Nerja ParadorReview by Michelle Chaplow
The Nerja Parador sits in a spectacular clifftop position, with 360-degree beach and mountain views; a lift takes you from the hotel’s tropical gardens down to the famous Burriana Beach.
Nerja town, situated in Malaga province, lies just to the west of the stunning cliffs of Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo, and is backed by the extensive natural park of Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Almara, popular with hikers.
Why should I stay there?
If you want to stay in a place rich in Andalucian culture and traditions, with great seafood and local wines, interesting geography, and beautiful Mediterranean gardens, all right next to the beach, then this is the place for you.
Where is it?
Nerja is a coastal resort town about 50 km east of Málaga city, connected by the coastal highway. It marks the eastern limit between Málaga province and the Costa del Sol, and Granada province and the Costa Tropical. The town is part of La Axarquía comarca (area); axarquía is an Arabic word, meaning to the east - in this case, east of Malaga.
“We are located between Malaga and Granada," explains Emilio Mojón, director of Parador de Nerja. "Malaga with its airport and AVE train, and all its museums, especially the Picasso Museum; one hour from the gates of the Alhambra in Granada city; and an hour and a quarter from the Sierra Nevada's ski slopes."
What kind of person stays at the Parador de Nerja?
Emilio says, “We are lucky to have multiple types of guests, in terms of nationality, age group, and when they come. We have long-standing guests such as the Spanish who come for two weeks in the summer, and British, northern European such as Scandinavian, and other Europeans, who stay for a fortnight in the winter and spring. At the same time, we have Koreans and Japanese coming for a shorter stay of two or three days; and also, young people, couples, families, and people wanting to see the sunrise.
In the winter we have walkers: up early for breakfast, then off for morning walks in the hills, and spending their afternoons on the beach or shopping. We have groups of German motorcyclists who explore La Axarquía and Sierra Nevada or Malaga, led by a company that organises weekly tours for three months each year.
We have summer clients, the children of long-standing guests who come for the watersports - diving, kayaking, sailing… the truth is that we have a very varied clientele. Here you can find all types of guests from multigenerational groups to young couples, who love to dine al fresco and watch the sunrises and sunsets.”
Emilio prides himself on making everyone feel at home. Clearly this warm hospitality works, a family from Granada has stayed at the hotel every year, for a week in August, since the early 1970s (except for 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic).
What is the Parador de Nerja like?
This modern parador opened in 1965; it has a tree-lined swimming pool, beautiful gardens with lush green lawns, fountains, and comfortable outdoor furniture for lounging, restaurants with sea views, both indoor and outdoor dining, a lift down to the beach , and wonderful Mediterranean Sea and mountain vistas.
Almost all the 98 rooms (92 of 98) have balconies or garden terraces: most have views to the sea, while others either to the mountains of the natural park of Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Almara, or to the town of Nerja, depending on the orientation.
Like all paradors, it has secure private parking, useful if you want complete reassurance that your vehicle and its contents will be safe.
The ground floor rooms offer direct access to the garden, ideal for those with reduced mobility, and they also feature large bathrooms with a hydro-massage shower, and are great for older people, or families with younger children.
The feel is typical mid-century, since the building dates from the 1960s, along with most purpose-built paradors: simple and comfortable, with spotlessly clean rooms.
Service is efficient and reliable, as is typical for this Spanish government-owned hotel chain. Many staff stay for their entirely working lives: for example Francisco Valverde, now the hotel administrator, started working there as a bellboy in 1974. In 2020 Francisco was working from home, and he is due to retire in 2021.
What is there to see and do in the area?
In Nerja itself, watersports such as kitesurfing, kayaking and paddle-surfing cater to every taste from relaxed coastal exploration to adrenalin junkies. Going to the beach and visiting local markets are always popular options for a more sedate experience.
The Nerja caves are globally renowned for the widest naturally formed column in the world, at 32m high and 13x7m at its base. Formed by the merging of a stalagmite and stalactite, the column has held the Guinness World Record since 1989. The caves famously host summer events, including live concerts and dance performances, in their natural amphitheatre; also, Neanderthal cave paintings have been found here. In addition, the Nerja feria is held in the second week of October.
