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Spanish Cave House Country

Updated on January 15, 2015
Lake Negratin - Altiplano de Granada
Lake Negratin - Altiplano de Granada | Source

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 Everyone

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Badland scenery and Lake NegratinSierra de Baza Natural ParkSierra La Sagra in March.Lake BoleraTypical cave house door.Modernised interior of a traditional cave house.Cave house interiorMany Cave Houses have front additions.  Here a kitchen, lounge and extra bathroom have been added.Cave houses near the town of Baza.Cave houses in the village of Galera.Cave houses in the village of Freila.Cave house museum in the village of Purullena.Inside the Cave House MuseumLa Moraria.  Long abandoned Moorish cave houses near the village of Castillejar.Old cave house (dating back to Moorish times), Las Hafas, Benamaurel.Torre de Alabi, 11th.Century Moorish watch tower near the village of Cullar.13th.Century Arab Baths, Baza.  (Ceiling detail).Exquisite Mudejar church ceiling, Baza.  Mudejar craftsmen were Muslims permitted to stay in Spain after the Christian reconquest.18th.Century church, Iglesia de los Dolores, Baza.Megalithic tomb (dolmen) near the village of Gorafe.Castillon Alto,  site of an Argaric Bronze Age settlement near the village of Galera.  The Argaric Culture flourished in the area between 2,200 and 1500 BC.
Badland scenery and Lake Negratin
Badland scenery and Lake Negratin | Source
Sierra de Baza Natural Park
Sierra de Baza Natural Park | Source
Sierra La Sagra in March.
Sierra La Sagra in March. | Source
Lake Bolera
Lake Bolera | Source
Typical cave house door.
Typical cave house door. | Source
Modernised interior of a traditional cave house.
Modernised interior of a traditional cave house. | Source
Cave house interior
Cave house interior | Source
Many Cave Houses have front additions.  Here a kitchen, lounge and extra bathroom have been added.
Many Cave Houses have front additions. Here a kitchen, lounge and extra bathroom have been added. | Source
Cave houses near the town of Baza.
Cave houses near the town of Baza. | Source
Cave houses in the village of Galera.
Cave houses in the village of Galera. | Source
Cave houses in the village of Freila.
Cave houses in the village of Freila. | Source
Cave house museum in the village of Purullena.
Cave house museum in the village of Purullena. | Source
Inside the Cave House Museum
Inside the Cave House Museum | Source
La Moraria.  Long abandoned Moorish cave houses near the village of Castillejar.
La Moraria. Long abandoned Moorish cave houses near the village of Castillejar. | Source
Old cave house (dating back to Moorish times), Las Hafas, Benamaurel.
Old cave house (dating back to Moorish times), Las Hafas, Benamaurel. | Source
Torre de Alabi, 11th.Century Moorish watch tower near the village of Cullar.
Torre de Alabi, 11th.Century Moorish watch tower near the village of Cullar. | Source
13th.Century Arab Baths, Baza.  (Ceiling detail).
13th.Century Arab Baths, Baza. (Ceiling detail). | Source
Exquisite Mudejar church ceiling, Baza.  Mudejar craftsmen were Muslims permitted to stay in Spain after the Christian reconquest.
Exquisite Mudejar church ceiling, Baza. Mudejar craftsmen were Muslims permitted to stay in Spain after the Christian reconquest. | Source
18th.Century church, Iglesia de los Dolores, Baza.
18th.Century church, Iglesia de los Dolores, Baza. | Source
Megalithic tomb (dolmen) near the village of Gorafe.
Megalithic tomb (dolmen) near the village of Gorafe. | Source
Castillon Alto,  site of an Argaric Bronze Age settlement near the village of Galera.  The Argaric Culture flourished in the area between 2,200 and 1500 BC.
Castillon Alto, site of an Argaric Bronze Age settlement near the village of Galera. The Argaric Culture flourished in the area between 2,200 and 1500 BC. | Source

Map Showing the Position of Baza, the Major Town of the Altiplano de Granada

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A marker -
Baza, Spain
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Cave House Country - the Altiplano de Granada

Cave House Country - A little Bit of History

Prehistoric Beginnings

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

Locations

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.

Cave Ambiance

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!

Unusual Properties

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

This river walkway is near the idyllic, authentic Andalucian village of Castril.  The village was once a Roman military camp.
This river walkway is near the idyllic, authentic Andalucian village of Castril. The village was once a Roman military camp. | Source

If you are thinking of visiting Spain a good guide book is essential.

I Welcome any Comments - I hope you found this lens interesting!

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