Nerja (22,000 inhabitants), in the Axarquia district / Malaga province, is a friendly, but versatile holiday destination. It is located on the Mediterranean Sea in Spain’s southernmost state, Andalusia. This most eastern fishermen´s town of the Costa del Sol with its charming historic center is a really nice, attractive town for young and old. You can enjoy wonderful beaches, restaurants, nightlife, local attractions, nature & recreation, cultural festivities.
There are also nice trips in the further area (Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Ronda, Malaga). Even if you have been coming (or have lived) here for years, there are still new activities to discover. Attractions, sights, parks, nature reserves, you name it.
Nerja: Best climate in Europe
Many people come to Nerja by rental car on their own and there are many “second homes”. Hence, you see tourists and hibernators all year round, making it lively in winter too. This is of course also because Nerja officially has the best climate in Europe with 300 days of sunshine a year. In summer, Nerja is an ideal holiday destination for the whole family and there are plenty of activities for children).
Versatile holiday destination
Nerja’s charm lies in its beautiful location on a rocky plateau above the sea. This has created a large number of beaches, each with its own character. This in combination with the beautiful viewpoint Balcon de Europa and the typical Spanish narrow streets in the historic center make Nerja very attractive and picturesque.
The town developed later than the coast west of Málaga. Fortunately, this means there are fewer high-rise buildings. On the one hand, Nerja is surrounded by an agricultural area and on the eastern side by a mountainous nature area (towards Almuñecar) with beautiful viewpoints and desolate beaches. The coastline is 16 kilometers, of which no less than 13 kilometers are beaches! Have you already got the hang of it?
Surroundings of Nerja
Nerja is also famous for its stalactite caves, the Cuevas de Nerja in Maro, which attract many tourists from Spain and abroad. Tip: take a look at the historic roman Aguila aqueduct in Maro. Behind town lies a picturesque old Moorish town, Frigiliana. A characteristic village with whitewashed houses and steep winding streets.
Nerja tips and attractions
Balcon de Europa
In the center of the old town of Nerja lies viewing point Balcon de Europa, which is situated on a protruding cliff into the sea at 23 meters above sea level. This attraction is probably already on your list of holiday tips because especially in clear weather you have a magnificent view of the coast and the mountains behind Nerja. The adjacent picturesque beach Playa Calahonda has become the most photographed beach in Spain. You can also see the popular Playa Burriana from here.
In the evening as well as during the day, this unique place attracts many tourists and in the summer there are plenty of artists. These earn their money, for example, as a painter, musician or living statue. A restaurant is located underneath the Balcon de Europa (which is not known for its good cuisine, by the way). Very centrally located, so you can’t miss Balcon de Europa! There is an impressive row of royal palms and 2 old cannons on the sides. These indicate that the viewpoint consisted of a defensive fortress until 1812. This fort was demolished throughout history by the Spanish themselves – in collaboration with ally England – to prevent it from falling into Napoleon’s hands during the war with the French.
El Salvador church and Plaza Cavana
On the other side of the promenade is a square with the El Salvador church on it. Opposite here you will clearly see (under the arch of the town hall) the tourist office (tel. 0034 – 952 521 531). A tourist train departs from the adjacent square (Plaza Cavana) that runs throughout the town. Today there is also a rival train that goes all the way to the Caves of Nerja in Maro.
Caves of Nerja (Cuevas de Nerja)
The Caves of Nerja (Cuevas de Nerja) are located 4 kilometers from the center, about 700 meters from the coast in the district of Maro. The caves contain the thickest fusion of a stalactite and a stalagmite in Europe with a diameter of up to 18 meters (Guinness Book of Records 1989). Recently, a Neanderthal drawing has recently been discovered, which archaeologists believe is the oldest drawing in the world (42,000 years).
The caves are in the top 5 tourist attractions and holiday tips in Andalusia and are visited by many holidaymakers. The tour lasts approximately 1.5 hours (approx. 1 km) and is done on your own. The public part of the caves is not large but very beautiful. Unfortunately not recommended for people with walking difficulties, because there are quite a few stairs. The caves are a total of 35,484 square meters with an impressive length of over 7,000 meters.
