor National Park.
Or, that's the way it used to be until recently, when the High Court decided enough was enough and outlawed wild camping entirely. Of course, the brilliant community of wild campers got straight to work holding protests and appeals. And, as of right now, they’ve secured a ‘permissive system’ where you can wild camp in selected areas of Dartmoor, displayed in purple on this interactive map.
As a Devon resident myself, I’ve spent many a night under the Dartmoor sky. To me, it has two different types of landscape:
- Secretive fairytale-like woodland, with twisted branches, meandering streams and the odd collection of toadstools amidst lichen-covered boulders.
- And vast, rugged moors, strewn with monolithic rock formations and panoramic views stretching for miles.
These landscapes are dispersed sporadically throughout the four corners of the park so, whichever direction you head, rest assured, it’s going to be magical.
One tiny downside to this stunning park, is that spontaneous ‘illegal raves’ are occasionally held within it. I learnt this the hard way one night, and trust me, it was near impossible to fall asleep with the faint bassline of a seemingly never-ending track pulsing in the distance. That being said, the park is huuuge, so chances are your luck will be better than mine.
One particularly remote spot that’s never disappointed, is the top of Great Links Tor. The 2-hour hike up (starting from the Morland car park behind the Dartmoor Inn), is quite steep and uneven, but the sunset views from the summit are simply spectacular. Right now, it’s still included in the areas you can legally camp, but make sure you double-check this before you leave.
Just one quick note: during the summer months, Dartmoor’s parched landscapes can become increasingly flammable. So, unless you want to be responsible for a raging wildfire, leave the barbecue at home.
3. Connemara National Park, Ireland
Like England, wild camping is generally illegal across the Emerald Isle, with just a few exceptions.
If you’re up for a little dance with danger, it is usually ‘tolerated’, as long as you camp far away from civilization and animals. However, since the majority of land is privately owned, I strongly suggest reaching out to the landowner to ask permission before pitching your tent.
Just like Scotland, you may run into the odd swarm of midges, and you should probably pack some tweezers juuust in case an impromptu tick removal is required. Then again, with the luck of the Irish on your side, I doubt that’ll happen :-)
One particularly alluring spot that seems to have gone viral on social media is the mesmerizing Inishkea Islands. Between the hauntingly beautiful abandoned cottages, tropical-like waters and swimming cows, I can see why you’d want to camp there. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but wild camping is strictly prohibited here, despite what TikTok would have you believe.
Now, for all you folk who like to stay on the right side of the law, fear not, your legal wild campsites come in the form of six national parks: Killarney, Connemara, Ballycroy, The Burren, Glenveagh and The Wicklow Mountains.
Each park is stunning in their own way, but it's Connemara National Park that’s got the stamp of approval from our resident Irish Flight Finder. It’s 2000-hectares of pure rugged nature: jagged mountains, grasslands, bogs, and even wild ponies.
At just an hour and half drive from Galway City, it’s pretty easy to reach. Bring a light-weight kit for this one, you’ll need to hike a minimum of 2 hours from the car park to make it out of the camping exclusion zone.
4. Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), Norway
Ahh, Norway…a wild camper’s dream. In case you're new to the game, Norway has this fantastic little law called Allemansrätten, loosely translating to “every (wo)man’s right”. Meaning, as long as you stay at least 150 m away from private property, you can camp virtually anywhere you like on public land. A pretty convenient belief from one of the most typically expensive countries to holiday in.
And this right doesn’t just stop there. After a long day of hiking, you’ll be pleased to hear those glittering fjords aren’t just for show. They also double up as 100% legal bathtubs. Trust me, those campsite porto-showers won’t be half as refreshing.
Feel like taking things one notch further? Bring a rod to that fjord (or the sea) and catch your own dinner, no permit needed! As long as you're sensible and away from forests, fires are also allowed, so you can leave the sushi mat at home.
