Nerja is a sleepy coastal town, less than an hour’s drive east from Malaga’s international airport, in the province’s Axarquia region. The town sits on cliffs overlooking a large bay, sheltered by the magnificent mountains of the Sierras Tejeda, Almija y Alhama. This unique geographical location makes for a special microclimate that offers residents and visitors the best European climate. At the heart of this community is the Nerja Parador (Parador de Nerja) which is celebrating more than 60 years of hospitality, writes Andrew Forbes (The Luxury Editor).
The sea here is crystalline. From the shores of the emblematic Burriana beach, guests can swim, and snorkel in protected waters rich in marine life. This is the point where the influence of the Atlantic ends and the true Mediterranean begins. It’s a magical, evocative place that has been featured in films, TV and of course the famous Spanish TV series, ‘Verano Azul’.
For me, it’s a winter refuge, a chance to lie on the beach in January and eat out on the terrace wearing sunglasses – it’s definitely a healthy prescription for anyone needing a dose of vitamin D and vitamin sea.
The Nerja Parador hotel was opened in the ‘70s, to accommodate the sudden influx of national and international visitors to this once unknown town. The draw was the nearby Nerja Caves (La Cueva de Nerja) in nearby Maro, which had been re-discovered in modern times by some local children in the 60s. The extraordinary, 5 kilometres of cathedral like underground spaces became a sensation. You can read my feature on the Nerja Caves here.
Over the past decades the Nerja Parador has become a much-loved part of the local community. Not only welcoming visitors, but playing host to local events, wellness retreats, as well as regular yoga classes in the botanic gardens.
Built in classic 70s style the hotel is immaculately maintained and conveys some real vintage retro chic. It has become an icon. For me, it’s where Santa Barbara (with its flawless climate) meets Palm Springs (with its retro architecture). It’s a no nonsense, down to earth place, where the welcome is genuine and the service friendly and professional. Authentic and genuine. Paradors always excel at local, and national Spanish cuisine and the Nerja Parador is no exception.
El Ombú del Mediterráneo is the Parador de Nerja’s gastronomic restaurant. Its name is taken from the very special Ombú plants in the Parador’s grounds. These were a gift from an Argentine diplomat and have matured over the past 60 years to become something quite exceptional in Andalucia. They are such robust and striking plants that they look like trees.
The Parador de Nerja restaurant showcases Malagueño and Mediterranean cuisine, from the prized Mediterranean white prawns, exceptional Spanish cured ham, to local artisan goat’s cheese, and expertly prepared Malagueño fried fish (so tasty!). My favourite is the fried aubergine with local Frigiliana cane sugar syrup – a great tapas to enjoy with an aperitif or cocktail from the bar manager.
Expect lots of fresh seafood, fish, and exceptional vegetarian food prepared for produce from nearly market gardens. The climate means that sub-tropical and even tropical fruit can be grown, so you’ll be surprised that mangoes at breakfast for example will be from the nearby Tropical Coast – not imported.
Breakfast is a Parador speciality. Always, always opt to eat in the hotel for the first meal of the day. You won’t be disappointed! At the time of writing the famous buffet has been replaced with table service, with a carefully prepared selection of breakfast favourites as well as cooked dishes made to order. Soon the buffet will be open again. Either way, the team will prepare anything you want from the menu. It’s a feast!
Rooms & Suites
The architecture of the Nerja Parador is evocative of the last century, yet all the comforts are up to date. In fact, I rather love the retro vibe. It’s cool but relaxed and authentic. Not ‘forced’ like so many of the new ‘hip’ hotels. Here one can relax and enjoy – and the guest rooms make you feel at home.
All have sea facing terraces – which offer superb views over the gardens, the broad sandy beach and the Mediterranean. The climate is temperate, so during my stays I’ve never used the air conditioning, instead I leave the terrace door open and fall asleep to the sound of the waves.
In the morning wake early if you can, as you will be in for a treat – the most spectacular sunrise! The sky ignites with colour, reflected on the sea. It’s unforgettable. Prepare yourself a tea or coffee, sit on the terrace and just soak up the glorious view.
As a national company, Parador has fine-tuned all the health and safety protocols for our present era, and you’ll find rooms beautifully presented and exceptionally clean. Parador also has a responsible attitude towards the use of single use plastic, so bathroom amenities are refillable, full-size bottles from the award-winning The Lab Room.
The Facilities & Gardens
This is Andalucia, so expect a fabulous pool. The expansive gardens provide lots of areas to sunbath, relax and just chill. The private Nerja Parador lift takes guests down to the Burriana beach – a landmark area with some superb chiringuitos, classic Malaga beach restaurants serving the best paella and other specialities.
I can image that many guests be reluctant to go beyond their Parador Paradise, yet the Nerja Parador Hotel is so close to so much that is worthy of discovery. In addition to the Nerja Caves, the attractions of Malaga capital, including the Pompidou, the Malaga Picasso Museum and so many other cultural treasures are close. For nature lovers, the mountains offer exceptional hiking trails, and for history buffs, the nearby white village of Frogiliana is a joy to discover.
Concierge will be happy to arrange hiking guides, horse riding, kayaking off the Maro beach, horse riding and paragliding