Get outta town: You won’t regret visiting these mystical hand-carved caves

by Amanda Push

You don’t have to be your every day spelunker to enjoy Ra Paulette’s hand-carved caves. Heck – you don’t even have to be a spelunker at all. You just have to have a pair of eyes and like cool things, and if you don’t, why are you reading DGO?

Paulette’s work on these caves is perhaps one of the most astounding works of art we’ve ever seen. The New Mexico artist digs and chisels his way into the earth before hand-carving beautiful designs across the walls. There are currently 14 different caves located just north of Santa Fe in the desert, and each of the dwellings are different.

While Paulette sometimes uses chasms already cut into the earth, other times he’ll burrow into sandstone cliffs using shovels and pickaxes and begin his subterranean creations there.

When it comes to designing each cave, Paulette includes features such as skylights, doors, benches, and holes for candles. Carved into the walls are designs ranging from spirals to tree trunks and flowers. Some designs look so natural that if you didn’t know they were man-made, you could easily believe they were some kind of weird nature mishap that ended up looking like a work of art.

Paulette has been making these fantasy worlds for roughly three decades – as a hobby, mind you. He isn’t in it for the money, according to Atlas Obscura. He considers his work more of a public service and exercise in creativity than anything else.

“These caves are designed as transformative spaces,” Paulette said in a documentary about his work, “Cavedigger,” by director Jeffrey Karoff. “The fact that the cave is underground and you feel the earth around you, yet the sun is pouring in, those are the juxtapositions of the two metaphors of our life: the within and the without. It’s a perceptual trick that brings out deep, expansive emotionality.” Sounds pretty meta, if you ask us.

After “Cavedigger” was released, Paulette’s popularity blew up. A realtor sold several of his caves, and the land around it, for close to a million dollars, according to a 2014 article by CBS News, though the artist never saw a penny of it.

As of 2015, Paulette was working on what he considered to be his magnum opus project – most likely his last, he said in the documentary.

“There’s just physically a finite time for which someone can work almost completely by themselves,” Paulette said.

If it’s anything like any of his other caves, it’ll be a truly psychedelic, underground sci-fi experience. You can get a guided tour of these badass caves by visiting

Amanda Push


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