Stay in a Subterranean Hotel in This Unique Australian Town

Known for its opal mines, Coober Pedy consists of underground "dugouts" where most of its residents live.

Man in Mine Tunnel, Coober Pedy, South Australia, Australia
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It's a desert town like nowhere on Earth... in fact, it kind of resembles the surface of Mars. With a large percentage of its inhabitants and attractions underground, Coober Pedy is one of Australia's more unusual destinations.

Renowned as the opal capital of the world, Australia's national gemstone has been mined here for more than 100 years. The mounds of loose stones left over from excavations dotting the opal minefields give the landscape a decidedly otherworldly atmosphere — if you can ignore the blistering heat.

Australia, opal mining village Coober Pedy
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The brutal conditions, which see temperatures upwards of 100 degrees in the summer, have led many of the South Australian town's approximately 2,000 inhabitants to live underground. Known as "dugouts," these subterranean homes, which stay around 75 degrees, are naturally eco-friendly, with no air conditioning or insulation required. The homes are ventilated by simple shafts that extend from the rock and keep outside air flowing into the rooms below.

Experience a night of subterranean serenity for yourself at one of Coober Pedy's underground hotels, such as the Desert Cave Hotel or Lookout Cave. Or, you can even camp underground.

A general view is seen of the entry into Tom's Working Opal Mine in Coober Pedy, Australia.
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Beneath the surface, art galleries and churches also dot the outback town, including the spectacular Serbian Orthodox Church. Built in 1993, the church was dug out by volunteers, and at its deepest point, reaches 56 feet below the earth.

Beyond the town itself, spectacular outback sights await. "There is a lot of unique beauty around Coober Pedy, with the Breakaways and Painted Desert not too far away," Brent Hill, then executive director of marketing, South Australian Tourism Commission, told Travel + Leisure in 2019. "If you're into truly one-of-a-kind destinations, then this has to be on your list."

Getting There

Coober Pedy is about a nine-hour drive from Adelaide and a seven-hour drive from Alice Springs.

Regional Express, aka Rex, operates flights between Adelaide and Coober Pedy, which take two hours. Greyhound Australia offers a daily bus service from Adelaide.

Australia, Coober Pedy, Opal Shop
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When to Go

Coober Pedy's desert climate equals warm winters (with cool nights) and hot summers. With so many attractions underground, it is possible to visit throughout the year; however, January and February are exceptionally hot months. A visit on either side of summer's height may make for a more comfortable experience.

Coober Pedy, The Opal Capital Of The World
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Exploring the Mines

The Old Timers Mine dates back to the earliest days of opal mining, featuring a hand-dug mine from 1916. At Umoona Opal Mine & Museum, visitors can learn the Aboriginal history of the area and the mines, while Tom's Opal Mine offers guided tours. A comprehensive list of local attractions can be found at

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