Here’s Why You Might Want to Live in a Yurt

published Dec 15, 2023
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A yurt, an old type of tent-like house, in Mathias, West Virginia, with the hills and forest as backdrop.
Credit: Karlsson Photo/Shutterstock

Nowadays, people are finding more and more ways to enjoy the great outdoors without having to pitch a traditional tent. “Glamping” is all the rage these days, with people opting for vintage Airstreams set up at campsites or renting tiny homes to get away from it all. Perhaps you’ve come across the term “yurt” as you’ve been considering a glamping vacation. But what is a yurt exactly, and are they more luxurious than they appear on the outside?

What Is a Yurt?

Page Atherton, co-owner of Maine Forest Yurts, explains that a yurt is “a round, tent-like structure with lattice walls, canvas layering, and vaulted ceilings.”

“Yurts are truly magical structures,” says Melissa Lambert, owner of North Carolina’s Sky Ridge Yurts. She further explains, “Patterned after Mongolian housing, the structures themselves can be modern or traditional, but both consist of a circular lattice framework with wooden rafters connecting into an overhead dome. This framework is then covered with insulation and an outer ‘skin’ that varies depending on the make and/or manufacturer. The result is a round, open living space that can then be customized to suit the needs of the individual owner.”

Yurt retreat host Aurora Eggert says that a yurt is a temporary building. “The yurt can be warmed with a fireplace and serves to protect from wind and cold weather in winter,” she says, adding that people in Mongolia, to this day, continue to live year-round in yurts. “Set- up and break-down is part of the traditional life,” she says. Yurts also come in various sizes.

Credit: KenWiedemann/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Origin of Yurts

Lambert says that today’s modern yurts are fashioned after the traditional Mongolian “ger,” a dwelling used by nomadic peoples in Asia that date back as far as 600 B.C. These structures could be easily moved, and back in the day, the canvas would have been made from yak hide, Atherton explains.

“Families gather and live in yurts and find shelter from very cold temperatures,” Eggert says. Ceremonies, family gatherings, and celebrations around good food are held in yurts — something that took place centuries ago and still continues today. 

How Are They Constructed?

There are several ways to construct a yurt, if you’re considering placing one on your own property for personal use or as a unique rental. Lambert says that it all depends on where you purchase your yurt.

“There are many modern yurt companies that offer yurt kits that can easily be set up by the owner. All consist of a circular lattice wall, at least one entry door, multiple roof rafters inserted into a center ring, outer skins for the roof and side walls, optional insulation and windows, and a clear dome to cap off the structure,” she explains. Eggert adds that heavy blankets can additionally be used for insulation, and set-up requires around two to five people to help, depending on the size of the yurt. The best location for a yurt is “an even-grounded location,” according to her. 

Credit: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock

How Are Yurts Used Today?

In parts of the world, yurts are people’s primary homes. Here in the United States, they generally act as vacation rentals in areas where you can connect with nature. But there are those who wish to live in a yurt, just as they do in Mongolia and beyond.

“At Sky Ridge, we offer both homeowner and glamping consultations for anyone considering a yurt, either for their primary residence or for those considering opening a short-term rental glamping business,” Lambert says. “In the past, the interest in these consultations were primarily for glamping start-ups, but we’ve recently seen an upswing in people interested in building a yurt to serve as their forever homes. Yurts can easily be a primary residence, and their price makes them an effective means of affordable housing.”

Eggert says that the round space of the yurt creates a naturally comforting and intimate atmosphere, and it can offer several amenities as well for a glamping experience. Most yurts are fully furnished and heated so they can be used no matter what season it is.

“Staying in a yurt is an amazing experience,” Lambert says. “The round design and high roofline creates an open feeling that can’t be replicated in traditional structures. The center overhead dome offers natural lighting to the entire dwelling during the day and a gorgeous star-filled sky view at night. They are highly customizable, so the interior can literally be fashioned to suit any unique needs of the owner. We’ve seen them outfitted with multiple bedrooms, full kitchens, and baths. We’ve [also] seen them blinged out, complete with sunken hot tubs. And when it rains, the comforting sound of the raindrops on the roof makes it easy to understand the appeal of yurt living.”