52km (32 miles) E of Málaga, 168km (104 miles) W of Almería, 548km (340 miles) S of Madrid
Nerja is known for its good beaches and small coves, its seclusion, its narrow streets and courtyards, and its whitewashed flat-roofed houses. Nearby is one of Spain's greatest attractions, the Cave of Nerja.

At the mouth of the Chillar River, Nerja gets its name from the Arabic word narixa, meaning "bountiful spring." Its most dramatic spot is the Balcón de Europa (Balcony of Europe), a palm-shaded promenade jutting out into the Mediterranean. The walkway was built in 1885 in honor of a visit from the Spanish king Alfonso XIII in the wake of an earthquake that had shattered part of nearby Málaga. To reach the best beaches, head west from the Balcón and follow the shoreline.

Exploring La Cueva de Nerja

The most popular outing from Málaga and Nerja is to the Cueva de Nerja (Cave of Nerja) ★★, Carretera de Maro s/n (tel. 95-252-95-20; www.cuevadenerja.es). Scientists believe this prehistoric stalactite and stalagmite cave was inhabited from 25,000 to 2000 b.c. It was rediscovered in 1959, when a small group of boys found it by chance. Once fully opened, it revealed a wealth of treasures left from the days of the cave dwellers, including Paleolithic paintings. They depict horses, deer, and other prey, but only a small fraction of the paintings lie in the galleries open to the public. But the striking geology compensates: You can walk through stupendous galleries where ceilings soar to a height of 60m (197 ft.).

The cave is in the hills near Nerja. From here you get panoramic views of the countryside and sea. It’s open daily 10am to 1pm and 4 to 6:30pm (until 7:30pm July–Aug). Admission is 9€ adults, 5€ children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. Buses (www.elcapistranonerja.es) to the cave leave from Paseo de los Tilos, s/n in Málaga hourly from 7am­ to 8:15pm, and from Avenida de Pescia, s/n in Nerja hourly from 8:30am to 9:40pm. Return buses run hourly until 9:45pm. The journey to or from Málaga takes about 1 hour. From Málaga, the roundtrip ticket is 9€, from Nerja it is 2.4€