Galera is a picturesque village located in the province of Granada, in the southern region of Andalusia, Spain and it’s on of my favorite villages in Europe. What makes Galera unique is that it is known for its cave houses, homes literally built into the surrounding hillsides.
These cave houses offer a unique and fascinating glimpse into the historic traditional way of life in rural Andalusia. Galera’s cave houses have been inhabited for centuries, and many of them have now been renovated and modernized to provide comfortable and modern living spaces while still retaining their traditional character. Visitors to Galera can explore these cave houses, as well as enjoy the town’s beautiful scenery and rich cultural heritage.
When my dad took me and my sisters for a visit in 2013, I instantly fell in love with its unique beauty and character. So now whenever somebody asks for Spanish recommendations this is on the top of my list. Galera is made up of lots of pretty cave houses built into the side of the mountains; which is what gives it it’s unique Spanish charm.
Its rural location and lack of ‘real’ tourism mean the locals speak very little English, but that only adds to its charm. The poor English here doesn’t stop the staff in pubs and shops being some of the most accommodating I have come across in Europe; constantly showing patience with our patchy Spanish. Though small, Galera offers a lot to see. I have spent full days just wandering around the village and over the mountain paths taking in the views. The Church, sitting high on the hill, is central to this community so you’ll often see locals taking the long walk up the winding path to Sunday Mass. Don’t worry though, if Mass isn’t your thing there’s the community pool open in summer for local and tourists alike.
Wednesdays are when the locals flock to the centre of the village, for their giant fresh fruit and veg (seriously… some of them are HUGE!) from the weekly market. This is where you’ll be able to get a full weeks worth of locally grown veg for under €10 and a new pair of shorts for as little as €3. Cheeses, meats, plants and jewellery; there isn’t anything you won’t find on a Wednesday.
If you wanted to stay in Galera, there are a lot of cave houses available to rent; but there is also Hotel Galera. The hotel recently came under new owners and has since seen many improvements over the past year; often holding public parties which have proven to be popular with everyone in Galera.
I’ve stayed in many hotels, loads of campsites, a few hostels and even a haunted church; but nothing compares to sleeping in a cave – that’s right. A Spanish Cave House. You might have read my post on ‘A guide to Galera’, where I talk about the village of caves, well here I’ll talk you through all you need to know about spending the night in your very own cave and react to some of the main comments I get when I say I’ve slept in a Spanish cave…
– “But how do you get there?”…
There are several villages in Granada that are predominantly caves, but in my eyes, Galera is the prettiest. You’ll need a car to get from the airport (or any other previous location) to the village. Then there are roads all the way up the mountainside to your door, but you can’t have a drink if you drive back down to the pub! We quite often park the car on our initial arrival then walk everywhere if we’re staying local. Be prepared though, the walks can be steep and the locals aren’t always the most patient drivers, always watch out for cars and take water with you if you go wandering!
– “Eww, what about bats though”…
This is always the first thing people say when the topic moves to Galera. Alas, there are no bats in these caves, or cobwebs, not even a Batmobile. However you may find the odd Gecko lurking in the window, we name our Dave. There’s also a lot of stray cats and dogs in Galera; there’s a local rescue that’s working towards helping reduce the stray population. So don’t be surprised if you come across those, but don’t worry, they’re all really friendly!!
– “What about the dirt?”…
Well, like with anywhere if the cleaners or owner haven’t been between guests then sure it’ll be a bit dirty. Dust from the rock ceiling is perfectly normal too, but most Caves are treated regularly to reduce that; don’t worry, they’re safe! Promise. Other than that though, no, it won’t be dirty. You’ll have tiled floors and comfy sofas instead of dirt and tree roots like most imagine.
– “But how do you go to the Loo??”…
Dec likes to take a magazine with him, how about you? Seriously though, all the caves that are suitable to be rented out have running water, a proper bathroom and even a fitted kitchen! You’ll have all your home comforts but with the bonus of great weather and amazing locals! If you wander a bit higher up in the village you’ll find some ‘projects’ that aren’t quite finished yet, but it’s amazing to see what they start out like and how far they’ve come when people like me and you get to stop in them – or for some lucky folk, who get to live permanently in them!
– Are they safe though?…
I think when I tell people about the cave villages of Spain, they instantly conjure up pictures of the Flintstones; you know, curtains over the doors, windows that are just holes in the rocks and big rocks to sit on but that really isn’t the case. What you really should be picturing is beautiful wooden stable doors, proper windows with iron bars, all your creature comforts from home and some even have wifi. Safety really isn’t an issue in Galera, plenty of the locals will go out for the day and not lock their doors but that doesn’t mean there aren’t locks. Common sense plays a lot into it, like with everywhere, but as a general rule of thumb, Galera has a very small crime rate – you’ll be fine
– “So, what if I wanted to stop in one?”…
Sounds like something you’d be interested in? Remember as with all places there are peak seasons, so the quality or location of the Cave you find depends on that. Prices also vary, but if you are interested, there are several routes you can take, from a simple ‘cave holiday home in Galera’ search to even checking the properties out on Air B+B – because I have family who has their own Cave I have no direct experience with booking via these methods but have met others who have. As with booking any other type of accommodation, ask as many questions to make sure it’s the right place for you, check it’s location in the village – if you aren’t up for long walks to the pub or shops then one at the top of the mountain isn’t for you!
Overall, I definitely recommend Galera for a quick break away from the hustle and bustle of city life. There’s a generally slower pace of life in rural Spain and that alone was a huge selling point for me. I love Galera, so if you do decide to try it out let us know what you think!! For a guide on When the best time to travel to Spain is, click here!
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first stayed oin a cave in the mirador complex over 20 years ago…most caves in top half of village werw then undeveloped….have not been for ten years …expect much now changed. Is the mirador still the most authentic place to stay or are there now better options. cN STILL REMEMBER A SNOWY CHRISTMAS STAY AND THE DONKEYS.
MUST COME BACK ONE DAY….LOOKUP DICK HANDSCOMBE AUTHOR ON AMAZON BOOKS.