I only recently became aware of quite how abundant cave houses actually are. I’d seen articles about large scale and glamourous conversions in Turkey and North Africa, but then when looking for properties to buy in Spain, I realised that there are a ton of them out there, especially in Europe and often, because they are in remote locations, they are cheap as chips. It’s been very difficult to be practical and not just rush out and buy a bargain one as they are so damn seductive with their curviness and come-to-bed coolness.
In Spain, they can be found all over the country, but Andalusia, particularly in the Granada region, is where they are most prolific. Tending to be in mountain locations, they were obviously created for practical reasons. For shelter, protection and for great temperature control. They keep themselves at fairly regulated temperatures – not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer. Probably not as regulated as our wussy air-con accustomed bodies prefer these days, but they still do cost owners less in heating and cooling bills than most normal homes.
Practicalities aside, the reason I am, of course, talking about cave houses is, even if you painted a whole one beige, it’s just impossible for these buildings to feel bland. The curves and textures are never alike in any two homes and they just create a really tactile, cosy vibe. I challenge you to walk into a cave house and not stroke a wall at some point! You can’t do it, I bet you!!!!
A lot of these cave houses are remote, though you do get them on the edge of some cities and some towns. Baza, an almost alpine resort feeling mountain town, an hours drive from Granada city, is rife with them. Many have a normal house front to them and turn into caves dwellings the further you go back – a fantastic way to allude any stuffy planning department is to just dig away at the back of your home, unbeknown to the outside world. Many have been abandoned for normal dwellings in less remote areas and are mostly popular with non-Spaniards looking for a holiday home or somewhere to move to permanently for the sun and Spanish way of life. You can buy them as cheaply as €20K/22K and it’s difficult to not get starry-eyed and swept up in the cavey romance. And why not? If you have a car, the means, time and energy to give one a little TLC, crave character and want to live far from the city, they couldn’t be more perfect.
One particularly chilly Spanish winter, I finally got my chance to stay in one and in fact, in a whole complex of cave houses. Cuevas Aljatib, an abandoned village, 15 minutes outside Baza, was (and was still in the process of being) converted into a hotel with rooms in various houses with shared kitchen and sitting areas with the largest cave used as the bar, restaurant and even a Hammam spa (much appreciated in wintertime).
It seems insane that these huge complexes of rooms were carved out of the rock. I mean, it’s not an easy task for someone today, with power tools, but the time, persistence and brute force required back in the day, beggars belief.
I especially love that furniture can be created from the rock itself – tables, beds, bathtubs and even shelves can be carved out/around the rock. Though there is one notable disadvantage to a rock bed that my bruised shins would lay testament to.
The views across the to the snow top mountains was an unusual experience for Spain. Being so high up the extra chill didn’t make the outdoor pool tempting, but made the heated water of their Hammam Spa room an absolute treat.
I am not done with my cave exploration, that’s for sure. Along with them being plentiful in Europe and North Africa, I recently became aware of the remote Australian town of Coober Pedy, which along with other curious attractions, is home to a quirky cave hotel. Further on my wishlist would be the cave hotels in Jamaica, Arizona and Sweden.