Events in and around the Nerja caves
Prehistoric remains have been found in the caves from the Palaeolithic period, 30,000 years ago in history. A small part is open to the public. The 30-meter-high hall sometimes hosts classical music concerts during the Festival of Music and Dance (usually in July) and it hosts no fewer than 800 listeners (see section festivities). The caves were only discovered in 1959 by a small group of young people from Maro. One of them (‘Ayo‘) now has a popular chiringuito (fish restaurant) on Burriana beach. The monument at the entrance of the caves refers to the discovery. Above the caves is a shady playground and benches & tables for a picnic and there is a playground. On 14 and 15 May, Romeria de San Isidro will be celebrated in this area.
Opening times: www.cuevadenerja.es (menu, las visitas, horarios & tarifas).
Since 2012, the Cuevas de Nerja administration has been running a historical museum located in Plaza de España just behind the Balcon de Europa. A combined entrance ticket can be purchased for this museum and the caves.
Due to the rugged coastline, Nerja has many sandy beaches, from large to small and from busy to quiet. The two liveliest city beaches are Playa Torrecilla to the west of the center and Playa Burriana to the east. Sunbeds are rented on busier beaches (2 beds plus umbrella is 10 euros, fixed price). But you can also opt for a quiet beach towards La Herradura (park at the top of the road and walk down). Nerja alone has 17 beaches, so you can choose a different beach every day of your holiday, in summer, low season or even winter …
- El Cucho
- La Torrecilla
- Playa El Salon
- La Caletilla
- La Calahonda
- Burriana Playa
- La Caleta
- Playa de Maro
- Molino de Papel
- Cala de Pino
- Playa el Cañuelo
- Playa Cantarriján (naturist)
The closest beach to the four Capistrano holiday complexes is Burriana Playa. This is a lively and wide beach with characteristic fishing boats, plenty of restaurants and a nice boulevard. In the afternoon large pans of paella are prepared in the ´chiringuitos´ and sardines are roasted over a charcoal fire. Burriana cannot be seen from the center and can be reached on foot via a steep walkway that runs along the Parrador (Nerja’s listed state hotel). There is also a lot of water sports on this beach (diving, pedal boats, canoeing, water scooters, etc.). Don’t miss it!
Nature, walks & Los Acantilados National Park
The nature around Nerja is very suitable for sports & recreation such as horseback riding, mountain biking, Nordic walking, diving, canoeing, fishing, etc. You can also walk/hike in the official nature reserve Parque Natural Los Acantilados near the caves of Maro. After a 5 km route into the mountains, you can have a picnic here at the picnic spot El Pinarillo. (Barbecuing and the car are limited only depending on the season.) Don’t forget to bring enough water and sunscreen in all seasons …
Rio Chillar hike & waterfall
You can walk up the river bed of the Rio Chillar from Nerja to Frigiliana. At the start of the trip through this river you will find a waterfall (just like in Frigiliana) and a natural water basin called ‘Vado de los Patos‘. Ask for more information about hiking in Nerja and the surrounding area at the Oficina de Turismo on the Balcon de Europa. And … you better leave your slippers at home. If you don’t have comfortable water shoes, regular sneakers are the best footwear. A refreshing tip especially in the summer.
Maro is a small village and at the same time a part of Nerja. The town has about 800 inhabitants. Maro’s location is very nice on the coast, 4 kilometers east of Nerja. The Cuevas de Nerja (Caves), the remains of the Roman city of Detunda are nearby and there is a small rural camping site in Maro. You will only find a few restaurants and there is a church (Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas from the early 17th century) to visit.
Things to see in Maro
In addition, the town has some beautiful beaches including Alberguillas and Cantarriján (naturists). The beaches and cliffs from Maro to Mount Cerro Gordo have been declared a protected natural area. That is why Maro is loved by fans of water sports and outdoor activities. You can also walk in the nature reserve Los Acantilados (from the caves up). For example, there is a nice picnic spot 5 km away ‘El Pinarillo‘. A really nice walk! On the way to Maro – past the exit to the motorway – you can see remains of a beautiful ancient Roman Aguilla aqueduct, which was also used for the sugar factory built in the 17th century.
