By Rhonda Carrier
Many of the best green places to stay in Europe are revamped farms and barns in the agriturismo sector, back-to-nature boutique campsites and hostels, and retreats far from tourist traps, bringing some much-needed style to the eco-accommodation movement.
Scandinavia excels in wildlife ventures, Spain and France in quirky campsites and treehouses, and Italy in agriturismo, while Eastern Europe offers the chance to get back-to-basics in places that modern farming has yet to touch – eco in the real sense (off-grid, traditional farms and bothies in fields uncontaminated by chemicals).
Wood Hermitage, Ur Natur, Ödeshög
This wonderful back-to-basics camp features three treehouses (one for families) and an assortment of huts looking for all the world like something out of Tolkien, some with turf roofs. There's no electricity or Wi-Fi, leaving you with time on your hands to make campfires, follow moose prints, pick wild strawberries, forage for mushrooms, take out a rowing boat or a canoe, relax in the lakeside sauna and join in a morning yoga session.
One of the Lit au Pré sites (a French version of Feather Down Farms), this organic dairy farm near the coast is only an hour's drive from the ferry port of Caen. Staying in an electricity-free tent, you can cook home-grown veg on your wood-burning stove as well as collect eggs from the chicken coop and watch the cows being milked. See our feature on a family break on a Lit au Pré in Normandy.
Maison du Vert, Normandy
This vegetarian/vegan B&B within its own organic flower and vegetable gardens has two family rooms plus a double with space for a child, as well as a cottage for four in the grounds. Kids are welcome to join in feeding the chickens and ducks and collecting their eggs, and there are friendly rabbits, sheep and cats.
This charming, self-sufficient hotel near Poitiers, bearer of an Ecolabel, has large grounds with a swimming pool, croquet and other old-fashioned games and a kitchen garden supplying fresh produce for the restaurant. Accommodation includes family suites for up to five. See our feature on A Break with Baby at the Orangeries.
One of the original yurt camps draws the same crowd year after year for the chance to sit back, feel the fresh air and stare at the starry night, in a beautiful spot in the Gorge d’Ardèche. As well as 11 yurts (eight for families), there's a safari-style tent, a cabin on stilts and 33 camping/caravanning/campervan pitches, plus amenities including a snack bar/pizzeria, play area, grocery and laundry. Mountain-bikes can be hired for exploring local trails, and there are all sorts of adrenaline activities within easy reach, including canoeing and canyoning.
La Source Green Adventure Retreats, French Alps
This luxury eco lodge high in the mountains at Samoëns runs family ski, yoga and circus camps in February half term, and then in summer family adventure holidays with yoga, with activities including rock-climbing, white-water rafting and overnight hikes to a mountain refuge. Organic home-cooked meals give you the necessary energy.
Can Marti, Ibiza
This organic working farm in the north of the island features four rustic-chic apartments with an ethnic vibe, two of them sleeping up to four. Guests can make use of a natural pool, Moroccan hammam and free bikes, and there are yoga and Pilates lessons, a farmshop, and veg and herb gardens.
This colourful eco-retreat close to the surfing and bodyboarding beaches of the Costa Vicenta has ethnically inspired rooms, some sleeping up to five and featuring kitchenettes. Surrounded by cork forest, it also offers up a biological swimming pool, daybeds and hammocks, traditional games, a playroom, bike loan and an eco exercise circuit.
An alternative to the big resorts of this family-friendly region, these four sea-view holiday homes in an almond and olive orchard in the the Ria Formosa nature reserve near Tavira are clustered around a natural swimming pool. Low-key local attractions include boat-trips to see dolphins and riding the miniature railway to the one-time tuna-fishing beach of Barril.
About 5km from Lake Garda, this working vineyard and olive grove surrounded by mountains has a handful of chic, contemporary, solar-powered suites with private gardens and kitchenettes, some sleeping up to four. There’s also an outdoor pool and a wellness centre, plus bike loan and picnics by request.
This organic agriturismo on a forested estate offers families the choice of self-catering apartments or a farmhouse to rent, and there's an outdoor pool, games including table tennis, the chance to feed the pigs and collect eggs, pasta and gelato making classes, and guided truffle hunts in autumn. Babysitting is available too, as is bike loan.
This 18th-century manor north of Bari offers an escape from it all on its organic farm with its pastureland, vineyards, olive groves, and almond and cherry trees. The 11 simple but stylish rooms include family suites for up to four, and there are free mountain-bikes, guided treks and produce tastings, plus an outdoor pool.
Casa del Grivò, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
This organic vineyard offers four cosy, rustic rooms, three for families, in a lovingly restored farmhouse amidst sweet chestnut trees. The home-cooked meals feature own-grown organic veg.
This family-friendly farm sits on a wide, safe beach in Vathi, where you can sit and fish with a rod or at certain times of year see sea turtles hatching. The 26 simple apartments are spread across four stone buildings; some sleep three or four. There are also a BBQ area, bike loan, a playground and the chance to pick produce with the farmer, who has olive, fig, orange, mandarin and lemon trees.
This slightly eccentric property lies opposite an environmental education park in northern Greece and organises tours of it that can include a talk by the resident vet. Accommodation includes simple, comfortable family rooms and suites for up to four, with mountain views, or there's an 11-person villa with river views. You can enjoy the use of an outdoor pool and tennis courts, and there's fishing equipment and mountain-bikes for hire.
Milia Mountain Retreat, Chania, Crete
You'd be hard-pushed to get away from it all more comprehensively than in this eco-lodge on a 17th-century mountain settlement, 30km from the nearest beaches. Its stone cottages, some sleeping four, come complete with fireplaces or wood-burning stoves, gardens or balconies, and hammocks. There's also a restaurant and the chance to take bread-making and art classes.
Polish Log Cabin Holiday, near Krakow
The perfect escape, this secluded Ruthenian timber house for up to six sits beside a mountain stream, in a vast garden with a tree swing. Bikes are provided for exploring local trails, while inside it’s all cosy charm including a log-burning stove.
A great spot for letting kids run free, this collection of apartments and rooms occupies a flower- and wildlife-filled valley with a natural playground, a small pool, pony rides, table tennis and archery. Most accommodation is in log huts with wood-burning stoves, and there's a sauna and a hot tub.
This complex with its pools, spa, sports complex, hotels (including the Hotel Aquacity Seasons) and restaurants is virtually self-powered, using solar as well as geo-thermal energy. There are a million flumes, slides and jets for water babies, but also childcare for those who want some spa pampering. In winter you can ski too.
See also our favourite family farmstay holidays in the UK and best farmstays in continental Europe.