Although caves are probably the oldest form of shelter known to mankind, they have largely been forgotten as dwellings by modern civilised countries, consigned to the waste bin of ancient history. However in a few far flung places around the world cave houses have continued to be used as homes through out the centuries up to the present day.
Cave life in Andalucía has acquired enormous historical relevance and continues to do so. The caves were lived in during ancient times as in many parts of the world but cave life was most active in the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries. At the end of this period there was an impoverishment of life in the area and cave living became assoiciated with poverty. However in the last ten years there has been a substantial revival in the popularity of caves, first as Spanish holiday homes, then for rural tourism and now as both holiday and permanent homes for Spanish and foreign nationals alike.
The modern history of the cave homes in Spain's northern Andalucía stretches back hundreds of years. If you wander the hills and valleys surrounding Galera you will be amazed to see just how many abandoned cave houses there are. Just forty years ago almost all of these rather primitive dwellings were inhabited and it is only since then that they have been abandoned. Back then the population of Galera was about 6,000, today it is a mere 1,300. In the late sixties and seventies most of the population of Galera fled the grinding poverty of life on the land for jobs on the coast and the cities of Barcelona and Madrid.
But just why were cave houses so popular? There were many reasons:
- Firstly the land cost them nothing or almost nothing
- The rock formations lent themselves to the hand excavation of cave homes. In Galera the rock type consists of a type of sedimentary limestone with layers of hard, almost horizontal rock inter-spaced with much softer layers which could be dug by hand. The harder rock formed a layer impervious to water and provided the strength needed for a safe, secure roof to the caves.
- The climate in this area can readily be described as extreme, being well below zero on those cold winters nights and in the upper forties on those hot summer afternoons. The cave homes, enveloped by a vast heat sink of surrounding rock maintained a near constant temperature of sixteen to eighteen degrees Centigrade summer and winter.
- They were easy to extend, there is a story in this area that when the wife knew she was pregnant her first job was to dig a new room for the baby. Sometimes today you can find a small hole, about thirty centimeters in diameter, connecting two rooms. These are said to be the first baby alarms, enabling mum to hear her baby's cries when they were sleeping in adjoining rooms.
Not all caves were abandoned, a good percentage continued to be the main residence of many people, while others became fine holiday homes for those working in the cities and on the coast.
Today there is a huge revival in interest in this type of housing. Modern cave homes are still relatively inexpensive, compared to conventional housing and have all the facilities you would expect in a normal house while retaining the charm and character you hope to find in a rustic country cottage. This revival in popularity has seen the end of unemployment and an injection of wealth accompanying a growth in population for the first time in thirty years.
Modern cave homes are charming, light and airy, connected to mains electricity, water and sewerage. If you want to stay connected to the modern world most have access to mains telephone and satellite broadband internet and if you are really desperate to keep up with the outside world - satellite television.
If you would like to experience life in a cave home without commitment, why not stay in one for a few days. Find out more by visiting or completing the form below.