Other festivals in the village are ‘San Anton‘ in January, the Maro feria in September and Maroween. Maroween is a combination of Halloween plus the local harvest/chestnut festival. It is held on… October 31st.
Romeria parade of San Isidro
The San Isidro folklore festival is celebrated on the grounds of the caves. During a whole day, the patron saint San Isidro is carried from the church at Balcon de Europa to Maro in a festive procession. A fun party with lots of horses, costumes and culture. Once arrived at the party area, there is a big party and there are a large number of outdoor bars and some open-air nightclubs. The party already starts the night before.
Parque Verano Azul
Among Spaniards, this seaside resort is best known for the popular television series ‘El Verano Azul‘ (the blue summer) from the 80s. In the west of Nerja there is a small park with a playground to commemorate the series with the original boat ‘La Dorada‘. (delicious kind of fish!). Via the new pedestrian promenade, you walk from Verano Azul all the way via the riverbed to the beach and via the old watchtower over Playa Torrecilla to Plaza de los Cangrejos in the center of Nerja. However, you can also walk to Chirinquito El Paraiso via Playa Playazo, 2 kilometers further, just past the large hotel Marinas de Nerja.
Nerja market is on Tuesday mornings and here you will find souvenirs, clothing, spices, trinkets and some food stands such as artisan honey and roasted almonds. On Sunday morning there is a flea market or Car Boot Sale. Both markets are in the new part of Nerja ‘Almijarra‘ from 10 am to 2 pm (follow the signs at the roundabout at the top of Burriana Playa). You can also go there by bus because (nearby) parking is only possible if you are early.
For those who like culture, music or dance, it is advisable to check the program of the Centro Cultural (villa de Nerja) in Calle Granada, even if you do not speak Spanish. This is where music, flamenco and dance performances are given (about 350 seats). In addition, there is regular children’s theatre and better films in the original language are shown. During the summer holidays, the programming moves outside to Plaza de los Cangrejos. Here the entertainment is free.
Restaurants and nightlife
According to culinary authority Tripadvisor, Nerja has more than 300 catering establishments, which is quite a number for a town of 22,000 inhabitants. Of course not all are equally good. Sometimes you eat surprisingly well in places you don’t expect. Other times you spend a lot of money without it actually being anything special. Below you find, out of many years of experience, a varied overview in different price ranges.
- Restaurant and Hostal Avalon (Punta Lara) – Spectacular views over town, excellent food, private parking
- Oliva (centre) – Official Michellin star recommendation
- Restaurant Bakus (centre) – Fine dining, reservation needed
- Botanic (Main street) – Fine-dining, great wines and tapas, beautiful interior (and it´s large inside)
- Unico (Main street) – Better Italian food
- Restaurante Pata Negra 57 (centre) – Excellent, high-class food
- Playa & Sol (Burriana) – This place is much more than a chiringuito and they serve huge portions
Beach and chiringuitos
- Rincon del Sol (Burriana) – Great location on the end of Burriana, ideal lounge place for a cocktail with beach views
- Paraiso (West) – Excellent, almost secret location at the end of Playazo
- Ayo (Burriana) – Famous for its owner and paellas
- Mauri (West/Playazo strand) – Nice chiringuito with good prices and parking close
- Yuu Taley / Wai Wai Wok (Burriana) – Excellent Thai. Eat your food here or order a take-away
- Pinnochio (Main street) – Italian restaurant in the very centre with good prices and nice garden. Ideal to meet up, for its direct access to parking Carrabeo
- Raw (Burriana) – Don´t worry, it´s not all raw, just very fresh
- Mo Gastrotapas – (Parador area) Luxurious tapas
- Vinoleto (Close to Tuti Fruti) – Small wine bar with elegant tapas
- Taps bar Sevillano (Close to Tuti Fruti) – Several locations in town, typical Spanish food and tapas
- Bar El Molino (centre) – Traditional bar with live music
- El Burro Blanco flamenco bar (centre, see video below) – Traditional bar with often live flamenco dance shows
- Julie & Valeri´s – (Balcon de Europa) Cute small restaurant with worldly food and Caribean influences and music. Reservations for 2 shifts
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