It’s well worth hiring a car at Malaga Airport if you’re holidaying in Nerja. Not only does the vehicle provide you with your own transport for transfers it also allows you to get out for a spin in the local countryside. The nearest spot you’re likely to head for is the Nerja Caves which are only 4km east of town following the old coast road. The other main excursion locally is to Frigiliana which is a beautiful whitewashed village just 6km up the hill from Nerja.
A little further afield is the 30 minute drive to Lake Viñuela where you can have a pleasant lunch overlooking the reservoir then take a detour into the hills surrounding the lake including a stop at the olive oil factory at Mondron. There’s a fascinating farmer’s market every Tuesday near Periana. Other places of interest include Alhama de Granada which is an ancient spa town and El Torcal National Park near Antequera which has some fascinating flora and fauna amongst its unique rock formations.
Half Day Excursions from Nerja
Visit the Nerja Caves
Lying just 4km east of the resort, the Caves of Nerja are the town’s main tourist attraction which attract hundreds of thousands of annual visitors. The caves were only discovered in 1959 when a group of boys from the neighbouring village of Maro climbed through a small hole where they were playing. What a shock it must have been to suddenly find themselves staring at one of Europe’s finest cave structures. Although not on public view, cave paintings have been discovered which are believed to be 20,000 years old. In July one of the chambers acts as an auditorium for classical music concerts.
In total the Nerja Caves stretch some 4823 metres in length with a volume of more than 800,000 cubic metres. Only 25% of the total area of the caves is open to the public yet this is more than enough to appreciate the stunning beauty of this geological wonder. As you enter the caves next to the ticket office just walk down the steps to the Sala de Vestibulo then follow the clearly marked and well illuminated route to the Sala de Belen, Sala de la Cascada (where the music festival is held), the Sala de los Fantasmas (look out for weird and wonderful shapes) and finally to the incredible Sala del Cataclismo. This final chamber is is over 100 metres long and 50 metres wide with stalactites coming down from heights of around 30 metres above you. Indeed the longest stalactite ever discovered at 32 metres in length is in this chamber.
How to Get to the Caves of Nerja
If you’re driving just follow the main coast road (Avda Pescia) east out of town until you come to the roundabout just after the sugar mill that you’ll see on your left. The caves are well signposted from here and there’s plenty parking once you get there. Alternatively, there are plenty buses running along Avenida Pesca to the caves (check latest timetable locally) and a little, red tourist “train” whose itinerary includes a stop at the caves.
Many visitors who have the fitness enjoy the walk to the caves, returning by bus. Just follow Avenida Pesca beyond the entrance to Capistrano Village along the old coast road. Beyond the plastic greenhouses you’ll come to the abandoned San Joaquin sugar mill which dates back to 1884 when it was built to process sugar cane. Beyond the roundabout you’ll also see the Eagle Aqueduct which was built to provide water to the sugar mill. Today local farmers still use it for irrigation but maybe not for long as there are plans to construct a golf course on this terrain.
Opening Times of the Nerja Caves
- During the winter months the Caves of Nerja Caves are open from 9:30am until 3.30pm.
- During the summer months the Nerja Caves are open from 9:30am until 6pm
- There are entry slots every 30 minutes during opening times.
- You can check opening times and entrance fees on the Official Nerja Tourism Website.
Visit the White Hillside Village of Frigiliana
Frigiliana is a quaint white village located just 6km up the hill from Nerja. Originally it was occupied by Moors who had converted to Christianity after the Reconquest (Moriscos). Today it is one of Andalucia’s prettiest villages occupied by locals and a forever growing foreign population. In recent times it has expanded way beyond its original boundaries and has been discovered by the coach tours but nevertheless remains a charming place to visit.To get there from Nerja just take the exit road from the western side of town or get on one of the regular buses from Nerja bus station. Most of Frigiliana is pedestrianised so if you’re driving follow the signs for ‘circunvalación’ and ‘casco historico’ and park at the car park as you enter the village. From here you can walk.
As you approach the village on foot from the parking you’ll see Bar Virtudes with its large terrace over to your right which is a good spot for a morning coffee break or try the local Frigiliana wines. There’s a tourist information just at the side of it where you can pick up a map of the village. The road next to Bar Virtudes takes you down to the Higueron river from where the more active visitors might like to plan to do the half day walk through beautiful countryside which ends at the Nerja Caves.
Back in town the large building that dominates the lower village was formerly a sugar cane factory. Today it is a popular spot for tourists keen to buy ceramic items as a souvenir of their visit. Around the side of the factory is El Ingenio (Plaza Ingenio 4) which is a nice café-restaurant with views over the valley and river below.
If you’re fit enough for the climb to the top of the village up many steps, head along to Calle Real just beyond the ceramics display and start walking up past the shops selling local wines, cane honey and artisan products. After about 30 metres you’ll have a choice of continuing straight on which will take you to the village church of San Antonio or heading right which goes up to the El Mirador which is the highest point of Frigiliana. Look out for the sign for ‘Panoramicas’.
El Mirador is a lovely place to stop for a drink with stunning views all the way down the valley to the Mediterranean beyond Nerja. It’s also a good choice for an evening meal with quite an elaborate menu. The Garden Restaurant just below has a splendid terrace with similar views and serves up some great barbecued dishes in the evenings.
The 17th century church of San Antonio was built on the site of a former mosque. After a visit there’s an open terrace in Plaza de la Iglesia where you can get a drink or dine at La Taberna de Sacristan which is well known for its fine meat dishes. For a quaint alternative enter the alley next to the church and go for lunch at La Bodeguilla where more than 20 years ago Rosario started serving visitors from her small kitchen. Today this small restaurant is open from Easter through to September and at weekends the rest of the year. If it’s closed go to the family’s other restaurant with the same name just around the corner which has the same menu served on a large open terrace. A little higher up you’ll find La Parada de Zacatin (Calle Zacatin, 10) which also has a superb terrace with magnificent views and serves a fine selection of tapas.
The fact is that no matter where you go in Frigiliana you’ll stumble across a quaint little restaurant built into what was until recently someone’s home. This development has been done tastefully and adds to the special ambience of the village. Prices are very reasonable and to their credit the people and local authorities of Frigiliana village have contributed to such tourist development whilst maintaining its unique Moorish charm.
Full day Excursions from Nerja
The most popular day excursion is to the Alhambra Palace in Granada which is about a 1½ hour drive heading east via Almuñecar. As you approach Granada look out for the Alhambra Palace and Sierra Nevada sign which takes you directly to the Alhambra parking without having to negotiate the awful traffic system of the city centre. In fact, even if you’re going to Granada (100km) without visiting the Alhambra it’s a good idea to use the Alhambra parking and walk down to Plaza Nueva or use the local buses or a taxi. Remember to reserve Alhambra tickets well in advance.
If you want to head further afield you could visit Seville (260km) or Cordoba (210km) but might want to consider overnight stays as there’s so much to see in these great Moorish cities.
Nerja Car Rental
The weekly cost of renting a car at Malaga airport is similar to the price of a single taxi journey from the airport to Nerja. Having the car also proves convenient for getting into the centre of Nerja where there’s fine underground parking just next to the Balcon de Europa.