The 22 Best Things To Do In Nerja
Nerja, on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain and under an hour's drive from Malaga Airport, is a great place for a holiday. Once a quiet fishing village, it's now an ideal coastal resort, with its sun-drenched beaches - and there is plenty to see and do in Nerja.
Here's what to do in Nerja, Spain:
1. Spend some time on the beach
The many beaches in Nerja are one of the reasons that this area of Spain is so well-loved - and you could visit a different one each day of your holiday. These are just some of our favourites:
The gorgeous sandy beach of Burriana is the biggest in Nerja and often considered the best – it has several kids’ playgrounds, lifeguards, jet ski hire, parking, sunbeds – anything a committed beach-goer could require. La Torrecilla is equally well-equipped, and offers both sandy and pebbly parts.
Calahonda beach is found under the Balcon de Europa and is stunning and very conveniently located in the centre of the town.
Le Playazo is a very long, but much quieter beach towards the west of the town.
Maro beach is definitely worth a visit if you want to go snorkelling; the clear waters of this pretty cove are perfect for it, and the underwater caves and waterfalls are magical.
If you enjoy going back to nature, then the Calas del Pino beach is the one for you; impossibly clear water surrounded by a rugged landscape of pine trees. The beach itself is split by (easily surmountable) fallen rocks into two sections, and be aware that nudism is accepted here.
2. Explore Nerja caves
An absolute must-see when you are in Nerja are the famous caves, the Cueva de Nerja. The 5km long caves are home to the largest discovered stalactite in the world, as well as cave paintings that are over forty thousand years old. The informative guided tour will last around 45 minutes. If you visit Nerja in June, be sure to check out the music and dance festival that’s hosted in the caves annually.
3. Visit the Botanical Gardens
Found next to the Nerja caves, the newly opened Detunda-Cueva Botanical Garden is on the very edge of the natural park. Arranged by climate zones, you can see over 200 species of plants from traditional crops from the area such as sugarcane, endangered species and plants of special interest like orchids. Free entry.
4. Enjoy a walk along the river (Rio Chillar)
A popular family activity in Nerja is the river walk, up the Rio Chillar, and it's completely free to do. There and back it’s around 10 miles, but it’s enjoyable even if you just do part of the walk – although you’ll miss out on the sparkling waterfalls at the end if you do. There’s plenty of wildlife to see on the way, such as birds, butterflies and maybe even a mountain goat. The walk is mostly in the shade, and sometimes in quite deep gorges, and do bear in mind that much of the walk is actually through the river itself, so you will get wet feet!
5. Hop abord the tourist train (Cueva Tren)
Kids (and grown-up kids!) will love this little red train which provides a shuttle services between the Nerja caves and the Nerja Museum. The hop-on-hop-off service will allow you to see many of the other local sights too.
6. Walk up El Cielo
A wide, well-marked path leads you up this mountain, whose name means “the heavens” – one of the highest coastal mountains in the area. You can start (and park) near the Cueva de Nerja but be warned, this is a serious walk and if you are not experienced, you might be better off joining a walking tour. If you are looking for a shorter but also scenic walk, you can just do the first 3 miles or so to El Pinarillo where you’ll find a picnic area.
7. Go to the Balcón de Europa
The site of the watchtower of a 9th century Arabic fortress, and once you’ve made your way there you’ll see why! This large, round balcony on a cliff’s edge in the middle of Nerja offers the most incredible views of the Mediterranean and the Almijara mountains – kids will enjoy imagining that they are keep a look-out for marauding pirates, and trying to see Africa across the sea. There are telescopes here for you to make the most of the views and a restaurant just below if you want to keep enjoying the panorama over lunch. The 17th Century El Salvador Church with its wonderful baroque architecture is also found near here. This viewpoint is one of the most famous in the whole Costa del Sol.
8. Take a kayak trip
Seeing the cliffs, sea caves and waterfalls of Nerja from the Med shouldn’t be missed, and one of the best ways to do this is by kayak. You can hire kayaks for yourself or book yourself onto a tour from Maro beach, which will last 2 hours and is fully guided; you’ll learn all sorts about the area as you go. It’s suitable for complete beginners too, and all the equipment is provided, so don’t worry if you have no experience of kayaking.
