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Troglodyte (which means ‘cave dweller’) cave houses are a type of dwelling that may be found in certain parts of the world. In Libya, this unique type of house can be found in the Jabal Nasufah (meaning ‘Nasufah Mountain’), which is located about 100 km (62.14 miles) to the south of the country’s capital, Tripoli. These cave houses are reported to have been in existence for hundreds of years, and are still in use to this day.
The Start of Subterranean Living at Gharyan
The Jabal Nasufah is a mountain range located in the northwestern part of Libya. At one end of this mountain range is a plateau, on which there is a town by the name of Gharyan. This is one of the largest towns in the Jabal Nasufah and is perhaps best known for its underground cave houses. Incidentally, the ‘Ghar’ part of this town’s name is said to mean ‘cave’, an indication that these troglodyte dwellings are an important aspect of the town. As the Jabal Nasufah is composed mainly of limestone and marl, it is not too difficult for people to dig into the mountain rock to form their cave houses.
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Entrance to a troglodyte cave house at Gharyan. (Photo Credit: temehu.com)
The troglodyte cave houses of Gharyan are reported to have first been made during the 16th century AD by Jewish refugees. In 1510, Tripoli was captured by the Spanish, which caused the Jews living there to flee from the city. Some of them migrated southwards into the towns of the Jabal Nasufah, such as Tigrinna, Banu Abbas, and Gharyan. In Gharyan, the first Jewish community was established. The new Jewish residents of Gharyan began to build their dwellings in the town by digging into the mountain’s soft limestone.
Cave House Construction
The troglodyte cave houses of Gharyan come in different forms. Some, for example, are simple cave-like homes made by digging horizontally into the slopes of hills. Others are more elaborate, with a network of rooms clustered around a central pit serving as a source of light. These dwellings are produced by digging vertically into the ground, and then forming the adjacent rooms by digging horizontally underground. One of the advantages of such houses over conventional ones situated above ground is that they are kept insulated during the winter, and remain cool during the summer.
Central ‘pit’ area of Troglodyte building in Gharyan, Libya. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Centuries-Old Cave Dwellings
These cave dwellings are reported to be hundreds of years old and have been used by many generations. One of these troglodyte dwellings, for instance, is said to have been built in 1666, and has been occupied by the same family for generations. Still, not all of these cave houses have been inhabited for a continuous period of time. For example, the majority of Gharyan’s cave houses were abandoned during the 1950s. At that point of time, many Jews had left Gharyan for Israel, whilst others decided to live in houses above the ground. Some of these houses have been left empty, whilst others were turned into storage for goods, or even livestock. During the Libyan Civil War of 2011, many of these dwellings were reused by civilians escaping the shelling.
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There are those who are still fighting to keep these traditional dwellings alive. In fact, some are even converting these unique houses into tourist attractions, with the hope that this dying way of life may be preserved for future generations. One man doing so is Al-Arabi Belhaj, who, with his family, decided to open up their underground home to tourists several years ago. Prior to the war in 2011, foreign tourists could sleep in the rooms and eat food cooked by the family for 100 Libyan dinars. Following the war, however, the number of foreign tourists has dropped drastically. Nevertheless, tourists from within the country have come to visit, in order to gain a better understanding of their country’s heritage. In an article from 2013, Belhaj and his family are reported to have made plans to open a hotel by excavating more rooms in their subterranean home. In this way, they would be able to accommodate more tourists, especially foreign ones, which they hope will return to Libya when peace is restored in the country.
One house is accessed by descending down a tunneled passageway leading to a large circular pit. (Photo Credit: temehu.com)
The 18 Phenomenal Underground Homes You Must See
Some people prefer living in luxury homes or staying in modern and luxury hotel resorts when they go on a vacation. But today we are here with a collection of The 18 phenomenal underground homes you must seewhich we have made especially for those people who do not fit in the description we gave above. These places are embedded into the ground, for example a house made out of a cave, or a house dug under a hill. That is exactly what makes these places unique and wanted as tourist attractions around the world. Enjoy!
Alabama: College football bed-and-breakfast
University of Alabama pride runs deep in the Yellowhammer State, and one of the ways to experience it is by staying in Tuscaloosa's Bama Bed & Breakfast during a college football weekend. The antebellum home has decor themed around Alabama history and, of course, the Crimson Tide.
