What to do and what to see in Tolox

The municipality of Tolox extends along the eastern slope of Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, its entire municipal territory being a protected area, either as natural park or as Sierra de las Nieves World Natural Reserve.

The location of Tolox allows privileged access to the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, through a forest track that later branches off towards Istán to the south and Ronda to the northwest. Among the different municipalities in the province of Málaga with which Tolox borders, is Yunquera to the north, Ronda to the northwest, Parauta to the west, Istán to the south, Monda to the southeast, Guaro to the east and Alozaina to the northeast.

The bed of Grande River runs through the town from northeast to south. Within its municipal area stands the Torrecilla, the second highest peak in the province of Málaga, and the Sima GESM (GESM Chasm) the deepest chasm in Andalusia, at 1,101 meters.

The famous Fuente Amargosa Spa is also located in Tolox, whose waters have medicinal properties.

Tolox's main economic activity is linked to nature tourism and health tourism.

History of Tolox

The first remains found in Tolox that reveal the presence of human in these lands, date back to the Neolithic Age and were found in the Cueva de la Tinaja (Tinaja Cave), 4 kilometers from the Tolox town, near the Horcajos River.

Its name derives from the word of pre-roman origin Tulos, which means high mountain or high rock.

Of Phoenician origin and populated in Roman times, Tolox was fortified during the Arab occupation by the muladi Umar ibn Hafsun in 883, in his fight against the Umayyads of the Caliphate of Córdoba.

Tolox suffered attacks on different occasions by some such as Mohamed Almondir, Abdallah or Abd al-Rahman III. After the death of Umar ibn Hafsun the castle passed into the hands of one of Suleiman's sons, who was defeated by Abd al-Rahman III.

In 1485, Tolox was reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs at the hands of Sancho de Angula, allowing Muslims to stay but under strict conditions.

At Christmas 1539, there were altercations between Moors and Christians, causing Tolox to remain depopulated. In 1571, by order of Philip II, it was repopulated with Christians from Galicia, Seville and Córdoba.

In the Spanish Independence War the inhabitants of Tolox fought against the French troops under the command of the chief general of the Campo de Gibraltar, Francisco Javier de Abadía.

Tolox's most recent history is closely linked to its spa. Although the waters of Tolox were known for their medicinal effects from other times, studies by José García Rey demonstrated the therapeutic properties they had. In 1869 the Fuente Amargosa Spa was inaugurated, three years after the discovery of its spring.

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What to see in Tolox

The past of Tolox town offers you a cultural and monumental heritage that preserves the charm of ancient traditions and customs, some of which go back to the Arab era.

Proof of this is the Castle Neighborhood, where you can see the remains of the castle that was occupied by Umar ibn Hafsun in 883, making it one of the most important in his kingdom. You will be able to appreciate a wall canvas in a private home, a passageway and the latticework of the streets of this neighborhood, which sits on what was the ground floor of the castle.

In the upper part of Tolox you will find the High Neighborhood, with narrow and steep streets, adapted to the orography of the terrain, with corners full of flowers, whitewashed facades and construction elements typical of its Andalusian past.

Within the town, the most representative and largest square is the High Square. It stands out for hosting the most illustrious houses in Tolox, all white and with beautiful facades. One of the most remarkable houses in the square is the Holy Inquisition House, from the late 17th century.

In the same square and also standing out from the rest, you can see the Hidalgo Fernández Villamor House, a mansion house dating from the sixteenth century. It highlights the cover, the set of lattices and its typical Andalusian whitewash.

From High Square the Alfaguara Path leaves, which runs through the Alfaguara River. In this walk you will be able to observe the old hydraulic mills on the sides of the river bed and it will take you to the Cañada de las Carnicerías (Butchers Rut), where you will be able to see firs, orange trees and avocado trees, high mountain species in coexistence with subtropical ones.

