Camping as it used to be is on the decline in Europe.
Fewer people are visiting campsites and filling them with trailers and tents. Many children will never meet new friends and spend a glorious few weeks running around, swimming and roasting marshmallows at a site near a lake, or in the woods.
Chances are that you went camping with family or friends in your childhood at one of these sites. TCS (Touring Club Switzerland) is the Swiss version of the American Automobile Association (AAA). Along with their driver assistance services and insurance, TCS also has the mandate to promote tourism among its members.
Camping is one way of fulfilling that directive. For more than 50 years, they have built and managed campgrounds in Switzerland. Still today, they check in some 600’000 lodgers per year. TCS acknowledges how Instagram is changing tourists' demands and expectations.
Also, they strive to be more sustainable across their campsites. As a result, TCS teamed up with the design and event firm Zone B to create Switzerland's first glamping village. At the beginning of July, we tested this unique pop-up project on Alp Plaun above Laax, Graubünden.
Getting to the TCS Glamping Village Alp Plaun
The journey to the glamping village is simple for those traveling by car or by public transport. We take the train as a way of avoiding delays and parking fees. Those arriving by car will need to park at the ski lift in Laax, as no vehicles are allowed to drive to the glamping village.
A shuttle bus takes glampers from the ski lift up a narrow, winding road to an elevation of over 1600 meters. There, we first spot the U-shaped tent village of twenty Lotus Belle tents, plus one large bar and a community tent. Today, the village looks identical to the visualizations we have seen online – they did not cut any corners in the execution.
Beautifully furnished tents
The tents are spacious, and each one has a wooden deck. Inside, there are two beds, a couch, a chair, a coffee machine, lamps, a heater and power outlets for charging of phones and batteries. There is even WiFi for those wanting to (or needing to) stay connected. Though, I would recommend shutting it off for the stay and connecting with the other glampers instead.
Along with a waterproof, full waxed canvas door, the entry to our tent has a mosquito net. Fresh air and light are still allowed inside – minus the insects. A Kompotoi compostable outhouse sits next to each tent. Thanks to the use of sawdust, it is entirely odorless and helps keep the environmental footprint of the Glamping Village to a minimum.
It’s a place to socialize
After we settle into our alpine abode, it is time for the welcome apéro. The smell of roasting sausages, "snake bread" (bread wrapped on a stick and cooked over a fire) and marshmallows conjures up the feelings and memories of camping in my childhood.
The communal apéro is the perfect place to chat with some of our fellow glampers. From the start, the camp has guests from all of Switzerland's linguistic regions: we hear a mix of French, German, Italian and Romansh - as well as English. The communal tent has a selection of board games and cards. There is ample seating inside and out for playing games and enjoying a drink.
Alp Plaun has a ski lift and restaurant on its western side. The tents open facing the forest and alpine pasture on the East and South, adding to the feeling of seclusion. However, you're not alone: over 600 marmots call the alp their home. With so many in such a small area, you are bound to catch a glimpse of a few. Many holes and mounds mark their presence. TCS has carefully and marked these for your safety.
Near the ski lift is the restaurant La Vacca, a giant tipi with central fireplace, where dinner is served. On the menu are traditional Graubünden specialities such as capuns, and there is an excellent selection of wines for pairings.
The path to the tipi leads through a field where horses graze. Some of these curious equines will approach you, and one gets the feeling that a select few are even posing for some Instagram fame.
What activities does the TCS Glamping Village offer?
The Bündner Alps, where the village is located, are a perfect playground for hikers, bikers and swimmers looking for micro-adventures. The starting elevation makes it easy for mountain bikers and hikers to start on their day trips right from their tents.
Guests can pack their lunchboxes (part of your stay) and hike to mountain peaks, through forests or do a via ferrata without needing to go to a restaurant. Swimmers can hike to the stunning Lake Cauma, known for its turquoise and teal colors.
After a day in nature, it would not be "glamping" if there were no showers to freshen up before dinner. And after dinner, hanging out around a fire pit or in the bar is the perfect way to end the day. At this elevation, the nighttime temperatures cool down enough to allow for a comfortable sleep. It's the perfect escape from the summer heat in the valley.
How much does it cost?
Two nights for two people in the Glamping Village start at 490 francs, including an apéro, dinner, breakfast and lunchbox with beverages being excluded. Having stayed in a glamping village in Slovenia, I can say that this is a good value. Our tent there was smaller, and neither dinner nor apéro were included. Adding in the cost of food in Slovenia, we paid the same price.
Since the TCS Glamping Village is a pop-up concept, the experience is unique and may never happen there again. Do you want to enjoy the wild and rugged terrain of Flims-Laax-Falera while having a unique micro-adventure? But do you need the comforts that one would find in a hotel? A stay at this pop-up glamping village might be in the stars for you this summer...
TCS Pop-Up Glamping
+41 58 827 25 20