The Jewel of the Costa del Sol
Nerja, a scarce 50 km from Málaga city, a beautiful small fishing town, can be proud of its location, where sea and mountain join, resulting in the most unique coastal scenery of the whole province of Málaga.
Maro Cliffs: Their singularity has earned them the condition of protected natural area, with the name of Natural Park. These cliffs, in spite of being somewhat deformed in some places because of N-340 road's presence, still keep their magnificent quality. This becomes outstanding at Cerro de la Caleta and at Loma de la Torre de Maro, as well as in the numerous, pretty little coves, often watched over by old watchtowers that give them a unique flash of history.
What we find first when the mountains separate from the sea is the small orchards and then Nerja's plain, that smooth the scenery with plots of land that are continuously being invaded by touristic building and second residence houses.
The leisure-focused architecture which is commonest in the surroundings of Nerja town on both sides of the main road N-340 road is already going up the first slopes of a mountain range that covers the main part of Nerja's territory with deep ravines, slashes, scarps, and crests as tall as Navachica (1.832 metres high) and Cielo that with its 1.508 m. is the highest in the municipal territory.
The presence of man on this land is confirmed by the remains found at the Caves of Nerja and that belong to the Palaeolithic age. From the Roman domination, the settlement of a town called Detunda is known in the area of the actual village of Maro. There are also remains of a roman road called Sexi-Caviclum at Maro's Gully, or as it is also known, Coladilla de Cazadores a bit further up from the Acueducto del Águila (Eagle's Aqueduct) and close to it, there is the Coladilla pathway.
Very likely, Nerja's origin is pre-roman, as the names given to the town by the arabs Narixa, Naricha or Narija seem to be related to that time. Anyhow, it is under arab domination when the first news regarding the town's past are known. Between the end of IXth and Xth centuries, it is known that there was already a quite large town where women worked silk in such a beautiful and skilled way that their produce was well-known in the whole Mediterranean area. Some vestiges of the fortress where the old Narixa lay can still be seen at the place which we now call Castillo Alto, near the Frigiliana road.
When King Fernando the Catholic's troops conquered the coastal malagan towns and villages at the end of the XVth century, the inhabitants of Nerja accepted it willingly, so as a reward, they were allowed to keep their lands and properties. After the Moorish uprisal, they were expelled from the land, which was re-populated with “Christians of Old Faith” that were brought from other Castilian provinces. In fact, the depopulation of the area was not only caused by the expelling of the Moors, but also by the frequent attacks from the Berber pirates on the coast. These attacks made the inhabitants migrate inland more than once, causing the reinforcement of the coastal fortresses with new watch towers.
Visits that are a must
The Caves of Nerja were discovered in 1.959 by five friends and have been called, very rightly, Prehistory Cathedral. It has 22 paintings that are dated, most probably, from the aurinacensis era and that have been declared an Historic-Artistic National Monument. Access is very easy following the main N-340 road from Nerja. It is said that it is one of the most beautiful Caves in Europe because of the karstic cavities that water produced on marble. Most noteworthy of all is the great central column at the Cataclysm Chamber with its impressive 32 metres height that it is deemed to have been formed by the fall of more than one thousand billion water drops. The visitor can feel overwhelmed at the Sala de los Fantasmas (Ghost Chamber) and at the Sala de la Cascada (Waterfall Chamber) followed by a plain called “los Órganos” (The Organs), which is decorated with prehistoric signs, giving us an impression of the primitive human playing primal music at the Caves.
Just as famous and well visited is the Balcón de Europa (Europe's balcony), the name was given by King Alfonso XII on his visit to Nerja after the terrible earthquake that destroyed it on Christmas day 1884. The terrace, a former Guard Tower during the Arab domination, is a wonderful balcony to the Mediterranean in the very heart of the town. There, the visitor, can admire the panoramic views as well as admire a statue of the monarch and two old cannons aiming east and west.
