In fact, every April Nerja celebrates its multiculturalism with the annual ‘Residents’ Day’; when the local clubs and charities that exist in the town gather together and promote their activities with stalls and entertainment on one of the town’s squares (usually Plaza de España).The town hall also has one of Malaga province’s most established Foreign Residents’ departments, with a dedicated officer and councillor.
Like its Axarquía neighbours, the earliest evidence of settlers in Nerja can be found through remains dating back to the Palaeolithic era, through to the Bronze Age, Roman and Islamic rule. Arguably the most well-known historical site in Nerja is the caves, although technically they are located in neighbouring Maro (see October 2016 issue), as Maro belongs to Nerja, they form part of the town’s tourism offer. The Nerja museum on Plaza de España is a treasure-trove of information about the town and its history. More recently, in the early 1980s, Nerja became famous in Spain and internationally thanks to the huge success of the television series ‘Verano Azul,’ which was filmed there. There are a number of reminders of the programme, such as streets named after characters, a statue of ‘Chanquete’ the fisherman in the tourist office and the Verano Azul park which is home to Chanquete’s boat. Town centre and beaches The world-famous Balcón de Europa is located in the town centre, on the site of a former military castle. During a visit from Spain’s King Alfonso 12th on 20 January 1885 following the terrible earthquake which destroyed much of the Axarquía, he declared that he was standing, “on the balcony of Europe,” thus giving the extensive viewing point its name. A bronze statue of the king can be found on the left-hand side of the Balcón, which overlooks the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean as well as the numerous stunning beaches, coves and cliffs that make up Nerja and Maro’s coastline. The most popular beaches are ‘El Playazo’ and ‘Torrecilla’ to the west and Calahonda and Salón which are just below the Balcón itself. Tucked around the corner to the east, out of view from the balcony is the 800 metre-long Burriana beach, lined with bars, restaurants and outdoor adventure companies, offering kayaking and scuba diving around Nerja and the Maro cliffs.
The Chillar River (Río Chillar) has, in recent years, become almost as popular a tourist activity as the beaches. A hike through the shallow waters of the river is the perfect way to cool down in the long hot summer months, taking in waterfalls and natural pools as well as steep gorges. Although until now access has not been controlled and accidents have been frequent, the town hall and Junta de Andalucía (Andalusia’s regional government) are looking into ways of controlling visitor numbers and creating an information centre.
The mountain range of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama create a beautiful backdrop to Nerja and can be enjoyed thanks to a series of walking routes. More information about hiking in the mountains can be found at the tourist information centre. The best times for walking are in the cooler spring and autumn months and most winter days are great too – just check the weather forecast before you go because heavy rainfall and flash flooding is not entirely uncommon at that time of year either!
Nerja seems to have an almost year-round event-programme, which starts off with Carnaval (carnival). This usually takes place in February although the date changes every year depending on when Easter falls. This year (2017) the four-day party will start on Thursday 23 February and includes two processions as well as competitions. The final and somewhat bizarre event of the ‘Entierro del Bogueron’ or burial of the anchovy involves a large decorated anchovy (not a real one) being paraded through the streets to La Calahonda beach, where it’s blown up as part of a fireworks display.
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is also an important event in Nerja and processions continue throughout the week leading up to Easter. Although not as big as nearby Vélez-Málaga, it is still a spectacular sight with the different ‘Cofradias’ or brotherhoods carry giant shrines of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ through the streets accompanied by marching bands.
In May Nerjeños honour the Patron Saint of farmers and labourers; San Isidro. As an area heavily dependent on agriculture this Saint plays an important role for many towns and villages in the Axarquía. The event starts on the night of the 14th at the Nerja caves and on the 15th Mass is given in the El Salvador church near the Balcón. A statue of the saint is then carried up to the caves accompanied by people in traditional dress.
Nerja’s annual Feria (fair) takes place in the second week of October and celebrates the town’s two Patron Saints: La Virgen de las Angustias and San Miguel. Events take place in and around the town, including a fairground, typical food and drink tastings and traditional music and dance.
Music and dance
The Nerja caves play host to an international dance and music festival throughout July and in 2016 Nerja hosted its first international music festival; Chanquete World Music Festival. A number of well-known Spanish musicians performed at the one-day event and plans to repeat it have been announced for this year.
Nerja’s tourist information office can be found at the town hall on Plaza de España, near the Balcón de Europa. The website www.nerja.es/turismo is available in English and Spanish. Alsa operates a regular bus services between Malaga, Nerja and the Nerja caves and the bus stops at Torre del Mar, Torrox and the coastal towns in between. Visit www.alsa.es for timetables and fares. A tourist train operates between Nerja, the caves and Maro during the summer months. There is a wide variety of restaurants and cafes in Nerja offering anything from typical Spanish cuisine to Italian, Mexican and Indian as well as British and Irish pubs.
Written by Jennie Rhodes ©