In terms of wildlife back on land, elk and deer are the two species you're most likely to bump into. Although rare, wolves and brown bears can still be found roaming around, primarily in forests. So it’s important to stay vigilant, research your surroundings and remember not to leave food outside.
Be mindful that due to the climate, the camping season in Norway usually runs from April-September. If you’re a seasoned camper with top-notch kit, then yes, it is possible to camp in the winter. However, the nights are long, dark and f-f-freezing.
If you’ve ever googled Norway, you're probably familiar with this iconic rock…
It comes at the cost of an 8-km hike, working out to about 4 hours of out-and-back trekking. On a typical summer’s day, the rock is flooded with arms-outstretched hikers, all photobombing each other’s pics. You used to be able to start your hike around 7am and still receive a relatively tourist-free welcome at the top.
Nowadays, sunrise hikes are on the up, and even by 7am that rock is a popular place to be. Do you see where I'm going with this?
Yep, the way to beat the system here is to have a chilled ramble up in the afternoon the day before and then camp at the top. You’ll need to find a piece of flat and preferable sheltered ground, making sure you’re away from the path and any sheer drops. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still need to wake up early. But trust me, a 6 AM alarm and 5-min stroll are a million times better than a 3 AM hike.
By the way, if your heart takes you North instead of South, don’t forget one extra essential piece of kit…an eye mask. That midnight sun is no joke, especially if you're above the Arctic Circle.
5. Lapland, Finland
Ever fancied camping in the ‘happiest country on earth’? Well, for 8 ecstatic years, Finland has proudly held on to that title. And even better, they too embrace ‘every (wo)man’s right’—or as they like to call it ‘Jokamiehen Oikeudet’ (rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?!).
In fact, the Finnish government is so welcoming to campers, they’ve even set up thousands of shelters across the country for you to make use of if you wish.
The wildlife scene is pretty similar to Norway, with the added bonus of reindeer. So please, do drive carefully, especially at night when they’re prone to spontaneous road crossings—no one wants to plough down Blitzen on their holly jolly camping trip.
You're probably expecting something along the lines of a lakeside clearing in the middle of an enchanting forest. Well, you’ve got oodles of those to pick from, so let's lean into the free shelter idea to give you something a little different, AKA Lapland. Yep, the home town of Santa himself.
This vast snow globe scenery would usually remain out of reach for the average camper, if it wasn’t for the help of päivätupa huts. Most lodgings are free of charge and run on a first come, first serve basis. Although, if that level of uncertainty leaves you feeling uneasy, you’ll find some listed online which you can reserve in advance for a small fee.
There is some debate whether these still fall into the wild camping category. Personally, I would edge on the side of no. But, with just a roof, four walls and a couple of benches, it’s still pretty back to basics. Plus, they're typically in prime aurora borealis spots, so if you’re not an Arctic camping pro, these are your best option!
6. Tuhkana Beach, Estonia
It may not be the first place that comes to mind when picturing a beach break, but with miles of golden coasts and over 1500 islands, Estonia is not to be underestimated.
The country’s roots are heavily entwined with nature, and their laws wholeheartedly embrace the right to roam mentality. So, once again, you have the pick of the bunch when it comes to choosing your wild campsite. From ancient forests, time-worn castles and a plethora of lakes, good luck committing to just one.
As we branch further away from home (that’s England for me), the wildlife starts to get a little more dicey. The brown bears from before are here to stay, but now you’ve also got wild boars and lynx sprinkled in the mix – what joy! But don’t let them put you off, they’re often doing their best to avoid you just as much as you are.
Before you pitch up, have a scan around your potential campsite for any signs of animal activity like tracks, dens, or droppings. If you’re unsure, best to pack up and move along, this isn’t the time to take chances.
Introducing 500m of spectacular sandy shoreline, otherwise known as Tuhkana Beach on Saaremaa Island. Sleeping in nature is one thing, but having the oceanic lullaby of rolling waves sooth your dreams is another.
