This is a walk we did one morning last week while the kids were in school. It’s relentlessly uphill so is quite a workout! With two drop-offs in different towns, we had less than four hours to play with, so unfortunately didn’t make it all the way to Casa de la Nieve. If you do make it that far, you’re almost at La Maroma, the highest peak in the province, so may as well keep going.
Estimated time: 4-5 hours
The trail begins in the beautiful whitewashed pueblo blanco of Canillas de Aceituno right in the centre of the village. From the main plaza take the path to the left of and behind the Ayuntamiento. Continue on this as it zigzags through a residential area following the signs for Casa de la Nieve.
Immediately out of the town, you will find yourself in the parque natural and the foothills of La Maroma.
The track continues steeply upward and with all the huffing and puffing don’t forget to look back and take in the panoramic view that is unfolding behind you.
After about an hour the path levels out and you soon reach the little woodland oasis of La Rábita.
La Rábita (1,127m)
The word Rábita comes from the Arabic and means “a meeting place for prayer”. It is thought to have been a place of refuge and pilgrimage for the Moors after they were driven ever farther south after the Reconquista.
There is a manmade cave here which was once a mine, 70 metres deep and rising to 7 metres at it’s highest. Legend has it that the cave was inhabited by three Arab holy men, called morabitos who are buried here, although there is no evidence of this.
Continuing uphill, the vegetation becomes sparser and burnt-out trees here and there mark the outer limits of the devastation the forest fires wreaked last August.
We were only about 20 minutes from Casa de la Nieve but unfortunately the ticking clock forced us to turn around. Casa de la Nieve, meaning “House of Snow”, is very near the summit of Maroma and not so many years ago was a collection point for ice and snow which was a very valuable commodity used for preserving food and chilling drinks. Wells were dug to accumulate snow which were then covered over with branches and earth. When the Spring thaw had melted away the snowy blanket covering these lofty peaks, it remained in the wells. A sturdy few would climb this same route from Canillas, extract it and transport it by mule to be sold to those who could afford it in the village and all the way to the coast.
On the way back down, Lake Viñuela, which that morning was like a sheet of glass, now with the sun directly above was a solid turqouise blue. Beautiful.