Nerja

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Nerja History

Image The eastern edge of the province of Málaga is connected to the province of Granada by the municipality of Nerja, which is not only the most important tourist centre of the Eastern Costa del Sol, but also the one that boasts the most attractive coastal landscape of the entire Málaga seashore, since here the slopes of the Sierra de Almijara jut boldly into the sea, something unusual in this area of the Mediterranean, and form a very rugged coastline. This coastal setting has been designated as the Paraje Natural de los Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo (Cliffs of Maro-Cerro Gordo Nature Area), which protects a series of small, untouched coves that are of difficult access but worth the visit. 

Inland, the territory of Nerja ascends the Sierra de Almijara mountain range –which forms a geographic unit with the Sierra de Tejeda-through a country of deep ravines, sheer cliffs and peaks that is furrowed by numerous watercourses, forming an extraordinarily diverse mountain landscape. In the areas closest to town, there are a large number of housing developments that coexist-probably not for very long-with terraced plots where all kinds of subtropical fruits and vegetables are raised.

Signs of the first human settlement in this municipality were discovered in the famous Cueva de Nerja (Nerja Cave) and belong to the Auriñaciense stage of the Upper Paleolithic period. Nothing is known of other civilisations that may have existed here until the period of Roman rule, when apparently a small settlement (Detunda) was established at present-day Maro. It should be noted that Maro is another population centre of Nerja, where the cliffs and the Nerja Cave itself are located.

The first documented fact about the history of Nerja, however, appears in the writings of the poet Said Al-Mugrabi, in the age of Abderramán III (tenth century), in which he refers to this place as a city-sized farming community where fine silk products were produced. Ancient Narixa stood next to a fortress, whose ruins can still be seen in a place called Castillo Alto, next to the old Frigiliana turnoff.

After the surrender of Vélez (1487), Nerja sent its envoys to that place to render allegiance to the Spanish king and queen and thus prevent bloodshed. A few days after that visit, Pedro de Córdoba took possession of the town in the name of the Catholic Monarchs. Under Christian rule, the town began to lose population, and in order to prevent greater abandonment Juana la Loca ordered Nerja to be repopulated with long-time Christians from the Basque Country, Valencia, Galicia and Málaga itself.

In the late sixteenth century the first sugar mill was set up in Nerja and in the late eighteenth century a paper mill was in operation here, supplied with water from the River La Miel. This factory remained in operation until the early twentieth century. During the War of Independence, the English levelled the fortress that used to stand where the Balcón de Europa is today, and also destroyed the port that had been adapted to handle coastal shipping.

The name of the town comes from the Arabic Narixa, Naricha or Narija, which apparently derived from a pre-Roman name, and the translation “abundant spring” that some give for this word is still not very certain, although there are plenty of reasons to speak of an abundance of water in this municipality.

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Surface Area:

84.4 square kilometres
Population: about 18,000
What the natives are called: Nerjeños. Nickname: Morralleros
Monuments: the historic district of Nerja and Maro, Balcón de Europa, the El Salvador church, Las Angustias hermitage, Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas church (Maro), El Águila aqueduct, Cueva de Nerja (Nerja Cave), Chanquete’s boat, Paraje Natural de los Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo (Cliffs of Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural Area)
Geographical Location: in the most easterly part of the region of La Axarquía, and by extension of the province of Málaga, in the foothills of the Sierra de Almijara. The locality lies 30 meters above sea level and is 45 kilometres from Málaga. It records an average rainfall of 460 millimetres and the annual average temperature is about 20º C.
Tourist Information: Tourism Office, 2 Puerta del Mar Street
Telephone: 952 521 531

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