A Hidden Gem of the Costa del Sol

In late August, I went to Spain with my family; we spent a week by the coast in the pretty seaside town of Nerja, before spending a week inland, in Granada (more on that to come). Nerja is just under an hours’ drive east of Málaga: the compact town centre with its traditional whitewashed buildings has an unspoilt charm; there are numerous sandy coves; and there’s a vibrant atmosphere in the town’s two central restaurant squares.

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Whilst Nerja isn’t a buzzing city like the provincial capital, Málaga, it never claims to be that: instead, it’s a picturesque, attractive town which has plenty to offer to the discerning traveller. Here is a selection of things to enjoy whilst whiling away the time in the (reliable) Spanish sunshine . . .

Start the day with a pastry . . .

. . . or two from Panadería – Pasteleria Ortiz (Calle del Mar, 27). The pastries are delicious, especially the chocolate-covered croissants and the pains au chocolat dusted with icing sugar. There’s a huge selection: pastries any which way you please (with or without chocolate and/or cream), delicate tarts and layered cakes, alongside local and regional specialities. Your waistline might hate you for discovering this little place, but if you’re going to indulge in a sweet treat it may as well be a good one.

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Stroll along the Balcón de Europa 

With its whitewashed arch and a promenade stretching out into the Mediterranean, the Balcón de Europa is arguably Nerja’s best-known landmark (aside from the local caves). The path leading to the viewpoint is lined with palms and from the viewpoint you can get stunning panoramic views of the coastline.

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Visit the Cueva de Nerja

Conveniently (and reliably) signposted from the city centre, the Cueva de Nerja is undoubtedly a tourist honey pot. If you turn up on the day hoping to buy tickets, arrive early; we arrived just after eleven and by the time we’d reached the front of the (very long) queue, the first available time slot was 4.30 pm. You can book tickets in advance, and if you definitely want to see the caves I’d recommend doing that. Skip the café and bring a picnic instead; there are plenty of benches in the shade. Once inside, the caves are spectacular; the audio guide got a bit tedious and we lost our tour group, but I didn’t get the impression that that was a major problem; we ended up following the signs and having an enjoyable self guided tour instead . . .

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See the Acueducto del Águila

The route to the caves will take most drivers past this historic monument, which is still used today. Nerja used to have a thriving sugar cane industry, and the Acueducto del Águila was built to transport water into the nearby factory; it is now used for irrigation. It has been designated a Site of Special Cultural Interest by the local government, and though it’s no Pont du Gard it’s still worth seeing. There’s a lay-by nearby, which you can pull in at to enjoy the view, or it’s only a ten minute walk from the caves: simply retrace your steps back down the hill, and at the roundabout take the exit towards Nerja.

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At ice cream o’clock . . .

. . . head to Heladeria el Valenciano, which has a fantastic range of flavours; as an added bonus their cones are dipped in melted chocolate which solidifies before your eyes. Whilst the menta-choc is a little lurid in colour, the fruity flavours won’t disappoint: try mango or frutos del bosque.

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