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26 Best Things To Do In Nerja, The Balcony Of Europe

Whether you have been to Spain’s sunny Costa del Sol before or have an impression in your mind of what it must be like from what you have seen or read, you have to throw all these impressions aside as Nerja is not your typical Spanish holiday destination. Affectionately referred to as The Jewel of the Costa del Sol, Nerja, is a beautiful beach town that also happens to be ideally located for a day trip to Granada or a tour of the white villages of Andalucia. If you’re traveling in the south of Spain and planning to visit this beautiful Mediterranean resort town soon, keep reading; here are the best things to do in Nerja- the balcony of Europe!

Getting There

 

Thanks to the well-maintained motorway, a taxi transfer from Malaga (the nearest airport) to Nerja now takes only 60 minutes. 56 kilometres east of Malaga under the imposing Sierra Almijara mountains, Nerja has managed to escape the building boom of the 60s and 70s retaining much of its old-world charm.

While a popular place for northern European retirees the locals or Nerjeños are a very welcoming family-oriented bunch who like their town just the way it is. Despite the obvious income that tourism brings to Nerja, the local authorities have been careful in finding a balance between promoting itself and the quality of life it offers its residents.

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Things To Do In Nerja

Nerja View

People visiting Nerja will enjoy the fact that the town has managed to keep much of its old-world charm and is devoid of the high-rise buildings that are typical on other parts of the Costa del Sol. While being big enough to offer great shopping, Nerja also has a wide array of dining opportunities. You can find Spanish, Italian, French, Indian, Thai and Japanese restaurants and even Irish bars serving typical pub grub food.

The vast majority of people who holiday in Nerja are there for the beaches. However, there are so many more things to do in Nerja!

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Balcon De Europa

nerja coast

Regarded as the hub of the town and where everyone meets up before a night out, the Balcon de Europa is a pedestrianized observation point that offers spectacular views of the Mediterranean coastline. The “Balcony of Europe” got this name back in the 1800s when King Alfonso XII visited Nejra after the major earthquake and said that this Spanish coastal town was the balcony of Europe. When you experience the stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea from the Maro Cliffs, you’ll understand why that’s the case.

And since I mentioned the Maro Cliffs, the next place you must see is…

Playa Burriana

Playa Burriana

Playa Burriana, the kind of beach Spain that makes you sad about all the life choices you have made that haven’t been about moving to Spain, is nestled along the sun-drenched coast of Nerja. The water is crystal clear and the sand goes like a VIP carpet to the Mediterranean. 

The beach is also visited by a lot of sand volleyball lovers and it is a great kayaking hotspot. Yet buried somewhere in its entirety, one finds the pure magic of Playa Burriana in the fact that it is completely comforting enough to make a family of five as well as a single traveler feel just right at home.

Playa De La Cala El Cañuelo

Playa De La Cala El Cañuelo

Playa de la Cala el Cañuelo is like that secret garden you read about in children’s books—hidden, enchanting, and slightly magical. Tucked away at the edge of the Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural Park, this beach is the Costa del Sol’s answer to “Where do we go when we want to escape the crowds?” Imagine a cove so secluded that cars have been banned from making the final descent to its shores. Instead, visitors are ferried down by minibus from a parking area above, making the journey feel like an exclusive VIP experience.

Playa El Salon

Playa El Salon

Playa El Salón in Nerja is just like that long kept secret you can’t help but gloat about since you’re its discoverer, but in reality, it’s a fact that it’s been there for years, and there was always that other outstanding beach, the Balcony of Europe. This beach is the reverse side of the coin which is the touristic hotspots. 

Compact, yes, it is, but it’s in its smallness that it preserves its harmony and serenity. Though, don’t let its tranquility to deceive you. Sure, there’s a fun side to Playa El Salón as well. That is the class-mate who is like that quiet student but when opportunities present themselves, he or she blasts away with an incredible sense of humor. Here, the Mediterranean gently laps at the shore, inviting you for a swim or perhaps a snorkel to meet the local marine life.

Calahonda Beach

Calahonda Beach

Calahonda Beach is the kind of place where the Mediterranean decides to show off, with waters so clear you might forget to blink. Situated just a stone’s throw from the bustling heart of Nerja, Calahonda Beach is like the cool cousin of the more crowded beaches. It’s famous for its rugged cliffs, pebbles that massage your feet with every step, , and crystal-clear waters luring thousands of tourists every year.