In the 16th century the Church of Saint Michael Arcangel was built, on an old mosque and restored several times later. It is distributed in three naves separated by semicircular arches that rest on quadrangular pillars. The cover of the main altar chapel, the choir and the side chapels, with hemispherical vaults, correspond to one of its restorations. Inside there are three canvases from the 18th century that represent the Marriage of the Virgin, the Epiphany and the Adoration of the Shepherds, works attributed to Diego de la Cerda from the Antequera school. Outside, the two doors stand out, with semicircular arches, and the square-shaped tower, located at the head of the nave of the Gospel, built on the minaret of the old mosque.

In 1906 one of the most important emblems of Tolox was built, the Fuente Amargosa Spa. It is a two-story building, which was built after the collapse of the previous one by a flood. It was renovated in 1931, when the second floor was added. Their establishments offer you therapeutic treatments based on the inhalation of water vapor, indicated for respiratory and allergic conditions. It is the main source of tourism for Tolox. Next to the spa is the promenade with large trees that provide shade in the summer.

Among 2 km from Tolox town, in the Atalaya Reserve, you will see the Hermitage of Saint Roch. It contains a very simple architecture, combining the white of the facade with a stone plinth, topped by a staircase on which is a small wrought iron cross. It was built in the 80s, on the remains of a primitive hermitage in honor of the patron saint of Tolox, Saint Roch. Outside, an esplanade fitted out with benches, wooden tables and palm trees that provide good shade will allow you to enjoy beautiful views, with Sierra de las Nieves on one side and the Grande River valley on the other.

In addition, in the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, 5 km from Tolox town, you can visit the Hermitage of the Virgin of the Snows. This hermitage is built with natural stones from the terrain, forming a beautiful image.

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What to do in Tolox

The municipality of Tolox will give you the opportunity to discover a natural environment of extraordinary beauty, as well as to continue learning more about the culture and tradition of the town.

The Popular Arts House Museum is a museum set in the 19th century, where a home of the time is exposed with the typical utensils of the bedroom, living room and kitchen in three spacious rooms, and an additional room dedicated to farm implements, carpentry and bakery. Perhaps the most striking feature of the museum is the era with its threshing board. In addition, some of the pieces from the last oil mill in Tolox are also exhibited, as well as an exhibition of photographs from the 50s.

Regarding the natural environment, the municipality of Tolox treasures one of the most beautiful natural spaces in southern Spain. Among them the Barranco de la Rejía (Rejía Ravine) stands out, located in the Sierra Parda from Tolox. It is one of the most impressive enclaves, for its beauty and the spectacular nature of a 51-meter vertical waterfall, the Salto de la Rejía (Rejía Waterfall). It is the highest waterfall in the province of Málaga created by nature.

The area between the Puerto de los Pilones (Pilones Refuge) and the Torrecilla (1,918 m) is another natural enclave of special beauty, with the presence of Cerro de la Alcazaba (Alcazaba Hill) as well.

To the north of the municipality of Tolox, the mountain range descends in deep sheer drop, first through the Cañada de las Carnicerías and later through the Horcajos River, among pine forests that seem to hang from its slopes.

All this is part of what you can find in the natural environment of Tolox. An environment marked by its integration into the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, but which is meaningless if you cannot feel part of it. To solve this question, there are numerous hiking routes where you can enjoy and get a connection with nature. Hiking routes where each one has a different destination, route and difficulty.

One of these routes is the Cerro Corona - Torrecilla Route, which departs from Peñas Blancas (White Rocks) towards Puerto Corona (Crown Refuge). Once there, you will see three different paths to follow, from which you will have to take the middle one. Along this path, you will be able to observe an important scrub that regenerates the fir forest that was destroyed by fire and, after 2 km, you will reach Loma del Pino (Pine Hill). Taking the path on the right, you will see how the vegetation is transforming as you go up, until you reach the Puerto de los Valientes (Braves Refuge). In this place, at 1700 meters of altitude, you will find yourself located in the monumental plateau of Sierra de las Nieves and, from here, you can reach the Torrecilla by taking the rope that ascends to the summit with its wonderful views. The route is 14 km one way, with a high difficulty and an estimated time of seven or eight hours.

