Nerja is a busy tourist resort in Andalucia – known as the Jewel of the Costa. This former fishing village now has over 21,000 inhabitants, so has plenty to offer everyone and is certainly worth a visit. It’s around 45 minutes from Malaga and is found on the eastern edge of the Costa del Sol, bordering Granada.
Nerja old town has remained practically unchanged for decades, with tall, white-washed houses, which straddle the narrow pebbled and winding streets. The houses are pretty with wrought iron railings adorned often with bright red Geraniums. Some houses still feature their original Andalucian terraces, which are truly beautiful.
Find something for everyone!
Balcón de Europa
The main focus of this seaside town centres around the impressive Balcón de Europa (Balcony of Europe). Built on the site of a former fortress, you will find a remarkable promenade, offering panoramic views of the Mediterranean. The fortress, La Batería was demolished in the 1800’s to prevent it from falling into French control during the Spanish War of Independence.
The statue of King Alfonso XII
King Alfonso XII is said to have named the Balcon, following his visit after the devastating earthquake in 1884. During a visit the King observed that it was like the Balcony of Europe and so the name stuck. Though papers have since been found and it seems that the area was possibly named prior to his visit. There is a bronze statue of the King, leaning against the railings and looking out to sea. Many stop to have their photo taken with him.
The Balcón runs between the beaches of Playa El Salon and Playa la Calahonda. Looking to the left you will find Calahonda beach, some smaller coves and then onto Burriana beach. In the distance is the picturesque village of Maro. To the right you will see La Caletilla and El Salon beaches, before the rocky promontory situated at Torrencilla beach.
The promenade or paseo and the adjoining streets are pedestrianized, making it suitable for those with mobility issues. The paseo is always hustling and bustling, lined with cafes and restaurants, it is a popular place with tourists.
Nerja has many processions and they nearly all pass through the Balcón at some point. It is also the centre of New Year’s Eve celebrations.
If visiting this area, the best place to park is in the Municipal car park below the Plaza de España. From there it is just a short stroll.
The Church of El Salvador
On the edge of the Balcón de Europa, you will find the 17th Century Iglesia El Salvador. The original structure was built in 1505, but the current structure was erected in 1697 before being extended in the 18th century. Restoration of the church took place in 1997.
The interior features 18th-century frescoes and a mural by the famous Spanish painter Francisco Hernandez. The interior is divided into three naves. Each nave representing an Archangel, Saint Rafael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Michael, the Patron Saint of Nerja. The church is one of the very few places in the world where all three Archangels are featured together.
The church is a popular choice for both Spanish and international couples, we have seen many a wedding there when visiting the town. Couples wanting their wedding or blessing here have to book well in advance as it has a long waiting list.
The exterior features two large and detailed ceramic tiled plaques. One details the history of the church and the other a vibrant and colourful religious scene. Additionally, there is a characterful four-sided bell tower, added in 1724. In front of the main entrance, you will also spot a large Norfolk Island Pine. They are not native to the region and this one was bought over from Latin America at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Beaches ...
There are 14km beaches within the town, each offering something unique. Many of the beaches are coves as the coastline is mainly adorned by cliffs, but there are also some beautiful beaches too. The most popular being Playa Burriana, which is loved by locals and visitors alike and has blue flag status. The other blue flag beach being La Torrecilla.
Burriana Beach has numerous bars and restaurants ranging from Chiringuitos to International cuisine. You will find them along the paved promenade that is behind the beach and runs its entire length. A popular choice is Chiringuito de Ayo, which has been around for decades. Best known for cooking its paella’s over a huge wood fire, where visitors can return to top up their plate – all for a mere €8. The beach is circa 800m and has fine golden sand and many watersport activities. Lifeguards are also present.
La Torrecilla is located at the western end of Nerja. It features a promenade which runs from the bottom of Plaza de Los Cangrejos to the ruins of the Moorish watchtower, where it joins the promenade of El Chucho beach. The beach is easily accessible from the town centre. It is regularly awarded a blue flag and is also a recipient of the Q for Quality award issued by the Spanish authorities. The beach is circa 300m long and has a mix of coarse sand and pebbles. There are rocky promontories at either end of the beach and these are popular with fishing enthusiasts. But be careful when swimming or snorkelling in the area as there are some very strong undercurrents. The beach has a couple of restaurants but there are more in the area behind the beach. In the summer there are lifeguards.
