A “bigger is better” approach to building pervades the travel sector. Cloud-grazing skyscraper hotels and palatial resorts come to mind. But that’s certainly not the only category of vacation lodgings. Many conscious wanders are turning their attention to more grounded, mindful types of dwellings that foster a deeper connection to the natural world. And, yes, in some cases that means physically digging deeper…like going underground or into the underside of a cliff.
Sure, hotel rooms and suites have long been the norm. But something has shifted recently and there’s more of a desire than ever before to step outside the box in search of utterly unique accommodations — whether that’s underwater chambers where fish swim past, transparent orbs in the desert below a sky of stars, whimsical treehouses, or fantastical caves. Of course, the idea of snoozing in a cavern isn’t new. Our ancestors did it millennia ago. A far cry from Stone Age living, many present-day properties are injecting modern conveniences into long-standing craggy structures in a way that feels very of the moment. These dreamy troglodyte hideaways serve as a true escape, a place to leave the stress of daily life behind even for just a night or two.
Ahead, 10 incredible caves that invite overnight visitors to experience the wonder of a subterranean stay.
Argos in Cappadocia: Uchisar, Turkey
Cappadocia’s fairytale terrain makes it the most popular hot air balloon destination. After a day spent soaring high above the fairy chimneys, pinnacles, and pigeon houses, discover the wondrous underground world that’s waiting at Argos in Cappadocia. A favorite among couples, this rehabbed monastery turned boutique hotel in the village of Uçhisar offers subsurface rooms and suites that ooze romance. The curvature of volcanic rocks shapes the interiors, which are appointed with warm yet sleek furnishings and traditional Turkish handicrafts. Some even have in-cave pools.
Les Hautes Roches: Rochecorbon, France
Les Hautes Roches, part of the Relais & Châteaux portfolio, presides over the Loire Valley from the top of a tula cliff. A sense of serenity permeates the entire property. Part of that rests on the fact that the limestone caverns attached to the Abbey of Marmoutier were previously inhabited by devotees to monasticism. The former monk dormitories were completely reimagined into luxurious halcyon hideaways befitting discerning travelers. Etched details echo a peaceful past. Bathtubs and chandeliers reflect the posh present.
Iconic Santorini: Imerovigli, Greece
Situated in the white-washed hillside village of Imerovigli, away from the throngs of tourists in Oia, sits a tranquil, timeless, and sophisticated grotto stay at the adults-only Iconic Santorini. Spread out over five levels, guest quarters are caved into the famous volcanic caldera and individually designed to resemble traditional Cyclades residences. Full-blown Greek island vacation mode means unwinding in your own personal outdoor jetted plunge pool on the veranda and watching the sunset over the sparkling waters of the Aegean Sea.
La Dimora di Metello: Matera, Italy
For an unforgettable evening in the heart of Matera’s UNESCO-listed Sasso Barisano, check into La Dimora di Metello. Tucked inside ancient caves that date back to the Paleolithic period, this atmospheric hotel marries old-world charm and modern elegance in an intimate environment. Four distinctive suites show off excavated rock alongside modern minimalist design elements such as light wood, neutral textiles, and glass bathrooms. Besides the blissful soundproof sleeping quarters, there’s a lovely terrace and a serene spa notched into the limestone.
Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve: Cederberg, South Africa
Sold as “an oasis on the edge of time,” Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve honors the beauty of nature at every turn while breaking from the typical safari lodge mold of tented camps. Constructed to be an extension of the scenic landscape, the cave suites trade cell phone reception and Wi-Fi for soaking tubs and sunset sweeps. The façades are man-made but you’d never know. Everything looks so innate as though it had always existed amongst the rock formations and native fynbos.
Beckham Creek Cave: Parthenon, Arkansas
The majesty of the Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas shines at Beckham Creek Cave. Attracting families and groups of pals with a penchant for the finer things (and $1,600 a night to spend), this natural cavern turned exclusive 5,800-square-foot vacation rental has an open-plan living area that’s punctuated by a dramatic waterfall, a state-of-the-art gourmet kitchen, four bedrooms — including a spacious upstairs suite with a bed encircled by stalactites — and an outdoor patio that supplies jaw-dropping panoramas. The most VIP perk? A private helipad.
Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita: Matera, Italy
Nestled in UNESCO-listed Sassi of Matera, Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita preserves the history and character of the ancient cave dwellings. The original shape and materials of the caverns inform the design. By integrating contemporary comforts such as freestanding tubs and king-size beds with ergonomic mattresses, the hotel provides a head-turning example of how to blend old and new. The rest of the property follows the same respectful, conservation-oriented roadmap with breakfast served at communal tables inside a medieval church.
Kayakapi Premium Caves: Urgüp, Turkey
The otherworldly region of Cappadocia houses a vast array of formerly tenantable caverns that have been painstakingly restored and brought into the 21st century — few have the gleam of Kayakapi Premium Caves. Receiving high praise from past visitors, this long-favored Urgüp boutique hotel comprises hundreds of cave houses and historical structures. Each of the subterranean rooms and suites is unique. Luxurious amenities (think: in-ground pools and Turkish baths), antiques, and, of course, heaps of rocks are the common thread.
Perivolas Lifestyle Houses: Oia, Greece
Santorini isn’t lacking in caves turned into chic Grecian hotels. Located in the tourist-darling village of Oia, splurge-worthy Perivolas Lifestyle Houses sets itself apart from the rest with a sense of effortless elegance and relaxed elan that’s impossible to replicate. Enchanting Cycladic architecture plays a huge part in that. Sculpted into the iconic topography like some sort of masterful Greek pottery, white-washed grotto suites flaunt hand-woven rugs, en-suite domed bathrooms, and outdoor terraces with sun loungers. And the vistas? In a word, wow.
Kokopelli’s Cave: Farmington, New Mexico
Built into 65-million-year-old sandstone rock of Tertiary Ojo Alamo in northwestern New Mexico, Kokopelli’s Cave is the most rugged overnight experience on the list. The lairs sit 70 feet beneath the surface. Intrepid travelers enter by taking a near vertical sloping path carved into a cliff. Such effort comes with a big payoff. Cavernous rooms with Southwestern-style furnishings, waterfall showers, and spectacular views of the La Plata River Valley. (It’s closed from December to February, so best to plan accordingly.)