With a lesser difficulty you will find the Tolox - Cañada de las Carnicerías Route, which starts from the Tolox town heading north. Subsequently, the path heads east and, through the valley undermined by the Horcajos River, you will reach Piloncillo. Continuing along the river bank and sometimes along the same channel, you will pass through a gallery of poplars with some sprinkled firs, until you reach an area of extraordinary beauty, the Cañada de las Carnicerías, from where you will get privileged views of the Sierra de Tolox and from where you can access to Peñón de los Enamorados (Rock of Lovers).

The Tolox - Istán Route runs between the two municipalities that give the route its name and can be done both on foot and on horseback, by bicycle or by jeep. It is a 27 km route, high difficulty and a duration of five hours, which crosses the Sierra de las Nieves World Natural Reserve from center to south, passing through places of great ecological importance, such as the Bornoque forest, a large cork oak that is sometimes mixed with firs and inhabited by such emblematic species as roe deer. Along this path that will take you from Tolox to Istán, you will be able to enjoy magnificent views of the Verde River valley.

The Yunquera - Tolox Route also runs between two municipalities, with a 13 km route, of medium-high difficulty and an estimated duration of three and a half hours. This route can also be done on foot or on horseback, by bicycle or by off-road vehicle. It is not a very long route but sometimes it can be a little demanding due to the ups and downs that are sometimes on steep slopes. When you cross Grande River, you will find a real spring of life that, since its inception, is complete with old orchard terraces that supply their water thanks to simple ditches and canals inherited from the Arab era.

A circular route to be carried out on foot in the surroundings of the municipality of Tolox is the Las Cascadas Trail PR-A 282, with a distance of 10.1 km and a duration of four hours. On this route you will have to go around the headwaters of the Horses River, which is made up of the Palmarejo Stream, the Horcajuelos Stream and the Rejía Stream, the last two equipped for canyoning. You will pass near the valley of the Horses River and under the Salto de la Rejía, with a fall of 51 meters, there is a turning point to return to Tolox.

In case you prefer to do a simpler route, the Charco de la Virgen Trail SL-A 239 is a good option, since it is made up of a linear route of 2.4 km and an estimated duration of one hour. The route runs close to the banks of the Horses River and under the steep slopes of Sierra Parda from Tolox, where a beautiful resin pines forest grows along with palm hearts, junipers, mastic trees and gorse trees. At the end of the route you will reach the Charco de la Virgen (Virgin Pool), a place where you can go canyoning and enjoy a nice bath during the summer months.

With 8.7 km, a circular route and a three-hour duration, you can walk the Río de los Horcajos Trail SL-A 229. From the Fuente Amargosa Spa car park, you will have to head towards Alto de la Cuesta to then take a detour to the Puerto de las Golondrinas (Swallows Refuge) lane. In the course you will leave the lane for another minor to the right towards Puerto del Monte (Mountain Refuge), opening the view to the valley of the Horcajos River and the main summits of Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park. Through an environment of cork oaks, chestnut trees and some firs, you will reach a steep descent to Los Sauces Stream, from where you can access the Hermitage of the Virgin of the Snows, to return along the other side of the river to Tolox town.

One of the most typical routes in Tolox is the Virgen de las Nieves Trail SL-A 238, with 3.6 km of linear route and an hour and a quarter of duration. Communicating Tolox town with the Hermitage of the Virgin of the Snows, where you can enjoy a good day in the appropriate area with benches and tables, is this path that runs next to the Horcajos River. On your way you will be able to observe some of the old mills, visit the ditches that supply water to the plains and others that are not in use. To finish you will arrive at the Puerto de los Llanillos (Llanillos Refuge), where the Hermitage of the Virgin of the Snows and a water tank of the town are located.

Finally, you can relax with a short route known as Cruz del Padre Ventura Trail SL-A 228, with 1 km of linear route and about forty-five minutes long. It is a very popular route that goes up to a hill from which you will get beautiful views of Tolox town, the Guadalhorce Valley and the Sierra de Tolox, the main massif of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park. Along the way you will discover 14 iron crosses that belong to a Via Crucis Sacramental. You can stop to rest in one of the banks that you will find along the route and observe the fields of olive trees, almond trees and carob trees.

