Going underground: the world's subterranean holiday destinations
June 27, 2008 John Gray in “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” suggested men respond to stressful situations by withdrawing or “retreating into their cave.” What if you really could retreat to a cave which offered escape without compromising on comfort? From a thousand year old cave carved out of volcanic rock in beautiful Turkey, to going "down under" in an Australian desert-like opal mining town or an ancient fortress carved from rock in France, there's plenty of options for the adventurous traveler looking to get in touch with their Neanderthal roots... and without compromising on luxury. June 27, 2008 John Gray in “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” suggested men respond to stressful situations by withdrawing or “retreating into their cave.” What if you really could retreat to a cave which offered escape without compromising on comfort? From a thousand year old cave carved out of volcanic rock in beautiful Turkey, to going "down under" in an Australian desert-like opal mining town or an ancient fortress carved from rock in France, there's plenty of options for the adventurous traveler looking to get in touch with their Neanderthal roots... and without compromising on luxury.
Online resources like Unusual Hotels of the World offer information on many of these below-ground destinations. Here's a taste of our favorites:
American cave retreats
Kokopelli's Cave Bed & Breakfast is in Farmington, New Mexico and is a privately-owned sandstone hotel which was excavated and blasted out in 1980. This 1650 square foot, one bedroom inn is 70 feet below the ground with the entrance located in a cliff face. Getting to the entrance of Kokopelli sounds difficult (75 steps and a further 110 steps on an inclined path) but with unparalleled views from the cave and cliff tops of Shiprock and the Chuska mountains on the Navajo Indian reservation in northwest New Mexico or the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, it sounds as though it is worth the exertion. The cave has carpet, hot and cold running water and a fully appointed kitchen and the cascading waterfall-style shower and flagstone hot tub may help soothe aching legs after the climb down. Just remember, you’ll need to get up again.
Beckham Creek Cave Hotel is located in Buffalo National River country, Arkansas and is one very luxurious cave hotel. The Cave House is on a 530 acre estate and features natural ‘living’ cave walls and ceilings. The windows ensure that lots of natural light enter the living areas during the day and with central heating, you will stay comfortable throughout the day and night. If you can tear yourself outside, away from the games room, complete with billiard table, then you may enjoy a spot of hiking or fishing on the estate. The house has five bedrooms, each with bath and has a kitchen with everything required for the creation of a simple breakfast or a nighttime banquet. Rooms start at USD $1000 per night.
Turkish Delight Cappadocia is located in the middle Anatolian region of Turkey. Due to volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, the Cappadocian landscape is covered with hundreds of volcanic pillars from which, over the ages, people have carved out to form houses and other buildings. Elkep Evi was once an ancient cave dwelling and has been transformed into a 9-room (including two suites) bed and breakfast hotel. Located in Urgup, Cappadocia, all the rooms at Elkep Evi have en-suites and most have a terrace which allows the visitor sweeping views over this truly fascinating land.
The Gamirasu Cave Hotel is also located in Urgup, Turkey and is guaranteed to take your breath away. This former monastery still has a 12th century Byzantine Christian church attached to it and has, in the past, also been used as a prison. The hotel has eighteen rooms including a family suite and has all the features you would expect in a hotel but is set in a fascinating location, with a hiking trail which begins at the front door and winds through a valley.
Cool off “down under” In the summer months, average temperatures in Central Australia can be as high as 36.2 degrees Celsius (97.16 degrees Fahrenheit) so sleeping in the cool of a cave makes a lot of sense. The hotel rooms at the Coober Pedy's Desert Cave Hotel are not only cool, but are also quiet, airy and dark. Coober Pedy is an opal mining town in outback Australia and has lured opal miners and tourists for many years but it is semi-desert country so it gets very hot. The hotel has nineteen underground rooms but you can choose to sleep above ground as well. There’s also a bar, café and shops and a pool and gym if you’re feeling energetic.
In another Australian state; New South Wales, is the White Cliffs Underground Motel , a 3-star hotel with 30 underground rooms, some of which feature unpainted walls to highlight the beauty of the rock. The rooms or ‘dugouts’ also have in-built shafts so natural light can enter the room and the hotel has a swimming pool and its own restaurant and bar.
Ooh La La… Fancy a vacation to Provence, France but looking for accommodation other than a French villa or pensione? Le Prince Noir in Les Baux, Provence, France offers a truly unique experience. This hotel sits on top of an ancient Roman fortress and the rooms are carved into the rock face. The hotel offers three rooms all with ensuite and can sleep up to four people. Legend has it that one of the founders of Les Baux is one of the three kings of the Nativity, Balthazar and his family arms features a comet with 16 rays which represents the star that guided him all those years ago.