What Is A Yurt? A Complete Guide To Yurt Living

8 Min Read
Published May 22, 2023
Written By
Holly Shuffett
Traditional Ger Up Close

If you’re considering an alternative to more traditional homes, your mind may jump to RVs, van life or tiny homes. However, there are a number of other options, including the humble yurt. With a tent-like structure and minimalist accommodations, yurts are perfect for enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

For anyone wondering exactly what a yurt is, let’s unpack more about this unique, affordable and eco-friendly type of house that will surely satisfy your inner adventurer.

Yurt Definition

What specifically makes a yurt?

A traditional yurt was a portable circular-shaped home assembled most similarly to a tent, with a skeleton of supports for the walls and roof, and a protective covering for shelter. Mainstays of a traditional yurt – and helping provide its spacious feel – are wooden lattice walls, a dome-like roof and minimal amenities.

Traditional yurts were typically covered in sturdy layers of sheep wool or yak hair for insulation, with a hole, or “crown,” in the center of the “toono,” or roof piece, for sunlight and ventilation. This was especially important when wood burning or cooking took place.

Parts Of A Traditional Mongolian Yurt


Dome-like roof


Central poles that support the roof


Roof rafters


Wooden lattice walls

Modern yurts may stray from tradition with their construction, design and amenities, giving contemporary dwellers more luxuries than yurt owners of old enjoyed. While traditional yurts are best known for their open one-room layout, modern yurts can include partition walls or adjacent structures to provide more privacy or break up the space and maximize square footage. Some modern yurts even have multiple levels with lofted spaces or patios and decks for additional outdoor seating.

Although some lenders don’t offer financing for yurt homes, they may offer personal loan options that can help you significantly with financing.

Where Does The Yurt Come From?

According to National Geographic, the history of the yurt, or ger, dates back thousands of years, with the first mention documented in the form of a bronze bowl from 600 BCE. Famed explorer Marco Polo also observed the use of yurts by Mongolian people during his stay with them in the 13th century. As the Mongol Empire expanded, so too did yurt culture.

Originally popularized due to their lightweight portability and relative ease of assembly, yurts – along with their materials – became quite the trade market among Central Asian nomads, and they’ve long since stood the test of time.

Tent at night

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What Is A Yurt House Made Of?

Traditionally, yurts were constructed of wood and thick felt made from steppe communities’ own livestock. Sheep, yaks and goats were the most typical sources of yurt coverings, created through the process of felting. Felting included harvesting animal wool and thoroughly wetting, rolling and wrapping it in hide before dragging it behind a galloping horse to compress the material.

Today, it’s more likely that your yurt – whether you buy it or build it yourself – will be made of modern materials like fiberglass or durable, water-resistant siding. Some of a modern yurt’s central structure, like the rafters or supports, may also be replaced with steel cables or reinforced columns to provide extra durability to your build.

Modern yurts can also include many more features, such as:

  • French doors
  • Gutter systems
  • Skylights
  • Ceiling fan support
  • Modern insulation or house covering
  • Plumbing
  • Electricity
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Modern appliances

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Yurt Camping Vs. Yurt Living

If you’ve searched online for yurts, you’ve likely seen photos or rental experiences for yurt camping. Many “glamping” excursions utilize modern yurts to provide guests with luxury housing while still allowing for that one-with-nature experience.

And while a temporary stay or camping trip in a yurt can be a good way to gain a better sense of what it may be like to live in a yurt home, some key differences still exist between vacationing in a yurt and living in one full time.

Let’s explore what to expect when camping in a yurt versus living in one.

Yurt Camping

Yurt camping is a great way to escape the daily grind and enjoy the natural world or become immersed in a brand-new culture. If you’re interested in learning more about traditional yurts and want to experience an authentic yurt stay, consider visiting where they originated: Mongolia.

With an abundance of domestic yurt experiences and highly-rated vacation rentals, Mongolia offers great hospitality and an opportunity to explore these Central Asian steppes – a bucket-list must for many people.

If you’re looking for an experience a bit closer to home, don’t fret. Yurt camping options are available all throughout North America, though they tend to be most available in coastal areas – particularly states along the Pacific Coast.

When booking your yurt camping trip, consider when you’re planning to go and the weather you’re likely to experience at that time. Not only will the experience vary based on where you stay – yurt camping in Alaska versus California are sure to be different – but the activities and amenities available may also vary.

And if you’re eager to get a sense of whether the yurt lifestyle is right for you, it’s wise to experience a yurt stay in a climate like the one where you live.

Yurt Living

Whether you’ve been eyeing a tiny home as alternative housing or you’re interested in pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, yurts may be worth adding to your list of housing options to explore.

If you’re interested in sustainability and energy efficiency, maintaining a yurt home will likely be in your wheelhouse. Many modern yurts are more than capable of accommodating energy-efficient features like solar panels or rain collection while also allowing dwellers to feel freer than they would with a typical single-family home.

If you’re thinking of buying a yurt, it’s not a bad idea to enlist the help of a real estate agent who’s experienced with alternative home listings. If you’re considering the possibility of doing your own yurt build, you should have a good sense of your area’s weather and where exactly you’d be interested in building your yurt. It may also be worth looking into yurt home-building kits or speaking with a professional contractor.

Interior of a Yurt

Yurt Living FAQs

The following are frequently asked questions about yurts.

Is a yurt different from a tent?

From a structural standpoint, yurts provide more stability against severe wind and are usually regarded as more permanent than tents. Originating in an area known for its extremely windy climate, yurts have a circular shape that makes them perfect for withstanding extreme conditions.

Here are a few ways that yurts and tents may differ or be similar on a structural basis:

  • Unlike most tents, yurts have sturdy door frames built into their structure.
  • Yurts are also well known for their signature circular, dome-like shape, which is uncommon in tent designs.
  • Modern yurts can accommodate more permanent features like glass windows or doors, while tents typically just offer varied coverings with precut “windows” or ventilation.
  • Modern yurts rival tents with their flooring, featuring options like insulated hardwood or carpeting.


How much does a yurt cost?

The cost of a yurt will completely depend on your location and what you envision for your home – including size, features, adjacent structures or amenities, and the condition of your construction site. You can expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to as much as $37,000 depending on whether you buy a premade yurt or outsource the materials yourself.

For a custom build, labor and materials will likely represent the largest costs, but you can still get a large, luxurious yurt home at a much more affordable price than a standard house. Keep in mind that you’ll still have to secure the land to put your yurt on.

Can you live in a yurt full time?

The short answer is yes, you can live in a yurt full time. Due to the way modern yurts are built, the materials they’re made up of should last. Depending on the climate where you choose to build and settle down in your yurt, you may or may not be able to live in your yurt full time.

The Bottom Line

Yurts have long stood the test of time due to their cultural significance and the mobility and durability they afford travelers. Whether you’re interested in a yurt for your next camping trip or can see yourself taking up full-time residence in one, check out what your area has to offer.

Though some lenders don’t offer financing for yurt homes, a personal loan could provide some much-needed financial assistance.

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