El Pozo de la Virgen, Sierra de las Nieves

What is the Pozo de la Virgen?

A river pool with a large waterfall  hidden in the heart of the Sierra Nieves natural park, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve and one of the most protected natural areas in Andalucia. It makes a fantastic spot for a picnic and/or swim during the warmer spring and summer months. Getting there requires some walking and effort. But its effort that is well rewarded. 

The hike takes place along the banks of the Río de Los Caballos and is about 5kms in total. 

Photo sphere of the Pozo de la Virgen

The Village of Tolox

The hike starts from the village of Tolox. Tolox is situated in the Sierra de Nieves natural park and has been known for hundreds of years for its healing waters. Ever since Roman times people have been seeking Tolox's sulphur rich waters. 

A stay at the Fuente Amargosa Spa (Balneario) is still prescribed by Andalusian doctors. The water is said to be particularly beneficial for asthmatics and people with respiratory ailments. The mildly radioactive gas that is emitted from the water, is sprayed directly into the mouths and nostrils of the patients. It is said to work wonders for children suffering with asthma. 

Village of Tolox Sierra de las Nieves

Tolox sits at the base of the Sierra Blanca and the Sierra Parda mountains. Water has always played a prominent part in the village's history. Two of the area's most important rivers meet just above Tolox, the Rio de los Caballos and the Rio de los Horcajos. Upon meeting, they form the Rio Riachuelo. 

Villages don’t come much more traditional than Tolox. White-washed houses, narrow and winding Moorish streets, geranium filled balconies, a postcard perfect Andalusian village. 

How to get there

Upon entering the village, follow signs for the Balneario. You’ll be directed leftwards and upwards to spot just above the village. 

Hiking in Sierra de las Nieves

Keep your eyes open for the 'Hotel del Balneario.' Park here. There are at least two ways to get to the Pozo de la Virgen. We followed the lower route and this track, which I found to be spot on - track

The higher route is meant to be shorter and less demanding, you can drive further along the road and park almost above the waterfall. The lower route is the one described here. 

Hiking in Tolox, Sierra de las Nieves

Having parked, start walking towards the lower section of the baths. There are a few steps leading down and a small path that runs parallel to the Balenerio and goes straight down to the river. Cross the river here. 

You should be in a tropical-like valley with lots of fruit trees and terraced gardens. Keep going upwards and to the right. There is a well maintained and clearly defined path that leads upwards through the pine forest. This is the path that leads to the Pozo. It climbs rightwards and fairly steeply up the mountain, with the river on your left, and eventually drops back down into a beautiful eucalyptus forest. 

You can stay on the lower section and walk along the acequias (the old Moorish irrigation channels) but it gets fairly aerial quickly and can be dangerous. I recommend taking the higher forestry track, particularly if walking with children. 

Hiking Sierra de las Nieves

Always stay on the path, you have to cross the river several times. Some of the river pools are large and there are numerous places in which you can stop off and have a swim. 

At one point, you’ll walk past a smallish farm - on your left. Keep going straight and take the path that runs parallel to the fence and walk along a small acequia, dropping back down to the river whenever you can. The path is a lot less defined and the vegetation very dense in places.

Keep making your way upwards, following the river. In places this involves a bit of scrambling and you need to cross the river numerous times. The waterfall is right at the end of the river. 

We have had an exceptionally dry winter this year (2014). Water levels are normally a lot higher. 

A word of warning

This is a protected natural park. Treat it with respect. Anything you bring with you, take with you. 

A good level of fitness is required. The Spanish countryside, although exceptionally beautiful is also very unforgiving. 

Most of this walk takes place in a river valley, there is no mobile phone coverage. Take care, especially if going with small children. If feeling unsure, use a professional guide.