When I recently visited Nerja, one of Andalucia’s most popular beach towns, I’ll admit that I didn’t have high hopes.
Around one third of Nerja’s 20,000 permanent inhabitants is foreign, with the vast majority of those foreigners being British, and I won’t lie, being surrounded by Brits is not usually a selling point for me (and I say this as a Brit!).
However, within minutes of arriving in Nerja, it became clear why so many people flock to this tiny fishing village, known as the ‘Balcony of Europe,’ every year.
With rugged cliffs, long promenades lined with palm trees and whitewashed houses with fuchsia bougainvillea lining the streets, Nerja is certainly easy on the eye.
However, while you could easily while away a long, lazy summer in this Costa del Sol beauty, many people only have time for one night or a quick day trip to Nerja and want to see the best that Nerja has to offer in their limited time.
With that in mind, I decided to put together this list of things to do in Nerja in just one day, so that you can be sure you’re using your time wisely and not missing out on any of the major Nerja attractions.
So, if you’re visiting Andalucia and are looking for the best things to do in Nerja in a single day, you’re in the right place.
Grab a drink and let’s get into it.
Things to Do in Nerja in One Day
Discover the Historic Centre
Andalucia is famous for its white villages, or pueblos blancos, and Nerja is one of them.
The buildings in Andalucia’s villages are painted white for a number of reasons.
First, the antibacterial properties of the lime-based whitewash help to repel insects. It also adds a layer to the houses, making them stronger and more waterproof (contrary to popular belief, yes it does rain in Spain!), as well as reflecting the sunlight, helping to keep the houses cool in the summer.
Of course, the aesthetic qualities are not lost on the local councils – in some of Andalucia’s white villages, homeowners can actually be fined for not whitewashing their houses in time!
So, now you know why the houses in Nerja are all white, take some time in the morning to wander the streets of the historic centre and appreciate their beauty while the streets are still cool (and quiet!).
The old town of Nerja is an Instagrammer’s dream (trust me – I was there with a famous Instagrammer!), and there are many great photo-ops around here.
Take a peek inside the small boutiques and artisan shops, enjoy a coffee in one of the many cafes on the main square, and don’t miss the church of El Salvador, a stunning architectural work in Baroque-Neoclassical style.
The Caves of Nerja
The Caves of Nerja (or Cueva de Nerja in Spanish), are one of the top things to do in Nerja, and if you only have one day in Nerja, you simply cannot miss them.
I recommend visiting the Caves of Nerja in the late morning/early afternoon, to escape from the midday sun and make the most of the cool subterranean temperatures!
Located around 5km from the centre of town (a 10 minute drive), the Caves of Nerja are one of the most important prehistoric sites in the whole of Southern Europe, and the presence of humans in the caves goes back 45,000 years!
The Caves of Nerja were actually discovered by accident in 1959, when a group of friends were looking for bats! They found their way into the caves and stumbled upon a human skeleton. Afraid, they called the authorities, and it was only then that the Caves of Nerja were excavated.
The caves were open to the public just one year later, in 1960.
Inside, you will find columns, stalagmites and stalactites reaching record-breaking proportions (seriously – the largest one is 32 metres high and 14 metres wide and was declared the largest on the planet by the Guinness Book of World Records!).
There are also Neanderthal cave paintings dating back 42,000 years, burial grounds, rocks that resemble ghosts (in the appropriately named Fantasmas Gallery), and lots of other fascinating historical relics.
Included in the ticket price is an audio guide that provides fascinating insights into how people lived in the caves all those years ago, how organisms such as the ‘pseudo-scorpion‘ have evolved to survive in these harsh underground conditions (there are small invertebrates in the cave that actually constitute biological relics due to the fact that they stopped evolving thousands of years ago!), and how the uses of the caves changed over the years.
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Caves of Nerja and would highly recommend including them on your list of things to do in Nerja. You can be in and out in an hour, and trust me when I say that you’ll seriously be blown away.
The Nerja Caves are open 363 days a year from 9am – 3.30pm. A ticket for a 45-minute visit with an audio guide costs 14 EUR.. They caves are closed on the 1st of January and the 15th of May to celebrate San Isidro.
The Eagle Aqueduct
The same road that leads to Nerja Caves (the A-7) also leads to one of the other major things to see in Nerja.
The Eagle Aqueduct (Acueducto del Águila) or Bridge of the Eagle (Puente del Águila) is a red-brick structure dating back to the 19th century, with four storeys of impressive superimposed arches.
Still in use to this day, the aqueduct is regarded as a ‘historic jewel of Spanish architecture‘ and is definitely worth paying a visit.
If you don’t fancy driving, you can walk down to the aqueduct from Maro village nearby. There are several different walks and hikes around the area if you end up extending your stay in Nerja and fancy exploring!
Whether you want an entire feast of Andalucian cuisine or to pick at some tapas with a cold beer, there are lots of great restaurants in Nerja to choose from.
My fellow bloggers and I (I visited Nerja as part of a press trip) went to the Restaurante Europa in the fancy Parador de Nerja hotel.
We were treated to a 4-course lunch menu featuring the finest traditional Andalucian food out there, and every single course was delicious.
