Six of the best: cave hotels

Once upon a time we all lived in caves. Most of us moved on and created more comfortable places to stay, but here and there – from the Greek Islands to the Loire Valley – these ancient digs have been spiffed up into romantic boutique hotels with troglodyte-chic rooms: spare, monastic, simply but exquisitely furnished. In the modern world there remains something primitively appealing about sleeping in a cave. A safe retreat, dark and soundless; a bolthole in the belly of the Earth.

Argos, Cappadocia, Turkey

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia are a fantasy world of curious rock formations. They are still lived in, and many have been turned into hotels for travellers who make the pilgrimage to Turkey’s otherwise little-visited central region of Anatolia. The one to choose is Argos. It’s run by the team behind D Maris Bay, and a similar magic is at work here: Argos is a restored hamlet of caves, houses, underground tunnels and a 1,000-year-old monastery. Highlights include the new restaurant Nahita, celebrating Anatolian cuisine and local produce; sunrise yoga beside the rooftop pool with widescreen views; and full moon walks through this otherworldly landscape.

Double rooms from €310; argosincappadocia.com

Perivolas, Santorini, Greece

Once Santorini’s cave houses were practically worthless and slept in by fishermen. Now that caldera-view side of the island is riddled with cave hotels, some of the most exclusive and expensive in Europe. Perivolas was one of the pioneers, its cool, pale, organic hollows dressed in the white minimalism that has become synonymous with Santorini. Some have pools, inside or out; doorways frame the dazzling Cyclades blue of the caldera. It’s on the edge of the clifftop village of Oia, the prime spot for sunsets and selfies.

Double rooms from £459; perivolas.gr

Matera, Basilicata, Italy

There’s a sense, when you finally arrive in Italy’s remote southern city of Matera, that you have travelled back in time. It’s the oldest inhabited city in the world, where until the 1990s its inhabitants still lived as they did thousands of years ago, in the sassi – grottoes dug out of the rock. Poverty, and later Unesco’s protection, preserved Matera from development, and most of these Hobbit holes remain untouched – although, slowly and sympathetically, they are being reimagined as boutique hotels. One of the most romantic is Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita, with its cave rooms of creamy white stone, candle-lit and monastic-simple, and with views across the hills of Basilicata.

Double rooms from £165 B&B; sextantio.it/en/

Amboise Troglodyte, Loire Valley, France

Carved out of tufa limestone cliffs, the ancient troglodyte dwellings in the Loire Valley were described by Balzac as “rock caves dressed in coats of ivy”. At bijou B&B Amboise Troglodyte, across the Loire River from Amboise, the four suites created out of these rock caves boast rambling roses around the doorway and, within, are furnished with copper rolltop baths and gilt candelabras.

No room at the inn? At the neighbouring 16th-century hamlet of Chateau de Nazelles there’s also a troglodyte suite, plus an outdoor pool hunkered into the cliff; 

double rooms from €132 B&B, amboisetroglodyte.com; from €110, chateau-nazelles.com/en/

Casa Talia, Modica, Sicily

The Sicilian city of Modica is situated, somewhat challengingly, on two steep sides of a ravine. It is celebrated – indeed Unesco listed – for its splendid Baroque architecture, but long before that, Modica was a Neolithic settlement, and has been built on and added to by every civilisation since. A handful of tiny ancient houses built into the face of the ravine have been reimagined in their most civilised iteration yet at Casa Talia, the labour of love of a Milanese architect; each almost austere in its spareness, decorated with antique tiles the owner has collected from all over the country. 

doubles from €250 B&B; casatalia.it/en/

Casa Isadora, Andalucia, Spain

Even in Andalucia’s searing summers, this cute cave house makes a cool retreat, cut into the side of a cliff wall in the hills behind a quiet stretch of the Tropical Coast. Once the home of an artist, it’s now a place to stay, run by her daughter, and has two cave bedrooms with curving, whitewashed walls and shelves carved into the rock, while outside there’s a comfortable terrace shaded by trees and bougainvillea.

From £100 a night; casaisadora.com

Laura Fowler is a freelance writer and editor. Follow her on Instagram here @lady_fowler

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