Though yurts loom large in the modern imagination as glamping accommodations, the story of the mobile, circular tent dates back thousands of years to nomadic herders in the Central Asian steppe. Easy to assemble and wind-resistant thanks to its shape, yurts are certainly versatile and practical, but traditional designs also incorporate the spiritual and cultural—for example, altars are placed on the northern side, which is considered sacred space.
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Modern yurts haven’t abandoned this consideration of the spiritual—just ask Adrian Larralde, an entrepreneur who designed and built a mountaintop yurt just outside Santa Barbara, California. Now available to rent through Glamping Hub, the yurt began as a personal project. Entranced by yurts and the serene experience of being in them, Larralde enlisted his father, a general contractor, to help build one on the family’s site on Refugio Mountain, overlooking the Channel Islands. The area, Larralde says, boasts a rich history.
"The indigenous Chumash regarded the land as sacred ground," he says, "and referred to it as the Western Gate. In their mythology, it was the gateway from this world to the afterlife." In a tribute to the history of the land, Larralde wanted the yurt to respect the environment. He says, "I wanted something that would blend into that space next to the creek and the bay leaf trees, and that would have as little impact on the land as possible."
After sketching up several possibilities, Larralde decided to pair a yurt with a compact unit that holds the master bedroom and bathroom, allowing the common areas to be more spacious. Pacific Yurts provided the basic structure, and Larralde opted for reinforcement that allows the yurt to withstand winds as high as 60 miles per hour. Bamboo floors extend throughout, and partitions divide the open kitchen and living areas from the bedroom. "You have privacy, but also a sense of being connected to the whole space," he explains. A narrow corridor connects the yurt to the main bedroom in the back, which features a high, curved ceiling.
We had the chance to spend a night in the yurt and experienced firsthand the collision of indoors and outdoors, camping and comfort. Guests arrive up a winding mountain road and are met with a stunning view of the yurt’s new porch, which features two hammocks—perfect for lounging in with a book. From this perch, you have a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the grand Channel Islands. Inside, Eastern-inspired decor, plants, and instruments create an inviting atmosphere, while video and board games, an Apple TV, and Wi-Fi offer up entertainment.
"There is a particular energy in that space, and the nature on that mountain," says Larralde. "No matter how stressed you are, a couple days there, and everything slows down." He has also hosted impact investment meetings —a business model that promotes positive social and environmental change—in the yurt, explaining that the space lends itself to creativity: "It helps people move in a new direction."
Relaxing around the kitchen table at night with the wind and trees rustling outside, and then waking up to beaming morning light and a clear view of the ocean, it was clear to us exactly what he meant.