Reaching this island is fairly easy, with frequent ferries departing from the mainland every day. There’s also a handy car park next to the beach, so no epic hiking quests needed to reach your base.
Don’t forget to pay attention to tide times before you pick your pitch. You don’t want to be woken up at 4am to discover you're floating in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
Once you're all set up, (as far away from the waves as you can get), you might be feeling a bit peckish. Well, problem solved, the neighbouring pine forest is overflowing with foraging fodder. You’ll have the most luck in autumn, when the berries and ‘shrooms are in their prime. Just make sure to avoid those death caps!
7. Kazbegi/Stepantsminda, Georgia
Last call for the European stops, and this time, let’s jump on a midnight train to Georgia!
Edging a little more off-piste than our previous recommendations, Georgia is still relatively easy to fly to thanks to WIZZ, as long as you don’t mind an awkward layover here or there.
Yet again, the country is blessed with very relaxed laws surrounding wild camping. So, as long as you stay out of people’s way, you're gonna be fine. Luckily, the place is full to the brim with vast rolling hills, epic mountain ranges and acres of dense forests, so it’s easy-peasy to lose the crowds.
Try not to feel put off by the ‘unofficial’ national animal, the Eurasian wolf. They’re afraid of humans and rarely attack, so the chances of you meeting one are slim. On the other hand, bears are also a thing here, and will usually attack if they feel threatened. They tend to stick to woodland, though, so if you're nervous, you know where to avoid.
Way out on the mountains and miles away from bear territory, you’ll find the oil painting worthy views of Kazbegi. A 3-hour drive from Tbilisi will lead you to this mystical townlet enclosed by snow-capped peaks. The pièce de résistance being a quaint little chapel, often encased in an ethereal mist.
Don’t forget your hiking boots for this one, as there are some seriously epic sites to be seen, if you're willing to put in the work. These nearby Easter Island-esque heads have now secured a spot firmly on my bucket list.
8. Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia Argentina/Chile
With the domineering Andes mountain range, the vast steppe desert and, of course, those iconic pearlescent glaciers, Patagonia no doubt rules many wild camper’s dreams.
Split between Argentina and Chile, the region is home to 9 national parks where wild camping is not only allowed, but practically encouraged. Even if you arrive without a kit, most hostels are more than welcome to rent you some reasonably-priced gear.
Regarding the wildlife scene, Patagonia isn’t too concerning, surprisingly. Its largest predator is the puma, but you’d have to be crazy (un)lucky to bump into one. Given the 1.7 mil penguin population, you're far more likely to run into Pingu and his buddies. I’ve heard they’re pretty chill, as long as you keep your distance.
Now, not to sound dramatic or anything, but this particular spot is at literally at the end of the world – Tierra del Fuego. So, as you’d expect, it isn’t the easiest to reach. But, if you’re ever holidaying around Buenos Aires, you can just hop on a direct flight to Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city. From there to the national park, public transport is frequent, but by far the coolest ride has to be the ex-prisoner ‘end of the world train’, for obvious reasons.
Here on the Argentinian side, you’ve got a lifetime’s worth of hiking trails suitable for all abilities. But, if you’re a dab hand at all this adventuring, the Chilean side might be more to your tastes. It’s arguably much wilder, with large flat plains and dense forests, much of which are yet to be explored.
And let’s not forget, this is the gateway to set sail to the frozen frontier of Antarctica, and you really can’t get much more wild than that.
9. Kaindy Lake, Kazakhstan
If it ends in a ‘stan’, you just know it’s got adventure stamped all over it! From sandy deserts, lush forests, snow-capped mountains, vast canyons, icy glaciers and heaps of lakes…if you can think of it, Kazakhstan probably has it.
And all of which are yours to wander and camp as you please, as long as you're respectful, of course. Flights from the UK aren’t uncommon either, with Pegasus Airlines typically sporting the lowest fares.
