Spanish Cave House Country
In and Around the Altplano de Granada - Andalucia
For some years I have lived in a cave house in the historic market town of Baza which is situated in a little known part of Andalucia, Spain. Baza is the major administrative centre of a fascinating region known as the Altiplano de Granada. The countryside in and around the high plateau of the Altiplano offers the traveller an ever changing visual feast of stunning landscapes. There are mountains, lakes, forests, deeply eroded deserts and a plethora of historical monuments, all within a relatively compact area.
Surprisingly, this is a quiet region despite its proximity to lovely Mediterranean resorts, some of the finest beaches in Europe and exciting, world famous cities. All of these, and much more, are easily accessible on an excellent network of uncrowded roads. Many travellers, however, simply speed through this part of Andalucia on their way to their holiday destinations without taking a second look.
For me, one of the most interesting things about this area is its multitude of quirky cave dwellings which play host to Europe's largest population of 21st.Century troglodytes! Welcome to what I call "Cave House Country", it is well worth exploring.
In and around the Altiplano de Granada - Cave House Country, Cave Dwellings, Monuments and Archaeological Sites - Something for EveryoneClick thumbnail to view full-size
Map Showing the Position of Baza, the Major Town of the Altiplano de Granada
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Cave House Country - the Altiplano de Granada
Cave House Country - A little Bit of History
This area has been lived in for an immensely long period of time. A fragment of a hominid skull, thought to be one and a half million years old was found near the pretty village of Orce!
A Procession of Cultures
Over the centuries the land has been fought over and settled by such peoples as the Iberians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths and the Moors from North Africa. All of these cultures have left indelible traces of their passing imprinted on the landscape.
The Moorish Period
Almost everywhere you look you can see the surviving remnants from hundreds of years of the Moorish occupation. There are fortifications, castles and watchtowers. There are irrigation channels that are still being used today. There are whole areas to be found in most towns and villages that were originally constructed by the Moors. It was also the Moors who are said to have first started excavating cave dwellings around the 12th.Century AD. In some areas the remains of abandoned Moorish cave houses can be clearly seen. They appear as holes excavated high up in sheer cliff faces where they were constructed for defensive purposes. (See the photo of La Moraria near the village of Benamaurel in the gallery above.} The
The Catholic Monarchs and the Reconquest
Finally, at the end of the 15th.Century, after a long and bloody struggle, the Islamic Moors were ousted by the Christian forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, the "Reyes Catolicos". A multitude of fine, monumental, religious and civic buildings were then constructed which can still be seen in every town and village to this day.
The 20th. Century Onward
After a period of time, however, the fortunes of the area fell into decline and it became one of the poorest regions in Europe. Many people left the area to find work in the big cities and abroad. Happily, today things are very different. Over the years prosperity returned and a new waves of peaceful settlers have moved in. Properties that were once thought to be practically worthless started to gain in value. Some locals found, to their surprise, that Granny's old cave house was becoming a valuable asset! The newcomers are mainly peoples from northern Europe and beyond who are looking for a more relaxed way of life and and a better climate. There are also economic migrants from Eastern Europe, North Africa and South America.
Recommended Reading! - If the above has whetted your appetite for Spanish history:-
Altiplano de Granada - Cave House Country
21st. Century Cave Dwellings
I love cave houses. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of them to be found in and around the Altiplano de Granada. Cave houses are not damp, water-worn limestone caverns. They are man-made dwellings excavated into dry hillsides. They come in in every shape, size and condition from ancient, long abandoned, collapsing holes in the ground to modern luxury family homes complete with swimming pools and jacuzzis. There are town caves, village caves and country caves, some with fantastic views all the way to the far off snow-capped Sierra Nevada, the Sierra La Sagra or the great Lake Negratin. There are even whole hillsides covered with cave dwellings, excavated one on top of the other, with chimneys and TV aerials protruding from the ground.
People often ask if it is claustrophobic living in a cave house and in my opinion, having lived in one for a number of years, the answer is "no". The underground rooms are whitewashed, windows let in the light and there are ventilation ducts, all of which give many caves a spacious and airy ambiance. Cave dwellings are also so well insulated by several metres of compacted earth and rock above and around them, that they are warm in winter and refreshingly cool in summer!
Cave houses are still relatively cheap to buy and can make great first or second homes. Prices have dropped back dramatically from their pre-recession high and there are many cave houses for sale. Because of the ongoing sluggishness in the Spanish property market there are some amazing cave house bargains to be had, many of which have been renovated to a high standard.
River Walk Near the Village of Castril
If you are thinking of visiting Spain a good guide book is essential.
- Cave House Country - exploring the Altiplano de Granada
Everything you wish to know about the Altiplano de Granada, Andalucia, Spain.
- Ten Amazing Things to See Around my Spanish Home
A selection of ten of the many interesting things to see in and around the Altiplano de Granada.
Andalucia, No.1 in the world's top 20 places for the good life according to the UK's Daily Telegraph.