Tolox is a typical Andaluz village of Arab origins, with narrow, winding streets and white-washed houses with flower filled balconies and terraces and tiled roofs, which is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Málaga province.
The village lies in the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, so classified in 1989 due to its spectacular scenery and ecological value. And in the foothills of the surrounding mountains there are olive groves, stretching down to wheat fields and orchards and fields of vegetables on the plains running alongside the río Grande.
Neolithic remains in the Tinaja cave about four kilometres from the village indicate the area was inhabited tens of thousands of years ago, while the first actual settlement is believed to have been Phoenician.The origins of Tolox’s castle are also believed to be Phoenician, but it was the Romans who built the first settlement on the site of the existing village.
Tolox’s castle had a particularly crucial role during the Moorish period. The first documented mention of the fortification is dated 883, when it was occupied by Omar Ben Hafsun, a Christian convert to Islam. Omar enlarged the castle during his military rebellion and made it one of the most important defence bastions in his eastern Andaluz kingdom, the ‘headquarters’ of which was the Bobastro castle, which is thought to have stood in or near the Serrania de Ronda.
The fortification was then destroyed in 921 by troops loyal to the Cordoban caliph, Abderraman III following the defeat of Omar’s sons, although part of the fortification’s walls remain in the El Castillo part of the village.
Tolox was conquered by the Catholic Monarch’s troops in 1485. Muslims were allowed to stay in the village on the condition they lived in a seperate neighbourhood from Christians and they declared themselves subjects of Ferdinand and Isabella, although their religion, justice, language, attire and customs were to be respected. But they were later given the choice of being baptised or banished, and privileges granted to the Moriscos (Moors who converted to Christianity) were gradually taken away, culminating in open confrontation in the winter of 1539.
According to chronicles of the times, an altercation between a Christian and a Morisco woman acted as the catalyst which sparked off the uprising.Troops arrived to deal with the situation, and the Moors fled.
The expulsion of the Moors led to the abandonment of virtually the whole municipality; Tolox was all but deserted until 1571, when Felipe II ordered it be repopulated by Christians from Galicia, Seville and Córdoba.
Tolox’s other main historic site is the 16th century San Miguel Parish Church, the tower of which is built around the minaret of an old mosque.
A small museum of arts and popular traditions is located in the public library. Opened in 1992, the museum contains 1,683 exhibits. These include photographs and items donated by local residents, which range from traditional pieces of furniture, household goods, tools and cooking utensils, to memorabilia from the wedding of Alfonso XIII.
Tolox’s Balneario de Fuente Amargosa set against the Sierra de Tolox and Málaga’s highest peak, the Pico de Torrecila, is the biggest tourist attraction in the municipality. The spa was first opened in 1869, three years after the village pharmacist, José García Rey, discovered the source of the so-called ‘bitter waters.’ A new hotel pavillion was opened in 1961, which was then modernised in 1972. Among the spa’s facilities are thermal rooms and seven baths.
This is also a great area for walking and mountain biking, particularly in the surrounding sierras.
Culinary specialities of Tolox include ‘roscos’ (ring shaped bread rolls), small pasties and ‘pintao’ (fig bread).