Now let’s get the scary bits over and done with before we get ahead of ourselves. As you’d probably expect, there are bears and wolves (at this point, it would just be weird if there wasn’t). The new dangers here are a little trickier to spot—black widows, tarantulas, scorpions, and copperhead snakes all call this country home. Thankfully, they’re terrified of humans, so don’t let them dampen your spirits. In case you’re really scared, just avoid anywhere dry, especially the deserts.
With those creepy crawlies in mind, let’s play it safe with the hauntingly beautiful Kaindy Lake, otherwise known as the dead lake of Kazakhstan. This eery lagoon was formed back in 1911 after an earthquake caused the valley floor to fill up with icy river water. Now, all that’s left above the surface are the skeletal remains of a once thriving forest. But, take a peek below the sapphire blue depths and the branches with their needles stand frozen in time, preserved by the frigid temperatures.
If you're dead set on taking a dip, scuba diving is possible during the summer, but don’t expect anything warmer than a spine-tingling 6 degrees Celsius.
Driving here from Almaty will take around 4 hours, most of which is spent on the Kuldzhinky highway. However, the final leg of the journey leads you through some narrow dirt roads, which do occasionally flood after heavy rains, so please only attempt this route with a proper off-road vehicle.
There is a small clearing and car park near the entrance of the lake where you can set up camp, and entrance to the lake itself is around £1.50. Don’t expect too many neighbours, since most tourists opt for the easier to reach Kolsai Lakes instead—meaning you may even get this one all to yourself!
10. The Flaming Cliffs, Mongolia
And last but not least, this one's for the real nomads…or those who are just plain mad. Being both the 2nd largest landlocked country and the least densely populated country in the world, Mongolia truly puts the wild into wild camping.
Surprise surprise, it hasn’t got the best connections, so your easiest way to get there from the UK is probably to hop on a flight to either Frankfurt or Istanbul and get a non-stop flight from there. After touching down in Ulaanbaatar, consider renting a car your first mission. You don’t want to come all this way, only to lose your freedom to a tour bus. A DIY road trip is the only way to go!
That being said, the land will likely test your limits. Potholes are frequent on most roads, with gas stations and shops few and far between. So you’ll need to keep your supplies thoroughly stocked up!
Unless you're super-human and can survive -30 C temps, I'd advise sticking to the warmer summer months. Although, fair warning, things can still turn stormy any time of the year. On the plus side, the extreme climate means scary animals are few and far between. The only one you’ve really got to keep an eye out for is the unassuming bactrian camel. Yes, they’re extra fluffy, but they're also extra feisty, so keep your distance.
Now, out of all the other-worldly landscapes Mongolia has to offer, how can you pass up the opportunity to come face to face with dinosaurs! The flaming cliffs, in the South Gobi Desert, are home to one of the world’s largest dinosaur fossil excavation sites.
It’s a long, 9-hour drive south of the capital, but waking up to these Martian-like peaks all to yourself, totally makes up for it.
When you feel like a spot of velociraptor hunting, make sure to go on foot, as 4×4s and prehistoric fossils don’t really mix. If you do indeed make a discovery (surprisingly not an uncommon feat for visitors) make sure to leave your findings where they are. By all means take a celebratory pic or 20, but please do the responsible thing and report it to the authorities.
Well, there you have it, happy campers! Have you ever caught some Zs at any of these places, or is there somewhere else you think deserves a mention? Both North America and Australasia didn’t quite make the cut this time, but I’d love to hear your recommendations for these regions to add to the boondocking bucket list.
If you’re ever unsure about a country that’s not mentioned above, Caravanya is a handy app to have on your phone. It offers up-to-date info on each countries' wilding camping laws, so no need to rely on years-old Reddit threads.
Don’t forget to send us your pics or drop us a message next time you find yourself in a tent to share the wild camping love :-)