In La Axarquía you will find white villages in spectacular hilltop settings, and traditional crafts such as esparto grass-weaving and cheese-making. Here mountainous walking routes offer panoramic views of the Moorish-era villages, as well as seeing the region’s agriculture: vineyards, almond and olive groves planted in terraces on steep mountain slopes, mango and avocado trees on lower ground, and citrus plantations. Try the restaurants in these towns, for a glimpse of local life.
And if all this isn´t enough, a little further afield more stunning scenery awaits, as well as cultural hubs: Sierra Nevada, the Axarquia, the Parque Natural Montes de Malaga; and Malaga and Granada cities.
What should I eat and drink there?
As you can imagine, with a beachfront location, the fish is superb here. When fresh sardines are in season, a traditional speciality of Malaga province is to cook them speared on an espeto (stick) over a hot fire, and this is a great place to eat an espeto de sardinas. Plus don’t miss out on the prawns, sea bass, fresh tuna, calamari and anchovies. Avocados and tropical fruits grow nearby, and the chef will entice you with local dishes from the region, showing Mediterranean cuisine and Moorish influences. Malaga’s Axarquía region is also known for its wines, including sweet Moscatel dessert wine from the Montes de Malaga.
Emilio says: “We incorporate the gastronomic culture of la Axarquía into our breakfast, with guests able to taste local products such as raisins, olive oil and goat’s cheese.”
Dining on the outdoor terrace overlooking the sea on summer evenings is definitely a highlight.
What is unique about the Nerja Parador?
- The gardens - the ombú trees, a gift from from Argentina
The gardens are superb - both the plants themselves, and its setting, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. The frangipani trees are particularly stunning; every plant is carefully labelled
Emilio Mojón says: “We worked together with Jardín Botánico-Historico de Malaga, which collated an inventory of the plants for us and designed a self-guided route. The full details are displayed on the board situated in the shady walkway near the reception. We also have leaflets for guests to take home, as many of our guests are interested in the names and information about the plants.”
The Parador de Nerja is famous for its ombú trees. The Phytolacca dioica, commonly known as ombú, is a huge deciduous tree native to the Pampas of South America. It has an umbrella-like canopy that spreads to a diameter of 12 to 15m and height of 12 to 18m, and its roots are overground.
“This tree has become a symbol of the hotel: we have several fine examples of the ombú in the garden, which were introduced a few years after the parador opened,” says Emilio. “An Argentinian minister of state came here, as there were many family connections between the people of Nerja, and Argentina and Uruguay, and he said, ‘You need to have an ombú tree in the garden, for the shade it provides.’ When he returned to Argentina, the minister sent the trees over as a present. Interestingly, because of the clifftop position, there is solid rock just below the parador lawn, and the ombú has roots that spread out horizontally.”
Because it is derived from herbaceous ancestors, the ombú’s trunk consists of a secondary thickening rather than true wood. As a result, the ombú grows fast, but its wood is soft and spongy enough to be cut with a knife.
- The "espartero" – the esparto grass weaver
Every Friday, an espartero, an artisan who weaves baskets, espadrille sandals and other items from esparto grass, gives a demonstration of his skill. This is a local handicraft, and the third-generation weaver explains how to make an esparto mat, traditionally used as a carpet in the aisle at weddings, and also in houses.
The parador is a showcase of its surrounding area, and can add value to local handicrafts, inspiring young people to follow in the footsteps of artisans.
The history - starting with the Nerja Caves in the 1960s
This hotel holds an important place in the Costa del Sol’s history. The local Nerja Caves were discovered in 1959, but there was nowhere in the town for visitors to stay. In 1963, the town hall ceded the land to construct the parador, and in 1965 it opened its doors. This was a project of Manuel Fraga, Spanish Minister of Tourism and Information from 1962 to 1969.
Originally, the parador consisted of 48 rooms on two floors, built above an open garage space for parking cars. Later the third floor was added above, and the garages were turned into garden rooms. A further extension turned the parador into a L-shape.
If you are planning to visit this eastern part of the Costa del Sol - close to Malaga city, yet with a very distinct ambience - this parador is an excellent option, with its clean, comfortable rooms, ideal location, regional gastronomic delights, and delightful outside spaces. The perfect spot for eating fresh sardines on the restaurant terrace on a warm summer's evening, overlooking the sea.
Calle Almuñécar, 8,