Málaga & Nerja: La Costa del Sol

April 2022 — 

Where to begin? Well first of all, there is just something magical about visiting a land filled with palm trees, squabbling seagulls, and sun rays. Andalusia, the Southern part of Spain, is a region of which I have explored parts of but not yet conquered in its entirety. Thus, I chose to head to the beach as part of my ‘Semana Santa,’ or Holy Week springtime break. Málaga is known as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, however its coastal counterparts which together form ‘La Costa del Sol,’ or the Sunny Coast, are arguably even more beautiful! Their rustic seaside shorelines, rocky crevices, and Spanish pueblo vibes cannot be beat! Therefore without hesitation a day trip to the nearby locality of Nerja was essential to taking in the beauty of the Andalusian region of the Mediterranean Sea. 

This trip consisted of 4 days and 3 nights filled with sunlight and a few showers here and there. Leaving from the Atocha Renfe train station in Madrid the Ave high speed train system gets you to Málaga’s Maria Zambrano station in just under 3 hours. However on this occasion I did not journey alone but rather with companion. As such, we were able to rejoice the laid back ocean waves and springtime weather. But what is the beach without a little sunburn? 

Andalucía, Andalusia in Spanish, is at the top of the worlds olive oil production and for good reason! The tropical yet semi arid climate and rich fertile soil provide one with the inevitable, yummy olives and lush green fields for as far as the eye can see! Given the high sixties and low seventies weather for the time we went, it was perfect to break out some of my summertime apparel. For this journey I decided to utilize my REI Outfitters 46L Osprey Kyte backpacking backpack, as well as my L.L. Bean packable Trail Model rain jacket, with sneakers, sandals, my fanny pack, and a denim jacket. With a light breeze most of the time, twas’ really delightful and upon returning I felt that I had packed just the right amount of things.

For our stay, we selected a boutique hostel through Booking.com with very high rating and a great location, the Nordik Rooms Urban Hostel, which also was quite affordable even with a private room. It came to about 250 euros for three nights and two people, so really for about 40 euros per person per day. Really we stayed in a practically private mini apartment with its own kitchen, laundry, and balcony view. I would definitely recommend this hostel for it was really accessible, safe, super duper clean, and extremely organized. Also, there are only a total of four private rooms, so we barely even saw anyone during the entire stay. 

 

Málaga 

Per usual, our train left the station around 7:30 a.m., which meant that it was sure to be a bright and full day ahead! After catching a bus to the station, we arrived with plenty of time to spare and boarded with ease. The early morning ride ensured we were good and awake when we pulled into the Málaga platform around mid-morning. The check-in for the hostel was not until the afternoon, which gave us ample time to walk along the port depot in search of somewhere to eat lunch. We ended up doing a roundabout to the La Farola, or lighthouse. Along the way we came upon a stretch of various boardwalk restaurants where we decided upon one called Amigo Muelle Uno. The environment was good, we ordered a pizza and a meat platter, however the prices were not listed on the menu and when we received the bill, my companion was not thrilled with the cost of said meat platter. But lesson learned, and we made sure to eat slash bundle up all that there was. From there we made our way towards the hostel, but this took nearly an hour since we had to weave in and throughout the old city neighbourhood. The port-side mixed with the castles upon the hill overlooking the city created a terrific atmosphere for our journey ahead. Just walking around there is soo much to take in and examine!

After completing the online check-in we left our things and struck out to investigate the Arabic architecture, Semana Santa festivities, and of course to climb a mini mountain to access el Castillo de Gifalfaro, or Gibralfaro Castle. Prior to beginning we stopped in to get an ice cream cone at a creamery called Casa Mira Dimas Mira e Hijos. The ice cream hit the spot, but apparently this was the place to grab a cone because nearly the whole street was filled with people eating the same ice cream haha. The hike up to the top is super scenic and more importantly freely accessible until you arrive to the actual entrance. That being said, if you did not want to pay to enter, I would suggest making the climb nonetheless if not solely for the views. There are several lookout points where the whole of the city, including the bullfighting arena, seaport, and many beaches are viewable. The length of the hike is accompanied with musicians strumming away, assorted flowering bushes, and medieval hand built stone walls. The entrance tickets were not very much at all, and there is an option to buy the combo ticket for el Alcazaba, which with my Carnet Joven Europea or European Youth Discount Card is only 3 euros and respectively 5 euros for a regular entrance. Given that we arrived an hour and a half from closing and one needs at least 2 hours to view both sights, the lady informed us that we had 48 hours to view el Alcazaba. 