Extreme Real Estate: Live in a Cave
NEW YORK (MainStreet) - People all over the world have lived in cave dwellings for millennia, and do to this day -- in China, the American Southwest, France, Spain, Turkey, and Iran (to name just a few). And it is no wonder, since caves are cool in the summer, warm in the winter, offer great protection from the elements and have fewer building-material expenses. There are challenges too -- lack of light and damp air -- but these have been largely solved in the modern troglodyte lifestyle.
Here is our underground roundup of a few cave homes available for sale internationally.
Caves are cool in the summer, warm in the winter, offer great protection from the elements and have fewer building-material expenses.
Cave Palace Ranch in Utah is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 4,995-square-foot cave home set on 110 acres in Montezuma Canyon and listed for $675,000. The home was built into a red rock cave system rich in Anasazi history. The Anasazi were the ancient Pueblo people who inhabited the Four Corners region of the U.S. and are renowned for the apartmentlike complexes they built in caves and carved into the sides of canyon walls. This home is built in the ancient tradition and makes for a unique and comfortable living space.
Inside, an open floor plan with high ceilings and oversized windows allow maximum interior light.
As with many cave homes, the acoustics are naturally spectacular for getting the most out of a simple piano or a serious jam session.
The home uses solar power, well water and propane and is extremely energy efficient. The huge parcel of land it sits on is surrounded on three sides by state and federal land. It is a nature lover&aposs dream site, but you better like solitude -- your nearest neighbor is three-quarters of a mile away.
For information contact Brent Parker (435-881-1000) or visit the
This cave home, in a canyon in the Mule Mountains just outside the historic mining town of Bisbee, Ariz., is listed for $1.5 million. The area is a magnet for birdwatching enthusiasts, with more than 79 species identified in the area as well as 113 species of butterflies and a whole host of other native critters -- all of whom you can admire from the grand opening of this unique cave dwelling.
The sunroom faces southwest to get maximum winter sun and keeps the home at a constant average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. Large flower and plant beds run along the natural rock walls. Other features include hand-forged gates, tile floors and skylights.
The kitchen ceiling looks like the cave ceiling but is actually made of ferro-cement and dropped to allow cooking smoke to vent through to the outside. The kitchen is chef-ready and equipped with a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Viking stove with hand-hewn copper hood, Bosch stainless steel dishwasher, three-basin sink and maple breakfast bar. Other custom details include an acid-etched copper panel over the refrigerator made by a local artist and stained-glass cabinet doors depicting desert animals.
The dining room counter is cement, cast in place, painted and sealed. There is a built-in office area and an under-the-counter Kenmore freezer. The dining room table is made out of quarter-inch steel plate with eight matching chairs. The cement ceiling mimics the look of the cave, but creates spaces for mechanical runs and water diversion. The cave is plumbed with gas lines for gas lighting if desired, but the owners have always used electric lighting.
The main house also features a loft bedroom, yoga/exercise room and two bathrooms. A custom onyx-rock basin collects 20-25 gallons of cave wall water a day that is used for drinking and cooking. There are also several natural pools on the 37-acre property used for water supply (seasonally), relaxing and swimming. An additional luxury is the secluded outdoor manmade hot tub.
The property also includes a two-story guest house, game room, library building, car port and workshop.
For information contact Jean Noreen (520-432-5437 ext.18) or visit the
The cave homes of southern Spain are not natural cave formations into which humans simply moved. Dating back to before the 15th century, they have been delicately dug into hillsides, carved out of hard clay and earth. And they are being rediscovered and refurbished in a booming Spanish cave market.
Updated 21st century Andalusian cave houses are equipped with all the comforts of the modern home, and some can be had for bargain prices. Near the city of Granada, for example, is this three-bedroom cave home with a large front garden and a stunning view of the surrounding mountains.
The owners are still finishing the renovations on this historic cave, so the asking price of $122,950 at current rates is rock bottom (pun intended).
The spacious living room in the front area of the home -- built beyond the hillside cave out of clay and earth walls -- has an open fireplace, and there are Spanish tile floors throughout the home.
