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Malaga and Costa Tropical in November


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We went for a last-minute trip to Malaga, Nerja and Almunecar in November 2019. We have visited Spain several times recently, for a long holiday in autumn 2018 and a 9-day stay in Granada in March 2019. It was our second visit to Málaga after a wet week in March 2018.


This time we flew into Malaga airport at the very beginning of November. The trip by public transport from Málaga airport was easy. We took the Cercanías line to María Zambrano station and from there it's just a short walk through the shopping centre to the bus station. We landed at 13.30 and easily caught the 14.45 bus to Nerja, perhaps everything was quiet because it was a Saturday and a public holiday. In Nerja we stayed at Oyó Pepe Mesa apartments in Calle los Huertos. We had a studio apartment and were extremely comfortable. Small but functional and perfectly clean, the apartment overlooked the internal patio staircase of a typical Spanish style building and was a quiet and pleasant place to stay. The apartments are also in an excellent position just 5 to 10 minutes from everything from the bus station to the centre to the beaches.

Nerja was on our list for its beaches, Cuevas de Nerja and Maro and Frigiliana which was more than enough for three full days and two thirds. I had been reluctant to book more time there because from my research on the Internet I had the impression it was very popular with British and other Northern European holiday-makers and while I appreciate that while some places are full of tourists because they are worth visiting we wanted to spend most of our holiday in a place with a more Spanish feel to it. In fact, Nerja itself is so full of foreigners that walking around the centre in the daytime it's almost unusual to see local people. While there was one advantage to the amount of British people around, in the sense there was a good choice of restaurants doing a great curry, (something I miss since I live in a remote village in the mountains in Italy!) we found it inevitably gave a less Spanish feel to the town. Nevertheless, it's easy to see why Nerja is popular, it's a very pretty town and the view from the Balcon in the centre of town is spectacular.
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Nerja has a long-standing problem of sewage in the sea, which was not something which affected us in November, of the beaches Burriana seemed to be the busiest and on the Sunday afternoon all the beach bars there were heaving with people, mostly foreigners. The beaches mostly have coarse sand in a grey colour so would not entice me in season anyway, also because the water shelves steeply. Playa Torrecilla seemed the nicest beach, all things considered, and especially for the sunset and was mostly deserted.
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The little coves beneath the cliffs on which the historical centre is perched can be accessed at different points from above. While they used to be connected by a walkway below the cliffs this is mostly now boarded off due to rockfall. There's an enormous variety of places to eat and many menu del día for ten euros or less. Nerja also seemed a very clean, safe and relaxing place to be. We enjoyed our stay there but the amount of foreigners, even in low season, would probably mean it wouldn't be our first choice if we returned to the area. More about our next days in the following posts
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One of the reasons for visiting Nerja was to see the caves. We managed to get free tickets to the Cuevas online. The timing of these free tickets seems to vary quite a bit but at the time of our visit - November 2019 - free tickets were available from Monday to Friday for the 9.30 entry slot. According to the website there are 40 available each day online and another 20 for the first in the queue directly at the ticket office on the day. Also according to the website the online free tickets are available 48 hours in advance but in our experience over these few days they become available very early in the morning of the day before. First thing in the morning there are no direct buses to the Cuevas so we got the 8.25 to Maro. The ticket costs €1.18 per person one way and takes about ten minutes and from there a most convenient walkway takes you above the main road and motorway to the Cuevas. The botanical garden was closed on Mondays, but we visited it another day, entrance is free and while it’s quite new it’s well laid out and planned and well worth a visit.
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We were escorted in a group through the various areas of the Cuevas. The pace was quite slow so there was plenty of time to look around and take photos although as usual we were amongst the first in and the last out. The caves were discovered on 12th January 1959 by five friends, who decided to go down a 'hole' - a narrow sinkhole known as "La Mina" near the cemetery because they had seen some bats coming out. There are five kilometres of caves but only the Show Galleries are open to the public. Access is easy but there are a lot of steps and many areas and places where you put your feet are dimly lit so it's wise to go slowly and first look up and about you and then down at where you are stepping when moving around. The caves deserve the adjective spectacular and the halls really are enormous.