Starting out the next day we went to see el Alcazaba, or the castle fortress, which once defended the city in times of seaside attacks. For me this was even cooler than the first castle because of its stark Arabic architectural design and layout. The hand laid cobblestone and pebble pathways are accentuate by traditional gravity flowing water streams that run through a small centralised trough system from the highest spring to the lowest fountain. The incredibly ornate walkways, towers, mini gardens, and various nooks n’ crannies along every corner are only a few of the antiquities afforded by exploring the premises. As it happened, this was the one day that it rained while we were there and we lucked out that it didn’t start until we had finished our tour of the fortress. Right as you exit you can also view and walk along the remains of an ancient Roman Amphitheatre, which is rather well intact considered it is nearly two thousand years old. Since it was raining we decided to hit up a sweet smelling store, Torrons Vicens Málaga, that sells ‘el tirrón’ a type of caramel nougat that cannot be beat, and we hopped in line to visit the Pablo Picasso Museum. Since it was a bit of a spur of the moment decision we did have to wait for about 15 minutes in line, but I think it was well worth it! As the Spanish say, ‘vale la pena,’ literally means ‘it’s worth it.’ The entrance tickets were 7 euros for myself with the European Youth Discount Card and 9 euros for my companion. There is a free downloadable audioguide as well, but personally I like to soak in the images when I visit an art museum. Now I recognise that Picassos’ exceptionally unique and quirky art style might not be for everyone, but even if it isn’t your style sometimes it is just fun to try and guess what the artist intended to perceive through his or her painting. 

 

Did you know that Málaga city center is where Pablo Picasso originated? 

 

We then scoped out a place for lunch, and found a cute place with covered tables outside called Puerto de Cristal. My companion wanted to try some of the seafood tapas native to Málaga, and this restaurant had the Chipirrones, fried baby squids with a special dipping sauce. Additionally, ‘espeto de sardinas Málaga,‘ or sardines on a stick are quite popular. I think that the prices and selection of this restaurant was quite good, and they had some vegetarian options for me as well. Afterwards we headed back to the hostel to dry off a bit and change before returning to a central sports bar around 9 p.m. for the quarter cup playoff with the Real Madrid soccer team. Something that I can appreciate but am obviously not a super fan of. Nevertheless, we found a good one to eat dinner in and relish the evening amongst some very excited fans called Vox Sports Bar. I had a moist veggie burger and he a multi-meat sandwich. I would recommend if you love sports games, since it is well laid out and has fair prices all around. Later that night we returned home and prepared for the the next days mini-trip to the small nearby city of Nerja. 

 

Nerja

Waking up bright and early and almost running late, we threw on our clothes and were out the door to catch a bus from the central bus station to Nerja. Actually it turned out that we had previously walked right by the station but as we hadn’t been looking for it the first time we were caught off guard that it was so close the city’s historic center. Arriving with about 10 minutes to spare, we had no problems hopping right on the bus with our tickets we had purchased through Omio.com for about 11 euros roundtrip per person. Without a doubt worth it!! The ride was a but over an hour, and thus when we arrived a mid-morning breakfast was our first priority. Rounding the corner from the bus stop we found a perfect little cafe, La Nube, whose seating was in a small plaza dotted with tall palms and tropical flowers. Gorging ourselves with as much as we could, we then grabbed a few things from the Mercadona supermarket to eat for lunch that afternoon. Nerja is super famous for its beautiful beaches and its Neolithic caveman caverns, Las Cuevas, which one can visit but as they are several kilometres outside of the city center we did not have ample time. Instead, we chose to visit the Museo de Nerja, or the Nerja Museum, to catch up on a little local history before heading to the beach. The entrance is about 3 euros per person, and depending on ones love of history, it is worth it if you are not able to visit the actual caverns in person. The basement is filled with realistic models and a timeline of what life was like in the caves. 