The cave walls are whitewashed, as is traditional, to reflect more light throughout the interior space. In addition to doors and windows, holes and reflective ducting brighten the indoors.
An external staircase leads to a complete apartment with a kitchen, bedroom and bath separate from the cave house.
Cave for a night -- Turkey
In case you aren&apost ready to commit to living full time in a cave, you might want to try staying in one of several international cave hotels. The Gamirasu in Cappadocia, Turkey, is a pretty cool one. The 25-room hotel is in a restored Byzantine monastic retreat cave house that&aposs more than 1,000 years old. It reopened in 1999 as a luxury hotel. While humans have inhabited the caves for nearly 4,000 years, the rooms and suites here all have modern amenities. Furnishing are traditional for the area -- including ornate rugs, hand-carved furniture and delicate linens, not to mention the original frescoes of the 8th-century cave church preserved within the hotel&aposs walls. The hotel restaurant serves organically grown food prepared in Cappadocian style. Rates for a double room cost between $133 and $203 a night.
For information, visit the
Cave for a night -- Iran
In the shadow of the dormant Sahand volcano in Kandovan in the province of East Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran, volcanic ash and debris was compressed and naturally shaped into cone-shaped pillars containing pockets that became caves. The pillars have been inhabited for thousands of years today a population of about 700 still live in these hollowed-out rocks the shape of witches&apos hats that have been fashioned into comfortable multistory homes.
Opened in 2007, the Laleh Kandovan International Rocky Hotel is a restored cave home offering 10 rooms (30 more are planned) and a restaurant. All the rooms have under-floor heating, and some have whirlpool baths. The decor is stylishly minimalist, using plenty of tiles and Persian rugs and allowing the unique rough rock walls to make a statement. Double rooms cost about $241 a night.
Cave for a night -- France
Since the 11th and 12th centuries people in many parts of France have settled in caves dug out of the ground and shaped into rooms of whatever size desired. There are about 45,000 cave homes in the Loire Valley -- some relics, many being refurbished. Les Hautes Roches manor is a luxury cave hotel built into a cliff overlooking the Loire River. The white-glove accommodations extend to a restaurant serving Brittany-inspired cuisine featuring local products. The hotel includes an outdoor swimming pool and access to Loire Valley attractions. Room rates range between about $244 and $412.
For more information, visit the
Cave for a night -- Australia
Coober Pedy is a town in the Outback semi-desert area of South Australia known as the "opal capital of the world" and famous for residents living belowground in old refurbished mines called dugouts. The dugouts are protected from the scorching daytime heat.
You can experience the down-under version of cave living at the Desert Cave Hotel, where you can choose to stay aboveground or underground in one of the windowless, cool, luxury rooms. The hotel also has underground shops, a cafe and an underground bar and gaming room. Rates for a double room start at $221.
For information, visit the
Cave for a night -- Arkansas
The Beckham Creek Cave Lodge in Beckham Creek Arkansas -- the heart of the Ozark countryside -- was built by Celestial Seasonings founder Mo Siegel in a natural cave as an end-of-the-world safehouse. It is now available for rent and outfitted with all the modern amenities, a natural indoor waterfall, a gourmet kitchen and five unique bedrooms. Rate information on request.
The Cave Dwellings of Guadix
Guadix – such an interesting place yet shamefully unknown to most visitors in Andalusia. We visited the town for a second time after fifteen years, this time with our children. There were many reasons why we wanted to return, but the most prominent one was a unique feature of the town: The cave dwellings.
A great part of Guadix’s inhabitants lived underground in caves dug in the soft tuff rock that was surrounding the city. “Troglodyte” was the term that described this form of living. Traditionally, this was the area where artists and artisans would live, and also the gypsies. Even today, it was still very much alive, a populated part of the town with a church in its centre, a school, bars, and restaurants that offered a more alternative way of living.
In short, the cave dwellings of Guadix were an important part of Andalusia, yet widely unknown as many people tend not to travel on the road between Granada and the deserts of Tabernas.
