Before houses and flats and even hotels, there were caves! Humans have lived in caves for thousands of years, and today some still do.
Matmata – Tunisia
Berber people have been living in underground caves for centuries, with some of the best examples located in the village of Matmata. Berber homes generally consist of a large central living area with smaller caves dug off the main room, and you can try one out for yourself at Matmata’s Hotel Sidi Driss. Some of the cave homes in this area were used in the filming of Star Wars, with the Hotel Sidi Driss playing the home of Luke Skywalker.
Bandiagara Escarpment – Mali
Consisting of entire villages carved into sandstone cliffs, the caves of the Bandiagara Escarpment were established by the Tellem people around the 11th Century. After living there for 300 years, the Tellem people were driven out by the Dogon people, who continue to inhabit the ancient cave system to this day.
Vardzia – Georgia
This stunning network of caves in Southern Georgia consists of more than 600 independent caves connected in a 13-storey cliff face complex. Carved out in the 12th Century as a refuge against invading Mongols, the caves have their own irrigation system and are only accessible via hidden tunnels.
Altiplano de Granada – Spain
Known as Spain’s cave country, this mountainous region of northern Andalusia has had a history of cave dwelling since medieval times. Entire cave districts were first built here by the Moors in the 8th Century and were expanded by local peasant farmers. Today, there are thousands of cave dwellers still living in the area.
Kandovan – Iran
Established in the 13th Century, this cave village was carved out of cone shaped, naturally compressed volcanic ash, and resembles a giant termite colony. Most caves are 4 stories tall and include a basement for housing animals and an attic for storing food. People still live in these conical caves, and they’ve become one of Iran’s most popular tourist attractions.
Fairy Chimneys – Turkey
Considered by many to be the world’s most famous cave homes, the Fairy Chimneys of Turkey were carved out by the Hittites around 1200 BC. Many of the caves are decorated with ancient frescoes and beneath them is a highly impressive network of tunnels. The Fairy Chimneys remain inhabited as family homes, though some have been turned into hotels to accommodate tourists.
Yaodong – China
Found predominantly on the Loess Plateau in the north of China, yaodongs are cave homes that have been dug out of the side of hills since 200 BC. While it is no longer legal to build yaodongs in China, they remain home to roughly 40 million people.
Bamiyan – Afghanistan
Established in the 2nd Century, the ancient caves of Bamiyan were once home to thousands of Buddhist monks, with many of the caves decorated with intricate religious artworks. Sadly, when the Taliban swarmed the area in 2001, they took over the caves and destroyed 2 huge statues of Buddha that stood at their entrance.