Sacromonte Caves

Continuing down from the land of the hórreos in Asturias, the southern region of Andalucía has its own rustic shelters that—instead of sheltering corn and hay—have become homes for modern nomads. The Sacromonte neighborhood of Granada has a series of caves that were once inexpensive homes for the city’s Roma community in the late 19th century, but are now utilized by the city’s artistic dwellers. sacromonte-gypsy-cave-1200x1200 Most visitors come to Granada for the UNESCO world heritage site, the Alhambra, and the funky Albaicín neighborhood. The Sacromonte area lies just above the city along a hillside and once contained over 3,600 inhabited caves. A flood in the 1960s wiped out many of the homes and what was left is now occupied by approximately 30-50 nomad residents from all over the world. Many are just passing through, hoping to extend their travels by selling their art in the city plazas, while some of the ancient caves are occupied full time. sacromonte-cave-hallway-1200x1200 sacromonte-cave-community-1200x1200 CUEVAS-DE-SACROMONTE-EN-GRANADA Essentially, most of the people living in the caves are squatters overlooked by the local government. Their Bohemian looks and local art including jewelry, baskets, pottery and weavings can be seen in the local plazas. Traditinal flamenco music and dances can be seen in theaters and restaurants in the Albaicín. granada-spain The living conditions in the caves are basic. Most of the caves have electricity from local power lines or solar panels. Plumbing and toilets are sometimes shared between several residents. However, the caves do stay cool during Granada’s hot summers and you really can’t beat the view.


Photos by ExpertVagabond, Fjalonso and Christina Nellemann


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Otessa Regina Compton - June 9, 2014 Reply


Francis mcclaughry - June 9, 2014 Reply

any type housing you have serves the purpose. I live in a real old double wide that is well past it’s time. It was plumbed with plastic tubing. I’m constantly repairing them the life span of plastic in the dumps is a hundred years, but the plastic tubing is seen its life span in twenty years. most modern houses is sided with this stull. so these caves will be around when these modern built homes have bit the dust.

Mark b. - June 9, 2014 Reply

Is there a waiting list or is it first come first served

Earl - June 9, 2014 Reply

Hmmm… so, how does a flood wipe out caves up on a hillside?

    Joyce - June 11, 2014 Reply

    Look at history. Rising waters are not always slow moving. They do have a terrify force if you watch videos of rushing waters in California causing mountains of mudslides, forcing homes off foundations and entering all crevices (caves included) in the path of rushing water. Higher elevations near the ocean are subject to Tsunami waves. Such forces can collapse the interior caves and remove contents leaving behind a destruction appearance similar to tornadoes mixed with mudslides.

Rebecca - June 9, 2014 Reply

I love these caves, read about them before. That’s my idea of a permanent home… cob is a fax version of caves and why they are beloved.

Shell - June 9, 2014 Reply

Very interesting and cool to learn about. Thank you. : )

Chusa - June 10, 2014 Reply

Great article…. Just one thing: the name of the neighborhood is Sacromonte, with ‘o’, not Sacramonte.

    Christina - June 11, 2014 Reply

    Thank you Chusa for catching my error. I claim lingering jet lag. 🙂

K9 - June 10, 2014 Reply

Underground homes don’t necessarily have to be natural caves. Constructing a “shotgun” home with iron reinforced concrete culvert pipes would be feasible as a home on rugged terrain, underground tornado shelter or something similar. Some culvert piping has T-junctions, so it could be modular and wouldn’t be limited to straight lines. All it would take is sealant where pipes meet and good door or wall construction at each end The top could be covered with dirt and grass, and the natural arch would give it strength.

I did a quick search, and concrete culvert can be as large as eight feet in diametre, the interior diametre slightly smaller. By basic math, a flat floor raised 13 inches from the centre of 8′ culvert would be about five feet wide and the roof centre would be over six feet. All the wiring, water and sewage could be housed under the flooring. Granted, it would only be good for shorter than average people, but construction would be easy.

Be forewarned that if you search yourself, many sites discussing this idea fall into the category of “the muslim gummint wants to take my guns!”

Joyce - June 11, 2014 Reply

Modern homes in America often use ‘partial ground surround’ to reduce heating and cooling costs. Homes are often built into hillsides this way either using the soil to cover a ‘basement’ or lower half of the building and having one side fully exposed for doors and windows. Some ‘underground’ homes only have a small wall for entrance and use the terrain to cover their roof as well. These homes are more common in mountains and some desert areas with a few in smaller hillsides not in larger cities.

Melinda - June 11, 2014 Reply

Hi –

I was just there and this was one of my most favorite parts of the trip. The picture above with the guy and the baskets if from the Museo de Cuevas and is a really cool museum (albeit a pretty intense hike). These folks make do with what they have, which was inspirational!

Granada is so amazing.

Thanks for sharing and bringing back the memories.

Carla - June 16, 2014 Reply

Very romantic! And earth lodges have connected people to the natural world down the centuries.
We can all learn much from the natural architecture movement as well as voluntary simplicity implied by the tiny house movement.
(The above comment also applies to the Moroccan Tiny House post of June, 16, 2014.)

My heart hurts, though, for the Roma who were driven out of those caves. I recommend the documentary film “Latcho Drom” (subtitled) to learn more about Roma in Spain and the rest of Europe. In one scene (Spain) the houses they were staying in that were barely habitable had the authorities come and brick up the doors and windows to force them out. They ended up moving on in search of a better life or camping on the hill above the city where the dump is.
They camped at the dump with a view over the entire city, as they had when the caves in that city the article describes were their own. (Not sure whether it is the same city with so many hill towns in Spain.)
If the Roma “used to live” there in the late 19th century, that’s over one hundred years and two world wars worth of displacement and diaspora up to the present time.

This issue has some resonance in the dire situation for renters in SF as more and more people are priced out and marginalized.

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