While most of us think of caves as dark, damp, scary places, some innovative humans think of them as a warm and cozy home. Take a look at our gallery of stone homes that will rock your world. Some are ancient stone dwellings that now serve as modern households, while others are inventions of ingenious architects who have experimented with contemporary cave living. Whether these homes are man-made or natural formations, they are a testament to mankind’s ability to think outside of the box.
Beckham Creek Cave Haven: United States
Beckham Creek Cave Haven is a 6,000 square feet dwelling built right into the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. The cave was first built in 1984 as a bomb shelter from nuclear war, and since then it has had its fair share of owners, having reportedly been used as a nightclub and even a bordello. The current owners purchased the karst cave dwelling in 1997 and have used it as a lodge ever since. A karst cave is formed when soluble rocks like limestone or gypsum dissolve over time, leaving underground drainage systems with caves and sinkholes. It took over four years to complete the construction of the lodge. The house has a main entrance hall that divides into rooms on two levels, and all walls and ceilings are all cave. The windows are very large to let in as much natural sunlight as possible.
Cave Palace Ranch: United States
The stunning Cave Palace Ranch is built into the natural red rock of Utah’s desert region near the town of Monticello. Amazingly, the cave stays cool year round, even in the hot desert sun. The home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a dining area, and a kitchen. The home is truly off the grid. It is entirely solar powered using a state of the art power inverter, solar panels and a whopping 24 batteries. There is a backup gas generator just in case, too!. The homeowners operate all the modern electrical conveniences like a refrigerator, television and hair dryer. The water supply comes from an 85 foot deep well. They’ve thought of everything, and certainly don’t lack any modern conveniences.
Matmata Cave Dwellings: Tunisia
You probably know more than you think about the Matmana Caves in Tunisia, or at least you’ve seen them before. Where, you ask? If you’re a Star Wars fan, then you know these caves as the childhood home of Luke Skywalker in the original 1976 film. Matmata is a traditional underground village of Berber people who live in structures called troglodyte dwellings. These are built by digging large ground pits and then forming artificial caves to be used as rooms . Most homes have multiple pits connected by trenches as passageways.
No one knows how old the ancient settlement is, but legend claims it dates back to 265 BC. This is an ancient region hidden from the outside world until 1967. That year, severe floods prompted the local people to seek relief from the Tunisian government. Ten years later, George Lucas wanted Hotel Sidi Driss as a filming location. The hotel was popular for a while but then became obscure again until a Star Wars fan began restoring the rooms in 1995. The hotel was used again in 2000 for the Attack of the Clones film. Due to the success of the films, the hotel is open year round and can accommodate 145 guests in four separate caverns. There is even a fifth pit that serves as a hotel restaurant.
The Troglodyte Village Kandovan: Iran
There is another troglodyte village in Iran known as Kandovan. Although Iran's northwest province of East Azerbaijan is relatively isolated, Kandovan remains a very popular tourist destination. The village is said to be over 700 years old, created by people who hid in the caves to flee Mongol hordes. The unusual village was carved into hardened volcanic ash from the now-dormant Mount Sahand, and looks remarkably like a termite colony. In fact, the homes are called “karan”, which means “beehive” in the local Turkic dialect. The modern cave dwelling residents have modernized and expanded over the years. Many of the homes are now two to four stories and have porches, windows, doors and stairwells carved into the rock. The caves are some of the most energy efficient homes on Earth because the rock provides superb insulation throughout the long cold season in the region.
The Rock Sites and Cave Homes in Cappadocia: Turkey
The stunning rocky wonderland of Cappadocia, Turkey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. The honeycomb landscape of cave homes, churches, storehouses and stables are all carved into the soft stone that is natural in this region. The soft stone was formed when volcanic ash solidified into rock and then eroded over time to form the pinnacle and mushroom-shaped formations in the region. Some of these formations are 130 feet high, and some of the underground tunnels are eight stories high underground! . The ancient region has religious significance as well, because hundreds of Christians who fled Roman persecution lived here; their fresco paintings dating from Byzantine times in 4 A.D. have been preserved to this day.
The Yaodongs: Northern China
We were astonished to learn that 40 million people live in Northern China’s Yaodong cave homes, which date from the second millennium B.C. The caves were first inhabited during China’s Bronze Age and still serve as modern insulated homes, cool in the summers and warm during the winters. Many farmers in the area now build their Yaodongs partially or entirely outdoors; the modern architecture is influenced by the original underground homes, often featuring semicircular arches constructed with stones and bricks. The word “yaodong” literally means "house cave". These homes are very common in the Loess Plateau area in northern China, and are found mainly in the four provinces of Gansu, Shanxi, Henan and the Hui Autonomous Region of Ningxia. The homes are usually carved into a hillside or excavated horizontally from a naturally occurring sunken area. As a result, very little heating or cooling is needed. Since 2000, scientists and researchers have taken great interest in these dwellings, for historical purposes but also to serve as examples of sustainable design for future projects.