Nerja Historical Centre

Nerja Historical Centre

The Nerja Historical Centre, or “Centro Histórico,” is a delightful maze of narrow streets that whisper tales of the past, lined with whitewashed houses that glisten under the Andalusian sun. Here, the balconies are adorned with vibrant flowers that seem to compete for your attention, and the cobblestone streets have seen more history than most history books. At the heart of this historical puzzle is the Balcón de Europa, a magnificent promenade offering panoramic views of the Mediterranean.

Nerja Museum

Nerja Museum

Nestled in the heart of Nerja’s charming historical center, just a stone’s throw away from the famous Balcón de Europa lies the Nerja Museum. Think of it as a time machine, but instead of a DeLorean, you get informative plaques and air conditioning. Moving through the exhibits, you’ll discover the rich tapestry of cultures that have called Nerja home, from the Phoenicians, who were probably the first to leave rave reviews about Nerja’s beaches, to the Moors, who introduced irrigation, making Nerja the agricultural haven it is today.

Hiking The Rio Chillar Trail

Rio Chillar

Embarking on the Rio Chillar hike is one of the best things to do in Nerja. The trek is well known for its river walk, which is the trail itself as the way is actually the river. Trekking in the water in the blistering summer heat when even the sun seems to be seeking shade is certainly a different experience but one worth tring. However, this hike deservedly deemed ‘grammable’ has a lot of other perks. This hike is a social media darling for a reason; here, you’ll encounter crystal-clear pools and gorgeous cascading waterfalls that will take your breath away.

Go Golfing

golf course spain

Now, while Nerja itself might not be home to sprawling golf courses, the surrounding area offers some gems that make golfers willingly trade their beach towels for clubs and caddies. A short drive from Nerja, you’ll find Baviera Golf. Here, it’s all about enjoying the game, whether you’re a seasoned pro making every shot count or a hopeful enthusiast whose golf balls seem to have a mind of their own. Not far off, there’s Añoreta Golf, which could easily double as a nature trail with its meticulously maintained greens and views that might just distract you from your game.

Punta Lara

things to do in nerja

Located in the vicinity of Nerja’s magical town is the Punta Lara, a place where tranquility meets the Mediterranean. Picture a place where the only congestion is caused by a local goat herd roaming down the road and the only issue – whether to head to the beach or get some chiringuito/freshly caught sardines. The area is famous for Andalusian traditional architecture and its pretty whitewashed villas with their bougainvillea-covered balconies that come with postcards views.

Lunch In El Pulguilla

El Pulguilla

This list of the best things to do in Nerja couldn’t be complete without a lunch in El Pulguilla. You feel the fragrance of the Spanish kitchen as soon as you enter El Pulguilla. There is the hum of the local and travelers gossiping — such liveliness! It is like the town turns into an insna when the sun is at its height, with everybody moving towards El Pulguilla when dinner time approaches. Here, even the simple anchovies dishes feel like artwork and the octopus is an absolute masterpiece.

Do Watersports In Nerja

nerja sea

Ready to make a splash in Nerja? This coastal town isn’t just about lazy beach days and tapas tours; it offers a lot of activities to watersport enthusiasts.

Imagine strapping yourself onto a jet ski, the sea spray in your face as you zip along the coastline, leaving a trail of froth in your wake.

For those who like their water sports served with a slice of tranquility, kayaking around Nerja’s craggy coastlines offers a more serene way to explore.

Stand-up paddleboarding in Nerja is as close as you’ll get to walking on water without having to perform a miracle.

Dive beneath the surface to explore Nerja’s underwater wonderland. The Mediterranean here is teeming with life, from colorful fish darting through the coral to ancient shipwrecks.

If you’ve ever wanted to see Nerja from a bird’s eye view, parasailing has you covered. Soar above the coastline, tethered to a boat, and watch as the town shrinks to the size of a postcard below you.

Rent a Kayak and Explore the Waterfalls of Nerja

nerja kayak

Next on our list of the best things to do in Nerja, we have exploring the town’s waters via kayak. Imagine the sun is shining, the Mediterranean breeze is calling, and you’re about to embark on an adventure that allows you to explore the best of Nerja’s coastline, including its hidden waterfalls. Nerja’s coast is a mosaic of cliffs, caves, and hidden beaches, each turn revealing sights that leave you in awe.

