This popular town is situated on the coast in the far east of the Costa del Sol and Axarquía, 56 km from Málaga with a population of around 22,000, about 30% of them are foreign residents. To cater for this large population there are about 400 restaurants and bars and as you stroll through the small narrowstreets, reminiscent of the Lanes in Brighton or Shambles in York, you are quite spoiled for choice.
The famous Caves of Nerja are actually in Maro and they were discovered as late as 1959 by five local boys , Francisco Navas Montesinos, José Torres Cárdenas, Manuel Muñoz Zorrilla, Miguel Muñoz Zorrilla and José Luis Barbero de Miguel, who after moving some stalactites found themselves in an enormous pothole which descended into a huge cavern where they discovered skeletons and ceramic pottery, every boys dream come true. Today there is a large sculpture of the boys at the entrance to the caves. The discoveries inside the caves showed that they were inhabited around 25,000 B.C. Cave paintings as well as stone and bone tools and other artifacts are now on display in a Museum just outside the Cueva de Nerja.
Although the Romans then inhabited the area, ruins of this settlement have been discovered near the town of Maro next door to Nerja, as with most of Andalusia the Arabs took over in the 8th century and under their influence the town was known as Narixa, meaning Abundant Spring. The narrow cobbled streets of today show this Moorish influence.
Sometime in the 16th century during the ministry of Alonso de Molina Duran, the church of El Salvador was completed and still stands today in the square leading to the famous Balcon de Europa where on visiting the area after the earthquake in 1884, King Alfonso XII apparently stood and declared “This is the balcony of Europe”. There is a life-sized bronze statue of him standing against the rails overlooking the sea at the end of the Balcon which was first known as La Batería, a reference to the gun battery that was there in a fortified tower. Two guns now sit on either side at the far end of the Balcon close to the king.
On the road leading from Nerja to Maro stand the ruinous remains of the once proud San Joaquín Sugar Mill, built in 1585. Sugar cultivation has been part of life in this area for as long back as the 10th century, due to its micro climate. Large expanses of sugar cane were planted and irrigated from water channeled from the Acueducto del Aguila (Eagle Aqueduct) as it was first known. This continued until the closure of the Mill in 1911. However, the Larios sugar company then took over production in 1930 and continued until half way through the 20th century. Nowadays sugar cane production has gone and the richer crops of mango and avocado have taken over. The once vine covered hills of the Axarquía have since been replanted with this valuable source of income by the local farmers.