Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Fri December 18 2015

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | December 18, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    The Underground Cave Scene in Guadix, Spain

    The Underground Cave Scene in Guadix, Spain

    Photos by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    The cave dwellings and in Guadix, Spain represent the country’s history in perhaps its most vivid way. Located in southern Spain, in the province of Granada and surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Guadix is the oldest settlement in all of what would become Spain, pre-dating the Romans and Phoenicians. The thousands of whitewashed cave houses that dot the hills create surreal vistas that you won't find in many other places in the world.

    The views are so striking that classic movies including “Dr. Zhivago,” “Indiana Jones The Last Crusade” and “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” were all filmed with a Guadix backdrop.

    Stepping into the glaring sun and gazing up at the caves, I understood why they were so popular. Underground dwellings are a great way to shield your house from the sun and enjoy cool temperatures in the summer and warmth in the winter. I headed to the Cave Museum (Centro de Interpetacion de Guadix-Cueva de Museo) to learn more about the town's unusual history.

    The museum is located in an actual cave and recreates many of the rooms that you'll see in neighboring houses. Guadix caves were first developed when Catholic kings took over the Moorish city in 1489. The Moors moved to the outskirts and dug into the red clay that lines the hills to create homes. The caves were built to always face the sun and were whitewashed with lime. Most houses had two rooms attached and sometimes stables for the animals.

    Inside the museum, displays show the different room arrangements for caves, with woven baskets lining the walls of the dining room and the town’s famed terra cotta pottery filling the kitchen. The sloped, textured walls create insulation that keeps the houses comfortable all year. Gas and water pipes aren't allowed in the caves, so kitchens and bathrooms are usually located in outside rooms.

    A video presentation about Guadix's history rounds out the museum's exhibits. I found it particularly interesting to talk to one of the guides who lives in a cave passed down through three generations of her family. She explained that a few decades ago, the caves were considered outdated examples of the town's past but with current housing costs, they're a popular option that supplies great value for the cost.

    The town boasts the largest concentration of inhabited cave dwellings in Europe and there are over 2,000 homes sprinkled through out the hills. Guadix citizens, fittingly called “troglodytes,” are famous for inviting visitors inside to see their cave homes, but I was too busy strolling the town's heritage sites to snag a coveted invitation, although you can also rent or stay in a hotel cave

    PHOTO: A Guadix Cathedral statue.

    I walked through the town's 16th century, Baroque cathedral, which flaunts impressive artifacts like a 400-year-old alabaster fountain and art that can be viewed in its small museum. The nearby Alcazaba, which is a 10th century citadel with stunning panoramas, is a must see. I ended my Guadix visit with lunch at the charming Hotel Comercio, which featured local faves like Migas a dish of breadcrumbs, bacon, chorizo, garlic, olive oil and eggs and pionono, a dessert of sponge cake and custard.

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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