12 Incredible Cave Cities

Featured — By Rachel Greenberg on September 8, 2011 at 10:01 am
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10.  Bandiagara Escarpment – Dogon, Mali

Image: pi.zwsk/Flickr

Inhabited since the 3rd century B.C., the original cave dwellers in this region were driven out by the current residents, the Dogon. When the Dogon arrived in the 14th century, they were drawn to the cliff village because they offered cooler air, protection, and a place to bury their dead. Since the valleys below are prone to flash  flooding, above ground cemetaries were the only way to keep their deceased safe from unearthing.

Image: Martha de Jong-Lantink/Flickr

Image: Mark Abel/Flickr

Although the Dogon people have lived in relative peace for centuries, recent interest in the cliff village from tourists have begun to unravel their traditional culture. Getting there isn’t easy though. To visit, tourists must be driven off the main road for miles, an then traverse a trail cut into the cliffs to get from village to village.

11. Mesa Verde – Montezuma County, Colorado

Image: DClemm/Flickr

Image: islasdepadrogue/Flickr

There aren’t many examples of cliff dwellers in North America, but the ones we do have are pretty spectacular. Native Americans made the cliffs overlooking what is now a lush valley in southwest Colorado their homes for over 700 years. The first structures were built in 600 A.D. and were abandoned in 1300 A.D. Surprisingly, the cities were so well hidden they weren’t “discovered” by the outside world until 1873, almost a hundred years after Spanish explorers traveled through the area.

Image: kool_skatkat/Flickr

The cliff complex has multiple sections, but the most spectacular and best known is the largest complex, the Cliff Palace. Even though it suffered irreparable damage and looting during the end of the 1800s, it still stands as one of the treasures of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples and is both a National Park and a World Heritage Site.

Image: kern.justin/Flickr

12. Sassi di Matera – Italy

Image: franctata/Flickr

Image: Maurizio Montanaro/Flickr

Sassi means “stones” and the aptly named Sassi di Matera refers to the old town of Matera. And by old, we mean old. The area has prehistoric history and is considered one of the first human settlements in Italy. The original homes in Sassi di Matera were dug into the mountainside, created layer by layer, with roads running over the homes’ roofs. Given the incredible age of most of the homes, the Italian government forcibly relocated much of population of Matera in the ’50s, and the remaining population lived in poverty.

Image: remuz [Jack The Ripper]/Flickr

But in the 1980s, with the help of the EU and Italian government, Sassi di Matera because a popular tourist destination and the region flourished.

Image: Doc. Di0/Flickr

Image: Maurizio Montanaro/Flickr

Have you visited an amazing cave city we left off the list? Let us know!

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Tags: Afghanistan, Australia, cave dwellings, caves, China, Colorado, Georgia, Iran, italy, jordan, Mali, Petra, Tunisia, Turkey

    5 Comments

  • Christina says:

    I really loved Cappadocia. It was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited. Jordan and Tunisia are next on the list.

    • Kristina says:

      Tunisia and Jordan are two of the ones I have been to! I highly recommend both. Tunisia was absolutely brilliant since it’s off the beaten path for tourists.

  • Adam says:

    Nope, I have not been to any of them. I think I saw one of these on House Hunters International. I think I might need to add a few of these onto my must see list.

  • Andrea says:

    Petra is remarkabler. But I thought it has been determined the Treasury is a tomb for a family. There arte something like 700 structures. It takes days to see, and the entrance – the mile long Siq is the most dramatic gate to a city EVER.

  • Obiora Ugwuayi says:

    I love to receive mail on newly discovered places I can visit in adventure, I love adventure!

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