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Sierra de las Nieves
The Sierra las Nieves ( Mountains of the Snow) a UNESCO biosphere is full of rich, natural areas. The area is full of examples of diverse vegetation. Among these is The Pinsapo Pine, a conifer considered to be the oldest species of native Mediterranean firs, More Pinsapo are found in the Sierra las Nieves than anywhere in the world.
The bird life is varied and profuse,the Golden Eagle and Bonelli Eagle inhabit the highest ledges whilst further down, the Peregrine Falcon and Griffon Vulture can be often spied circling and swooping between the mountains and valleys. Other birds prefer the deeply wooded areas, such as the Shor Toed Eagle, the quaintly named Booted Eagle and the Goshawk and Sparrowhawk. More commonplace birds, are the Crested Tit, the Nuthatch and the Great Spotted Woodpecker which are all abundant throughout this region.
The 9 villages in the Bioshphere are unique and special each one has it's own characteristics and way of life. All are worth a visit to explore, and using The Balcon de Castillo as a base to explore this wonderful Biosphere is one of the better ways of being in the Sierra de las Nieves.
Alozaina is beautiful perched on top of a hill, aproaching the village from Casarabonela, the first sight is of the church sitting at the top surveying the valley below.
In the 1570 rebellion against the Moors the village was beseiged by the attacking Moors, and was occupied only by women, children and the elderly. Led by Maria Sagredo they succesfully defended the village by throwing bee hives at the attackers.They managed to hold the Moors at bay until help arrived.
Alozaina has a bit of everything; Amazing views, good food, quality accommodation, arts and crafts, a farm-school where the children learn to coexist with nature and even a rest home for lovers of the spiritual life.
Guaro there are two entrances to Guarro and these are dominated in spring by the perfume of the Almond trees, the pink and white blossom transforms the hillsides around the village. The Rio Grande river runs below the village. As the seasons change so does the landscape around this old village that has roots in the age of Copper. It was made into a municipality in 1640 by King Phillip IV.
Ojen has traces of human habitation from early Neolithic times in the caves around the town, Romans and Moors were occupants of the Ojen, there are still vestiges of a Moorish castle to be seen in the town. Ojen is also the home of the wine museum, this building used to be a distillery, in 1997 it was opened as a museum of wine. Here it is possible to learn about the wines of the Malaga region, the Consejo Regulador de las Denominaciones de Origen (the Control Board for the Origin of Wines) of "Málaga" and "Sierras de Málaga".
There are many other sites to visit such as the Olive oil museum, dedicted to the proccess of extracting oil from the fruit that is so prevalent in Andalucia,the parish church and the fountain of "Los Chorros" that visitors often stop at to take a drink in the heat of the summer.
Casarabonela is a product of it's Arab and Roman past, the streets are winding and full of suprises as they wend their way through the village. From the top where the ruins of the Moorish castle overlook the valley and the village, the whole valley of the Guadalhorce is spread out below.
There is a prized and plentiful supply of water in Casartabonela, indeed there are several mineral water bottling plants on the outskirts of the village, and the fountains in the squares in the village are constantly spouting this sweet pure water. Many locals fill up their water containers at these spouts. The history of Casarabonela is described elswhere on this site.
Istan the town of Istan was well established during the Roman era and came into prominence during the Arab occupation. There are plentiful water sources in the area and water has played a large part in its development. Raisins, wines and silk was exported to the whole of Europe due to the water canalization systems, still visible and working to this day. Istan is a white village surrounded by the Sierras, green and verdant with Carob, Pine and Cork trees. Terraces of vines, vegetables and fruit are present all around. The resevoir below the town supplies water to the Marbella area, a testament to the profound supply of water.
Tolox lies in the heart of the Sierra de Las Nieves it dates back to Neolithic times and it is possible to visit the cave at La Tinaja where decorated pottery has been found. The village nestles in the Sierras with mountains all around. In recent times Tolox has become a Spa town due to the waters that issue from the springs in the town. These springs were used by villagers to cure all sorts of ills and ailments, by bathing and drinking the bitter water. In 1869 the waters were classified by a pharmacist resident of Tolox as alkaline-brominated, ammonium-sulphuric, ferromagnesian waters. The Spa is open and frequented by visitors to this day.
El Burgo No visitor can remain unmoved by the first view of El Burgo. Surrounded by thickly forested mountains, The river Turron runs around the village, and supplies water to the fields.The mountains with Oaks,Pines and Spanish firs, Olive groves, surround El Burgo. The village has a strategic location that has been used by so many different occupiers. El Burgo has been inhabited since the times of builders with lithic axes until the present day, passing through the Celts, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Visigoths and the Arabs. Today wander through the streets and square of this delightful village and enjoy the atmosphere and soak up the history.
Monda this village nestled between the mountains and the valley has been classified as a Place of Historical Interest. Monda has the remains of the most interesting Roman and medieval road of the whole Sierra de las Nieves. It is located 700 metres from the village, in the direction of Coín and consists of three sections, one Roman, one with medieval repair-work, and a third, more recent, that shows some small steps used to block the wheels of the carriages.
Above the village stands the castle of La Villeta, Monda was also declared a "Picturesque Place" in 1971.
Yunquera On the road to El Burgo and Ronda the name of Yunquera stems from the reeds that are prevelant in the area, this is also because of the abundance of water, the mountains around Yunquera have the greatest abundance, over 2 thousand acres, of the Pinsapo Pine( Spanish firs),anywhere in the world. The Moors were probably here in the 8th century, and possibly the Romans, although there are no remains to be seen.
There are the remains of a castle/watchtower built by the Moors above the village.
The village has a spring known as the "Plano" supplying water to the village and the fields, this spring has never run dry, this water was also used to power mills in the village, a total of six mills used to produce flour.
The Sierra de las Nieves can be visited at any time of the year. In springtime, the mountains are full of a variety of flowers of all colours. In the hot Summer months cool water coming down from the mountain, running through the rivers, streams, springs and cascades, provides a welcome sound and a picnic by the banks of one of these streams is a delight especially after hiking for a few hours.
The Autumn heralds the arrival of the colder weather , the leaves of the many trees are blown every which way and the ground is covered. Winter often brings the namesake of the Sierras, snow, covers the highest mountains. At all seasons the Biosphere is full of life and interest, walking or cycling in the mountains, is a great way to connect with inland Spain as it was, because in the Sierra de las Nieves life in the mountains is very much as it was. A copmplete contrast from the hustle and bustle down on the coast.