Sierras De Tejeda, Almijara Y Alhama Natural Park

Nerja Natural Park

Nerja is surrounded by the Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Mountains which form a natural park that gives the city a backdrop of spectacular limestone mountain ranges that overlook the Mediterranean. If you like the outdoors, this natural park is one of the most exciting things to do in Nerja and one place you definitely shouldn’t miss. There are several different hiking trails and some fascinating natural wonders, like…

The Nerja Caves

Nerja Cave

Talking about things to do in Nerja, this list can’t be complete without the Nerja Caves. Stumbled upon by a group of boys out hunting bats in 1959, the Nerja Caves are a series of underground caverns that stretch for almost 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). The caves are open to the public and are also one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of Spain.

The Chillar River

Chillar River

For a great family day out that won’t cost a penny, pack a picnic and hike the Chillar River. The hike is 8 kilometers long, but you can do as much of it or as little as you want. Make sure you wear a pair of waterproof shoes and also remember to bring plenty of drinking water. Along the hike, you will find natural pools that are ideal for swimming or just cooling off.

Hike El Cielo

El Cielo

Standing at 1,500 meters above sea level, El Cielo (English: Heaven) is the highest mountain in the region, and trekking up is one of the most exciting things to do in Nerja. There are several routes that lead to the top, and most of them are easily accessible and not very strenuous. If you’re hiking El Cielo in the summer months, it gets a bit rough but once you reach the top, the views will make you forget all about it. El Cielo offers some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, the Costa del Sol, and even the North African coast.

Aqueduct Of El Aguila

Acueducto Romano de Nerja

Another amazing sight in Nerja is the Aqueduct of El Aguila; one of the oldest aqueducts in Spain that’s still in use today. Built in the late 19th century to aid the ongoing industrial revolution, this aqueduct is widely regarded as a historic jewel of Spanish architecture today. Locals were initially using it to transport water to the Maro sugar refinery which isn’t around anymore, unlike the aqueduct which still stands proudly, passing the test of time.

Church Of El Salvador

Church Of El Salvador

Located right behind the Balcon de Europa, the church of El Salvador has been around from the 17th century. This makes the church one of the oldest surviving buildings in the region and one of the most interesting things to do in Nerja for history lovers. The church is a very interesting sample of local architecture, combining a mix of baroque and Moorish elements. Interestingly, this church is one of only a few in the whole world with representations of the three archangels, including San Miguel (Saint Michael the patron saint of Nerja).

Explore Lesser Known Beaches

Nerja Beach

Needless to say, a trip to Nerja can’t be complete without visiting some of Nerja’s many beaches. The most famous beach around is Playa de Burriana, located directly under the cliffs the town is built upon. Consisting of a mixture of fine sand and pebbles, Playa Burriana has everything you’d expect from a “Blue Flag” beach. If you are in search of a quieter place to hang out for the day, try Maro beach. Here, you can rent sea kayaks and explore the surrounding cliffs, underwater caves, and waterfalls.

Take A Day Trip To Malaga

Malaga

If you run out of things to do in Nerja, you can always take a trip around the southern provinces of Andalusia. A great starting point is Malaga, the largest city in the region. Many people think of Malaga as just the place they fly into and depart from, but actually, Malaga is an amazing city with plenty to see and do. With attractions like the Roman Colosseum, the Moorish Alcazaba Palace, and the imposing Gibralfaro Castle, Malaga is a city well worth spending a day in.

Frigiliana

Frigiliana

Located just six-kilometers north of Nerja, the white village of Frigiliana is a Moorish gem of narrow winding streets that has amazing views around every corner. In the upper, older part of the village, you will find several bars with rooftop terraces hugging the main square. If you’re looking for some good restaurants or just want to have a drink and enjoy the view, this is the place to be.

The ’Lost’ Village Of Acebuchal

Acebuchal

Situated in the heart of Almijara and Alhama Natural Park, near the border between Competa and Frigiliana, the lost village of Acebuchal is one of the most interesting sights near Nerja. The name Acebuchal first appears in history books around the 17th century as a stopover destination for passing traders.