The old Town: A Cathedral, a Square and a Moorish Fortress
We parked the car near the cathedral, not daring to go any further into the fabric of this ancient town. From experience, we knew it could be rather challenging to navigate old Spanish streets with a car. In front of us, covering a weak winter sun that was sitting low in the sky, rose the tower of the ochre cathedral of Guadix, A beautiful building that took almost 200 years to complete, hence showing a wild mix of styles that ranged from Gothic to Baroque.
We walked all the way around the cathedral and to the front porch, admiring the elaborate facade. Today, the church doors were closed for visitors, but the views of the outside were enough to leave a lasting impression on us.
Right opposite the square in front of the cathedral we found an archway underneath a building. On the other side, the orderly forms of the Renaissance style main city square awaited us. Now in December, it was tastefully decorated with Christmas lights.
Like a Smurf village: The Cave Dwellings of Guadix
Of course, the children wanted to see the caves straightaway, so we walked from here to the southern quarter that was dominated by these unique dwellings. Walking around the base of the massive Moorish castle, it was easy to find our way to the Barrio Troglodyte, just 20 minutes from the cathedral by foot.
A charming part of town, almost like a Smurf village, quaint and cosy with soft round curves and tiny front yards. The caves were easy to make out: the fronts whitewashed like proper Spanish houses, and on the top a sea of little chimneys. We found a small fenced lookout point, a mirador, which at the same time was the roof of one of the houses. From here we enjoyed 360-degree views of the quarter. From above we looked at the stables with the donkeys, the Moorish castle, and the spectacular mountain ranges in the distance.
Many residents in Guadix liked to show visitors around their cave dwellings. The elderly gentlemen on whose house we had been standing just a minute ago invited us inside and gave us a free tour of his apartment. As he explained in Spanish, on the inside the temperatures were always a steady 20 degrees – a bliss during the hot summer months. No windows, of course, except to the front where we found the modern kitchen. A tour so intimate, we saw a hand drawn greeting card pinned to the fridge, saying, “For the best granddad in the world”.
The Setting of the Winter sun in a Haze of Fires
From Guadix, we took the southerly route towards Granada. As the sun was setting, the light changed to a warm glow of oranges and reds, painting the limestone cliffs in the most vivid colours. Smoke was lingering in the lower lying areas and valleys, the result of many winter fires and smokey chimneys. The particles of the smoke added streaks of pastel to the landscape.
Guadix was not the only place in the area to have cave dwellings, but it was the biggest. However, if you are not keen on visiting the barrio, just watch the landscape carefully from your car window. There were caves everywhere, from modern to rustic, single houses as well as farms.
The mountains on both sides were beautiful in their eroded way. The bizarre forms of pinnacles and lose rocks sitting precariously on top of peaks entertained us and the children for quite some time. In the far distance, the snow capped Sierra Nevada made us scheme our next winter trip to the region.
More Than Just a Side Note
Guadix was well off the tourist trail but made such a rewarding destination for a day trip. The ancient cave dwellings were unique to Andalusia, but for most tourist guides there were inexplicably not much more than a side note if mentioned at all. To us, Guadix was more than just a quick stop, it was something that we needed to return to in order to share the experience with the children.
More photos on the bottom of the post, including an inside view of a cave.
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Located just south of the Tennessee border (aka the state that has the largest underground cave system in the U.S.), this 700-square-foot rental features a quiet and idyllic country setting that offers plenty to do for outdoor enthusiasts including mountain biking, rock climbing, and caving. Or head to Chatanooga, just 17 miles away, to explore its dining and shopping scene.
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17 of the Coolest Travel Destinations For Nerds
If your idea of a vacation means lounging around on the couch and binging on “Game of Thrones” or “Star Trek” episodes, why not try something a bit different. Spending time away from home doesn’t have to mean going to view the Grand Canyon or soaking up the sand and the sun – there are many fantastic destinations that are perfect for nerds, and those who love them.
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Alnwick Castle - Northumberland, England
Alnwick Castle was actually Hogwarts Castle in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” It was the place where Harry and his classmates learned to fly in Madam Hooch’s flying class as well as the setting for Ron and Harry’s flying car crash. Visitors can even try their hand at wizardry and broomstick “flight” training. Located in Northumberland, the castle has also been featured in famous films like “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “Elizabeth.” Harry Potter fans can also visit other top filming locations nearby.
