What to do and what to see in Nerja

Nerja is the easternmost municipality in the region of La Axarquía and in the province of Málaga, bordering on the province of Granada.

Since the 60 years, Nerja is a preferential tourist destination belonging to the Eastern Costa del Sol, with approximately one third of foreign residents.

Nerja has a mild climate throughout the year, which allows the cultivation of subtropical fruits such as custard apple, avocado or mango and makes it the ideal place for relax tourism and enjoyment of numerous water activities.

Part of the municipality of Nerja is located within Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park, where Navachica Peak is located, the highest point of the municipality with 1832 meters above sea level. Its geography is bathed by three rivers, River Seco, River Miel and River Chillar, the latter has a perfect channel for hiking along its route, known as the River Chillar Route.

The incursion of Sierra de Almijara into the sea from its eastern part, makes its coastline of 14 km with cliffs and steep areas, creating at the same time beautiful beaches and coves visited by tourists from all the world.

Nerja has border municipalities from the province of Málaga and Granada. In the north and west are CómpetaFrigiliana and Torrox from the province of Málaga, in the northeast and east are Otívar and Almuñécar from the province of Granada and in the south Mediterranean Sea.

History of Nerja

The first references of humans in Nerja take place in what is known as Caves of Nerja, in the Upper Palaeolithic. However, nothing is known about these civilizations until Roman domination, to which belongs the settlement of a small town in Maro district known as Dentuda. Also, you can see some remains of the Roman road in Maro Gully, just above Águila Aqueduct.

The name of Nerja has its origin in the Muslim era, when it was known as Narixa, which means "abundant fountain". From the Arab domination you can see a fortress whose remains are in the site of Castillo Alto, next to the old deviation to Frigiliana.

The reconquest by the Christian troops in 1487 was at the same time in Vélez-Málaga, without opposing resistance, its inhabitants conserved their properties and lands until, after the Moorish uprising, they were expelled, which led to a repopulation of Nerja with old Christians from other provinces. Under Christian rule and due to continued looting of Berber pirates, the town began to lose inhabitants and, to avoid further abandonment, coastal fortifications were reinforced.

At the end of the 16th century, the first sugar mill, Ingenio de San Antonio Abad, start to run in Nerja. However, Nerja achieves its greatest splendor in the 18th century, due to the success in the trade of wine, honey, sugar and flour. It also gave way to mine works and the road to Málaga and Almería was built.

In the 19th century the decline returns to Nerja. The phylloxera plague (a parasitic insect) destroyed the vineyards and businesses such as raisin, wine, or sugar broke. In addition, Carlist War brought with it the loss of the necessary funds to sustain such industries, destined at that time to the war. During Peninsular War the english troops demolished the fortress that stood where Balcón de Europa is today, and destroyed the port, preventing hiding french troops in their installations.

During the 19th century, the export of extra-early fruits in Maro district was very important in Nerja. However, it is in the sixties of the 20th century when Nerja and all its surroundings find a great development driven by tourism.

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What to see in Nerja

Within the cultural heritage of Nerja there are different elements with too importance. One of the most emblematic is Balcón de Europa, with stunning views to the sea. Its name is given by King Alfonso XII, who was captivated by the scene of the place and said that when he looked out he felt that Europe ended there.

Among the civil constructions of Nerja it is necessary to highlight Águila Aqueduct of the 19th century, built to transport water to the mills of the old Sugar Factory of Saint Joaquín from Maro and formed by four floors of superimposed arches that jump the great slope from Coladilla Gully. It is also worth mentioning Ingenio de San Antonio Abad of the sixteenth century, which is one of the sugar factories that were in the municipality of Nerja. This factory was the main engine of the Nerja's economy until 1869, when the factory stopped working. Today its ruins are an important milestone that refers to the memory of the inhabitants of Nerja.

An important monument that worth seeing is La Dorada, a replica of the famous ship of the mythical TV serie Verano Azul, popularly known as "Chanquete's Boat".

Villa de Nerja Cultural Center is another place that you may find interesting to see and is currently used as a theater.

