There are about 100 different watchtowers (Torre Vigia or Torre Atalaya or Torre Almenara) along the coast of Southern Spain. Some are of Moorish origins others date from the later Christian period. All with the purpose of looking out for invaders from the South. They have lasted the centuries with remarkable strength. In general the towers with square bases are of Moorish origin, and those with round bases were built after the reconquest. In 1575 King Filipe II ordered a major reconstruction programme including the construction of 12 forts.
They were primarily a lookout against Barbary Pirate raids from North Africa. Initally the Barbary Pirate raids concentrated on shipping, but later escalated to land raids and included capturing young people for their slave trade. The primary aim of the towers was to watch for pirates and to signal warning so the local people could go into hiding. The warnings were by smoke signals by day, and the light of fire at night.
In the nineteenth century many towers became Casa de Carabineros posts and barracks were often constructed alongside or nearby. In 1940 these posts became Guardia Civil barracks.
A common feature to notice is the rough opening or 'hole' at high level. This was the 'door' of the tower, which was reached from outside by a rope ladder. Inside at this entrance level is the only room with a domed ceiling and with stairs up to the rooftop terrace. The fire for the smoke signals was lit in a fireplace in this room with a chimney up to the roof. The fire at night was lit on the roof. Some towers have a rifle firing post built on the roof. Some towers have an overhang above the 'door'e called a machicolation (from the French 'mâchicoulis' ) in the roof parapet wall above the door which was for pouring boiling oil onto would be attackers.
There are six watchtowers in or near Nerja. From west to east.
Torre de Macaca
Torre Vigía La Torrecilla
Torre de Maro
Torre del Rió de la Miel
Torre del Pino
Torre de la Caleta