Things to see near El Burgo
On the south side of the main bridge by the pueblo that crosses the Río Turón, is a track that leads upstream. Just about passable by car this is a circular route that takes approximately two hours to drive (not recommended in rainy season) or six hours to walk and emerges two kilometres further down the Malaga road (see La Fuensanta).
Running parallel to the river the fields to the left are filled with poplar and olive trees which soon leads onto dense woodland. Two kilometres on, a series of reservoirs are used during the early summer for bathing. Numerous shoals of fish can be seen in the many pools and the river is dammed at a spot known as Dique de Fuente de la Zorra. Past the first lagoon an old mill can be seen and continuing upstream the valley closes in a semi-gorge. This stretch of river is considered one of the last virgin stretches of water in the province of Malaga, clean enough for otters to nest in the area. During August, the river valley runs dry past this point. Overlooking this spot high up is the gleaming white statue of Mirador del Guarda Forestal.
Here the track leaves the water course and passes a further two lagoons. A number of interesting ruined fincas are worth a short stop. This river valley was the course of the old Roman road. It is no longer possible to drive all the way to Ronda, although barely a mile of new road would complete the route. The track winds south until you reach Puerto de la Mujer, the "Woman's Pass". At nearly 900 metres above sea level, this is the highest point on the track.
The track then leads down to the Fuensanta valley and the turning to the convent as well as the campsite of Las Sauces. This spot can be reached by a different route.
La Fuensanta & Los Sauces
The holy spring, en route to the ruined monastery, can be approached from below the pueblo, rather than taking the circular dirt track from the bridge. Look out for Km27 and a cross, which are very near to the turn off along the forest track. Following the Arroyo de la Fuensanta upstream, the track passes a tree nursery, used to replant state forest lands in the protected park. After three kilometres, there's a recreation area with a pleasant picnic spot and, beyond, the old mill and a tall Galician stone cross. For most walkers this is the limit but the route continues for a further hour, reaching another tall stone cross at a track junction. This track leads three kilometres to the rather basic campsite of Los Sauces, with few amenities beyond a space for walkers to pitch a tent overnight. Most of these places do require a permit in advance. One of the most historic sites in the area is the Convent, which can only be seen from this point, as it is on private land.
Convento de la Sierra de las Nieves
Just inside the municipal district of Yunquera and yet only approached from El Burgo, the ruined monastery was originally founded as a hermitage church in 1495, dedicated to the Virgin of the Snows (La Virgen de las Nieves). Snow was an important commodity at the time, as it was collected and made into ice to preserve food. To pray for the annual snowfall, which only lies on the ground in this region for an average of three weeks per year, a hermitage was built. Medieval mines have also been found in the area, which suggests a further source of wealth in this very remote region.
In 1587 the Bishop of Malaga authorised the establishment of a community of Carmelites on the site. Pedro Pescador was appointed the first Prior and the church was completed by 1599. Many of the other buildings were finished by 1604.
In 1853 a law was passed disbanding and appropriating the monastic lands. The site was sold off to a private buyer who used it as a hunting lodge and even the mill fell in disuse. Today the church is in ruins but the bells are preserved in El Burgo. To visit the site requires permission, with access via Los Sauces.
Follow the dirt track that leads due north 500 metres up the Ardales road. Our point of interest is a cross three kilometres further on, having passed the river and a spring, which once watered the nearby Molino Polo.
Place-name evidence suggests that the hilltop of Torrecilla was one of the many Moorish lookout posts that would have enabled communication between the pueblos. This network of circular watchtowers enabled the rapid transmission of a message using fire or smoke.
Mirador del Guarda Forestal
Situated well on the way to Ronda at KM19, a monument stands just off the road to commemorate the forest guards. From here at 900 metres above sea level, superb views can be seen of the valley below. A cross can be seen to the north of the road.