Going underground in Guadix

This town is well off the beaten path, surrounded by desert-like landscapes. Since the age of the Moors, originating in the 15th century, this city’s population have lived an unusual lifestyle, by our standards, but a necessary one, nonetheless. Guadix has one of the largest groups of troglodyte houses in the world, comprising some 2 000 dwellings.

The inhabitants of this small town live in underground spaces carved out of rock by hand. Welcome to Guadix, a town in Europe made up of cave houses. Guadix is situated in southern Spain, in the Andalusian province of Granada. It sits on an elevated plateau along the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, not far from Granada. Whilst it has an impressive cathedral and the Alcazaba, the most interesting feature is that many of the inhabitants of this large town live underground in what are known as cave houses in the Barrio de Cuevas.

Even though we spent only a few hours in Guadix, we still saw enough of its beauty to be left with a lasting impression. Mostly tourists, like ourselves, come here for a day trip from Granada. An overnight stay to have the cave experience would be special.

When you enter this town you are not prepared for what you are about to encounter.  As you move through the town, you will easily locate the Barrio de las Cuevas by following the road signs. Stepping into the glaring sun and gazing at the caves, we understood why they were so popular. The jagged ochre terrain and the dazzling whitewashed chimneys and doors of the caves provide a vivid contrast.

The underground dwellings shield the house from the hot and glaring sun, enjoying cool temperatures in the summer and warmth in the winter.

The “troglodytes” are very friendly people and proud. We were invited in to have a look at one resident’s home. The kindness to allow us to explore his home was an experience we will always remember. It was well-appointed, like any other Spanish home, quite basic by modern standards, but with fitted kitchens and bathrooms.

The Andalucians have been fond of living underground because it is the best way of escaping the summer heat, and the home we visited has an even and comfortable 20C year round. the caves function as natural insulators, providing much needed respite from the heat and harshness of the sun. The troglodyte community were, one could say, early pioneers of sustainable living, as their cave houses have a minimal impact on the local environment, require minimal maintenance and blend seemlessly into the surroundings, making the most of natural resources.

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