Whether you're underground, overground or rambling free, this Andalusian province offers a feast for the senses. 1. Hills and hamlets Glance through the window as your plane tilts towards Almeria airport and you'll see the southern Spanish hills and hamlets surrounding Guadix spread out below, a series of folds peppered with inhabited grottos. Cuenca, Teruel and the Canary Islands have underground dwellers too, but the largest Iberian troglodyte population is concentrated here, along the 95km stretch of mountains linking Granada province with Almeria and Albacete. Because this rugged Andalusian corner is a long way from the main tourist trails, it's a good idea to hire a car on arrival (from Euro115/HK$1,200 a week; see www.centauro.net ) then head north for an hour to reach these hollow hills. 2. Guadix cave district Drawn here by rich mineral seams, the Romans created an important commercial centre on this site, but it was the Arabs who named it Guadix, from guadh-haix, meaning 'river of life'. Unfortunately, like many other water sources in this blisteringly hot province, the river from which the city derives its name dried up long ago. But the white-washed subterranean citadel founded by Julius Caesar still stands. It has the biggest concentration of Spanish troglodytes in one spot: more than 2,000 families inhabit this Unesco-protected cavern-conurbation dug out of 259 hectares of fulvous tufa (clay). Not that signs of life are easy to spot. From afar, Guadix barrio del cuevas resembles a mole-infested field decorated with chimney pots. Only the smoke curling from the man-sized chimneys (right) tells you people are down there, a metre beneath your feet. The best time to see these 'moles' emerging from their holes and having fun is in September, during the Cascamorros festival. Born out of an age-old dispute with neighbouring city Baza over the proprietorship of a holy statue, representatives of Guadix, known as Cascomorras, set out each year to 'steal it back'. When they return empty-handed they are reprimanded in a bizarre ritual orchestrated by their cave-dwelling neighbours. 3. Cave Museum The Cave Museum, near Guadix's parish church, is a fascinating labyrinth of grottos packed with pickaxes, chic donkey wear and tackle for slaughtering pigs. Duck inside and you'll understand why, with two-metre-thick walls that ensure a constant temperature of 18 degrees Celsius when it is a sausage-sizzling 40 degrees outside, locals have chosen to live in caves like this for the past three millennia. 4. Guadix new town Built around the cathedral, which was founded in 1594, Guadix's above-ground district bustles with aromatic coffee shops, bars hung with ham shanks and stores selling yellow and blue ceramics, bottles of caramel-flavoured Ponche brandy and racks of frilly, fuchsia flamenco frocks. Meson Calatrava (on Calle de la Tribuna) is a traditional bar with a cigarette-butt-strewn floor and a cosy ambience fired by local banter. It's also an excellent spot in which to sample sapid elements of local cuisine such as gambas rebozados (prawns in breadcrumbs), jampy (ham and red capsicum) and almejas al diablo (clams in spicy tomato sauce). 5. Al Jatib cave hotel With its varnished eucalyptus beams, domed walls pocked with pickaxe marks, cosy alcove beds and womb-shaped bedrooms bathed in soft gloom, Fred Flintstone would have adored the Al Jatib hotel ( www.aljatib.com ; double rooms from Euro83 a night). Luckily for modern grotto lovers, these self-catering cave houses, tastefully renovated in traditional style, have plenty of life-enhancing modern conveniences, including dishwashers, fridges and cookers. But if you don't fancy doing the washing up, head for the terrace of the hotel restaurant and enjoy outstanding views of the desert-like Baza countryside while you enjoy a melange of Arab and Andalusian cuisines. 6. Cave hammam Al Jatib's cave hammam, free for guests, Euro12 for visitors, is a seriously sensuous experience. Sink into a steaming hot pool for an hour, cocooned by vaulted cavern walls, then saunter to the grotto next door for a toning massage, from Euro20, before chilling out with a glass of mint tea in the subterranean tea room. 7. Purullena Pop over to Purullena, a neighbouring cave village, and you'll find donkeys doddering back and forth along a busy thoroughfare lined with the hand-crafted earthenware for which this region is famous. Candle-holders sell for a couple of euros, ornate and easily broken soup bowls start at Euro4 and jarras, huge terracotta vases in which wedding guests leave gifts for the happy couple, cost from Euro100. Purullena also has a cave disco (just behind the church), open at weekends, where you can let your hair down to the sounds of Herman's Hermits and the like. 8. Bacor-Olivar Frequently overlooked and rarely publicised, the troglodyte village of Bacor-Olivar in north Granada province sprawls across a dromedary-hump hill surrounded by burned-meringue folds of sierra foothills stretching to an olive-tree-lined horizon. For pure delight, wander the switchback slopes of this subterranean pueblo and savour the sensation of being the only tourist in town. 9. Los Millares Seventeen kilometres north of Almeria and spread over two hectares of Gador hillside, Los Millares is the largest known Bronze Age settle-ment in Europe. Discovered in 1891 by Spanish archaeologist Luis Siret, its fortress and 70 underground tombs were built 2,500 years before the birth of Christ. Apart from its size, archaeologists tell us this site, where copper was once smelted to make weapons and tools, is important because it has provided them with clues to understanding the transition between the Neolithic and Bronze ages. 10. Calahorra Castle The Catholic monarchs gave this 15th-century architectural gem, standing on a rocky outcrop 15km east of Guadix, to Cardinal Mendoza to thank him for helping them conquer Granada. When the cardinal died in 1495, his illegitimate son, the first Marquis of Zenete, inherited the four-tower fortress, which served as a jail during the Spanish Inquisition. Zenete proposed marriage to Lucretia, wilful daughter of power-thirsty cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, a few years later, but was spurned. Returning to Calahorra Castle, the marquis cheered himself up by having a tower and an Italian-style marble renaissance courtyard added. To visit Calahorra Castle (entry Euro2.50), knock on any of the low doors of the medieval village beneath and ask for the guarda del castillo (castle guard).