Nerja is a real gem. Located on the eastern stretch of the Costa del Sol known as La Axarquia, the town is the most important tourism resort in the area, but has escaped the kind of high rise development so typical of the likes of Torremolinos and Fuengirola.
The town has experienced a lot of growth over the last decade or so, and new ‘villages’ such as San Juan de Capistrano stretch up into the surrounding hillsides. But the construction has in general been low rise and tasteful, in keeping with regulations that demand new developments should be built in the traditional Andaluz style, and Nerja remains a very attractive and appealing place.
Another recent development is the completion of the stretch of Mediterranean motorway from Málaga, making it just a quick drive from Nerja to the provincial capital and the airport; yet another factor which has encouraged sizeable numbers of northern European expatriates to settle in the town and the surrounding area.
Nerja’s main charm lies is its series of small coves, its mountain backdrop and its old town, which still retains much of the character of its Moorish past; streets of white-washed houses with balconies overflowing with geraniums.The centrepiece of the old town is the Balcón de Europa. Originally the site of a 9th century castle, the Balcón was constructed in the late 15th century and is now a pedestrianised area and viewing point above the sea, with vistas of cliffs, bays and mountains. Ancient cannons, which were once used to defend Nerja from pirates and invaders, are a nice touch.
The Balcón and adjacent plaza have a lively atmosphere throughout the year, thanks to the bars, cafés, restaurants and street entertainers, and it is from here that visitors can hire a horse-drawn carriage for tours of the old town.
The 17th century El Salvador Church, build in Baroque-Mudejar style, is at the side of the Balcón. Back up on the main road through town is the 16th century Nuestra Señora de las Angustias Hermitage, with its paintings by the master Alonso Cano.
There are nine kilometres of sandy beaches in Nerja, several of which are charming coves accessible only by steep steps. Missing out on a Blue Flag, but highly photogenic nevertheless, is Playa Calahonda right next to the Balcón de Europa, where as well as a very popular beach bar there is a hobbit-like cave house adding an extra little touch of character. But Nerja is also very much a working town, offering a full range of services and facilities for its residents of all nationalities. Nerja is a a great base for those who enjoy sports of all kinds. All the main water sports are available, including fishing, diving, waterskiing, canoeing, scuba diving and sailing. There are opportunities too for hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, paragliding and jeep safaris, to name just a few examples.