Picture this: a vast forest with tall trees, the sun peeking through the tree branches, cooking on a bonfire, meditating under the full moon, going for a swim in the lake and sleeping in a yurt covered in warm blankets. Yep, that’s what you get at Winterwoods Pop-Up Camping.
I first heard about Winterwoods last year, when I was desperately researching corona-safe activities to do. I was immediately curious to know more about it and even to go there myself, but it was sold out for the entire year.
Then, out of complete lockdown boredom, I remembered Winterwoods existed and decided to check their available dates again. I found out they still had an available yurt at the end of the month. Maybe someone had cancelled!
I proceeded to tell André about this, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to go. The price for the whole experience was considerably high and it was far, two hours away from Amsterdam. Still, André ended up surprising me and offered us the only available weekend at Winterwoods.
Needless to stay, I got really excited, and for a good reason! The whole experience was incredible. I really felt we reseted during the weekend – we got so much fresh air, sun and moon light and were in constant touch with the nature. There’s something special about sleeping in the middle of the woods, cooking your food on the fire, and looking at the amazingly-starry sky at night. Even just thinking about this gives me chills.
Keep reading to find out everything about this glamping experience!
Winterwoods Camping is located in the heart of Drenthe, one of the most beautiful nature reserves in The Netherlands. The forest has high pine trees, plenty of lakes where you can go for a swim, as well as cycling and hiking trails.
The best way to get there is by car. It’s about a two-hour drive from Amsterdam, or three hours taking the public transportation and walking to the site. If you take public transportation, you will have to walk for around half an hour in the middle of the woods, which will suck if you’re carrying your backpack and food for the weekend.
The Yurts & Camping Site
The camping site itself is really beautiful and mystical! There are bonfires everywhere, cute lights, a huge Tipi tent and several Yurts (where you’ll be staying).
The Yurts are traditional Mongolian tents, especially designed to keep the heat – so they’re perfect for Winter camping. You also have a wood-burning stove to make sure your Yurt stays warm and cozy all night. The top of the Yurt is clear, so you can lay in your bed looking at the starry sky at night – it’s so dreamy!
The Yurts are also really cute inside, with traditional decoration. There are sheep rugs, a small table with benches and candles where you can play board games with your friends or loved one, and a really nice traditional throw on the bed.
There is no electricity in the Yurt, but they do have some battery-powered lights. Expect to not be able to see anything most of the time!
So, you may be wondering what the bathrooms are like, since this is a pop-up camping! Well, rest assured that they have a very clean sanitary block, including warm showers. Believe me, you’ll need a warm shower after swimming in the freezing cold lake.
Cooking at Winterwoods
Cooking at Winterwoods was a really fun and challenging experience for us, a couple of noobs who had never made a bonfire in their lives. When we go camping, we usually use a Campingaz or a barbecue to cook, but this time we really wanted to try cooking on the fire.
In front of your Yurt, you will have several blocks of wood that you can chop and a place to make your own bonfire. You can chop the wood at the reception (yeah, we also did this for the first time!) and then proceed to start the fire to begin cooking.
After a few failed attempts, André managed to ignite a really nice fire and we made an incredible lamb stew – believe me, the food tastes even better when it was cooked on a bonfire! We had dinner on the table in the front of our Yurt with a really nice bottle of Portuguese Wine, at candle and moon light.
If you’re not into cooking on a bonfire, don’t worry: every Yurt also comes equipped with a Campingaz portable stove. On the next morning, we were too lazy to start a fire so we made brunch on the stove. It was also pretty awesome: I mean, having brunch in the middle of the nature, with the sun shinning on our faces – what can be better than that?
Regarding food, you can choose to buy their “regional package” and not have to worry about bringing breakfast or lunch food with you. We chose not to because the menu wasn’t that interesting for us, and instead decided to bring our own food. It was a great decision, honestly – we ate everything we wanted.
Activities in the Nature
Thinking you’ll get bored at this camping site? Forget it, you’ll even wish you had more time there.
There’s always something to do at Winterwoods – whether it’s getting to know your neighbors, listening to the crew members playing acoustic guitar, reading a book on the grass, or chilling by the fire in the evening while drinking a glass of wine.
When we arrived on Friday, we spent most of the afternoon getting comfortable, relaxing and learning how to make a fire. Everyone was pretty crazy on Friday night, so we got to meet some of our neighbors.
On Saturday, we woke up early and borrowed a mountain bike to check out the surroundings. We biked for 12km in the forest, stopping here and there to admire the lakes and nature.
After the workout, it was time for brunch. At Winterwoods, you can even bake your own bread on the wood fire – they provide all the ingredients you need! Unfortunately, we didn’t bake our own bread, since we were starving and just wanted to cook right away. We made classic avo toast with fried eggs on top, and it was delicious!
We also brought our chess board and played a game after brunch. I ended up loosing the game, but I wasn’t even mad! Better to lose chess in the middle of the nature than at home, right?
Winterwoods camping also provides a lot of board games, like Catan, Risk, etc. – you just need to borrow at the reception! It’s perfect if you’re going with a group of friends.
After the game, it was time for the best activity of all – the “cold training”. Initially we didn’t want to join this activity, since it involved swimming in a freezing cold lake with an outside temperature of 9 degrees, but one of the crew members talked us into doing it!
We went to the nearby lake, and the crew members taught us the Wim Hof method. This method consists of controlling your breath in such a way, that you’ll be able to warm up your body and enter the cold water. We started by doing breathing exercises and even got a bit dizzy with all the oxygen, and then proceeded to slowly go into the lake.
At first, I couldn’t feel my feet or legs, but I just kept focusing on my breath and on myself and, eventually, it was fine. I swam around and got plenty of brain freezes, but it felt so good to be in that beautiful lake, with the sun shinning on the water and the trees surrounding it.
I’m used to getting into cold water in the Atlantic Ocean, often 12 degree water – but it’s in the middle of the summer, with 30 degrees outside. This time, the water had a temperature of 4-6 degrees and it was quite cold outside too, so it was definitely a challenge!
When we got out, we were so energetic and happy! We started moving a lot and running to get warm again and, of course, we walked back to the camping site to get a very warm shower.
As if this hadn’t been a day full of activities, we had a private guided meditation session in our Yurt later in the evening. The moon was already shinning inside our Yurt, and the meditation session was just the perfect way of relaxing after such a good day.
Besides all of these activities, there are also other things you can do – we just didn’t manage to do all of them! They have yoga classes, a bootcamp, bread baking and hiking. That’s why I told you that you’ll never get bored.
When Sunday arrived, we were really happy about the amazing weekend we had, but at the same time sad for leaving. I would easily have spent a whole week there, since it’s so heart and mind-nurturing.
I can also imagine that camping in the Summer must be great, with the warm weather, the lake and extended sun hours. In fact, we just left Winterwoods and are already planning to return there in the Summer, but for a bit longer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re into camping or not; f you’re a nature lover, I’m sure you’ll love Winterwoods. You get all of the camping benefits in a comfortable place, with a really nice community!