9. Spend an hour at Nerja Museum
This small, well organised and modern museum is very near the Balcon de Europa, and if you’ve visited the caves then you’ll be able to get in on the same ticket. You’ll learn about the history of Nerja and in particular the artefacts discovered in the caves. Information is accessible and in English.
10. Hike to El Fuerte
El Fuerte means The Fort, and to get here is a fairly short, but challenging uphill walk, which culminates at one of the most magnificent viewpoints of the Amijara mountain range. Not for the unfit or those with a fear of heights, and you’ll need proper walking shoes to complete this hike. At the summit, only a few ruins remain of the original Arab castle which was destroyed in the 16th century.
11. Enjoy a cocktail at sunset
There are many places you could go to enjoy a cocktail in Nerja, and a number of places you could go to enjoy the sunset. We’d recommend Rincón del Sol (the “sun corner") Beach Club where you can do both. Mojito on Burriana beach, anyone?
12. Take a trip to nearby Velez Malaga
A charming, working, and relatively un-touristy Spanish town which is nice to wander round for a couple of hours. Visit on a Thursday if you want to go to the market. There’s also a 17th century palace, an ancient convent and churches, and old city gates – and some very good restaurants.
13. Visit the Maro Tower
The Torre de Maro is a 16th century watch tower near the cliff edge, built as a defence against pirates for the fishermen and farmers of Nerja. A lovely walk to get here and you will be rewarded with spectacular views.
14. Spend a morning in Frigiliana
Located 4 miles from Nerja, Frigiliana is a very pretty “pueblo blanco” town with a beautiful Moorish quarter. It’s often voted one of the most attractive places in Andalucia, with its white-washed houses, steep winding streets and attractive patterned paving.
15. Admire the El Acueducto del Águila
A 19th century feat of engineering whose name means “The Eagle’s Aquaduct”, this was built to transport water from Nerja to the sugar refinery in nearby Maro. Today it is still used for local irrigation although the factory is now closed (see below). It’s a beautiful sight, framed by the mountainous backdrop, and has been declared a Site of Special Cultural Interest.
16. Wander around the Fabrica de Maro
Maro, very close to Nerja, was a thriving industrial town thanks to a successful sugarcane industry. In fact the whole area has a long history of sugar cane plantations and mills. The San Joaquin sugar mill and distillery, built in 1884, is now disused and derelict but is interesting to see, and to wonder at the scale of the industry that was once here. About 35 metres of Roman road have also been unearthed near here.
17. Have lunch with a view at the Restaurant Mirador de Cerro-Gordo
A restaurant within a nature reserve, overlooking the beautiful landscape from a cliff-edge vantage point; forest and scrubland to one side and the Mediterranean to the other. The perfect place to admire the famous cliffs and pretty coves of this area, other than from the sea itself.
18. Go shopping at Nerja markets
There are two markets a week in Nerja, both found on Calle Mirto off Calle Cisne, on Sunday and Tuesday mornings until 2pm. You’ll find all sorts of typical Spanish market goods at the Tuesday market, with around 180 stalls offering a range of items from fruit and veg to shoes, clothes, souvenirs, jewellery and homeware. The Sunday market is more like a car boot or antiques sale and is very popular, and haggling is the norm!
19. Head to the mountains for some skiing
Sounds unlikely, doesn’t it?! But you really can go skiing, only an hour and a half or so from the coast, on the Sierra Nevada. Having said that, if you are visiting Nerja in the summer then this isn’t an option – the ski season lasts from November to late April.
20. Spend a day in Malaga
Malaga is the southernmost city in Spain, and is a lively, bustling metropolis overflowing with culture, good food and tourist attractions. You can visit the cathedral, 23 museums including the Picasso Museum, go shopping, eat lunch at the port, and see historic churches and monuments – and of course go to the beach. You can get a bus from Nerja to Malaga; some of these are direct and take around 1 hour.
21. Have paella on the beach
There are a number of chiringuitos along Burriana beach – chiringuitos being casual beachfront bars that sell drinks, tapas and snack foods, and in this case, paella. The most renowned one in Nerja for paella is Chiringuito de Ayo; busy, great value fresh seafood and a wonderful atmosphere. Witnessing the paella being cooked in huge pans on open fires is part of the entertainment!
22. Relax by your pool
If you are lucky enough to be going to the Costa del Sol, why not make it a holiday of a lifetime with a villa with a private pool in Nerja?
Take a look at some other resorts that are close to Malaga airport.