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It took us nearly an hour and after we decided to do the suggested walk in the area of the park which is directly over the caves. The Sendero Cueva de Nerja - Almijara is signposted as being an approximately 1700m loop and it took us up the hill behind the entrance buildings to a fine Mirador with views of the coast in both directions, including Maro and the mountains behind. There are interesting placards about the flora and fauna of the area and also about the various galleries of the caves below which perhaps it would have been useful to read before going in. Going slowly and stopping for photos it took us about 45 minutes to get back to the Ermita de San Isidoro which used to be part of the cemetery of Maro and is now within the Cuevas complex.
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In the afternoon we visited Maro, a very small but very quiet and pretty village, and then decided to walk back to Nerja.
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What with the coffee, the fresh air and the views it's a pleasant enough walk, even though it follows the main road there's a pavement and there isn't much traffic and we got a good view of the interesting aqueduct built in the 18th century to take water to the nearby sugar cane factory.
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Back in Nerja we went to visit the museum which was free. The ticket to the caves also gives you 48 hours for a free visit to the museum, although the museum should be free anyway on Mondays for EU citizens. There are four floors. The first and second deal with the history of Nerja and of the two the upper is more interesting due to the video on the production of cane sugar about which I knew next to nothing, and another about the use of Esparto grass. There's also a wall about the discovery of the caves. From there the lift takes you down to the first basement floor which is entirely dedicated to the caves with an interesting video and explanations about the various formations in the caves as well as the insects and the peoples probably living there through the various ages. There are also artefacts found in the caves including the small skeleton of 'Pepita'. Altogether we spend over an hour in the museum which I would perhaps have called an Interpretation Centre as is often the case in Spain because there's a lot of fascinating information but not really, except for the caves section, that many artefacts.
Another whole day was spent visiting Frigiliana. There’s a bus to Frigiliana which costs just €1.15 per person. Frigiliana is as pretty as the pictures of it suggest, clean, white occasional blue and bougainvillea it's so perfect it's impossible to fault it. There wasn't even an overkill of shops and restaurants and the November weekday tourists were decidedly sporadic.
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Perhaps a little too perfect to fall in love with, however, one unique thing will make us remember it....a real working mule, carrying sacks of cement down through the narrow streets for building work.
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We did a lot of up and down, visited the Fuente Vieja, Iglesia San Antonio de Padua, the Ermita and the Botanical garden which is very attractively laid out and even includes a jujube tree which we can't remember having seen before.
Towards lunchtime we went up to the rocky outcrop called the Castillo de Lizár. There's actually no castle left but an arrow indicates up on the right and with a very narrow path we shortly reached the top. The threatened biting wild donkeys mentioned on TripAdvisor were fortunately absent and the view of the newer part of Frigiliana below and the coast beyond is very nice indeed.
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We had planned to get the bus back to Nerja but while we were resting after coffee I decided to check Google maps to see how long the walk would be, a very doable 7 kilometres. Just to be sure about the route we checked with an elderly English speaking couple who were heading in that direction at a sprightly pace. They explained we just had to follow the Higuerón River bed, the path follows the stream bed which is dry at that time of year. It's a spectacular route along the bottom of a steep sided canyon with the houses of the newer part of Frigiliana towering above us. Mostly we just followed the riverbed which is quite stony and I was grateful I'd got my hiking shoes on both for a surer grip underfoot and because my feet were well protected on the uneven ground.
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In some places there are paths either side of the river bed itself perhaps for when there's some water in it. Then, at one point, there are some enormous rocks and a steep drop, only fortunately some steps have been built on the left side (going down) which allowed us to continue on down. When the canyon finishes the river bed opens out into a wider valley and the route is much easier. It took us about an hour and forty minutes from Frigiliana to the outskirts of Nerja and the first part along the river bed gorge was really spectacular and very enjoyable.
The Costa Tropical is so called for its mild climate all year round, in fact many types of tropical fruit are grown in the area, we gorged on mangoes and saw lots of avocados ready to be picked on the trees We stayed in Almunecar for 6 nights. Almuñécar is well served by public transport as there are frequent Alsa buses to and from Malaga, Nerja on the way, Granada and Almería. In our experience the Alsa buses were clean, cheap, punctual and reliable. There's also a local bus service around town and to La Herradura and Velilla-Tamaray run by Fajardo. It costs 1€ per ride independently of how far you go and you just buy the tickets on the bus. Almuñécar was a very pleasant place to stay that time of year. The best thing about it is the very long sea front walk which continues for at least 4 kilometres along the beach and with easy access to the beach and the hypnotic sound of waves on shingle. It mostly faces south so the sun on the water meant that most days the temperatures varied from very pleasant to decidedly warm. We had a couple of half days of strong wind that were colder but never needed more than a light jacket or fleece during the day.
