Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

The architectural landscape of Santorini is unique, as you can find cave houses in every village, and here is their story. These are underground buildings such as homes, churches, canaves, and warehouses. Santorini cave houses are the traditional buildings of the island and the ones that characterize the unique beauty of Santorini despite the unrealistic architecture.

The architectural landscape of Santorini is unique, as you can find cave houses in every village, and here is their story. These are underground buildings such as homes, churches, canaves, and warehouses. Santorini cave houses are the traditional buildings of the island and the ones that characterize the unique beauty of Santorini despite the unrealistic architecture.

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

Because of its geographic position, Santorini always used to be an important center of shipping within the Mediterranean Sea. Until the beginning of the 20th century, a wharf was located in the bay of Armeni underneath Oia. It was home to a fleet of approximately 130 sailing boats. They used to travel and trade with other cultures. For this reason, many ship owners and their crews lived in the area of Oia.

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

The crew members were not able to build their houses on top of the hill because of poverty. The peculiarity of the volcanic terrain of Santorini offered a much cheaper alternative: it allowed the inhabitants to carve most of a building or even the entire one into the earth.

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

The Santorini cave houses were the small and needy homes of the island, where the workers of the ships and the more impoverished families lived. As opposed to the two-story neo-classical mansions built by the wealthy ship owners.

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

They were cave-like residences, oblong, carved into the Theraic earth, without foundations, with a vaulted ceiling and a narrow facade. Theraic earth is an excellent building material. Mixed with limestone, which the locals found at Profitis Elias mountain, it forms a sturdy plaster that solidifies with humidity and, in time, becomes even harder.

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The layer of Theraic earth also contains pumice, a very porous, froth-like igneous rock and a bad conductor of heat and sound, so the Santorini cave houses are kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Important is they show high resistance to earthquakes. 

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story                 

The traditional Santorini cave houses usually consisted of only one room.
The cooking place was outside to prevent the smoke disturbance. Also called firecrackers, it was made up of two stones. In between those, the wood was lit to heat the cooking cauldron.

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

The toilet of the Santorini cave houses was usually in a separate room outside the house, and it was raised, reachable over some steps. In the space created underneath, the sewage was collected and transported to the fields used as fertilizer.

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

The "cistern" was the only source of water. The rainwater that fell into the yard or the roof and passed through the gutters was collected there. As a filter, they used small sticks tied in a bunch that was placed in the trenches.

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

Also interesting are the other elements of the construction, such as carved recesses, built furniture, stairs, ovens, chimneys, and flower beds in the yards.

Santorini Cave Houses and their Story

Most of these Santorini cave houses are today's accommodation for the numerous tourists visiting this stunning island. Former shelter to the poorest of the poor in Santorini, these cave houses turned into traditional yet modernized villas and suites because their view is of great value today. They are the perfect hideaway for couples on a romantic getaway or even on a honeymoon. Just as the Demeter Cave House in Pyrgos, a stunningly designed, stylish and well taken care of cave house awaiting its guests.

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