Nerja is on the seashore some 50 kilometres from Málaga on the N340 coastal highway, and marks the eastern tip of Málaga's Costa del Sol. Once a sleepy fishing village, the town now has a population of over 12,000. The Romans gave the settlement the name "Detunda", and it was later taken over by the Moors. Under the Moorish rule, it became "Narixa", which means "abundant spring", and is the origin of its present name. Its agricultural and silk products are said to have been famed throughout the Muslim world and in the markets of Damascus as early as the tenth century.
Sierra Almijara ambraces the town to the east, and to the west the 16 km of sandy beaches meet the sea. Nerja has managed to avoid the 70s concrete high-rises of other Costa-del-Sol towns, but has become a growing town with many tourists flocking to it every summer. The old quarter of the town is still virtually unchanged with narrow, winding streets, whitewashed houses with wrought iron terraces overflowing with geraniums.
At the heart of Nerja is its spectacular Balcón de Europa, the "Balcony of Europe", a magnificent promenade along the edge of a towering cliff, once the site of the great Moorish castle, with sweeping panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the small coves and beaches below. The Balcón de Europa, a mirador or viewpoint which gives stunning views across the sea, is in the centre of the old town. Its name is popularly believed to have been coined by King Alfonso XII, who visited the area in 1885 following a disastrous earthquake and was captivated by the sea view. However, local archive documents are said to show that this name predated this visit.
The Balcón area was originally known as La Bateria, a reference to the gun battery which existed there in a fortified tower. This emplacement and a similar tower nearby were destroyed by British led forces under Major General Blayney in 1810 to deny their use to French occupying forces during the Peninsular War.
The town's monuments include the 17th century Church of El Salvador, in a style which is a charming mixture of baroque and Moorish, or mudéjar, and the beautiful Gardens of Capistrano Playa, which descend to Burriana Beach. Nerja's most spectacular attraction is undoubtedly its fascinating caves, located just three kilometres from the centre of town. Nerja Caves are the 3rd most visited site in Spain after the Prado in Madrid and Alhambra Palace in Granada. They include archaeological treasures such as paintings over 20,000 years old and other pre-historic remains. Believed to be the largest cave chamber in Europe, part of the caverns has been transformed into a concert hall, where many performances are staged during the summer. This year Nerja is celebrating International Cave Festival every 3rd week of July, with the participation of many top international entertainers.