This set menu changes daily, but I definitely recommend going for it as you won’t be disappointed!
We enjoyed cold avocado and melon soup served with tempura vegetables and honey from Frigiliana, salad with mango dressing, goat’s cheese, walnut and apple, sea bass with fried shrimp and rice and a stunning trio of desserts, including ice cream made with olive oil!
Hit the Nerja Beaches
Nerja is home to some of the best beaches in Andalucia, and so it goes without saying that one of the best things to do in Nerja is to simply hit the beach, and after your large lunch, you won’t want to do much other than lay under the sun and catch some rays!
With exceptional weather year round, dozens of tiny coves, golden sand beaches and turquoise waters, Nerja is a beach bum’s paradise.
Oh, and did I mention that there are 12 Nerja beaches to choose from?!
The largest and most popular of Nerja’s beaches is Playa de Burriana, about 1km from the centre of town. It is the best-equipped and popular with families.
Other stunning beaches in Nerja are Playa de Calahonda, Playa El Chorrillo and El Salón.
El Salón and Playa de Calahonda are located either side of the famous Balcon de Europa (which we will get to in just a second), and due to its location at the bottom of a steep hill, El Salón is the quiet of the two beaches, as well as having a rugged charm.
If you’re not one for just laying on the beach, many people like to go paddleboarding in Nerja to explore the coves, and the azure, crystal clear waters also lend themselves easily to snorkelling.
To see the stunning cliffs of Nerja from another angle, this sea kayaking tour with a guide is a great option!
One unmissable thing to do on Nerja’s beaches is to try the local delicacy, espetos de sardinas, sardines which are skewered and cooked on a barbeque right on the beach. Yum!
Watch the Sunset from Balcon de Europa
The most famous of all the things to do in Nerja is head to Balcon de Europa, named by King Alfonso XII because according to him, you can see Africa from this viewpoint.
With a balcony jutting out over the sea and a view that can only be described as breathtaking, the Balcon de Europa is beautiful at any time of day, but if you happen to be in Nerja in the evening then you should definitely come here to watch the sunset.
Only when you have visited Balcon de Europa will you fully understand why so many people flock to Nerja time and time again.
Where to Stay in Nerja – The Best Nerja Hotels
If you are lucky enough to spend the night in Nerja, there are plenty of great accommodation options, whatever your budget.
I’ve rounded up my favourites, from luxury to budget.
Parador de Nerja – $$$
The Parador hotels in Spain are a group of 96 state-owned hotels that are located in the best locations across Spain, with restaurants serving excellent local dishes (with a 0km rule stating that all produce has to come from the immediate area) and grand interiors.
Many Paradores are in restored castles, manor houses, convents and other noteworthy buildings.
Although I didn’t stay at the Parador de Nerja, I did have a phenomenal lunch there, as well as getting a short tour around the hotel to see just how special this place is.
Situated on a clifftop that offers magnificent sea views, with a large swimming pool and garden area perfect for sunbathing, direct lift access to Burriana Beach and even tennis courts, the Parador de Nerja has everything you could possibly want for a luxury stay in Nerja.
MB Boutique Hotel – $$
The MB Boutique Hotel is a stunning adults-only hotel with a rooftop terrace (featuring hot tubs and Balinese beds) and sleek, modern rooms.
This hotel is 200 yards away from Torrecilla Beach, and a 10 minute walk away from the Balcon de Europa viewpoint.
At half the price of the Parador (at the time of writing), this hotel is excellent value for money.
Armijorooms – $
Armijorooms is a cute little guesthouse right in the centre of town.
There is a communal kitchen onsite and you also have the option of choosing a room with a large patio area. The rooms are large and modern with lots of natural light, and you are just a stone’s throw away from multiple beaches.
If you’re on a budget but still want to enjoy gorgeous accommodation in a great location, Armijorooms is the perfect place.
Getting to Nerja, Spain
The closest airport to Nerja is Malaga Airport. If you decide to rent a car then you can get to Nerja in less than one hour. If you’d prefer to book a door-to-door airport transfer, then i’way is your best bet.
Alternatively, you can get to Nerja easily using public transport from Malaga city centre.
Buses leave from Malaga bus station every hour, and the journey time is between 50 and 90 minutes, depending on which bus you take.
I always use Omio to check timetables and buy my tickets.
Things to Do in Nerja in One Day | Final Thoughts
I always recommend staying longer than one day in a place. By staying longer, you will get a deeper understanding of Nerja, you’ll be able to enjoy the city in the evening after most of the day trippers have left, and you’ll also be contributing more to the local economy.
However, visiting Nerja for one day is better than not visiting Nerja at all, and I hope that this one day itinerary has given you some ideas of how to spend your time in Nerja wisely!
I visited Nerja as a guest of the Andalucia tourism board. The cave trip, tour of Nerja and lunch were all gifted. However, I was not obliged to write anything about Nerja, and you can rest assured that my opinions are all completely my own.
As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section below and I will get back to you.
Until next time,
If you liked this article and would like to support my work, please click the button above to donate a couple of bucks and buy me a coffee. The ad revenue that I receive on this website is minimal, so support from my readers enables me to keep creating content that you (hopefully!) love to read.