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Other interesting things to visit are the Botanical garden, Penones del Santo, the castle, the small historical centre, the markets and the various beaches.
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We also did a day trip to Salobreña by bus, a charming and quiet white town with a castle within easy walking of the beach where we had one of the best lunches of fried fish I have ever eaten in my whole life.
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We went to Almunecar for the really slow and relaxing part of our trip, but nevertheless we had big plans for hiking, in particular to and around the Parque Mediterráneo, from Playa Cotobro to Marina de Este and La Herradura and from La Herradura up to Cerro Gordo - Maro natural park, but these didn't come off because I twisted my ankle quite badly on the first morning. So we did even more resting and sea gazing from our balcony than planned, but which was equally nice.
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Apart from the historical centre the more modern part of Almuñécar has a good range of normal shops and supermarkets as well as a Mercado Municipal. There were quite a few people around, although it definitely wasn't crowded, and we liked the fact that there were a lot of Spanish people and a mix of other nationalities and we preferred it to Nerja for this reason. The only negative thing is the amount of high rise buildings along the sea front, but that is true of many Spanish resorts. We enjoyed our stay very much and I would definitely recommend Almuñécar as a place to spend a longer stay to relax and walk and enjoy the mild weather in the winter if you have already visited the 'big attractions' in Andalucía.
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We stayed for 10 nights in Málaga mid-November 2019 after Nerja and Almunecar. This time we were lucky with the weather, just a half day of real rain and a couple of showers, there was a cool wind sometimes and, yes, it wasn't summer anymore but the weather was good enough to be out and about all day most days. Temperatures were often about 12 or 14 first thing and up to 17 or 18 during the day. Local people were huddled up against the 'cold' in winter jackets while tourists seemed mostly to be fine in a mid-season waterproof type jacket. Our apartment had a couple of electric wall heaters and air-conditioning with an inverter for hot air. Most mornings and evenings we used one or the other and were warm enough.
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We had planned a lot of day trips but only did just a couple. One day we took the Avanza bus to Cala del Moral to see Cueva del Tesoro,
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well worth a visit, then walked on to Rincón de la Victoria to see the fort and have a very good and inexpensive lunch. We took the bus back because it was a grey day but another option is to walk it like we did in March the previous year. A full day trip was by Alsa bus to Antequera

which we had visited before without seeing everything and enjoyed revising.
However, we never got around to doing the others because there was just so much to see and do in Málaga itself. Málaga is a splendid city, the historical centre is clean, tidy, full of interesting shops and eateries, the Muelle Uno and Palmeral de las Sorpresas area and the nearby gardens are a relaxing place for a stroll, a little longer walk takes you to Malagueta beach and beyond to Pederalejo
in one direction and past the port towards Playa de la Misericordia
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in the other for a stroll along the promenade.
We liked like just walking around the city, seeing some of the lesser known churches such as Iglesia de los Mártires or Santuario de la Victoria, strolling and along Palmeral/Muelle Uno, shopping for local products, visiting the markets such as Salamanca, Atarazanas or Huelin and supermarkets, cooking, stopping for a coffee somewhere interesting and a tasting of Vermouth or Pajarete at Antigua Casa de Guardia towards evening, so that all took time. Sunday is a good day to be in Málaga because a lot of attractions are free for at least part of the day. Our visit to the Botanical Garden de la Concepción
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was a highlight of our stay in Málaga this year but we also enjoyed visiting again the Alcazaba and the Thyssen Museum. Pompidou was disappointing unless you are really keen on contemporary art. We spent a few hours over three afternoons in Museo de Malaga and the Museo Municipal was also worth a visit but the best was Museo de las Artes y Costumbres.
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As on our previous trip in March 2018 we loved Málaga! The clean and light historical centre, the Palmeral and Muelle Uno area, the Alcazaba and castle, the fact that so many ordinary people on the bus, in shops and restaurants, are friendly, helpful and smiling. Malaga is often lumped in with the Costa del Sol and this really is a pity, it’s totally different - a totally Spanish yet cosmopolitan city full of culture, things to see and do and an excellent base for visiting the surrounding areas. Highly recommended!
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