Southern Spain Coastal Town: Nerja, Spain
by Brandi Buss
Welcome to Nerja, where the mojitos are strong, the nightlife is vibrant, and the culture is rich. Take in its beautiful scenery as I take you on a brief glimpse of my time spent in this must-visit coastal town.
Nerja, Spain is a destination that was introduced to me by my Aunt Mette from Denmark. She knew I was travelling through Europe and sent me a text saying, “we have this beautiful holiday home in Nerja that you are more than welcome to stay at.’ I was already in Barcelona and figured it should be easy enough to get there and both my backpack and bank account needed a break.
How to get to Nerja from Malaga
I was travelling with a friend so we decided to book tickets from Barcelona to Malaga and then take a bus from Malaga to Nerja. Flying through Spain is very cheap and taking a bus is even cheaper. I recommend flying Ryan Air, they are a low-cost company to fly with if you follow all the rules. Make sure you have your tickets printed, don’t go over on the weight of your bag, and only bring the number of carry-ons allowed. Breaking any of Ryan Air’s rules usually results in a costly fee.
Once we arrived in Malaga we sorted out the bus. The bus driver knew we weren’t local and in Spanish asked us which stop we would get off at so he could let us know when we arrived. It’s gestures like these that make travelling so much easier and makes learning the local language that much more useful. I highly recommend learning the basics, hello, thank you, I speak English, where is the bathroom, one beer please… locals will appreciate you trying and it will get easier the more you use it.
The bus ride up to Nerja took about 1.5 hours and the scenery was beautiful. We got to catch a glimpse of the coastline as well as the mountainous interior.
A City that Never Sleeps
When we arrived in Nerja the city was vibing. It was early July and that meant summer season for all the tourists and locals alike. It didn’t take us long to get acquainted with the famous Tutti Frutti Square. The square was an absolute ghost town in the day but by sundown, every sunburnt tourist and local Spanish family had picked their favourite spots to start off the night. The square attracts every genre of person from young children chasing balloons, to old men nursing their small sized beers, to holiday goers chasing their tequila shots with sangria. As the night grows late the square gets busier and people can take in the wide range of bars from a heavy metal bar with porn playing to a sophisticated white marble bar that can host no more than 4 patrons to everything in between.
A must have at any Spanish bar is a freshly made Mojito. The lime is quenching and the mint is refreshing, a great mid-day drink or something to kick the night off with.
I was planning on staying in Nerja for a few weeks so wanted to get to know people. I would go out to the square and always find someone or some group to join. I ended up getting a bit of work at an Irish bar owned by a Spanish man ran by two Romanians. This alone changed my experience as from Thursday-Sunday I would be in the busy square consistently among the action and now beginning to run with the local crowd.
A Good Cup of Coffee
Daytime in Nerja was my bliss. I would wake up early and go for a coffee. Spanish coffee is not much to rave about but I did find a little cafe run by a couple who had worked and travelled throughout Australia both acquiring the skills of a barista. This coffee brought me back as I had recently left Sydney and had now become a coffee obsessor. The cafe is called Good Stuff Cafe and I loved being around the energy of the workers and the customers.
Nerja by Bicycle
I would go everywhere by bicycle. I started out renting a bicycle from a hotel near where I was staying for 5 Euros/week. It was okay but learning that the brakes did not work while going warp speed down a hill made me reconsider my bike choice. The hotel bikes are fine for a calm day tour but if you plan on staying a bit longer, invest in a bike for you. You can easily find bikes on Facebook or ask a Spanish friend to help you navigate the Spanish version of craigslist.
The beaches of Nerja are beautiful and when you stand atop the highest point and look down at Burianna Beach all you see is umbrella tops and people. In the summer months, the Burianna Beach is very busy, if you want to claim a spot go early. You can also pay to lay out in a chair provided but this comes at a cost and the average backpacker knows every penny is precious. If you go way right of the popular Burianna beach you will find a much quieter, even shaded area where many locals spend the days or many Tutti Frutti workers spend their time off between the nights.
Festival Frigiliana Tres Culturas
My favourite highlight from my summer spent in Nerja was taking in the Festival Frigiliana Tres Cultures or Festival of Three Cultures. Frigiliana is located approximately 17km away from Nerja and takes about 25 minutes by car or bus. The festival takes place during the last weekend of August and is filled with so much love and culture. Over the three days, you get to take in a great market filled with local talented vendors and artists, live music in the streets, a concert bowl, and the most famous and my favourite Ruta de la Tapa. The Ruta de la Tapa or Tapas Route is a route designed throughout the town where festival goers can pay 2 Euros to get a tapas and beer at 19 different locations. You can take the three days to complete the route but some brave all 19 stops in a day, well, try to. The Euro beers usually win. If you complete the route you get to go home with a festival t-shirt that only those who have done all 19 locations can proudly wear. I also got to take in a live show of Manu Chau playing in the concert bowl, a memory I will cherish forever. To get more information on this year’s festival visit the festival website.
So if Spain is on your list, and which it should be, I encourage you to take a few days to take in the beautiful coastal town of Nerja and all of its surrounding. I hope you fall in love with it as much as I did.