You Can Buy A Cave Home...
Guadix has the largest number of cave homes in Europe, with more than 2,000 underground dwellings..
Spain’s cave country is the unspoilt Altiplano de Granada – a mountainous region of northern Andalusia, between the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra de Castril. In the market towns of Guadix, Baza and Huescar, there are entire districts of caves; in some of the surrounding villages, they are the only form of housing.
They owe their existence to the region’s peculiar geology – eruptions of rock formed from the sediments of a prehistoric sea. The region’s cave-dwelling tradition began with the Moors, but most were built (or carved) in the 19th century by peasant farmworkers. And thanks to the user-friendly nature of underground life in a hot, dry climate, it’s a tradition that’s never died out. The number of modern cave-dwellers in the Granada province runs into the thousands.
Upon arrival at the bus station, Guadix looked like any other small Andalucían town, with whitewashed townhouses and charming, shaded plazas. But when we climbed to the top of the hill, a strange Martian-like landscape will appeare before us.
Russet-coloured craggy hills punctuated the skyline and vast desert-like plains were framed by the soaring Sierra Nevada mountain range. Upon closer inspection, I could see small white chimneys poking out of the hills and front doors cut into the side of the rock, like Hobbit homes.
At the Barrio de Cuevas or the Neighbourhood of Caves, where much of the town’s population lives underground. Known as the trogloditas (troglodytes), locals have been living in these caves for hundreds of years..
Cave dwellings are among some of the oldest accommodations known to man. Usually they envisage a cramped, damp, and cold space that at most could serve as protection form the element until something better could be found or constructed. Well, the times have definitely changed.
Spain has thousands of modern-day “cave-dwellers” who call these literal holes in the wall their home. From Guadix to Galera and all across the Altiplano area, there are some incredibly beautiful houses carved out of the Andalucian mountainous rocks although there are many other areas throughout Spain which also advertise cave living as a viable option.
In Granada, there are numerous areas where cave dwelling is the norm. For example, the Albaycin and Sacromonte area of Granada City contain many cave homes and interestingly enough form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Alhambra Palace. The mountainsides of the Baza region are dotted with doors to leading to these cave homes. The mountainous region Guadix is another famous area for cave construction with a hundreds of dwellings.
Most of these regions have long histories in terms of cave settlement, some which can trace their early days to Arab Spain, over 500 years ago. In fact, cave dwelling has been a tradition in North Africa for over 1000 years. People in these regions have become experts in all facets of cave construction with many people having generations of expertise within their family.
What makes living in a cave so attractive? Well, first of all, it has to be said that cave-dwelling is not for everyone. Cave communities tend to be in small villages where stimulating entertainment might be difficult to find. It is definitely a rural lifestyle.
However, cave houses offer a number of distinct advantages. Damp, dark, cluttered, and claustrophobic areas they are not. Certain cave dwellings can have 8 or more bedrooms and gigantic living space as well.
Cave houses are also easier to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. Being constructed in stone, their temperature does not reflect the sometimes violent temperature changes can occur in Andalucia. In fact, the average ambient temperature usually stays around 20 degrees Celsius. While the weather outside does its thing, cave homes stay stable.
Cave houses can also cost a fraction to construct when compared to other types of homes on the market. Usually a viable cave which is also licensed to be modified is set upon by people who have a long background in cave house renovations. They excavate the interior taking great care to preserve any little features that exist that will add to the maintaining each caves special feel. The construction can reasonably rapid and the result will be a cave dwelling that is not only new but unique. No two cave houses are the same, which adds to their charm.
Once you are inside a cave house, you will probably find yourself surprised with how open it feels.
There is no sense of being underground or cooped up – instead, it feels warm and cosy. The sound is softened and almost muffled and the lighting belies conventional wisdom.
Builders of cave dwellings work wonders with light because they have to. Most cave homes are oriented to take advantage of the natural light that exists, often facing southward and the building layout also allows for the natural light to penetrate into the home as much as possible. However, there is also ingenious use of artificial light as well. Lighting might be disguised as a false window or emanate from a specially-carved place in the wall like a fountain. The creativity of these artists is depthless.
Specially constructed light ducts can also be made to allow the access of natural light into the home. Often the builders utilise drilling equipment use to make wells for this use. The light is then reflected through duct work to ensure the most light possible reaches the home. The typical white matte finish of cave homes also does much to transmit light throughout the building.
Cave dwelling is safe. They are not prone to collapse, fires, or earthquakes. Their number one enemy can be an accumulation of water or excess moisture. Caves survive earthquakes and fires. They can also be reinforced if the need be but once again, this is usually not a problem. A cave that can breathe is a healthy one. Ventilation is important, especially with the use of gas appliances. As a rule of thumb, gas should be avoided as much as possible, especially gas heaters. Constructors will usually take into account the use of gas in the layout of the home, with any such appliances being toward the front of the cave.
If cave living seems like it might be an option to you, why not look for a place to rent and see how you enjoy the experience? There are numerous companies especially in the province of Granada that rent cave homes by the day, week, or even for the long term. Give it a try and see if it is for you. Even if you are not planning to buy one, staying a while in a cave house can be a fantastic experience. It would definitely classify as a different type of vacation and due to their locations, it will afford you a chance to experience real village life in Spain as opposed to a glitzy vacation in some coastal resort.
This lower cost of a cave home makes them attractive to those people who might want to enter into the housing market but are not afforded many options. Their layouts are as variable as there are caves. Moreover, by their very nature, they are energy-efficient dwellings, making the most of nature. For those of you who take pride in being “green” and care about reducing your carbon footprint, a cave house might just be the thing for you.
If you want to know more about buying or building a cave house, there are many specialist estate agents dealing in this type of property, both in the Huescar and Baza area of the Altiplano region of Granada, as well as in the town of Guadix.