The weather for the day could not have been more pristine and warm at about 75 degrees with a slight breeze, what more could you ask for? Everything is walkable in this small seaside city, which of course benefits ones legs and ones wallet! Next we walked towards the beachfront which is practically visible from the plaza where the museum is. Suddenly the gorgeous Mediterranean was gleaming with happy sun spirits and an almost summertime feel. Ohh what joy I felt! There was quite a few people from other countries floating around since this time period is the general spring vacation week for most of Europe. Upon walking out towards an elevated boardwalk like pathway called Balcón Europa, the sheer beauty of the surroundings cannot be fully expressed with my words, nor is it fully understandable through photos. It is like a movie scene, that’s all I can really say haha. Doing a small roundabout down a rocky switchback path gets you down to the actual beach, to the Playa Calahonda, where we laid out a blanket and soaked up the sunny rays for quite some time. Once it started to be midday it got a bit crowded, so we decided to explore the rocky outcrops around the sides of the beach. We then changed to another larger beach that was a lot more sparsely occupied called Playa la Caletilla

A daily tidbit to ponder:  La Costa del Sol, or the Sunny Coast, is said to have sun 300+ days out of the year. 

For nearly the whole afternoon we hangout watching the waves, rotating amongst the rays, scavenging for small rocks n’ shells and snacking on various things. It was more than pleasant that’s for sure, and to conclude our galavant we got some food at a small cafe called Albi Café, myself ice cream and my companion pizza. Checking out the many shops as we walked abound afforded me with finding one of those souvenir coin machines, my absolute favourite piece from any place I visit! Our bus departed Nerja about 6:30 p.m. and we were back at our hostel in Málaga around 8 p.m.. When we got back we made a simple pasta dinner in the kitchen at the hostel, watched a movie, and went to bed. The next day we had to check-out about 11 a.m. and then our train left around 7 p.m. from the same station where we had arrived. Given that we were mildly burned we tried to take one last slow stroll around the historic city center, and ended up hanging out in one of the parks near the seashore for a couple hours before we looked for somewhere to eat a late lunch. We finally settled on an Italian restaurant called Pizza Pino, where we proceeded to indulge in a large pizza and a calzone. It was a great way to fill up on carbs and it kept us full well into the train ride back to Madrid. Prior to going to the station we walked along the port-side with our remaining time and boarded our return train without difficulty. The ride back was not too long feeling, plus there was a bonus sunset view as we passed the many olive tree groves.  

 

Suggestions: 

Although we had super good weather and the sun wasn’t even remotely on full power, I did burn a little when we went to the beach. Therefore, be sure to bring with you some sort of mild sunblock or cover up if you burn easily. Now I did not wear sunblock because I was in the mindset that the sun was not that direct, but alas I was fooled. We also went during Holy Week, which meant that there was an over abundance of humans, and street processions in celebration everyday, so if those two things are not your style, then I would suggest choosing another week to visit the lovely Málaga city area. Lastly, given that it was April when we went the sea was naturally not that warm. Granted there were people swimming, but if you’d prefer to swim then perhaps delay coming until May thru October. 

I kid you not, the coastal areas, especially in Nerja we dazzling to the eye, and if you like the ocean even a tiny bit and you find yourself in Spain, then hands down you need to make a visit the ‘la Costa del Sol!' 

Don’t forget to check out some of my other tips for a great travel experience!! : )

  1. Budgeting: Where to stay & How to get there
  2. Plan ahead: Do More & Worry Less
  3. Minimize: Pack Lighter & Smarter
  4. Be Smart, Vigilant & Observant

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