Three of Andalucia’s Most Picturesque Spanish Towns: Nerja, Maro and Frigliana

by | Apr 25, 2023

Nerja beach picturesque Spanish town
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Last updated on November 19th, 2023

Featured image: Views of the coastline in Nerja, Spain | Photo credit Yuriy Biryukov Shutterstock

Finding magic off the beaten path

by Carolyn Ray, Editor, JourneyWoman

It’s Three Kings Day in Spain, and I’m in one of the most picturesque towns in Spain — Nerja, where the Balcon de Europa stretches out into the sea.

I’ve been inadvertently caught up in the celebrations, stuck in the procession with Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, the crowd favourite. Somehow, in the process of angling for a better view, I find myself right next to the three kings as they descend from the viewing platform. Stuck behind the police and city officials, I’m trying desperately not to be the random tourist in the background as parents rush their children to the kings for photographs.

It’s almost impossible to extract myself, as throngs of children swarm toward Balthazar, their favourite. There’s no way to escape — unless I join the parade of brightly dressed revellers, so I smile, sing and dance along with everyone else.

Nerja, with breathtaking views of the ocean

This isn’t my first Three Kings parade in Spain but it’s definitely one of the most memorable, because I’m in a picturesque town called Nerja, just outside of Malaga. With its charming restaurants and shops, Nerja has miles of rugged, unspoiled beaches and breathtaking ocean views. And ice cream shops, making it practically a staple.

The centre of town is the Balcón de Europa, a large rock that extends out into the ocean. From here, you can see up and down the rocky coast. While I didn’t swim in the ocean in January, the beaches look enticing and I’m tempted.

Near Balcón de Europa is the 7th century Church of El Salvador (Iglesia El Salvador), where there are murals of The Virgen del Carmen, also known as “La Reina de los Mares” (Queen of the Seas). She is the patron saint of mariners and fishermen and holds a revered place in the hearts of coastal communities throughout Spain, including Nerja. July 16th is the Virgen del Carmen festival, where the sea is lit up by boats covered in lights and flowers, and people pay homage to the Virgen. They even set her out to sea with scuba divers placing an effigy of the Virgin on the ocean floor.

Learn more about Nerja here.

Click here for endless things to see in do in Spain!

Three Kings parade in Nerja, Spain

Three Kings Day on Janury 6 in Nerja, Spain / Photo credit Carolyn Ray

The tiny village of Maro, population 800

Nerja is walking distance to Maro, the small town I’m staying in.  Population 800, Maro has three streets, one small coffee shop and a market where there is always fresh bread (another staple in Spain). With views of the rugged coastline, it’s an ideal getaway for some writing and relaxation. When I do need more excitement, there’s a $4 shuttle bus that runs between Nerja and Maro.

The morning after the larger Three Kings Day celebration in Nerja, I hear more music and wander outside of my casita to see that the Three Kings have travelled here. This time, there’s an orange tractor pulling a trailer with all three kings on it, tossing out candy for the children.  At the main square, the whole town gathers for the celebration. It’s incredibly adorable.

A 10-minute walk from my casita are the Nerja caves. The caves are prehistoric and were discovered in January 1959 by a group of local boys who climbed into a small hole looking for bats. The caves have some of the oldest cave paintings in the world with columns, stalactites and stalactites, and are astonishingly beautiful.  More information here.

Sunsets over Maro, Spain

My street in Maro, Spain / Photo credit Carolyn Ray

Inside the Nerja Caves, Spain

The Nerja Caves in Maro, Spain / Photo credit Carolyn Ray

Frigiliana, one of Spain’s most beautiful villages

The couple that own the casita I’m staying in live in Frigliana, the ‘white village’ in the mountains, and invite me to visit. It’s only a 10-minute ride from Nerja, with buses leaving almost every hour.

Frigliana is known as one of the Pueblos Mas Bonitos de España (most beautiful villages in Spain). Here, there are small shops with locally made handicrafts lining the streets that make it feel like an artist’s colony. The colourful blue doors and whitewashed buildings make this town so picturesque. Every street is cared for, with terracotta flower pots and beautifully designed pebbled walkways. One of the most popular is Calle Zacatin, which leads to the top of the hill, where there are spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding mountains.

Cafes and restaurants line the streets, making it the perfect place for a long, leisurely lunch.  For more information, click here.

Where to stay: Find the perfect place to stay in Nerja right here!
Steps leading between rows of white buildings in Frigliana, Spain

Calle Zacatin in Frigliana, near Nerja / Photo credit Carolyn Ray

Picturesque clouds line a blue sky in Frigliana Town Spain

Even the clouds look like paintings in Frigliana, near Nerja / Photo credit Carolyn Ray

Having travelled to so many places in Spain, I’m always looking for the most authentic and untouched places. These three picturesque towns in Spain captured my heart. What places do you love, and why?

Less-travelled places to explore

As the CEO and Editor of JourneyWoman, Carolyn is a passionate advocate for women's travel and living the life of your dreams. She leads JourneyWoman's team of writers and chairs the JourneyWoman Women's Advisory Council and Women's Speaker's Bureau. She has been featured in the New York Times, Toronto Star and Zoomer as a solo travel expert, and speaks at women's travel conferences around the world. In March 2023, she was named one of the most influential women in travel by TravelPulse and was the recipient of a SATW travel writing award in September 2023. She is the chair of the Canadian chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), Women's Travel Leaders and a Herald for the Transformational Travel Council (TTC). Sometimes she sleeps. A bit.

3 Comments

  1. Diana M Eden

    I’ve been to two out of three of these towns and agree that they are jewels! It’s such a lovely part of the Southern coast of Spain, and I would go back there in a heartbeat. Thanks for the great article!

    Reply
  2. Lora Moretti

    I really enjoyed reading your article. Thank you. Please continue to share places you have visited that are not well known. It would also be helpful, if possible, if you could share specifics about places you rent, how you found them and perhaps cost for those of us who would like to get back out there but hesitant about selecting an actual place to stay, especially for a longer term, i.e. casita.

    Reply

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