Nerja also has other places well worth seeing such as El Salvador parish church, consisting of three naves and of late Baroque style near the Town Hall. This church was built in 1697, on top of the foundations of Nerja's Castle chapel, that is, the actual Balcón de Europa. It was then enlarged on XIX's century. Its central nave has an impeccable wooden facade, a wonderful wall fresco of artist Francisco Hernández and a bronze Christ made by sculptor Aurelio Teno.
The Ermita de las Angustias, built to honour the patroness of Nerja, Our Lady of Angustias, is also of baroque style, with its temple dome in granadan style and offers a very nice but simple belfry jutting out from the chapel's main body.
We must also mention Verano Azul Park, on the west side of town. There a fishing boat can be seen, “la Dorada”, which belonged to “Chanquete”, one of the most important characters in the well-known Spanish TV series of the 80's, Verano Azul. The street that goes along the park has the name of the late actor Antonio Ferrándis “Chanquete”. Also, Nerja wanted to give tribute to the series director, giving his name to the promenade on Burriana beach, Paseo Antonio Mercero. We must say that both Burriana beach, on the east side of Nerja, and La Torrecilla beach, on the west, have been awarded with EU's Blue Flag, that show the excellence of our beaches.
Maro, the beautiful, little village 3 km away from Nerja, is rightly proud of it´s church Nuestra Sra. de las Maravillas (Our Lady of Wonders), built at the beginning of the 17th century and refurbished later on. Also, Maro possesses one of the most beautiful protected areas in Andalucía: the Maro-Cerro Gordo Cliffs Natural Park.
We cannot forget the magnificent Acueducto del Águila (Eagle's Aqueduct), built in the 19th century and that, as well as the Caves of Nerja, are located in Maro area.
Frigiliana or "Axarquía's pearl", as it is also known, is one of the most beautiful towns in Andalucía and malagan Axarquía. Its moorish-styled architecture shows whitewashed houses, ornamented with multi-coloured flowers that pose a major contrast with the orange coloured roof tiles. With its cobble-stoned streets Frigiliana has been awarded with many embellishment prizes of andalusian towns in the autonomous region. From Frigiliana an astonishing panoramic view can be seen, from the coastline, the valley and the mountain range. Typical local produces that deserve mention are wine and raisins.
Nerja offers the visitor a large variety of handicrafts, of which leather and pelt as well as cane and esparto-grass stand out. Also, there is a great number of shops where all sorts of items can be found.
Here we must remark the great selection of international cuisine on offer, but without forgetting the high quality or our Nerjan traditional cooking. Fish and seafood is mixed with orchard produce: red pepper with fish and clams; migas (breadcrumbs) with broth and clams; noodle and fish cassoulette; ajoblanco (cold Andalusian soup made with garlic, water, olive oil and salt) with grapes, ajocolorao (soup made with cod, bread, garlic, lemon, red pepper, boiled egg, olives and olive oil), grilled Burriana sea-bream, and many other delicious dishes. When talking about sweets, we find the traditional torta sanjuanera (St. John's cake) made of flour, olive oil, sugar, eggs and cumin; glazed sweet potatoes in cane honey or sugar. For wines, one must not forget that this town is included in the Sun and Wine Route from Axarquía region.
Festivals and traditions
Apart from Easter Processions, the most important festivals that we Nerjans celebrate are: the one honouring Our Lady of Angustias, the town's patroness and also known as Feria de Nerja, that takes place between the 8th and 12th October, has been celebrated since 1804 and hence is the most traditional. Another is on the 15th May, San Isidro, when we go on pilgrimage from El Salvador parish church – opposite the Town Hall – to San Isidro Hermitage, near the Nerja Caves. On 16th July, the visitors can enjoy the procession in honour of Our Lady of Carmen, in which the sculpture of Our Lady is carried by boat from Torrecilla beach, on the west of town, to Burriana, on the eastern end of Nerja, to later on be brought back to El Salvador, disembarking at Calahonda cove, next to Balcón de Europa.
The Cueva de Nerja Festival has become a modern tradition that takes place at the end of July. The most important artists of all fields are invited year after year to offer their audience a double show, their own, and that of the magnificent natural stage of the Cave's Ballet Chamber.