Walking in Andalusia: Sierra de las Nieves

For many people, this may not seem directly a typical hiking destination. However, it is recommended for hikers to come and discover this beautiful and especially green region. Just behind the coast of Marbella, only 10 kilometres inland, lies the Sierra de las Nieves National Park, where you can take a walk in the unspoiled nature beautiful. This is a perfect destination for those who want to combine a beach-sun holiday with beautiful trips in the hinterland.

The best travel period to visit it is obviously Spring or Fall, when temperatures are still somewhat bearable. The Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park stretches from the hills of Marbella, in the mountain village of Ojen, to Tolox and to Malaga and in the north to Ronda. In the middle of the 202 km2 area, you can find the highest peak, la Torrecilla, of almost 2000 meters high.

There is also a rich flora and fauna: In this area, next to the Sierra de Grazalema, the Spanish fir is found, an almost prehistoric conifer that is heavily protected because of its rarity. The roads through the area are exceptionally good and nicely landscaped with fantastic views at every turn.

As the name suggests, the higher parts of the Sierra de las Nieves in winter are covered with snow. In 1970 the area was named Patrimony of the Biosphere by UNESCO in 1995.

The area is rich in caves and caverns, some of which have not even been fully explored. We can mention, for example, Hoyos del Pilar,  Hoyos de Lifa and Cuevas del Moro. One of the deepest caverns of Europe, Pozo de GESM, was discovered in 1978 and many cavers still do some research here. The entrance is at 1670 meters and the cave descends to 1098 meters.

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The name “Sierra de Las Nieves” comes from the fact that in this mountains during winter months, (especially in January and February) the snow used to remain solid a lot of time. Until the fifties, that snow was transported by donkeys through the routes to be used as a coolant for the warehouses on the coast to keep fish and meat fresh. Nowadays, the place it is mainly used as hiking trails.

The pine forests of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park extend over about three thousand acres and there is even a pine tree, “Pinsapo de las Escaleteras”, that got the status of nature reserve. Other tree that is common in the area is the Portuguese Oak.

The special feature of the Spanish fir is that it is a relic from the Tertiary era and it is mainly found in Serrania of Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema (also close to Ronda). The Latin name is Abies pinsapo.

In the sierra, it can be found some herds of Iberian mountain goat,  with around 60 animals each herd. Also gazelles, ibex and other small mammals such as the Meloncillo (faraorat) are found sometimes. Besides, there are always large and small birds of prey to see.

The walks here are virtually unlimited. The white villages of Istan and Ojen are an ideal starting place for day trips. Many walks are marked but in many places the mark is not present at all, so maybe a GPS tool could be useful. Furthermore, in this area, you will find extensive opportunities for both hiking and biking.

There are several accommodation options such as  hotels, apartments and campsites. Therefore, you will find something for every budget in the Costa del Sol. For example, hotel Refugio de Juanar enjoys an excellent natural location and if you prefer  to stay in a village with bars and restaurants, then La Posada del Angel in Ojen a nice B & B to stay in the Sierra de las Nieves.

This article largely comes from the website of Westwandelingen.