As a religious heritage in Nerja you can find four religious temples distributed between Nerja and Maro.

In the historic center of Nerja you can see Hermitage of Angustias, from the 17th century and baroque style, which stands out for its simple belfry and the frescoes of the dome, attributed to Alonso Cano school of Granada. On the other hand, there is Church of Saint Miguel, from the 17th century with a baroque-mudejar style.

Very close to Balcón de Europa, between Cavana Square and Balcón de Europa Path, you can find Church of El Salvador, from the 17th century and in the baroque-mudejar style. This church has a square tower and an octagonal bell tower. Inside, it keeps mural paintings such as Incarnation of Francisco Hernández or Bronze Christ of Aurelio Teno. It is one of the few temples with representations of the three Archangels.

Finally, in Maro is Hermitage of Maravillas from the 17th-century and popular architecture. Inside it has the image of Virgin of Maravillas.

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What to do in Nerja

Nerja is a municipality that has a wide range of entertainment for all people. With its beaches, its cultural and natural heritage and its range of tourist activities, you will not be bored.

You can visit the famous Caves of Nerja, which is one of the most valuable elements of the natural heritage of Nerja and Spain, recognized as a Historic Artistic Monument of natural origin and of Cultural Interest. Through its galleries you will have the opportunity to see stalactites, stalagmites, cave paintings and archaeological sites and strata. You will learn all about the history and curiosities of this element within the karst heritage of Andalusia.

If you want to know more about Nerja, you can visit Nerja History Museum where you will find a review from Prehistory to the present day of Nerja, its history and its natural heritage. The museum is located few meters from Balcón de Europa.

The municipality of Nerja has more than 14 km of coastline, among which are its magnificent beaches that you can take advantage of in different ways, such as relaxing sunbathing in the sand, doing water activities, discovering coves and small waterfalls between the cliffs or walking along its promenade. Also at the most eastern end of the municipality of Nerja is Maro, a highly demanded area among lovers of coastal and nature tourism.

Maro is a district of Nerja that rises on the beautiful Cliffs of Maro, about three kilometers from Nerja. Next to it are the ruins of the Sugar Mill. Cliffs of Maro, that are in the limit with the province of Granada, concentrate some beaches between gullies, forming a natural reserve of great beauty, Cliffs of Maro Natural Reserve, where you will find beautiful coves.

What is clear is that Nerja beaches provide a great opportunity for you to enjoy the weather that Andalusian Mediterranean shore has. Along coast of Nerja and Maro we must highlight the following beaches:

  • Maro Beach - It is a sandy beach with about 500 meters long and about 20 meters wide, easily accessible and very popular during the summer. It has parking, kiosks, spas, bins, showers and beach bars, and has a beach cleaning service.
  • Burriana Beach - It is considered the best beach in Nerja. It has a length of 800 meters and a width of 40 meters, of fine golden sand. The beach enjoys all the equipment and renews the blue flag and the Q for Spanish Tourist Quality every year. It is usually frequented by families. The environment is beautiful, from the beach you can see the mountains of Sierra de Almijara and Cliffs of Maro. You can practice windsurfing, sailing, diving or beach volleyball.
  • Cañuelo Cove - It is a sandy beach of about 350 meters long and 10 meters wide, very frequented. It can be reached by car and has parking, litter bins, kiosks and showers, and a beach cleaning service.
  • La Caleta Beach - It is a sandy beach about 400 meters long and 15 meters wide, sheltered under Cliffs of Maro and Vega of Maro. Its natural beauty gives it a certain wild charm.
  • Calahonda Beach - Located next to Balcón de Europa, it is the best known of the Nerja beaches, stamp of all the postcards of the area. Flanked by two cliffs, it is accessed through a staircase next to the tourist office. The beach has lifeguards, showers, bathrooms and hammock rentals.
  • El Playazo Beach - With 1700 meters long and about 30 meters wide, it is the westernmost of Nerja. It is located on the outskirts of the city, a fact that guarantees less influx and greater relax. It stands out for the celebration of the Saint Juan's Night. It is a semi-urban beach, with dark sand, moderate waves and has parking services, hammock rentals, sun loungers and parasols, kiosks, nautical rentals, relief equipment, toilets and public showers, and beach bars or restaurants. It has a rustic environment that has not yet suffered the consequences of the uncontrolled urbanization of Málaga shore.

