Galera - Spring and Summer



By AnnaBeth and Olivier

We promised you a post about Galera and here it is. There is so much to share about this ancient Andalusian village and the surrounding Altiplano (high plateau) de Granada. Today’s post will give you an introduction.



Galera is a village in Andalusia, 100 miles northeast of the historic city of Granada. The population is mainly Spanish with a generous smattering of British expats who've chosen this area as their dream retirement home. A few Germans, Americans, French and Bolivians add to the mix.

Galera is a white troglodyte village. The hillsides are peppered with cave dwellings dug deep into the mountainside and dating back to the ancient Moors. More recently, peasant farmers have used the caves to house their livestock and some have lived in them or dug out new caves for themselves and their families. That said, Spanish villagers have traditionally preferred to live in houses built in the center of town, associating the caves with their Moorish rivals whom they displaced. Since the arrival of expats who are enamored with the caves, Spanish villagers seem to be developing a new appreciation for the natural beauty and year round coolness of in-the-mountain living.

Early spring just before the trees burst with green. The caves are along the hillside, the houses are in the center.


According to the 2009 census 1,100 people live in Galera full time. Village dwellings tend to appear rather empty most of the year, as many residents have moved to the cities during recent decades in search of work.

Galera is often so quiet that we hear our voices reverberate from our side of the hill across the valley. The peacefulness is profound. During summer festival time families return to the village to gather for their yearly reunion and the place becomes lively with children and music. But “lively” in Galera still includes the rich silence of an afternoon siesta which is sacred throughout the countryside in this part of the world.

Interesting note - In the cities, “siesta” is disappearing as 9-to-6 office schedules and tourism encourage businesses to stay open throughout the day. Even when urban businesses do shut down from 2-5 pm, employees often live too far to return home for a rest. Yet the Spanish still sit down for dinner at 9 or 10 pm and commonly socialize or watch T.V. until 1 or 2 am. Apparently, Spain now has the biggest sleep deficit among European countries. Changing from a traditionally late night culture to a contemporary work world has its hazards!

Empty streets during siesta even during “busy” summertime. We enjoy the pace of life.


As the song goes, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.


View from the foot bridge over the Rio Galera. The river is now dry except in early spring. The rich soil of the riverbed is used by villagers for community gardening. 


Last winter it rained a lot so we had a lush spring and the farmers were happy.



Evening view of the footbridge 


Early sunset up the hill from the village center. The buildings on the right are caves.


The two churches of Galera


We wanted to give you an introduction to the history of the place. The story is beautiful, painful and complicated. It’s about a culture of tolerance and brilliance that was lost to centuries of war and persecution. The Spanish Inquisition was no fun and the people of Granada and its surroundings suffered dearly.

The original cave villages were built by the Moors who began arriving from Africa in 711 AD. The Moors were master farmers, artists and engineers who transformed the arid land into lush, fruitful gardens using land terracing and irrigation techniques that were innovative even by our modern standards.

The Moors thrived in and around Granada for centuries but throughout the Moorish period the Catholic powers were intent on reconquering. When they did, the Spanish Inquisition became an all out ethnic purging designed to eliminate the Moors, Jews, Protestants, Gypsies, and any other non-Catholics communities from Spain. In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella finally conquered Granada, which had been the epicenter of Moorish culture. The war in the area around Granada went through several phases and lasted about a century. In the end, the Catholic re-conquerors were ruthless. In 1570, Don Juan of Austria (brother of the Spain’s King Felipe II) led his army against the remaining residents of the Moorish village of Galera. Caves dwellings were smoked, agricultural land was salted, and every last remaining resident of Galera was killed. Gruesome.


First, we'd like to explain a little local cave lingo. “Unreformed” caves are those which are still in a relatively or entirely primitive state. “Reformed” caves have been renovated to a modern standard (some more, some less).

The Spanish people tend to prefer flat cave walls that resemble the walls of houses. The Brits prefer to retain the natural curves of the mountainside, Moorish-style.

Our friend (and local yoga teacher extraordinaire) Josie and her husband Danny offer some info about the history.

This is one of the hillsides of Galera "around the corner" from where we live.


Our British friends, Nicki and Graham, reformed these adjacent caves. They live in one and rent out the other to vacationers.


Just a short walk down the hill from where we live.


The local farmers tell us their bee population is doing fine.


“Reformed” caves, Spanish style.


     A tiny “unreformed” cave.  Note the electric counter next to the door.


    Some of you have been wanting to know what it’s like inside a cave. Every one is 

    different. Here are examples of two caves.

    Our U.S./Brit friends Debbie and John fixed this cave up beautifully. 










    Home sweet home. The terrace of our cave. 


    In winter, wood stoves are the most common type of heating. Very cozy.



Every village has its summer festival and some people spend their summer nights partying from one village to the next. For a couple of weeks in August the Galera celebration begins in late afternoon and each day the village offers different festivities. There’s a horse procession, sangria party, games for kids, family tours of historic sites, outdoor theater, and medieval night. This year there was even a laughter therapy hour sponsored by the Asociacion de Mujeres (Women’s Association).

The music starts around 11 pm. From our cave way up on the hill we don’t hear it but we have friends who live close to the Plaza Mayor (main square) who say the bands sometimes play till 8 am. This year we saw Flamenco, Blues, and a wild Spanish band with an Irish flair called Ambulancia Irlandesa.

