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Glamping isn't the kind of thing you think about in upstate New York and I wouldn't have thought yurt living was even an option until I recently discovered a place to lay your head at night in a yurt, surrounded by trees and grassland.
The Harmony Hill Retreat Center in the heart of the Catskills, is nestled in a little town I had never heard of called East Meredith. They specialize in yurt living and holistic services—think retreats.
Below is one of the yurts you can stay in although they have smaller ones also, perfect for a couple getaway or solo travel. Ours included a stocked kitchen, seating area, a working stove and oven, cupboards and storage nooks.
Additionally, there's the wood burning stove, a microwave, and a table large enough for a family to dine. Outside, there’s a working fire pit so be sure to bring marshmallows if you’re a traditionalist. There’s no TV or wifi, but why would you need either if you’re going into the mountains to escape from urban life for awhile?
As connected as I am, I was thankful for the silence and within an hour of arriving, the rain greeted us and we could hear the pidder-padder on the sides of the Tee-Pee shaped roof. It was absolutely blissful. We made tea and were forced to communicate with each other rather than resort to a movie or our iPhones.
Both of the comfy chairs above pull out into single beds which is a great option if you are more than two and they have plenty of pillows and blankets on site for your use as well as towels.
The yurts are bookable through October so there is heating—the old fashioned kind.
Truth be told, I've been wanting to stay in a yurt for awhile now. If you’re not familiar with yurts, they’ve been around for over 3,000 years and were originally covered with skins or felt by Central Asian nomads. The first written description of a yurt used as a dwelling was recorded by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus.
In our yurt, there was an opening so you could see the sky and this can be jarred open if you are too hot, or closed when you want to keep the air out. We opted to keep it closed in the end because of moths but on a lovely warm night, there's nothing like fresh air coming through the ceiling to bring you closer to nature.
They have plenty of walking trails around the property. There's no shortage of hiking off the property either -- within a couple of miles on Route 10, there's several more. Plattekill Mountain (you can ski and snowboard in the winter and there are concerts in the summer) and Mt. Utsayantha are both relatively nearby, the latter of which sits at 3,214 feet.
You can go horseback riding at Broken Spoke Stables in Hobart, New York and rent canoes and kayaks around 25 miles north in Portlandville. We opted to get canoes from Al's Sports in the opposite direction, roughly a 45-minute drive towards Walton, which is a beautiful drive and home to Stony Creek Farmstead where you can make your own pizza on Saturday nights in the summer.
Walk a Labyrinth
They have a fieldstone labyrinth in a 2-acre meadow on the property which you can experience during your stay. We did.
If you're not familiar with labyrinths or used one before, they were known in Greek mythology and originally built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos.
Prehistoric labyrinths were used as traps for malevolent spirits or as defined paths for ritual dances. Apparently, complex designs were thought to frighten bad spirits. I have seen labyrinths at yoga and meditation retreats on my travels and in modern times, they're often used as part of a spiritual ritual. Some see the labyrinth as an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness, representing a journey to our own center and back out again into the world.
The retreat is around three hours from Manhattan, 1.5 hours from Albany, and 1.25 hours from Binghamton, although if you're coming from New York City, allot around four or so hours because of traffic getting out of the city.