Playa de Maro
Playa de Maro is not in the town centre but in the neighbouring village of Maro which sits just a few kilometres outside of Nerja and can be accessed from the old N340 coastal road. This beach is certainly worth a mention, it features in many Nerja photographs due to its crystal-clear waters, waterfalls and underwater caves. It’s a popular choice for snorkellers, recreational divers and locals. It has a unique ecological system which is heavily protected. It has basic facilities and a solo chiringuito, plus you can rent a Kayak. Our Competa based friends Salamandra Multi Aventura hire Kayaks for around €7.50 per hour, or you can also take a guided Kayak tour with them, they also offer Canyoning. As do our friends at TitanAventura, who offer Kayaking and Canyoning, which in Spanish is Barranquismo. Click here to find out more about Titan Aventura
To get to the beach drive through the centre of Maro village, as you approach the slip road that takes you back onto the N340 you will come to a roundabout, take a sharp right and continue following the road downhill, where the road eventually becomes steep towards the beach. In quieter times you can park along this road, but at weekends and the height of summer, you may need to park at the top of the hill and walk down. There are parking assistants who will expect a minor payment of around a Euro.
Caves of Nerja - Cuevas de Nerja
When visiting Nerja for the day many also visit the Cuevas de Nerja just 3km from the town centre. The cave complex was declared a site of Cultural interest in 2006 and is made up of underground caverns stretching for almost 5kms. It is home to the largest known stalagmite in the world, reaching 32m with a base covering 13m x 7m. The caves were discovered purely by chance by 5 local Maro boys playing. On the Balcón de Europa, you will find a Globe monument in their honour. They discovered the caves in 1959.
Though reported to be the third most visited site in Spain, it is very well organised and so there is never much of a wait. We have not bought tickets on previous visits, but it is probably advisable in current circumstances. You can view everything within as the walkway winds right through the caves, note the walkway does feature stairs. Current prices are €12 a person and we think its excellent value for money. Parking is easy and it is a great place to visit, especially when temperatures are soaring outside.
Festival of Musica and Dance
In June there is a festival of music and dance, though it didn’t take place in 2020 due to the pandemic. On June 12th, 1960 the Le Tour de Paris ballet performed at the inauguration of the Caves, accompanied by the Malaga Symphony. Numerous ballet artists have performed in the Ballet Hall during the festival since then.
Acueducto del Águila – The Eagle Aquaduct
This outstanding feat of Spanish architecture is also known as Puente del Áquila or The Eagle Bridge. It has been designated a Site of Special Cultural interest by the Andalucian Government. Built in the 19th century, around 1879 it is still in use today, irrigating the farmland of the local community.
It was commissioned to be built by Francisco Cantatero Senio and his signature is still visible in the aqueducts central pavilion. It was designed to transport water from Nerja into the neighbouring Maro sugar cane factory, Fábrica San Joaquín de Maro or Las Mercedes. The factory is no longer in operation.
The aqueduct is built in the Mudejar style. It is four stories high with 37 brick horseshoe-shaped archways. On the top is a Mudejar-style spire with a weathervane featuring a double-headed eagle. The origin of the symbol is not known for certain, but it is said that it relates to the eagles nesting in the nearby hills at the time of construction, though if you look at it, you can almost imagine the wingspan of an eagle in its shape.
Where is the Aqueduct located?
You will find the aqueduct on the Barranco de la Coladilla de Cazadores (sat-nav makes an interesting attempt at pronouncing this). It is south-west of the Caves of Nerja, so from the Autovia del Mediterráneo (A7) take exit 295 and follow the same route as Las Cuevas de Nerja, where you will soon find the aqueduct signed from the road. Be sure not to take the roundabout exit signposted for the caves, instead follow the signs for Nerja and you will see the aqueduct on your right-hand side after about 200m.
Close to the aqueduct, you will find a layby, ideal for stopping off to get a good viewpoint and snap some photos. The face visible from here is not the front of the construction but the back. The aqueduct faces north, as originally the old road passed by on the other side. You can also walk from the village of Maro if you would prefer to take a closer look at the aqueduct.
Cliffs of Maro-Cerro Gordo
Walkers like to head to the Cliffs of Maro, which offer phenomenal views. They are a feature on a 12km path that runs parallel to the coast. They offer views of the Mediterranean like no other location. Along your walk, you will find many species of rare and protected plants. The area has been declared a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) by the United Nations.
The cliffs are made up of many coves which are popular with scuba divers and snorkellers, who come to see the abundant fish such as moray eels and groupers. They are beautiful but not so easily accessible with many having only steep narrow steps to access them.
Also known as the Acantilados they are rich in birdlife, so they are a popular location for bird watchers. Here you may find varieties of gulls such as black-header, lesser black-headed and herring gulls. As well as Bonelli’s Eagles, kestrel’s, buzzards and black kites.
Rio Chillar Falls – The Nerja River Walk
A walk following a path of pools and waterfalls, with beautiful flora and fauna along the route.