New Zealand, AKA Middle Earth
While you can’t exactly hop on a flight to Middle Earth, visiting New Zealand is definitely the next best thing. This is the country where Peter Jackson filmed all of the “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” movies. Of course, if you care at all, you already know this, but did you know that there are a number of companies offering tours to some of the most notable film locations in the movies? Travelers can visit places like Hobbiton to see Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill, double-arched bridge and other structures and gardens built for the films. Or, take a helicopter tour over glacier-filled southern lakes to see where Isengard and Lothlorien scenes were shot. You can also check out Weta Cave for an in-depth look at the special effects industry and see the site of the Battle of Pelennor Fields in Mackenzie Country.
Tokyo is the ultimate geek paradise, with all of the otakus (Japanese for nerd) gathering in the country’s capital. Akihabara is one of the top places to go in Tokyo, with every other store on its main street either a video game shop, a toy shop or a manga retailer (a Japanese-style comic book store). Check out at least one of the many maid cafes – all you have to do is look for the girls donning maid outfits who will try and entice you in. On Odaiba Island, a large man-made island in Tokyo Bay, you’ll find plenty of nerdy spots like the Toyota Mega Web (a Toyota vehicle museum), a Lego park and a life-sized model of a Mobile Suit Gundam mech which stands in front of the DiverCity shopping center – all lit-up and standing at 60-feet tall, you can’t miss it.
Redwood National and State Parks, California
At Redwood National and State Parks, located just south of Crescent in Northern California, offers the chance to gaze up at some of the tallest trees on the planet as well as to walk in the footsteps of famous directors like George Lucas, who used the Tall Trees Redwood Grove to double for the Ewok’s stronghold in “Return of the Jedi.” If you’re a real film buff, you’ll probably also remember this park from the popular dinosaur movie sequel, “The Lost World” (Jurassic Park). While you’re taking a hike, be sure to watch out for t-rexes and scout troopers!
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park - Wulingyuan District, China
It was the epic sci-fi film “Avatar” that put Zhangjiajie National Forest Park into the spotlight. The Hallelujah Mountains in the movie were inspired by the park’s Heavenly Pillar. Ideal for nerds who like to hike or climb, the area is renowned for its precarious peaks, dense forests and large karst caves. By heading to Wulingyuan, the jumping-off point for excursions into the “Avatar” Mountains, you can join a day tour to experience their glory in real life. You can also head out onto the trails on your own. The Yuanjiajie Scenic Area is where you’ll find Avatar/Hallelujah Mountain as well as highlights like the First Bridge Under Heaven and the “Lost Souls” Platform.
NASA Tourist Center Road Trip, throughout the U.S.
If you’re passionate about all things space-related, why not take a road trip to visit NASA’s 14 tourist centers? NASA now offers a special “Passport to Explore Space.” The free program provides savings on admission, tours, food and merchandise at all 14 NASA Visitor Centers and Orbiter locations. Four of the centers even house retired space shuttles, including Kennedy Space Center in Florida, home to Space Shuttle Atlantis, and Space Shuttle Endeavour, located at the California Science Center. Not only can you see lots of what America has to offer on your road trip, but you’ll get a fascinating look at space through unique exhibitions and presentations at every center.
While you’re in England, you’ll definitely want to spend some time in London. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a bucket list site for every English and academic nerd. The reconstructed theater was made just like the original, with designers making sure to follow the original plans as closely as possible –adding just a few exits in order to adhere to fire codes. Lovers of the Bard will appreciate seeing just how Shakespeare saw the Globe during his time – and, if you’re there in the summer, you can also watch incredible performances of his plays. Fans of “Doctor Who,” are sure to enjoy it too, considering that the cast and crew of the BBC sci-fi series were shot here for an episode in its third season.
All Harry Potter fans should also make the trip over to the famous platform that leads to Hogwarts Express, Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross station, and check out Leadenhall Market, where the entrance to the wizard’s pub, The Leaky Cauldron, was filmed for the first movie. Baker Street, which was home to the most famous detective in the world, Sherlock Holmes, can also be found here in London. It houses the Sherlock Holmes Museum and also sells items like traditional pipes along with modern merchandise featuring BBC’s Benedict Cumberbatch.