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Traditional festivities and celebrations in Tolox

Tolox has a great cultural wealth that is manifested in the variety of local festivals that take place throughout the year. Each of these festivals take their place on the calendar, so you can plan your visit to Tolox to coincide with one and enjoy a good atmosphere full of tradition and culture.

The first celebration of the year is the Carnivals, in the month of February. In Tolox they have been celebrated them every year since the end of the 17th century, being one of the oldest carnivals in the province of Málaga. In its celebration different costumes and chirigotas act, as well as costume contests. Tuesday stands out as a special day, known as White Powder Day, in which attendees dust themselves with talcum powder in High Square and in the Tolox old town.

On a Saturday in March the Sierra de las Nieves Horse Route takes place, which is attended by livestock from different parts of Andalusia and hundreds of horse riders gather during a day of coexistence to take a horseback ride through the Sierra de las Nieves.

In the month of March or April, depending on the year, Holy Week is celebrated in Tolox, as in many other places in Spain. In it you can see processions of different religious images, accompanied by the municipal music band, with bugles and drums, as well as by women dressed in combs and mantillas. The most venerated procession in Tolox is that of the Virgin of Solitude, which takes place on Good Friday at twelve o'clock at night and that all the people observe and admire, enjoying its slow and silent passage.

The Pilgrimage of the Virgin of the Snows takes place in May and in it Tolox residents take the Virgin of the Snows to their hermitage in a pure white float dragged by mules to the sound of guitars, clapping and voices of joy.

Corpus Christi is celebrated at the end of May or beginning of June, where Tolox streets are dressed in shawls, flowers, rosemary, images and crosses adorning the altars that, on the doorstep of their houses, the neighbors mount to be blessed by the parish priest of the town to the passage of Corpus Christi.

Giving way to summer, Cultural Week takes place at the end of June, coinciding with the end of the school year. During these days numerous activities are carried out in which the young people of Tolox make contact with the culture. In addition, in this cultural week the Villa de Tolox National Children's Folk Festival takes place, organized by the Tolox Municipal Folklore Association in collaboration with the Tolox City Council. This festival is located in the High Square and groups from all over Spain and Portugal come to it. It has become a benchmark for national folklore.

In mid-July, the Carmel Fair is celebrated, in which the Virgin of the Carmel is taken in procession through the streets of Tolox, accompanied by the residents of the town. In it, as in the past, the Tolox cattle fair is held.

The second weekend of August you can enjoy the Saint Roch Festivity, in honor of the patron saint of Tolox, Saint Roch. They are inaugurated with the "candle bull" and among its most significant acts are the "water festival", in which the residents make a "water fight" and the "cohetá", where the image of Saint Roch is taken out in procession on August 16. During the procession the neighbors and visitors launch rockets creating a unique and festive atmosphere.

To end, on December 8, coinciding with the Immaculate Day, the Girls Day, also known as Cowbell Day, takes place. This day the young people of Tolox make conch shells and cowbells sound. It is believed that this tradition dates back to the time of the expulsion of the Moors and in it you can enjoy a parade of Moors and Christians.

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Gastronomy of Tolox

As in much of the Sierra de las Nieves region, the gastronomy of Tolox is determined by local products, such as game meat, farm meat, vegetables, oil, flour and wine. The seasonality of some products must also be taken into account, such as mushrooms in autumn or wild herbs (tagarnines, fennel, wild asparagus, and colleges) in spring.

Among the typical dishes of Tolox, you will love to taste some such as the samandoña casserole, the gazpacho, the maimones, the sopeao or the bolo, a variety of tomato soup with eggs, oil, onion, salt and lemon.

Finally, to finish with a sweet taste, from the excellent Tolox pastries you can try the honey donuts, the oil cakes, the "pint" fig bread and the dumplings.

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