Is also known locally as the Cahorros. This walk offers various degrees of difficulty, but it is possible to walk only as far as you can manage before turning back. If you only walk to the first pool it is a fairly easy walk, but you still need to prepare to get your feet wet on the walk. Flip flops are not recommended as the riverbed is stony and some of the boulders can be slippy due to the moss when wet.
The walk is popular and can get very busy in the summer and at weekends. It is one of the few suitable places to walk in Andalucia between June and August as it offers a lot of shade. We recommend packing a picnic and setting off early, you can then stop by one of the pools for lunch.
That is a snippet on Rio Chillar but you can read our blog for greater detail on this day out.
This modern museum covers three floors and 1800 square metres and offers an interactive and audiovisual experience for visitors. The museum documents the area’s history. The first inhabitants of the caves arrived some 24,000 years ago to the recent tourist boom prompted by the discovery of the caves.
Here, you will find displays of many archaeological finds of ceramics and ancient utensils! There is even a skeleton of a young woman who inhabited the caves around 18,000 years ago. It also touches on the history of the Axarquia region, with mention of the past of Torrox, Frigiliana and Vélez-Málaga. The latter playing a crucial role in 1487 when the area was re-invaded by the Catholic Kings.
The museum is located in the Plaza de España, a short stroll from the Balcón de Europa. As previously mentioned, there is a Municipal car park below. Current rates are €3 per adult and €2 for children over 6. Note entrance to the museum is included in the rate if you have purchased a Cueva de Nerja ticket.
Fiestas and Festivals
There are many celebrations in Nerja that largely centre around the Balcón de Europa. It is always worth checking dates before you are here to see whether something corresponds with your stay. We highly recommend the Explore Nerja website for checking dates and finding out about the many celebrations in Nerja – click here
Popular celebrations are Carnival, a 4-day party leading up to lent. An opportunity to have a big party before fasting. With the vibrant costumes and floats, it is a great photo opportunity and lots of fun. There are two main processions in the carnival, which closes with the Entierro del Bogueron or burial of the Anchovy. The Anchovy model is paraded through the streets, before ending its life as part of the firework display.
Easter, Semana Santa week. There are many celebrations throughout the week but a particular favourite is the Easter Sunday Procession which travels through Calle Carretas in the old town. Away from the hustle and bustle of the Balcón de Europa, residents line the street with red carpet which they cover with fresh herbs like thyme and oregano.
The Festival of San Juan
The festival of San Juan is celebrated in beach towns on the 23rd of June each year with people staying up late dancing, singing and even camping on the beaches. Fires are lit, which are said to give the sun more strength as going forward the sun gets weaker as the days get shorter. In some areas of Spain, tradition dictates that if you jump over one of the fires your sins and problems will be burned away, a somewhat risky task perhaps. Another tradition is to write down your wishes, throwing them into the fire to make them come true. In Nerja, you will find the revellers washing in the sea just after midnight to cleanse themselves of their sins. It is said that if you wash your face and feet three times you will be granted three wishes and a year of good luck.
Nerja Feria takes place in the second week of October and is one of the busiest and largest celebrations of the year. Dancing, eating, drinking and processions are abundant. There is a funfair and organised displays of Flamenco. Activities take place over two large sites in the centre of Nerja. It is advisable to park on the outskirts and walk into town. As you come into Nerja from the N340, you will cross a bridge and then come to a roundabout. To your left you will see the Salablanca Furniture store on Calle Puente Viajo, turn left here and drive to the end of the street where you will find a large car park.
There are many great places to eat out in Nerja. One of our favourites on the Balcón de Europa is La Fuente. Lovely Italian food with amazingly friendly and attentive staff. Click here to find La Fuente’s trip advisor reviews
On the Paseo de Burriana we recommend the Raw Lounge & Tapas bar for great food and great service. Click here for up-to-date Trip Advisor reviews for Raw.
Or maybe just find yourself a Chringuito on the beach and enjoy some Espetos (sardines from a barbecue) and a glass of cool crisp white wine – mmmmm heaven!
Our luxury Rentals
Nerja is just 35-40 minutes from the Competa Escapes Luxury Rental townhouses. Ranging from 2-4 bedrooms they come with private pools and en-suite rooms and up to the minute Wi-Fi and technology. They are in the perfect location to explore this area and Competa itself has many things to do for all ages.
Best prices when you book direct
You will always find the best prices when booking directly with Competa Escapes. We have various discount codes running throughout the year so just contact us for one!
Thanks for reading our blog, you will find many more on all things Spain and Andalucia on our website Competa Escapes.
Nicki and Paul