History of Tolox

From the highest in the sky, El Torrecilla, to the deepest part of the earth, Sima GESM, in Tolox contrasts are combined. Contrasts of light colours of limestone and red of peridotites. Contrasts of peace and tranquility with the whizz-bang of rockets. In the heart of the Sierra de las Nieves is Tolox.

The village of Tolox brings together a pinch of everything that represents nature, history, traditional culture and the popular knowledge of the mountains. Not surprisingly, the origin of this town dates back to the Neolithic, as evidenced by the remains found in the Cueva de la Tinaja, 4 kilometres away from the Río de los Horcajos. Little is known about the origin of the population, since the statements about its remote origin are mainly based on the obscure etymology of its name, of pre-Roman origin and which seems to be related to the series of “Tolos”, which means “prominence” and that appears in the names of other places of the time such as Tolosa (Navarra) or Toulousse (France).


The eventful history of Tolox attests to its heritage remains. Just a few references in the names of the streets allow us to reconstruct the plan of what was the castle, the centre of rebellions between Muslims and Christians during the 15th and 16th centuries. Today a walk through the area known as Rinconadas del Castillo allows you to recreate part of the neighbourhood that was once occupied by the original castle and the old medieval town.


Tolox appears in 1485 as one of the towns that submitted to the authority of King Fernando after the surrender of Ronda. To avoid conflict, and taking advantage of the generosity of the conditions offered by the Castilians to the towns that capitulated, they accepted the status of Mudejar. This allowed them to remain in their places and retain their properties. The Mudejars of Tolox, like those of Monda or Yunquera, remained in the middle of the disputes of the new lords of the kingdom. In conflicts over taxes and communal lands, the council of Tolox appears to have been made up of Moors. Along with them, as early as 1529, the honoured old men continue to appear, in an organisation of the community that clearly reflects the co-existence existing in the last Andalusian period.

Thereafter begins an era marked by changes in jurisdiction and a stately administration that meant a period of growth for Tolox, which in 1568 already had 300 residents. The Moorish influence is still visible in the narrow and whitewashed streets of Tolox, whose labyrinthine layout favoured shade in hot summers and unexpected corners that served as a refuge in rebellions and persecutions. The integration of the Muslims and their conversion allowed them to occupy Tolox for several centuries and also leave their mark on the flour mills, vine crops or products such as figs that are today part of the landscape and gastronomy of a Toloxeña.


But the contemporary history of this town is closely linked to its spa. Since time immemorial, a series of sources and springs known by the name of “bitter” have been present in Tolox, perhaps because of their special taste, which were used by the residents of the town to cure a myriad of conditions in a totally empirical way by ingestion and baths.


It was Mr. José García Rey, a native of Tolox and a pharmacist, who carried out the necessary work to capture the mineral water and analyse it, cataloguing it with the variegated name of alkaline-brominated, ammonium-sulfurized, crenate-ferromagnesian waters. The spa was opened in 1869, three years after the spring was discovered. Ravaged in 1906 by a great flood, it was rebuilt by D. Manuel del Rio who undertook a tireless task to improve communications and infrastructure to bring the “water users” to the town.

Politicians like Primo de Rivera, Sánchez Román or Julián Permantín; bullfighters like Lagartijo or Sánchez Mejías; or artists such as Luis Mariano or the famous Malaga poet Salvador Rueda, a close friend of the owner’s family, D. Manuel del Rio, have been regular visitors since its construction at the end of the 19th century.


This spa is the only one in Spain specialised exclusively in the respiratory system, as its waters give off a gas that is taken in by inhalation. The spa is located a short distance from the town of Tolox at the foot of the Sierra de las Nieves being, in many ways, unique in the world.


The management of the Tolox Spa, as well as the hotel of the same name built in 1870, has been passed from generation to generation until today. The Tolox Spa was recognised with the seal of Singular Establishment of the Diputación de Málaga for its historical value and its contribution to the heritage of the province.