Nationalities to unite in Nerja

A mixture of nationalities enjoyed the shows at last year's Nerja Residents' Day.
A mixture of nationalities enjoyed the shows at last year's Nerja Residents' Day. / Eugenio Cabezas
  • The eastern Costa del Sol town that hundreds of foreigners call home holds its 18th Residents' Day this Sunday

For many years Nerja, Malaga province's easternmost coastal town, has been attracting northern Europeans and in particular Britons, not just for holidays, but as permanent residents too. In fact, approximately one third of Nerja's population is made up of foreign residents, of whom a third are British.

The town will be celebrating this multicultural atmosphere at its 18th Residents' Day this Sunday, with 34 stalls representing the wide variety of associations that are active in the town, from the Royal British Legion, to the International Lions Club, the 41 Club (former Round Tablers) as well as local charities and media.

Around 2,500 people are expected to attend the event which is to be held, as in previous years, in the Plaza de España, behind the town hall and Balcón de Europa. The event is organised by Nerja town hall and primarily by the foreigners' department, which has been run by Jacky Gómez for over 20 years. For a number of years Nerja has had its own dedicated foreign residents' councillor.

Jorge Bravo, who has held the position since 2015 and who speaks excellent English said: "For the town hall it's a very important event as the day demonstrates how the different nationalities that have chosen Nerja as their home live together and therefore gives us the opportunity to learn more about the activities that the different residents' associations do."

He went on to say that although the day focuses on foreign residents in the town, "It's also a day in which Spanish residents take part and it's about getting together under the umbrella of the same festivity."

As well as the stands, there will be six bars and a full programme of events, starting at 12pm with a welcome from Nerja's mayor, Rosa Arrabal, and Jorge Bravo.

Musical and dance performances will be given throughout the event, from Nerja's municipal band, different flamenco schools, local music groups, a quiz and a Zumba workout.

An attractive location

What makes Nerja so attractive to foreigners is not just the climate, but the wide choice of beaches with clear waters and the dramatic backdrop of the Maro cliffs that reach down to the Mediterranean.

Behind Nerja is the mountain range of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama, offering fantastic walking for those who enjoy exploring nature and local flora and fauna.

The Nerja caves, discovered in January 1959 by a group of five boys playing in the area, have provided the town and visitors with a connection to prehistory. The town hall has made the most this natural treasure chest, linking it to the local museum and holding the annual international music and dance festival inside the cave.

Following the earthquake that destroyed large parts of Malaga province on Christmas day 1884, King Alfonso XII visited Nerja and proclaimed that he was standing "on the balcony of Europe" as he looked out over the Mediterranean sea from what was then the site of a former fortress and watchtower. From then the site was developed into the Balcón de Europa.

A statue of the king can be found on the balcony and its creator is local artist, Francisco Martín, who is the name behind a number of well-known sculptures around not just Nerja, but Andalucía. He has also immortalised the Nerja cave discoverers and the popular character Chanquete, who currently resides in the tourist information centre.

Chanquete was the much loved fisherman from the 1980s Spanish television series, 'Verano Azul'. If foreigners flock to Nerja for the year-round sunshine, cuisine and beaches, Spaniards are drawn to the set of a television series that was a huge hit in their country's post-Franco years, following the adventures of a group of children whose families holidayed in the town.

Nerja's many beaches include the 800-metre Burriana to the east of the town, as well as El Playazo, which since 2016 has been the setting of the Chanquete International Music Festival. Torrecilla, Calahonda and Salón are other favourite sunbathing spots.

Maro is a small village belonging to Nerja and is most famous for Maro Cerro-Gordo cliffs, which lie between the village and neighbouring La Herradura, which is in Granada province. The cliffs are a popular diving and snorkelling spot, as they boast a wealth of marine flora and fauna and are among Andalucía's most important nature reserves.

The Chíllar river has become as popular an attraction as Nerja's beaches, with visitors flocking to walk through the shallow waters of the river as the perfect way to cool down during the long, hot summer.

With a wide choice of restaurants, cafés and ice-cream parlours, beaches and mountains as far as the eye can see and a well-established foreign community, it is easy to understand why the population of northern Europeans continues to increase. In February 2017 alone, the number of Britons registering on the town hall population census rose by 20.

This Sunday they will be able to join fellow residents to celebrate their diverse international community.