Nerja, a former sleepy fishing village, turned summer hot spot can be found in the region of Costa Del Sol in the south of Spain.
Think narrow streets, whitewashed houses, Spanish style balconies, incredible sea views, countless beaches, rocky caves all surrounded by the Sierra de Almijara mountain range. Oh, and most importantly, countless places to enjoy a meal! The best part of travel.
Where to Stay in Nerja
The best part about Nerja is the lack of high rise developments and minimal hotel chains. The town, although filled with tourists, is authentic and the hotels that are available felt hidden away, camouflaged with the likes of regular apartments.
We broke our stay up between two places, Apartamentos Abril & Apartamentos La Botica de Nerja, both of which were in incredible locations, walking distance to everything you would need, had a fully equipped kitchen, a rooftop pool (La Botica) and balconies.
How to Get to Nerja, Spain
The closest international airport to Nerja is Malaga, 65km from Nerja. From Malaga airport, there are 2 ways you can reach Nerja.
The Most Expensive – Private taxi. Whilst this is always the most direct route, it is the most expensive. The 50-minute trip will cost anywhere from €65 – €80. A good option if there is at least 4 of you sharing a car.
The Cheapest – Bus. Unfortunately, the buses don’t run directly from Malaga Airport to Nerja but once you leave the airport, you can take the bus (A Express Bus/Line 75) or the 8 minute high-speed train from the airport into Maria Zambrano (Malaga’s main transport hub) and then jump on an ALSA bus from Maria Zambrano direct to Nerja for €4.31. This trip will take roughly 1.5 hours on a comfortable coach. Once you get off the bus in Nerja, it is a 10-minute walk into the city centre. Extremely easy and very cost effective! Tickets can be bought on the day of travel. You can find the ALSA bus schedule here.
Note: If you plan to return to Malaga Airport from Nerja, there are direct buses from Nerja to Malaga airport for this route.
What to do in Nerja
There’s more to Nerja than sunbaking on the beaches, although we will admit, most of our time was definitely doing just that. Nevertheless, if you have a few days in this seaside town and are tired of the beach (if that’s even possible?), we’ve recommended some activities to fill your days.
Day trip to Frigiliana
The beautiful village of Frigiliana is located 6km from the centre of Nerja and in our opinion is one of the most gorgeous towns in Spain. It was as though Greece and Spain had a baby and this picturesque town was born.
Meticulously maintained whitewashed houses, small charming alleyways, colourful pastel themed door frames, hundreds of bright colour flower pots, cute restaurants, friendly locals, handicraft stores, boutique clothing and more photo ops than a camera can handle, including the cutest little old men you’ll ever see.
Once you’re done exploring the nooks and crannies of Frigiliana, grab something to eat at La Tienda. An English style cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. The English couple that run this cafe are very welcoming and serve delicious cakes and tasting plates (shown below) with many local delicacies from the area. FYI: That was the tasting plate for one!
Getting Here: Frigiliana is a 15-minute direct bus ride from the bus station in Nerja. Tickets cost €1 and can be purchased on the bus. You can also take a taxi for €13 one way.
Party in the Tutti Frutti Plaza
Once the restaurants start to close and dinner comes to an end and you’re itching for some more wine and looking to carry on the evening, you’ll find all the nightlife in the Tutti Frutti Plaza just outside the old town. This plaza has a mixture of cocktail bars and clubs with promoters patrolling the streets to bring you in. Some of these clubs will stay open until 4:00 am. It’s not the scene for everyone but for party goers, this is the best form of nightlife you’ll find in this old fisherman’s village.
Roam The Streets
Whilst this may seem like a no-brainer, we can’t emphasise how beautiful and unique the streets were in Nerja. Set out before your dinner for the golden hour and capture the character that these streets have. Individualised and extremely detailed tiles, brightly coloured doors, a variety of colourful flowerpots and the best part, the friendly locals that leave their door open as they sit on their stoop and watch the world go by.
It’s the simplest things in life and they sure know how to be happy at home.
Hike the Rio Chillar Gorge
The Rio Chillar walk is listed as one of the most popular activities in the whole of Costa Del Sol and it’s one of the only walks in the area to take some respite from the blazing heat.
The hike is roughly 16km long round trip, however, you can walk as little or as far as you wish as you will return the same way you came. Allow at least 5 -6 hours if you plan to do the whole walk and set out as early as possible to avoid some of the crowds.
The scenic hikes take you through narrow gorges, open spaces & pebbly riverbeds. There are plenty of places to stop for lunch in the shade to let the kids (or adults) splash in the cool waters and swim in the clear river pools. The walk itself isn’t strenuous but there are times that you’ll find yourself in above ankle deep water so be sure to wear appropriate shoes that you don’t mind getting wet as the rocks can be slippery and your feet sore without adequate footwear.
The hike starts off rather slow and dry but once you reach further into the trail, the gorges become narrower and the water far deeper. I have to admit, even as a grown adult, I had a whole lot of fun splashing about in the river bed in my newly bought water shoes ;).
What to Bring:
- Water shoes (or shoes you don’t mind getting wet!).
Note: Whatever you bring with you on the walk needs to come out with you too. There are no garbage facilities inside so don’t pack too much.
The most convenient way to reach Rio Chillar is by car. There are 2 small car parks available which are located on Calle Mirto. From here it is about a 20-minute walk downhill to the beginning of the hike underneath the motorway (shown above). If you don’t have a car, you have two options of reaching Rio Chillar. Walk from Nerja which will take you anywhere from 35-45 minutes (primarily uphill) or you can take a taxi for €7 from the centre of Nerja.
People Watch from Balcon De Europa
Balcon De Europa is typically known as the centre of Nerja and it provides a panoramic view of Nerja’s coastline. The promenade that has been built on the foundations of an old fort is lined with palm trees and a large plaza filled with a plethora of restaurants.
In the morning it is a very peaceful place to go for a walk and grab a morning coffee before the sun heats it up. During the evening this area really comes alive with tourists and locals alike, portrait artists, street entertainers, musicians and gelato lines like I’ve never seen before. 2 of Nerja’s main beaches (Calahonda and Caletilla) can be reached from the Balcon in just a short walk down a path.
Explore Nerja Caves
The Nerja Caves are one of the largest tourist attractions in Andalusia. Stretching for almost 5 km underground they are made by the formation of karstic cavities, their origin dating back millions of years. They’re also home to the world’s largest stalagmite, 32-metre high column measuring 13 metres by 7 metres at its base. Pretty impressive!
Photo Credit: Expedia
The caves can be reached in 10 minutes from the Balcon De Europa. Entry is €10 and this includes an audio guided tour plus an audiovisual presentation. Tickets can be bought in advance online here as you need to schedule a time to visit.
Tip: Every Monday from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm the entrance to the cave is free (until full capacity is reached, turns every 30 minutes)
Enjoy the Watersports
With every large beach comes a variety of watersports and in Nerja, you’ll find them all at the main beach – Burriana. Choose from activities such as paddle boarding, kayaking, parasailing or jet skiing and view the beaches from a different perspective.
As well as per hour rental use, Educare Aventura offers kayaking tours for 2 hours (€24 per person) from Burriana Beach to Maro Beach. You’ll have the opportunity to pass through caves, waterfalls, cliffs, little coves and 20 ft deep transparent water. If you want to rent kayaks on your own, the cost is €12 per person per hour and this trip took us roughly one hour round trip (not allowing time on the actual beach however).
Tip: We’d definitely recommend pre-booking your rental to avoid disappointment. Educare Aventura can be found at the far end of Burriana Beach in front of Ayo’s restaurant. Look out for the white tents.
Eat and Drink
One of our all-time favourite aspects of travelling – eating and drinking! We were extremely happy and pleasantly surprised at the number of quality restaurants in Nerja. There was a large variety of international cuisines as well as many local tapas bars offering typical Spanish cuisine. You definitely won’t go hungry nor bored with the choices!
Breakfast is usually eaten around 10:00 am (it’s a ghost town prior), lunch roughly around 2:00 pm and dinner anytime onwards from 8:30 pm. Do note that many restaurants close between 4:00 pm and re-open for dinner at 7:00 pm.
See a further post “Top 10 Places to Eat & Drink in Nerja” for more detail on our favourite picks!
Top Tours in Nerja
If organized tours are your thing, here are some recommendations from GetMyGuide:
Nerja Beach Guide: The Best Beaches of Nerja
The beaches of Nerja are one of the cities biggest assets and there was definitely no shortage of them to choose from. There is such a selection you could spend your week’s vacation at a new beach every day. Aside from the clear waters, the scenery that surrounded these beaches is what made them so special to us.
Steep cliffs, endless sea & mountain views, quiet coves and plenty of rocky bays to explore. The shape of the various coves protected the beaches from any harsh winds but ooo it was hot!
Here are a few of our favourites along with what facilities were offered at each one of them. They can all be found within walking distance of one another.
Burriana is Nerja’s largest and most populated beach. You can reach Burriana in a 15-minute walk from the centre of Nerja and you’ll find the largest concentration of shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, water sports, sun beds, umbrellas and of course crowds here during the summer months. It comes alive during both the day and the evening.
Hot Tip: Don’t want to walk back up the hill to Nerja? Try and sneak into the Parador Hotel via their elevator which can be found at the west end of the beach (the long white looking tower). You do need a key, but if you time it correctly, you’ll hitch a ride with another hotel guest. #pregnantlife. Sneaky sneaky ;). You didn’t hear it from us.
Playa de la Calahonda
Playa de la Calahonda is Nerja’s most iconic beach due to its location and accessibility from Balcon De Europa. Due to its convenient location (directly left of the plaza), it can become very crowded so if the crowds are too much, we recommend a short walk around the rocks to many other various swimming caves such as Playa El Chorrillo. Playa de la Calahonda is close to all the restaurants in Nerja and has showers, lifeguards and sunbeds to rent.
Playa del Carabeo
Playa del Carabeo is one of the smaller beaches in Nerja and is wedged between two towering cliffs. It is secluded and well maintained. Take note, there is a short walk down a steep staircase to reach this beach, therefore, making it a little more difficult to get to with a stroller or the elderly. Don’t forget, once you go down, you gotta get back up! Showers are available and restaurants are only a short walk away.
Playa Carabellio is located in between Playa Carabeo and Burriana Beach. You can access this beach via street level down a staircase and find plenty of restaurants (especially Bakus) close walking distance away. There are a few free parking space otherwise street parking is available. The waters are clean and the scenery is beautiful.
Playa de la Caletilla (Our favourite)
Playa de la Caletilla is located in front of the popular Balcon De Europa Hotel and many mistake this for a private beach however it is open to the public and was, in fact, our favourite beach to spend the day. It’s quieter than its neighbouring beaches, there are facilities (toilet & showers) and a restaurant on site. If you walk to the left or the right you can find small alcoves and rocky caves to explore or climb. Either or.
Playa de La Torrecilla
Playa de La Torrecilla can be found closer to the centre of Nerja and is a small curved beach shaped like a horseshoe. Larger hotel chains such as the Riu can be found on this beach making it a popular spot for tourists. Torrecilla is patrolled by lifeguards and you can find showers, toilets, sunbeds and plenty of restaurants and shops. Once you leave this beach, be sure to have lunch at Momo Burger. Mmmm juicy deliciousness.
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Do you have any further Nerja tips to add? I can definitely see us re-visiting this adorable Spanish town in the future!