Since I saw it on a travel programme many years ago, I’ve always wanted to visit Andalucia and see the traditional cave houses that are still lived in today. I was also desperately excited to experience sleeping in caves.
From Granada it is less than an hours drive to Guadix. I have read a desciption of Guadix as a Cathedral town. It also has several churches in it’s list of tourist sites. But you don’t need to come here to see Cathedrals! There is plenty of that all around Europe. Guadix isn’t even particularly pretty, although the surrounding desert-like landscape is striking.
It is the opportunity to see genuine cave houses, to experience living in a cave and to learn about the history of cave living, that makes Guadix a worthy addition to your Spain trip. This is not a particularly touristy town, or at least it wasn’t when we visited. We stayed 2 nights which was enough to have a good experience of sleeping in caves and to see some of the surrounding area.
Guadix Cave Dwellings Interpretation Centre
A great place to start learning about cave life is the Guadix Cave Dwellings Interpretation Centre. There are a number of cave ‘museums’ in Guadix, many of them privately run. The Interpretation Centre is managed by the Department of Tourism in Guadix. Set inside original cave dwellings there are a number of rooms set up as they would have been in the past, kitchen, bedrooms etc. There are also displays describing the process of digging a cave and detailing the history of people living in caves including the various reasons people might choose to dwell in a cave. It was interactive and child-friendly. L & S learnt a lot, which they were able to relate to since we’d already spent a night sleeping in a cave by then.
In Guadix some people now have a family cave that they use, particularly in the summertime. Caves provide some relief from the intense heat. Keeping the remaining caves in use and teaching visitors about their history, is an important part of maintaining Guadix’s cultural heritage.
The interpretation centre is in the Barrio de Santiago neighbourhood. This neighbourhood is a must visit area in Guadix, characterized by troglodyte houses carved into the rocks. An easy climb up to a viewpoint gives a great view of the surrounding landscapes. Often chimneys are the only clue to the cave dwellings in the hills below.
Eat and Drink in Guadix
We arrived in Guadix on a Sunday. In typical Backpacks and Sunhats fashion we hadn’t organised food supplies, almost all the shops are closed on a Sunday in Spain. This seemed to come as a surprise to us every Sunday, we’ve eaten some weird combinations of leftovers on Sundays.
We found this traditional tapas bar in central Guadix. La Bodeguilla is a locals bar that sees just a few tourists. The back wall is lined with barrels of sherry and hams hang from the ceiling.
It was 45 minutes before siesta closing time. All of Guadix was preparing for that afternoon’s football world cup game. Using our best attempts at Spanish we deciphered some of the blackboard menu and started to order. The friendly barman / owner shortly took pity on us and revealed he spoke fluent English. Things improved from there, he explained he couldn’t serve hot food, they would close soon so they could head to their cave to watch Spain play in the football world cup. But he could prepare us a plate of local meats, sausage and breads. He showed us the local tomatoes just come into season and promised we would love them served with olive oil and salt.
“Take a seat with a drink. Can I bring you some local foods I recommend? And I see you’ve got children, I’ll bring something your kids will like too”
What followed was an introduction to a whole new world of sausages and hams. And a reminder that the most simple foods, made with quality, local ingredients, served with a smile and story, are better than any fancy cuisine anywhere in the world.
We went back the next day for lunch and tried cheeses as well as more of the delicious tomatoes. The atmosphere was a little subdued as Spain had lost their game the day before and were knocked out of the world cup.
Another treat in Guadix was churros. Our host at the cave told us the best churros and chocolate could be found at Cafeteria Versalles. Their outside terrace is a great people watching spot.
It did make for a delicious morning snack but the cafe wasn’t as friendly as La Bodeguilla. On this particular Monday we found there were a lot of grumpy people in Spain. For goodness sake ‘don’t mention the world cup!‘
Sleeping in Caves, Guadix
We stayed at Casas Cueva La Tala booked through Agoda. I was pleased with our choice as it is a genuine cave, some hotels are just a small part cave with rooms built on the front. For a genuine experience choose your cave house / hotel carefully. Our host was warm, friendly and welcoming. The cave had a living room and small kitchen at the front, behind this was the bedroom with a spa bath.
We really enjoyed the stay and it was very comfortable. I noticed the cave did smell a bit earth-like, and musty (which is to be expected living in the ground). We opened the door regularly to air it out. If we stayed longer I think I would crave a breeze of fresh air through the house.
Although many people might skip Guadix on a tour of Spain, it isn’t too far from Granada. The opportunity to experience sleeping in a genuine, ancient, cave house is unmissable, especially if you’ve got children.
We slept in a few more unusual places on this trip, lots more to come…