If you continue east of Granada for 58km (36 miles), you'll reach the old mining town of Guadix, a land of cave communities perched on a 304m (1,000-ft.) plateau. The town is one of the oldest in Spain and has been inhabited for centuries. Amazingly, half of its estimated population of 21,000 souls inhabit troglodyte cave houses, known as casas cueva in Spanish.
Your tour can begin in the center of town at the dignified cathedral (tel. 95-866-50-89), built between 1594 and 1706. Designed by Diego de Siloé, the architect who helped change the face of Granada, the cathedral is open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 1pm and 4 to 6pm, Sunday from 10:30am to 2pm. Admission is 3€ ($4.80).
The other town landmark is the nearby Alcazaba Arabe, an 11th-century Muslim fort opening onto panoramic views of the Ermita Nueva. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 2pm and 4 to 6:30pm, Sunday from 11am to 2pm. Admission is 1.20€ ($1.90). Facing the cathedral, head up any of the slanting side streets to the left to reach the hilltop fortress, with its series of turrets.
Another 10-minute walk uphill from the cathedral will deliver you to the Barriada de Cuevas, site of some 2,000 cave dwellings that were carved out of the soft sandstone mountains and have existed for half a millennium. Most of these cuevas are still occupied by families. From the street, about all you'll see is a whitewashed front door. Almost every cave, however, has a TV antenna. Amazingly these caves are often comfortably furnished and have pleasant year-round temperatures despite the scalding heat that descends in July and August. A few also operate as boardinghouses and will rent you a room.
For visits, call at the doorway to the Cueva-Museo de Alfarería, Calle San Miguel 46 (tel. 95-866-47-67), which contains a water well dating from the mid-17th century. On display is a collection of domestic and decorative ceramics, many of them antique. Open Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm and 4 to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 2pm. Admission is 2€ ($3.20).
Another attraction is the Cueva-Museo de Costumbres Populares, off Calle Canada de las Perales, Plaza de la Ermita Nueva s/n (tel. 95-866-26-65). You can go inside to see a completely preserved cave house that's furnished with artifacts. One could easily imagine living here. Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm and 5 to 7pm, Sunday from 10am to 2pm. Admission is 2.50€ ($4).
Maestra buses (tel. 95-866-06-57) depart from Granada to Guadix at the rate of 11 per day Monday to Saturday. On Sunday only six buses make the run. It costs 4.30€ ($6.90) for a one-way ticket. A train connection from Granada costs 6.10€ ($9.80) one-way. Either trip takes an hour.
Once you arrive at Guadix, there is a small tourist office on Avenida Mariana Pineda (tel. 95-866-26-65; www.andalucia.org), that's open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm.