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Discover the Charm of Nerja: Your Ultimate Travel Guide to Costa del Sol’s Gem

Discover the best of Nerja with our ultimate travel guide: top attractions, where to stay, and tips for an unforgettable visit to this charming town on Costa del Sol.

By Liza S. | Updated 16 Jul 2024 | Málaga | Villages | Login to add to YOUR Favourites Favourites Icon or Read Later

This article has been visited 13,610 times

Welcome to Nerja, a gem on Spain's Costa del Sol that effortlessly blends charm, beauty, and a rich cultural heritage. Having personally visited this lovely town, I can confidently say that Nerja is one of my favourite places in the region!

From its stunning beaches to its fascinating caves, Nerja offers something for every traveller. This guide is designed to help you plan your dream visit, covering everything from top attractions and activities to the best places to stay and eat.

Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, Nerja promises an unforgettable experience. Let's discover the magic of this enchanting town together!

About Nerja

Originally a small fishing village, Nerja’s roots can be traced to the prehistoric era, evidenced by the incredible cave paintings found in the Caves of Nerja, which are believed to be over 20,000 years old.

During the Roman era, Nerja, then known as "Detunda," became an important settlement, contributing to the region's prosperity.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Nerja came under Moorish rule in the 8th century. They called it Narixa, the origin of the name today. Narixa soon became known throughout the Muslim world for its agricultural products, including sugar cane and silk that made their way as far as the markets in Damascus.

The Moors left a lasting impact on the town, introducing advanced agricultural techniques and beautiful architecture, some of which can still be admired in the town's narrow, winding streets.

In 1487, Nerja was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, marking the beginning of a new era under Christian rule.

The town gradually evolved, and by the 19th century, it was known for its sugarcane industry, which brought significant economic growth. In more recent years, sugar cane has made way for semi-tropical fruits like mango, papaya and avocado.

The discovery of awesome caves at Nerja also helped transform this small fishing town into a thriving tourist resort in Malaga.

Today, Nerja is a charming blend of its historical influences, with its whitewashed buildings, ancient sites, and a vibrant local culture that continues to captivate visitors from around the world.

Why Visit Nerja

Nerja Square Nerja Square

Nerja Square

Nerja borders the western end of the area known as the Tropical Coast. It’s a stretch of coast that is particularly well-protected by the mountains in the hinterland, with a temperature average a little higher than the rest of the Costa del Sol.

For that reason, Nerja is a popular destination throughout the year.

To help you appreciate the balmy weather, Nerja has 16 kilometres of beaches ranging from small coves nestling at the foot of the cliffs in the town itself to the internationally famous Burriana Beach at the eastern end of town.

The town's stunning coastal scenery is an invitation to soak up the sun, swim in crystal-clear waters, and enjoy various water sports.

Meanwhile, the Balcón de Europa offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea.

But Nerja is more just a beach town. The Caves of Nerja, with their ancient stalactites and prehistoric paintings, provide a fascinating glimpse into history.

What makes Nerja particularly lovely is its blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. I love wandering through its picturesque streets, discovering hidden plazas, and enjoying the friendly, laid-back vibe.

Plus, the town's lively festivals give you a taste of authentic Andalucian culture.

In my personal opinion, Nerja is a true gem on Andalucia’s coast, offering a more authentic and charming experience than the coastal towns west of Málaga. Despite its popularity, Nerja has retained its traditional village feel, with fewer high-rise buildings and a more relaxed atmosphere.

Nerja's scenic coastline, lively Old Town, and welcoming atmosphere make it an irresistible destination. It’s one of my favourite locations along the Andalucian coast and you should definitely visit it if you’re in the area!

Getting to Nerja

Nerja is easily accessible and makes for an excellent day trip from Málaga or Granada. Here’s how you can get to the town.

By Bus

Travelling to Nerja by bus is a convenient and affordable option. ALSA operates regular direct buses from both Málaga and Granada.

  • From Málaga: The bus journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • From Granada: The trip takes approximately 2.5 hours. Be sure to check the schedule in advance as buses may not run as frequently.

If you’re coming from further afield, it’s likely that you’ll have to connect through either Malaga or Granada to get to Nerja.

To check bus schedules and prices, I suggest using a platform like Omio that aggregates all available services in one place. Simply input your travel dates below to see what's available.

By Private Transfer

For a more comfortable and direct journey, booking a private transfer is ideal as it’s a fixed price.

By Car

If you have a car, driving to Nerja offers flexibility and scenic views along the way.

  • From Málaga: The drive is about 1 hour via the A-7 motorway. Follow signs for Almería/Motril and take exit 292 for Nerja.
  • From Granada: The drive is roughly 1.5 hours via the A-44 and A-7 motorways.

Parking in central Nerja can be challenging, particularly during peak times.

It’s best to look up public parking areas and underground car parks in Nerja in advance to minimise the stress of trying to find parking. You may also want to consider parking in the outskirts of town and walking to the centre.

Guided Tours to Nerja

Calahonda Beach, Nerja Calahonda Beach, Nerja

Calahonda Beach, Nerja

Nerja is a popular day trip from Malaga/Costa del Sol and Granada and a super easy way to visit is with a guided tour. With transportation and a local guide all included in the experience, you can sit back and simply enjoy the day.

Here are the best Nerja day tours:

Getting Around Nerja

Once you’re in Nerja, I highly recommend exploring on foot as Nerja is a compact and pedestrian-friendly town.

Most of Nerja’s main attractions, shops, and restaurants are within walking distance of each other. Strolling through the narrow, charming streets allows you to soak in the town’s atmosphere and discover hidden gems.

Comfortable shoes are recommended, especially if you plan to walk along the coastline to discover the beaches in the area.

Biking is another great way to get around and see more of Nerja and its surroundings. There are several bike rental shops in town offering a variety of bicycles, from city bikes to mountain bikes. Cycling along the coastal paths or taking a ride to nearby villages like Maro can be a delightful experience.

Public Transportation in Nerja

While Nerja doesn’t have an extensive public transport system, there are local buses and taxis that can take you to nearby areas and attractions.

The local bus service is affordable and convenient for trips to places like Frigiliana or the outskirts of Nerja. The main bus stop is located in the town centre, making it easy to access.

Taxis are readily available and can be a convenient option, especially if you want to make the most of your time. You can find taxi ranks in key areas such as the Balcón de Europa and the bus station, or you can call for one to pick you up.

You can also use ride-sharing apps like Uber and Cabify.

Getting to the Nerja Caves

You must visit the Caves of Nerja when you're here! They’re located on the outskirts of the town and can be easily reached even if you don’t have a car.

  • By Bus: Buses run regularly from Nerja town centre to the caves (these buses are also run by ALSA). Look for the Maro-bound bus, which stops at the cave entrance. The journey takes about 15 minutes and costs about €1.25.
  • By Tourist Train: The slightly-kitschy tourist train will also get you to the caves. It costs €6 (return) and you can catch it at Plaza de los Cangrejos (GoogleMaps location). It also takes about 15 minutes to get there.
  • By Taxi: Taxis are a quick and convenient way to get to the caves. The ride takes approximately 10 minutes from the town centre, and taxis can be found at the main taxi ranks or booked by phone.

When to Visit Nerja

Here’s the awesome news: Nerja is a delightful destination year-round, thanks to its Mediterranean climate. I’ve visited Nerja in February and the weather was pleasant (although it was very windy that day!).

The best time to visit Nerja really depends on your preferences and what you want to do.

Spring is one of the loveliest times to visit Nerja. The weather is warm but not too hot, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). The town is less crowded than in the summer, making it ideal for sightseeing, hiking, and enjoying the beautiful beaches. Spring also brings vibrant blossoms and local festivals.

Summer is peak tourist season in Nerja. With temperatures reaching up to 30°C (86°F) or higher, it's perfect for beach lovers and those looking to soak up the sun. The town is bustling with visitors, and there are plenty of events and activities, including water sports, festivals, and nightlife.

However, be prepared for larger crowds and higher accommodation prices. Booking your hotel in advance is highly recommended.

Autumn is another excellent time to visit Nerja. The weather remains warm, with temperatures between 20°C and 28°C (68°F to 82°F). The sea is still pleasant for swimming, and the summer crowds have thinned out, providing a more relaxed atmosphere.

Autumn also offers the opportunity to enjoy local harvest festivals and traditional events.

Winter in Nerja is mild compared to other parts of Europe, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 18°C (50°F to 64°F). While it’s too cool for swimming, it’s perfect for exploring the town, visiting cultural sites, and enjoying outdoor activities without the summer heat.

Winter is also the least crowded season, offering a more peaceful experience and lower accommodation rates.

To enjoy a more relaxed visit, consider coming in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. These times offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds while still providing plenty of activities and events to enjoy.

Overall, Nerja is a fantastic destination no matter when you visit, with each season offering its unique charm and opportunities for enjoyment.

Seasonal Highlights and Events in Nerja

  • Spring: Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions, Festival of San Isidro
  • Summer: San Juan Festival, Nerja Feria
  • Autumn: Feria de las Maravillas in nearby Maro, Dia de la Hispanidad
  • Winter: Christmas markets, Three Kings Parade, Nerja Carnival

Top 10 Things to Do in Nerja

Beach at Nerja Beach at Nerja

Beach at Nerja

My favourite part of Nerja is the town itself which remains surprisingly unspoilt.

It is an old resort that seems to have been developed before the craze for high-rise and high-density housing made itself felt so you are still able to wander the narrow streets between the Moorish style whitewashed houses, many of which are decorated with window boxes and planters.

Within the maze, you will find small shops selling the local craftworks as well as the local produce, a sweet wine, olive oil, honey and tropical fruits.

At the landward end of the Balcon de Europa, the tree-shaded town square is the traditional centre of activity. The 17th-century El Salvador church on one side of the square is built in a curious Baroque-Mudejar style and is well worth a visit.

Around the square, you will also find plenty of places to eat from tapas bars to international restaurants, each seemingly competing with the others for variety and quality.

Just strolling around the town is a delight in itself but here are 10 of the best things to do in Nerja to help guide your visit.

1. Visit the Balcón de Europa

The Balcón de Europa is an iconic viewpoint that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea and the coastline.

It was originally a fortified position, La Bateria, built in Christian times to warn of pirates and coastal raiders, replacing a Moorish fort that dated from the 9th century.

This was destroyed in 1810 by British forces to deny its use to the French during the peninsula war. The rusting cannon still guarding the position may well date from this time.

The Balcon de Europa now occupies the same strategic point.

Its name is reputed to have been given to it by King Alfonso XII who visited the town following an earthquake in 1885 and who greatly admired the panoramic view from that position. His statue graces the Balcon and is a focal point for tourist shots.

This scenic promenade is now a vibrant hub with cafes, street performers, and a lively atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely stroll, take in the stunning vistas, and capture memorable photos.

2. Explore the Caves of Nerja (Cueva de Nerja)

On the outskirts of town, you will find the third most popular tourist attraction in Spain, Nerja Caves, and, on the way, an aqueduct that the local taxi drivers will insist is Roman. In fact, it is much more recent but no less spectacular and it still brings water from the hills to the town that the Moors called ‘abundant spring’.

But back to the real attraction: the Caves of Nerja.

They’re a must-visit attraction in Andalucia, renowned for their impressive stalactites and stalagmites.

Discovered in 1959, these caves stretch for almost 5 kilometres and feature awe-inspiring chambers, including one of the world’s largest stalactites. Guided tours provide fascinating insights into the caves’ history and geological significance, making it a fun experience for all ages.

Get more details on opening hours, tickets and tours on their official website.

Tip: The caves offer free visits to EU nationals from Monday to Friday at 9.30am. 60 tickets are available daily and can only be booked online at 9.30am, 48 hours before the intended visit date. Check out full details on this on their website.

3. Relax on Burriana Beach

Burriana Beach is Nerja’s most popular beach, known for its golden sand, clear waters, and excellent amenities.

Whether you want to sunbathe, swim, or indulge in water sports like paddleboarding and jet skiing, Burriana Beach has something for everyone. The beach is lined with restaurants and chiringuitos (beach bars) where you can savour delicious seafood and refreshing drinks.

4. Admire the Views from El Salvador Church

Located near the Balcón de Europa, El Salvador Church is a beautiful 17th-century church that blends Baroque and Moorish architectural styles.

The church’s serene interior and picturesque exterior make it a lovely place to visit. The surrounding plaza offers charming views and is often the site of local events and celebrations.

5. Dive into History at Nerja Museum

To learn more about the town’s rich history and cultural heritage, the Nerja Museum is a great stop.

The museum features exhibits on the prehistoric origins of the Caves of Nerja, the town’s development through Roman and Moorish periods, and local traditions. Interactive displays and artefacts provide an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

6. Visit Frigiliana, One of the Loveliest Villages in Spain

Just a short drive (or bus ride) from Nerja, Frigiliana is a picturesque whitewashed village known for its narrow, winding streets and stunning views.

Explore the charming alleys adorned with colourful flowers, visit the local craft shops, and enjoy a meal at one of the traditional restaurants. Frigiliana’s Moorish heritage and beautiful setting make it a delightful side visit from Nerja.

7. Enjoy Water Sports

Nerja’s coastline offers excellent opportunities for water sports enthusiasts.

Try snorkelling to explore the underwater world teeming with marine life. Kayaking along the cliffs provides a unique perspective of the coastline, while paddleboarding is a fun and accessible activity for all ages.

8. Discover the Rio Chillar Hiking Trail

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Rio Chillar hiking trail is a must-do activity.

This scenic hike takes you through a beautiful river gorge, where you’ll wade through crystal-clear waters and discover natural pools perfect for a refreshing dip. The trail is best suited for experienced hikers who want a unique and adventurous way to experience Nerja’s natural beauty.

Get more information about the trail here

9. Experience Local Culture

Like many other cities and towns in Andalucia, Nerja’s vibrant cultural scene includes lively festivals.

If your visit coincides with events like the San Juan Festival or the Nerja Carnival, be sure to join the festivities.

Flamenco shows, often held in local bars and restaurants, offer an authentic taste of Andalucian culture with passionate music and dance performances. El Burro Blanco is a popular flamenco tablao in Nerja.

10. Explore Maro and its Natural Park

The nearby village of Maro and the Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural Park are perfect for a scenic escape. Maro’s charming streets and traditional architecture are a joy to explore.

The natural park features dramatic cliffs, secluded beaches, and hiking trails with breathtaking views. It’s an ideal destination for nature lovers and those seeking tranquillity.

The best way to experience the Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural Park is by kayak. This 2.5-hour outing will have you discovering the cliffs and bays in the area on the way to visiting the Cascada de Maro. Plus, you’ll get copies of the videos and photos from the excursion!

Prefer to get into the water as well? This kayaking excursion also includes some snorkelling time to discover marine life in the waters.

For more recommendations on tours and activities in Nerja, check out my collection of top Nerja experiences in our Viator Shop!

Where to Eat and Drink in Nerja

Nerja offers a delightful array of dining options, from traditional Spanish cuisine to tapas bars. Here are three highly rated restaurants where you can savour authentic Spanish food.

Restaurante Oliva

Up for a splurge or celebrating a special occasion?

Located in the heart of Nerja, Restaurante Oliva is renowned for its exquisite Spanish cuisine with a modern twist. Their menu features a variety of dishes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and the elegant setting adds to the dining experience.

Their tasting menu, with wine pairings, is a particular favourite with guests.

Click here for the restaurant location

El Refugio

El Refugio is a charming, family-run restaurant offering a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The menu includes a range of traditional Spanish dishes, including hearty stews, succulent meats, and fresh seafood. The homemade sangria and friendly hospitality make this a favourite among both locals and visitors.

It’s almost always busy here, so make a reservation in advance if you can.

Click here for the restaurant location

La Puntilla

For a more traditional experience, head to La Puntilla, a beloved local tapas bar.

This cosy spot is famous for its wide selection of tapas and fresh seafood. Enjoy a laid-back meal with friendly service and try their specialty dishes like grilled prawns, fried fish, and classic tortilla española.

Click here for the restaurant location

Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining, casual tapas, or a homely meal, these restaurants in Nerja provide an authentic taste of Spain that will satisfy your cravings.

Where to Stay in Nerja

While most people visit Nerja as a day trip, the town is certainly charming enough to warrant a night or two (or more!).

As Nerja is quite popular, you can find a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference.

The best area to stay is definitely central Nerja as it puts you within walking distance of the town’s main attractions, restaurants, and beaches. This area is lively and convenient, making it an excellent choice for first-time visitors and those who want to be in the heart of the action.

Hotel Recommendations in Nerja

Luxury: Parador de Nerja

If you’re up for a splurge, the Parador de Nerja is the top choice!

This hotel offers stunning views of the Mediterranean, direct access to Burriana Beach via a private lift, and beautifully landscaped gardens. The spacious rooms are elegantly decorated, and the on-site restaurant serves delicious Andalucian cuisine.

Perfect for a relaxing and indulgent getaway.

➡️ Check rates and availability here

Mid-Range: Hotel Balcón de Europa

Located right on the Balcón de Europa, this hotel offers unbeatable views and a prime location. The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed, many with balconies overlooking the sea. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant, swimming pool, and easy access to the town’s main attractions.

This hotel is ideal for travellers seeking comfort and convenience.

➡️ Check rates and availability here

Budget: Hostal Don Peque

Hostal Don Peque is a charming guesthouse located in the heart of Nerja, just a short walk from the Balcón de Europa and the beach. This family-run establishment offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Guests can enjoy a delicious breakfast on the rooftop terrace with stunning views of the sea and mountains.

Ideal for travellers seeking comfort and a personal touch, without breaking the bank.

➡️ Check rates and availability here

Boutique: MB Boutique Hotel

MB Boutique Hotel offers a stylish and modern accommodation experience.

Located close to the beach and town centre, this adults-only hotel features contemporary rooms equipped with high-tech amenities, including smart TVs and hydromassage showers. The rooftop terrace with jacuzzis is a highlight, providing a perfect spot to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

➡️ Check rates and availability here

Family-Friendly: Ona Marinas de Nerja Spa Resort

For families, Ona Marinas de Nerja Spa Resort is an excellent choice.

This beachfront aparthotel offers spacious apartments with kitchenettes, ideal for longer stays. The property boasts multiple swimming pools, a kids’ club, and a variety of recreational activities. The on-site restaurant and spa add to the convenience and enjoyment for the whole family.

➡️ Check rates and availability here

Alternatively, check out the latest deals in Nerja below.

Visiting Nerja: Last Thoughts

As you can see, Nerja is a captivating destination that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. Whether you're soaking up the sun on Burriana Beach, exploring the fascinating Caves of Nerja, or wandering through the charming streets of the town, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

I hope this guide has helped you to plan your visit and make the most of your time in this enchanting coastal town. Embrace the relaxed vibe, immerse yourself in the local culture, and create lasting memories in one of Costa del Sol’s most delightful spots.

Buen viaje!

More on Costa del Sol

Check out our other articles on visiting Costa del Sol.

You may also be interested in our Malaga guides:

Recommended Spain Travel Resources

Travelling to/around Spain and need some help? Here are my favourite travel resources.

I usually use to look for hotels or apartment rentals. Lots of choice & you can unlock more discounts with their Genius loyalty programme!

To research transportation options around Spain, I like using Omio. It’s an easy way to compare different modes of transport and prices in one place. To search train routes, schedules, and prices, I recommend using Trainline.

Renting a car gives you the ultimate freedom to explore Andalucia at your own pace. Click here to compare car rental prices. (You’ll be surprised at how affordable it is in Spain!)

Looking for tours & activities in Andalucia? I usually use Get Your Guide to get tickets and book tours. Viator also has a huge catalog of activities and tours across many cities in Spain. Our Viator Shop has my top recommendations, all in one place!

Guruwalk is my favourite platform to find the best free walking tours in a city.

For last-minute holiday deals, check out Expedia UK.

For money transfers or spending overseas in foreign currency, Wise is my favourite borderless banking service. I love their debit card that's without fees and always use it when I travel.

Travel insurance is a must to protect against emergencies and unexpected incidents. I personally use SafetyWing and you can get a no-obligation quote from SafetyWing here.

For an easy way to stay connected on the road, get an eSim from Airalo. It's affordable and, best of all, you'll be connected the moment you arrive!

Note: This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. That means that if you book through our link, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Places to go in Nerja