Admittedly, cave-dwelling has never really been cool. Synonymous with a lack of culture and refinement, it is more an insult than a lifestyle choice.
But a series of cave houses, cut into the parched Spanish hillside, may be enough to change that.
For those interested in re-inventing cave life —or starting your own cave community— now is your chance: a complex of four cave houses is on sale in Spain for a bargain £135,600 (€156,000), or £33,900 (€39,000) per cave.
The houses are part of a “rural cave community” in Orce, an inland municipality in Granada in the south of Spain.
In total, there are 20 cave houses in the community, but the wider Altiplano de Granada region has one of the highest concentrations of cave homes in the world, says Nick Wachter at Rusticom, Colours of Andalucia, which is listing the property.
According to Wachter, the most recent census figures show that there are around 20,000 cave homes in the local region.
The earliest caves were built between the 9th and 15th centuries, during the Moorish occupation of southern Spain, and have remained a feature of the area since.
“The reason why we have the caves here is because this region sits in the basin of what was once a prehistoric lakebed,” says Wachter, who explains that the soil lends itself well to the construction of houses.
“You can literally sculpt your own home from the soil, which has the consistency of something between hard packed clay and chalk. The homes can be excavated and shaped, typically without the need for any additional structural support.”
In the 1980s, interest in the region’s unusual cave homes grew, with many purchased by local families as second homes, and others converted into tourist accommodation, restaurants, wine cellars and museums.
Today in Orce’s 20-strong cave home community, there are around six permanent residents, says Wachter, while the rest of the properties are used as holiday homes or tourist rentals.
Of the four properties for sale, three have two bedrooms, and one has one bedroom. Each is equipped with a front garden, entrance hall, living room, kitchen and bathroom. Each property is sold with its own deeds, but, says Wachter, there is also the possibility of merging two of the houses into one mega-cave, if desired.
Inside, the properties are furnished in a simple, rustic style, with terracotta tiled floors, exposed wooden beams and wooden doors and windows. (Yes, there are windows. These are sophisticated caves.)
According to the Orce tourist board, the caves’ design allows them to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, with a year-round temperature of between 18 and 20 degrees.
The four homes also have access to a large communal pool, situated on a terrace close by. The buyer will need to pay an annual fee of €300 per house for the maintenance of the pool and grounds.
“The location of the homes and the surroundings are stunning, with very unique landscapes,” says Wachter. “The incredible surrounding Granada Geopark UNESCO site which covers this entire region [has] sights like nowhere else in Europe.”
The Geopark is one of Europe’s few natural deserts, with dramatic gorges, river canyons and ridges which attract walkers, cyclists and horse riders. There are a number of walking routes available directly from the properties.
The current owner of the four-home complex bought the properties in 2006 —along with four others, which he still owns— intending to turn them into retirement homes for independent living. This, however, did not go ahead, and he has decided to sell half the homes instead.
According to Wachter, the properties would suit someone looking for a manageable-sized home and garden —possibly an older buyer, because they are single-storey, with mostly level surroundings— or as rural tourism rentals.
“The most special thing about these properties is the concept of rural cave living in the countryside, in a community setting. This is probably a first in the world,” says Wachter.
“It’s just such a great way of living – quirky, fun, ecological, great value for money and extremely comfortable year around...This region and its cave homes are a true undiscovered gem.”