Why we chose Nerja as our new home in Spain
It’s funny looking back at our post of prospective new bases in Spain. It was written in early January (2020) a couple of months before Covid and obviously our priorities have changed since then.
We’ve always been urban people and we ideally wanted to be in a cultural, mid-sized city. It’s why, after we visited all those cities on our list, that we were sure Valencia would be the place for us.
Then we got into lockdown. With each month that went by we came to the realization that even a mid-sized city like Valencia was “too city”. And then our minds switched to Granada, another city we had really liked but which was smaller and closer to nature.
Honestly though, we had never really fallen in love with Granada as a place to live. And again, being in a city didn’t really appeal to us. Granada was the best option of what we had seen but we weren’t really convinced.
When our long-term Spanish visa was accepted last month (September 2020) we knew that when we got back to Spain we’d have to make up our minds fast. With Covid, it wasn’t the time to travel around exploring different places.
We decided that Granada would probably be the place…but that first we would go see Nerja.
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Nerja is a seaside town about 45 minutes east of Malaga on the Costa del Sol. It had been introduced to us by Nicola who had contributed a guide on the best places to live on the Costa del Sol. I had originally thought of visiting Nerja at the beginning of the year but at the time I thought it might be too small for us. And after having previously lived in a seasonal city like Split in Croatia (too dead in the winter, too crowded in the summer) that aspect of Nerja turned us off.
But now, with our new priorities, we decided to go have a look at Nerja.
Nerja is surrounded by nature. The coast is lined by beaches, behind town rise mountains (the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama). In a way, Nerja reminded us of a mini-Split. It’s maybe not as dramatic as Split. But the nature is beautiful.
We were a bit nervous that the town might just be a beach town. It’s not. It’s a “little city” that has all the amenities of a bigger city and most of it caters to a local population who actually live in town. You’ll find hardware stores, furniture stores, and all other kinds of establishments that people who live in a town need. That’s important. When we were in Split we searched everywhere for a hardware store where we could buy nails. We asked locals, we went to the tourist office. The nearest hardware store that sold nails was one of those huge Home Depot-type stores in the suburbs. We had to rent a car or take a taxi to get there. In Nerja we’ve found anything we’ve needed within a few blocks. Two weeks ago I bought running shoes. I didn’t have to go to a shopping center outside the center, the store was just a few blocks away and I paid $60 for a great pair of Sketchers running shoes (ie. local prices, not tourist prices). Last week we bought a bed for our new apartment. It’s been a relief to see that Nerja has everything that we’ve needed, in fact more so than Split.
Nerja is also a pretty town. You won’t be blown away beautiful churches or plazas. Culturally it won’t blow your socks off. But it is a pretty town and it’s very pedestrian friendly.
Finally, I had mentioned that location was important. We didn’t want to be far from a major airport and being 45 minutes from Malaga we aren’t. Hopefully Covid will pass in the next year or two and we can do some travelling again. And for that, Nerja is the perfect base.
The above are the positives. Negatives? Initially we wanted to be in a more Spanish, more cultural city. We also didn’t want to be in a place with a lot of tourists and expats. Although there are many locals living in Nerja, I read that 25% of the population are expats. So Nerja isn’t the immersive cultural experience that we were initially looking for. On the other hand, we have a few great Indian restaurants (we love Indian food).
We’re looking forward to starting a life here and will be busy for the next few weeks. We moved into our new apartment on Sunday, had wifi installed today, Thursday we have to travel to a far away town to get our fingerprints done for our identity cards, Friday our furniture is arriving from Croatia. Once all that stuff is done I’ll be doing some hiking – I have a hiking group I want to join and they do several hikes a week.
Nerja is going to be a great base for at least a few years. On top of that we have a great apartment that we will make home over the next little while.
Related (why most people come to Nerja): The Beaches of Nerja
Note: the above post is on our new website which focuses exclusively on Spain. Have a look if you haven’t had a chance.
Our timing couldn’t be better. Last week Spain imposed curfews and has started restricting movement around the country. Next door, France has gone into a full lockdown. Things are getting worse all over Europe (and the world). Nobody is going anywhere anytime soon and right now we’re just thankful to have a new home in Nerja. Nobody knows what the future holds – but having Nerja as our base in Spain is perfect for the times.