Travels in Spain, Guadix and the Cave Houses

Guadix and Sierra Nevada

Not a great picture – it was on the wall of a bar and the lighting was poor but still better than any picture that I could get of Guadix!

“For almost the first time I felt I was really in Spain, in a country that I had longed my whole life to visit. In the quiet back streets of I seemed to catch a momentary glimpse, a sort of far-off rumour of the Spain that dwells in everyone’s imagination.”  –  George Orwell

It didn’t take long to reach Guadix, it is only a few miles east of Granada and we arrived there about at lunch time and instead of going straight to the city centre we took a detour into a neighbouring village in search of something to eat.

We were in a coach trip tourist sort of place lined with shops selling local earthenware and pottery but being just out of high season there weren’t any tourists there today, the shops were empty and we found a bar/restaurant with outside tables and busy with local people, which is always a good sign, so we selected a spot on the pavement in the sunshine and ordered a small selection of tapas.

The owner must have thought that we looked under-nourished because the food just kept turning up, we thought that we had ordered a light lunch but very soon the table was in danger of collapsing under the weight of rustic tapas and plates of fine food. It was rude not to eat it all but this took us some time and after we had finished our glutinous challenge we settled up and continued on our way.

Guadix Street

Guadix was quiet, almost as quiet as Puerta de Don Fadrique and we needn’t have worried in advance about car parking because the streets were empty, the shops were closed and there was almost no one about.  We found the hotel easily enough, checked in, unpacked only what we needed for an overnight stay and then went back out into the centre.

I liked it, it wasn’t Trujillo in Extremadura or Almagro or Siguenza in Castilla-La Mancha, it wasn’t Santillana del Mar in Cantabria but it was authentic and rustic, Spanish and Andalusian and I was glad that we had chosen to spend some time here.

We walked around the centre, along the banks of the crusty dried-up river bed and through some lush public parks but in late afternoon there was never much sign of life.  I looked for a shop to buy some wine but I had forgotten my corkscrew key-ring thingy that I can smuggle through airport security and there were no screw cap bottles anywhere in my price range so I was forced to buy a carton of Don Simon Vino Tinto which is really cheap and tastes just the same.

The product manufacturers make this extraordinary claim…  “Don Simon Vino Tinto Wine offers an expertly and exquisitely manufactured wine with fruity aroma; light fruit flavour, crisp acidity, light body and dry, tart finish. Good for every occasion. Best when served chilled. It looks as good as it tastes.” 

No grape variety information or expert tasting tips and in truth it is the sort of wine that at about 1.50 a litre, if you have got some left over you don’t mind pouring down the sink when you leave if you are not too concerned about environmental damage or taking the risk of destroying the hotel plumbing system.

Don Simon wine in a carton

We sat for a while in the lonely Plaza Mayor which was abandoned and quiet but decided anyway to return later for evening meal.  Two hours after it was transformed, the square was busy and there was fierce competition for tables but we swooped on one and the owner talked us into a Menu Del Dia which, as it turned out was a brilliant bit of salesmanship by him although not a brilliant decision on our part, but we had a hearty meal which filled us up including a truly enormous portion of Tiramasu for sweet for Lindsay which arrived just as she was explaining her planned dieting schedule.

I liked Granada and I liked Guadix, two completely different places which all adds to the richness and diversity of Spain and keeps me wanting to go back again and again.

The following morning we had a good breakfast at the hotel and we cleaned them out almost completely of tomato for the tosta and then we checked out and drove a short distance to the cave houses.

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This is the main reason for visiting Guadix.  It is like Bedrock and the Flintstones.  People still live in caves.

People still live in caves!

Just outside of the City old town there is a community of residents who cling to and persevere with the old ways which includes digging a hole in the limestone cliffs and then setting up home inside.  Not just any old cave however and today the mountain homes have brick façade and all of the modern home conveniences inside.

After a walk to the top of the village to an observation platform and then down again a man asked  us in to his cave home and invited us to look around.  People in Andalusia used to live in cave houses because they are cool in summer and warm in winter and they are cheap to build.  Some people, like those here in Guadix still do!

We spent an hour or so investigating the intriguing village and then we left and set off back east towards Rojales and the Mediterranean coast.

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32 responses to “Travels in Spain, Guadix and the Cave Houses

  1. Thanks for this very interesting post! I guess, I should visit Guadix, it seems to be very interesting place! Nice travels! Cheers, Roland

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  2. That sounds a really interesting place especially the idea of living in caves. They must be really cool in the increasingly hot summers, and I presume that you can just extend backwards if you need more room.

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  3. A fascinating record. Your tapas meal reminds me of our first Chinese; and the wine of how quickly it took us in France to realise it was better to pay more than €1 for a bottle of wine

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  4. There’s a troglodytes community like this between Chinon and Saumur we often visit when in the Loire Valley, they have a mushroom “farm” there too, fascinating place. Nothing wrong with plastic cartons or bottles of wine …. provided the word “tart” isn’t in the makers description!

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  5. I like little places like Guadix, Andrew. 🙂 🙂 The corkscrew amused me.

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  6. yes indeed from the poster above plenty of these troglodytes caves in and around Saumur and Chinon, had friends even trying to buy one lol! There never been to Guadix I guess stop in Granada and the Sierra Nevada were enough for me! Cheers

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  7. I’d love to live in a cave . . . with modern amenities.

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  8. Looks like my kind of interesting, authentic Spain! Didn’t know there were cave dwellings there…I’ve seen some in France and in Matera in Italy, where my friend and I stayed in a converted cave

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  9. Lovely!

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  10. Do cave houses have back doors. If they don’t what happens if you have claustrophobia? And is it stuffy or do they have lots of hidden ventilation?

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  11. I remember enjoying cheap wine from a carton when camping in France – I’m talking early 80s here. Also from bottles with a crown cap and stars round the neck. We actually took some of the carton stuff home, but somehow it didn’t travel well. Quelle surprise!

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  12. The cave houses certainly make sense from a ecological point of view, but I’m afraid I’d get claustrophobia. I tend to like lots of windows for a view and sunshine (when it’s available) and a back door for ventilation sounds like a good idea (as commented above.)

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  13. I have driven by Guadix on a bus but haven’t yet stopped to explore it and the cave houses. There are some near us in San Miguel de Salinas. Quaint but I would also get claustraphobic if I had to live in them! Great to visit though.

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  14. It never dawned on me before but following your Spanish pics, it seems to be quite a mountainous country, for the life of me I can’t imagine why I’ve always thought of it as a flat boring land,
    Probably an English/Elizabethan/Armada complex. Always think the worse of them

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  15. Pingback: Travels in Spain, Cuevas El Aguila in The Gredos Mountains | Have Bag, Will Travel

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