Nerja is situated at the eastern tip of the Costa del Sol, in the province of Malaga, 50 kilometres from the city of Malaga and within an hour and a half’s drive from Granada and the ski resort of the Sierra Nevada.
Sheltered by the impressive Sierra Almijara mountain range, Sierra Almijara, this once sleepy fishing village is now one of the most popular tourist resorts along the coast, with a population of over 12,000. The town has resisted too much re-development and high rise apartment blocks, preferring to stay a charming seaside town, attracting the more discerning holidaymaker; the town is often referred to as the ‘’Jewel of the Costa del Sol’.
One of the town’s most impressive attractions is the Balcón de Europa (the Balcony of Europe), a wonderful promenade, stretching along the edge of a soaring cliff top, which was once the location of a Moorish castle. The platform has spectacular panoramic views of the Mediterranean coastline, with its backdrop of mountains.
The deep Andalusian culture that the town exudes, perfect climate and cosmopolitan atmosphere, has made Nerja one of the most attractive holiday hotspots on the Costa del Sol.
Playa de Burriana is the largest and best-equipped beach in the resort, with a long and wide strip of pale sand.
In the summer there are floating slides in the water for kids, and lifeguards are on patrol from April to late-September.
Behind the beach is a paved promenade with a long line of chiringuitos (Spanish beach bars), and further back on Camino de Burriana is a very international assortment of bars and eateries.
This cave system had been used by Neanderthals and early civilisations up to the Bronze Age.
But it lay unseen by modern eyes until 1959 when a group of friends stumbled upon it while out catching bats. On a tour you’ll step through a sequence of chambers, coming to the magnificent Sala del Cataclismo, which is 100 metres long and reaches heights of more than 30 metres. The humungous central column is 32 metres high and officially the largest in the world.
This seafront veranda at the top of a headland is a big part of local life in Nerja.
It got its name in 1885 when King Alfonso XII visited this spot following an earthquake and remarked that it was the “balcony of Europe”. When you contemplate the sea from the iron railings it’s hard to disagree.
There’s a statue of King Alfonso here, as well as a sculpture on the plaza behind commemorating the discovery of Nerja’s caves.
You’ll journey against the course of the Chillar River as it winds through a gorge and cascades into a perfectly clear pool. The walk is suitable for most ages and takes around three hours. It’s also a year-round activity, particularly satisfying in the summer as the water and shade created by the gorge will cool you off. If you go quietly you should get to see Ibexes balancing on the ravine walls, as well as lizards and snakes sunning themselves on the rocks.
This beach has the dual appeal of being right in the middle of Nerja while not attracting as many visitors as Torrecilla and Burriana. This is partly down to its setting, at the foot of the cliffs to the west of the Balcón de Europa.
You have to make your way down to the seafront via a steep winding lane, and there are no beachside restaurants here.
The historic landmark in the pedestrianised area behind the Balcón de Europa, this whitewashed church was built at the end of the 17th century and has a baroque and Mudéjar (Moorish-style) design.
The bell-tower beside it is a little newer and was completed in 1724, rising above Nerja’s skyline.
You’ll get to know the peals of its bells, which ring on the hour and half-hour, and competing with the tower is a huge Norfolk Island pine tree, brought from the Americas in the early-1900s.
This 19th-century civic work merits a photo .
It was built to carry water to the mills of a disused sugar refinery in Maro and traverses the precipitous Barranco de la Coladilla, a ravine not too far from the Nerja Caves.
Although the sugar mills are gone, the aqueduct is still used for irrigation.
There are four storeys of overlapping arches, number 37 in total, all with a Moorish-style horseshoe shape.
Around 10 kilometres east of Nerja there’s a peaceful little cove with a shale beach. Not too many people make it this far outside the resort, and what adds to the sense of seclusion is the ban on cars in the Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural Park; you have to park up by the road and catch a minibus down the shore. There you can unwind in front of rocky, pine-dappled hills or take a dip in the serene waters, which offer some of the best snorkelling.
The natural park east of Nerja has undeveloped cliff-tops and little coves, all of which are best admired from the sea. You can rent a kayak by the hour from the beachfront at Burriana or Maro and see what you can find. Playa de Burriana also has its own PADI five star dive centre, with courses and dives for all levels. If you feel you’re not quite ready to take the plunge you could also take part in one of the centre’s snorkelling excursions.
This sport is synonymous with the Costa del Sol, but on the eastern side of the region there are fewer courses. Still, in Nerja you’ll have two within half an hour. Baviera Golf in Caleta de Velez is closest; it’s one of the more reasonably-priced on the Costa del Sol but also gets some of the best reviews. It’s a very playable, 18-hole par 72 with a great bar and terrace at the 19th.