Whenever I travel, I try and opt for unique accommodations rather than booking a hotel, and I’ve found myself in some interesting places. From converted 1850’s school houses in Galena to sleeping on a cot in the back of an art studio in New York City, I’ve stayed in some interesting places, to say the least.
One of the coolest places I’ve gotten to stay, though? A yurt outside of Madison, Wisconsin.
Now, I know “yurt” isn’t in everyone’s daily vocabulary, so if you have yet to hear about these unique structures, here’s a quick definition: a circular tent of felt or skins on a collapsible framework, used by nomads in Mongolia, Siberia, and Turkey.
Yurts are a great compromise for someone who loves the outdoors but doesn’t want to be camping during the Wisconsin winter.
The yurt that Garrett and I stayed in was equipped with a wood burning stove, queen sized bed, dining table, and rechargeable lighting.
We’re airbnb enthusiasts, so whenever we plan a trip we usually turn to airbnb as the first place to find a unique place to stay. We lucked out when Garrett found this listing, for only $125 a night. For such a unique experience, we thought this was a steal.
As usual with my airbnb experience, check in was easy, the host had a fire going for us when we got there, and even stocked the yurt with snacks. If you’re ever looking for an interesting place to stay near Madison, we can’t recommend this location enough.
Not in the Midwest? Here are a few other yurts we found on Airbnb around the United States:
- Gateway, Colorado
- Colfax, California
- West Augusta, Virginia
- Waterville, New York
- Monticello, Utah
- McCall, Idaho
- Seattle, Washington
We only stayed a weekend, and now that we’ve got that experience under our belt, we’re already planning our next trip up north with a better understanding of what staying in a yurt entails.
And in case any of you have yurt camping on your bucket list, here’s a list of what to expect and know before you stay in a yurt for the first time.
- Don’t let the fire go out. Neither of us had experience with a wood-burning stove, and we figured it was burning at a low enough pace that it’d maintain itself while we explored Madison. We were wrong. Instead, when we were back for the night, we were able to see our breath indoors and had to channel our inner Bear Grylls to get the fire reignited.
- There’s no electricity. Personally, the unplugged aspect was one thing that drew me to the idea of staying in a yurt, but I triple checked that my phone was fully charged in case of an emergency. Our airbnb provided us with battery operated lights, but you may want to bring your own flashlights or lanterns just in case.
- Be bear smart. We stayed at the yurt during hibernation and were far enough south we wouldn’t have to worry about bears regardless, but if you’re staying in bear country follow the same bear safety rules you would if you were staying in a tent. Yurts are breathable so lock food up. A curious bear could easily get inside if they were so inclined.
- There’s no plumbing in a yurt. Go before you go, or make the chilly dash to a nearby tree or outhouse. If you’re used to camping, this won’t be new to you, but if you’re hoping for more of a glamping experience, make sure to keep the lack of indoor plumbing in mind.
- If you’re sensitive to light, expect to wake up at the crack of dawn. Most yurts have a skylight at the top, enthusiastically letting light in as soon as the sun begins to rise. After a late night playing firebender, we had a nice 6:15 am wakeup call courtesy of the skylight. Next time, I’ll bring an eye mask.
- Come with a food plan. During our stay, it was far too cold to light up the grill outside, so we relied on snacks and nearby restaurants. If you’re going to be staying in the yurt during extreme temperatures, consider bringing food you don’t have to heat up or planning to hit a local diner for dinner.
- Take time to really enjoy the yurt. My one regret during our stay was we didn’t spend more awake time actually hanging out in the yurt. If you’re staying in a yurt, make sure to consider it a destination in itself during your trip. Laying in the yurt in the middle of the woods was a surreal feeling, and it’s not often I get to feel that level of disconnect and isolation.
- You’ll want to go back. Believe me on this one: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast but not so enthusiastic that you’re willing to tent camp in 20 degree weather, yurts are the perfect solution. I’m dying to make another trip up north ASAP.
Really, though, yurt camping is a stress-free experience (so long as you keep the fire going!) I was surprised at how little we had to do to get comfortable, and how quickly we settled into yurt life.
Have any questions about staying in a yurt or visiting Madison? Let me know in the comments!