Other beaches and coves that you can find throughout the municipality of Nerja are Pino Coves, Alberquillas Beach, Maro Gully Cove, Molino de Papel Beach, La Torrecilla Beach, El Salón Beach, Carabeo Beach, Carabeillo Beach, El Chorrillo Beach, La Caletilla Beach and El Chucho Beach.

Apart from the beaches and all the activities that can be done in these, Nerja provides you with other activities in its natural environment such as hiking along River  Chillar Route, spending a day in Sierra de Almijara enjoying a picnic in El Pinarillo Recreational Area or climbing El Cielo Peak. River Chillar Route is a route along River Chillar that runs mostly through the riverbed, which is why it is recommended for the hot months.

To end the day, you can have fun with the nightly entertainment offered by Tutti Frutti Square with bars, pubs and discos.

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Traditional festivals and celebrations in Nerja

The vast majority of Nerja festivities and celebrations have religious motive. This is the situation of St. Anton's Day, patron of animals, which takes place in mid-January in Maro and has been celebrated since the 17th century.

The best known religious holiday nationwide is Holy Week. In Nerja and Maro the different images of Jesus and Virgin Mary are carried in procession through the streets. These streets are adorned with floral monuments, manila shawls and other equipment during the May Crosses, which feature music and typical dances, as well as a wide range of local gastronomic products.

St. Isidro's Pilgrimage begins in Balcón de Europa, but it is in a mass in the Church of El Salvador where the celebration begins. Every May 15 from the Balcón de Europa the saint is taken to Caves of Nerja with help of oxen and followed by carts and floats that take advantage of the stops to eat, drink, dance and sing. Once the saint has reached the hermitage, the people continue the celebration until late at night.

To welcome the summer you can find the St. Juan Festivity, held the night of June 23 to 24 at the beach. At twelve o'clock at night will be the time when you burn the popular "juas", jump the embers or bathe you in the sea making wishes. Burriana Beach offers you a gigantic “moraga” every year.

In mid-July, is Virgin of Carmen's Festivity, patron saint of sailors takes place, as in most coastal towns. In Nerja floral offerings are made, the image of the virgin is carried around the streets and fireworks are launched that illuminate the horizon at sea.

Other festivals with religious motive in Nerja are the Virgin of Maravillas' Festivity in Maro in September, which celebrates Maro Fair, and the Feast in honor of Virgin of Angustias and St. Miguel in October, which gives way to Nerja Fair, where the Flamenco Singing Festival takes place.

Outside the religious field you can find festivities like the Carnival of Nerja held in February and where it is given mourning to Chanquete on the last day. You can also enjoy the Caves of Nerja Music and Dance International Festival during the months of July and August on Friday and Saturday nights with outdoor performances where world-class artists have played.

There are other celebrations within the municipality of Nerja such as the New Year's Eve Party in Balcón de Europa Square, Maroween in Maro for Halloween, Foreign Resident Day and Tourist Day.

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Gastronomy of Nerja

You cannot leave Nerja without trying any of the typical dishes of the municipality or savor a delicious “espeto” in a beach bar.

The gastronomy of Nerja stands out for being very rich and varied. In this matter, remember that Nerja is part of the Sun and Wine Route, one of the routes that make up La Axarquía region.

Among the typical Nerja dishes, paprika (casserole that is cooked with paprika squash where sardines and clams are added), cod tortillas with sugar cane honey, crumbs with blackberry and roasted mullets from Cliffs of Maro and Bay of Nerja. You will also find sweet dishes you can enjoy such as sweet potatoes in sugarcane honey (they are cooked with sugarcane honey and a little water and clove, cinnamon, anise and a slice of lemon), or St. Juan cake (wheat flour, which is decorated with an egg and sugar on top).

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