Natural Park Sierra de las Nieves

As well as Ronda, a town of many monuments that is an attractive destination in its own right, the towns and villages that comprise the Park retain a charm that is Moorish in origin and which, over the centuries, has coalesced into a romantic history of bandits, bandoleros, such as Juan José Mingolla, known as ‘Pasos Largos’, ‘long strides’ (Juan was a tall guy).

 The Sierra de las Nieves, mountains of the snows, has its origin, however, in its heavy winter snows and a particularly tough job, that of the nevero, not quite but almost ‘snowman’, a function now vanished but originally involving the commercial production of ice in primitive refrigeration chambers. Pits roofed with pinsapo branches would collect winter snows which, in springtime, the nevero would cut for sale as ice blocks. In summer, these would be carried by donkey to the town of Yunquera for distribution – always travelling by night – to Ronda, Málaga, Olvera, Seville and elsewhere.

In the era of King Felipe IV, the Sierra’s snow business was formally established, and there are historic references to its importance.

One document explains that “En 1624, durante una cacería ofrecida por el Duque de Medina Sidonia a su Majestad Católica del Rey Felipe IV y a la que asistieron 12.000 personas en el Coto de Doñana: (..) Traíanse cada día seis cargas de nieve de Ronda en cuarenta y séis acémilas (..)”. ‘In 1624, during a hunt offered by the Duke of Medina Sidonia to the Catholic Majesty King Felipe IV and with the help of 12,000 people in the Hunting Reserve of Doñana: (…) they carried every day six loads of ice from Ronda on 46 mules (…).á

Landscape

The plurality of landscapes that comprise this Natural Park provide a climate with important fluctuations and a great geological complexity. On one hand, we see a landscape of white mountains, with its limestone terrain and clear colours and with a dramatic topography of deep abysses and numerous caves and peaks such as the Torrecilla (1,919 m) and the Cerro Alcazaba. On the other, with a striking contrast, we see the brown mountains, much darker because of their composition of igneous rocks, something we can confirm simply by looking at the Cerro Corona. With a gentler geological relief, its less permeable rocks allow the appearance of innumerable water courses and springs. This landscape supports a heightened biodiversity and also the presence of species of great ecological importance. Above all are the pinsapars, one of the emblems of the Sierra de las Nieves, alongside the cabra montés, mountain goat or, more accurately, the Spanish ibex. The pinsapo is a botanical gem, an arboreal dinosaur, a relic of other times in which it ruled a glacial environment that stretched across the Iberian peninsula. Biologically, the pinsapos are firs and are related to the cedar, pine and cypress. They need much humidity and shady slopes, and can reach almost thirty metres in height with their dense and dark conical treetops.

Gastronomy

Sierra cooking here is characterized by the Muslim influence and for its use of ingredients found in the mountains. Popular dishes include migas rondeñas (fried breadcrumbs with ham), guiso de patas de cerdo (pork leg stew), gachas de harina con miel (porridge with honey), queso de almendras (almond cheese) and sopa de los siete ramales (a bread soup garnished with fried garlic, pepper, tomato and asparagus). Among the desserts outstanding are the yemas del Tajo (de Ronda), small egg-custard tartlets, and pan de higo almendrado de Tolox (almond cake).

Artisan culture

The most typical crafts of the Sierre de las Nieves are marroquinería, leather fashions and furnishing, talabartería, the more prosaic leather agricultural implements, and metal grille production, complemented by to-order rug and carpet making in its textile workshops. The area also has a fine tradition of artisanal natural products such as honey and chestnuts.

Situation

At the centre of the province of Málaga (7 km east of Ronda). Area: 20,005 hectares. Altitude: between 245 and 1,919 m above sea level. Average monthly temperatures: 9ºC (January) to 27ºC (July). Average annual rainfall: 815 mm. Municipalities: El Burgo, Istán, Monda, Parauta, Ronda, Tolox and Yunquera.

Activities

Mountain cycling: There are bike routes between Monda and Istán, as well as from La Fuensanta to the Turón river.

Montaineering: There are classic climbs to the peak of the Torrecilla (1,919 metros) and the Peña de los Enamorados (1,783 m).

Potholing: Very useful for the abysses here: the G.E.S.M. (named after the group who discovered it: the Grupo de Exploraciones Subterráneas de Málaga), over 1,100 m deep – the third deepest explored cave in the world – and the Sima Honda, with a 113 m vertical drop.

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