Sierra de las Nieves (Spain)
Sierra de las Nieves is an unspoilt natural paradise lying in the central part of the province of Málaga. It forms a mountainous fringe that marks off the nearby western Costa del Sol. The nine main towns of the district – Alozaina, Casarabonela, El Burgo, Guaro, Istán, Monda, Ojén, Tolox and Yunquera – share a common natural, cultural and architectural heritage.
The district borders Costa del Sol, the Guadalhorce river valley (Valle del Guadalhorce), the Ronda Hills (Serranía de Ronda) and the district of Guadalteba, making it a strategic location well served by public transport.
In this rural and hilly district mankind still lives in perfect balance with nature. The nine main towns of Sierra de las Nieves are all knitted together by the whimsical twists and turns of the Sierra and still retain the rich tapestry of styles and cultures that have peopled this land.
In the heart of the district lies the Parque Natural (nature park) which boasts one of the world’s biggest Spanish fir woods, spanning over 3 000 hectares. The reserve also has one of Andalusia’s biggest populations of mountain goat. Together with the roe Deer, these are the park’s two native species of hooved mammalse.
The park with no paved roads is a watershed area between Atlantic and Mediterranean landscape and climate, with its own original and varied flora and was listed by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve.
Geologically, this region boasts the world’s biggest peridodite massif, a gigantic primary-era batholith with serpentine outcrops. All this explains the mineral richness of the spa water in thermal baths.
The district is a place for adventurous leisure pursuits such as horse riding, canyoning, canoeing and kayaking, eco-routes in off-road vehicles, balloon trips, trekking and hiking.
Ethnography – the star attraction
Tourism in Sierra de las Nieves is a highly organised affair. Sustainable tourism is at the core of the tourism strategy in Sierra de las Nieves which aims to preserve natural and cultural heritage and enhance quality of life.
Ethnography is above all the star tourism product, uniting the whole district. Its core is the Ethnographic Encyclopaedia of the Sierra de las Nieves which compiles local folk wisdom.
Elderly people who act as tour guides keep the local history alive and play the role of ambassadors of cultural identity. Cultural mediators are also tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the quality of stays in each town.
Crafts and products may be discovered through thematic tours such as the local crop routes – the table olive harvest or the chestnut routes, the lime-gatherer or Calero route – one of the honoured crafts still living, and the pottery route starting at El Burgo’s pottery workshop. Other routes are the honey or the craftsmen routes as well as the cultural routes and outings to the towns of the district.
A variety of events, festivals and religious processions are also ways to discover local specificities:
- the Festival de La Luna Mora in Guaro which goes back to medieval souks shows traditional Andalusian arts and practices and their Christians, Muslims and Sephardic Jewish influences
- the Festival Folclórico de Tolox with traditional song and dance
- the Castillo del Cante flamenco festival in Ojén
- the Mercado de Carboneros y Oficios Antiguos – Market of Charcoal Burners and Ancient Crafts – in Monda.