This game is called cucañas. A blindfolded child pulls on a confetti string that’s hanging from the bottom of a bag and lots of little prizes fall out along with confetti. The children all rush to the ground to grab the prizes, then another child takes a turn pulling the confetti string of a new bag. 


Here on the Altiplano de Granada, the tradition of Flamenco is alive and well. Flamenco has been influenced by the many cultures and ethnicities of Andalusia. The Romani or “gypsies” migrated from northern India and spent a couple of centuries passing through Iran and Africa, picking up influences from those cultures before finding their way to Spain around the 15th century. Their influence is an essential aspect of the passionate and complex Spanish flamenco music and dance, however Flamenco also includes influences of the Greeks, Roman Catholics, Sephardic Jews and North African Berbers who all lived in Spain.









Medieval Market night. Breathing in aromas of the herbs and spices felt like a healing.


Festival decorations on the village square 


We hope you’ve enjoyed this first glimpse into Galera. We plan to follow up with posts about the surrounding countryside, archeological sites, and the food and people of this white village where we live in the Andalusian countryside.

 End of summer in the Altiplano cave country.


We’d love you to comment below and let us know your thoughts!



-1 #28 Bill Cobbett 2018-04-28 18:02
Hi Olivier and AnnaBeth, we are Bill and Antje, British and German, and we are the new owners of John and Debbie's cave. It doesn't look like it did when they had it, our needs are different! You are welcome to stop and chat if you are passing. I'm guessing that your place is quite close.
0 #27 Rosalilnd Sedacca 2018-01-11 22:44
Delighted to have met you at Heart Space in Delray Beach on Monday. Really enjoyed visiting your website and learning about this beautiful and historic region in Spain. Wish I knew about it when we were in Granada 2 years ago! I hope you'll stay in touch!
0 #26 Felice 2017-11-06 22:52
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! No point in keeping all this wonderfulness to yourselves, you little sharer, you. That post's a keeper. I'll be going back to get a dose of Galera often. ps. Why is it a white village? What other color villages are there? xoxo
0 #25 Pat 2017-10-26 03:53
AnnaBeth, thanks for the intro to this absolutely spellbinding world! Didn't know it exists and would never have thought cave living could be comfortable. Looks great.
0 #24 OMara 2017-10-19 08:56
Thanks what a great trip you took us on : )

love, O'M
0 #23 Nitza Rich 2017-10-18 21:18
Loved seeing the inside of the caves. Thanks
0 #22 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 20:40
Quoting Laurence McNamara:
Thank you, Annabeth for the wonderful history and the fabulous pictures.

Glad to be able to share with you, Laurence!
0 #21 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 20:39
Quoting Lynn Anderson:
Thanks so much for an enchanting and wonderful story Annabeth. You are so descriptive that it makes you feel as if you are right there in the middle of the adventure.

Glad to take you with us, Lynn!
0 #20 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 20:37
Quoting elizabeth jones:
Sounds heavenly. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you have found your spiritual home! What are the temperatures like in the winter? Does it go down to freezing?What time do people get up in the mornings if they stay up so late???

Hi Liz, Lovely to hear from you! It can get cold in winter - last winter it snowed twice. But even in winter the afternoons are generally sunny and often warm. People start work by 8 or 9 am and the farmers start earlier. They take their siesta 2-5 pm, which includes lunch and resting. In summer the siesta is 2-6 pm at least.
0 #19 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 20:06
[quote name="Joy Freeman"]Wow! so cool! I LOVE your home and some of the others.... thanks for all the interior
ps Is the house you are in the one you decided to buy or are you renting that?

Hi Joy, Yes, these caves also remind me of cobb or straw bale. In this case, nature dictates the shapes. We're renting our cave from a friend who lives in Ireland. She designed it beautifully but it's not for sale. We looked at a lot of caves but decided to stay where we are for now because it's our favorite reformed cave in the area. We could of course decide to undertake the process of reforming an unreformed cave...
0 #18 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 19:49
Quoting Laurie:
It looks enchanting. It was lovely to escape to Galera for a while :-)

We're waiting for you to escape to Galera in real life...
0 #17 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 19:47
Quoting Arielle:
Wow. I just saw your previous post from the wintertime yesterday (have had mucho catching up to do!) and today, this one...I think I want to be an expat. First thing Rob says when I start showing him some of your cave pix is, "What's the cost of living there?" You guys have found yourselves a real jewel. Now I'm wondering what you're thinking for the next step.... Thank you both and lots of Love to you!!!

We're going to put together some info about the cost of visiting Galera. I guess we can also address the cost of living!
+1 #16 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 19:41
We're so happy to be able to offer a little window of peace and inspiration in this conflicted world. Spain certainly has had its share of conflict and obviously it still does. We take advantage of the spaces of peace ...
+1 #15 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 19:37
Quoting Helene:
It's wonderful to read about it all and to have it to go back to when I need a break for my silly, stressful, urban life. Lucky you! My love to Olivier,

And maybe you'll come back to visit again! We love the rural life as well...
+1 #14 AnnaBeth 2017-10-17 19:36
Quoting Josh:
Looks great! Thanks for the historical background and nice photos.

Hi Josh, we look forward to your visit when it's right!