The village suffered terrible faith during the Spanish Civil War and all of the people living there were forced to abandon their homes. The village was completely empty until 1998 when Antonio “El Zumbo” decides to come back and rebuild it. Today, his efforts are finally paying off, as the village is slowly turning into a tourist attraction.

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Day Trip To Granada

nerja

Granada and it’s amazing Alhambra Palace is just a 1hr and 15min drive from Nerja. Before you go, be sure you have tickets as the Alhambra is booked up for months in advance. If visiting Nerja during the winter, consider skiing in the Sierra Nevada. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are located just outside of Granada and are home to the most southerly ski resort in Europe. In late spring it’s possible to go skiing in the morning and be sunbathing on the beach after lunch.

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Ron Montero Distillery

Ron Montero Distillery

Around 30 kilometers away from Nerja, you’ll find the small town of Motril which is home to Ron Montero; one of the last traditional rum-making distilleries in Europe. A quick visit to the distillery will give you a glimpse of the long tradition of rum making in the region. The distillery is open for visitors from Tuesday to Saturday and there are rum tasting events every evening.

Take A Cruise To Portugal

nerja cruise

Finally, we conclude this list of things to do in Nerja with a cruise to Portugal. If you’re looking for some more things to see and do, a cruise along the Iberian Peninsula will give you the ideal combination of outstanding natural beauty and cultural cities. There are multiple different cruises that take you to the iconic Portuguese city of Porto which straddles the Douro River and is home to breathtaking baroque churches and an incredible medieval district. My personal favorite is the cruise arranged by Jules Verne that also takes you to a wine cellar where you can sample the local produce and get a glimpse of the production process.

Helpful resources for traveling to Nerja

 

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Also, if you’re looking to save on accommodation, use my Booking code and save up to 15% on all accommodation in Spain. Alternatively, check out some of the Collegiate properties in the region.

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Now, it’s your turn- did you ever visit Nerja? Would you consider it as your next summer holiday destination. What were your favorite things to do in Nerja from this list? Let me know in the comments!

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things to do in nerja
things to do in nerja
things to do in nerja

Jennifer Prince

Friday 5th of July 2019

Ah!!! This is making my skin tingle! I have ALWAYS wanted to head to Spain, and Barcelona is at the top of my list. But Nerja sounds so delightful, too. I've never ever heard of it, but I think I'll add it to my journey when I get to go (hopefully in 2020!).

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

I'm glad you could get some travel inspiration for your next visit to Spain, Jennifer. Thank you for stopping by and dropping a comment :)

Vanessa Ball

Friday 5th of July 2019

My family have been to Nerja a few times and loved it. I love hiking so I’d want to explore Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Mountains. The Nerja Caves look super impressive and El Cielo would be perfect for me. The Aqueduct of El Aguila looks so unique and I love the fact that they are rebuilding the ‘lost’ village of Acebucha.

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

That's great to hear, Vanessa. I hope you get the chance to visit the surrounding mountains and the Nerja Caves someday :)

Iuliana Marchian

Thursday 4th of July 2019

The Nerja Caves and the Chillar River must be a fantastic surrounding to explore near the Balcony of Europe. I haven't known about this place so thank you so much for writing this great post. We are always subject to learning new and new things.

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

Thank you, Luliana, I'm glad you could learn a few new things about this beautiful Spanish coastal town from this article.

Sara

Thursday 4th of July 2019

I haven't been fortunate enough to travel to Spain yet, but glad I found this post so I can add Nerja to my list of places to visit. It looks like there was a lot to do there and also very beautiful scenery all around. Very informative.

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

Thank you for commenting, Sara- I'm glad you could get some travel inspiration from this article.

Eric Gamble

Thursday 4th of July 2019

So as much as I LOVE SPAIN, and have been multiple times, I have yet to explore the Costa del Sol. Oddly enough, I spent a lot of time across the water in Morocco but I haven't been to Grenada and definitely not Nerja. I actually whoa-ed out loud when I saw the Caves of Nerja. What an amazing find. Darcee would absolutely love seeing the aqueduct too, she has a big fascination with them ever since we went to the U.K. For me, the churches and beaches are probably amazing but the Hike to El Cielo looks like "heaven" literally!

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

I'm glad you liked this article, Eric and I hope you get the chance to explore el Costa del Sol someday