Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, Hazel Holloway headed to the hills of southern Spain to go hiking in Nerja.
It was Day 5 for me in Nerja and I was enjoying the sun and the sea, but yearning for a good walk, perhaps in the mountains. This is how I found Simpa.
Local Experiences is an ecotourism company offering hiking in Nerja, Southern Spain. I decided to undertake a three hour trek after reading the phrase Simpa (the owner) used on her website, “We will walk a lot but it is very easy and rewarding for beginners.” I was sold. To the slightly overweight, middle aged woman with mild asthma and at £23 per person, a bargain at that. I booked online and within minutes received a message back from Simpa where, later that day, she picked me up from a local landmark.
‘Easy’ Hiking in Nerja
I should have known then that combining the words “mountain”, “walk” and “easy” was pushing the truth a little, but the aspiring feeling of reward I envisioned made me overlook this fact.
Struggling at first, I wondered if I was in over my head, but Simpa’s spiritual grounding and wisdom helped me understand why I had decided to do this.
“The route up the mountain is always possible, it will wait for you,” she said as I stopped again to take my inhaler. Noticing, Simpa talked of a recipe she believed helped alleviate her relative’s ailments which involved honey and many onions. I still have to try it. Simpa’s stories continued as we walked and her local knowledge of shrubs, small fragile flowers clinging to rocks and herbs was impressive. When I finally reached the top, I was overcome with a feeling of achievement, a sense of fulfilment that I had decided to leave the beaten track.
The soft warm late-afternoon sun filled the sky, settling over the city of Nerja and the Mediterranean sea below like patches of pink candy floss dotted here and there and the picturesque mountain village of Frigiliana behind nestled in the hills looked marvellous, two breath-taking rewards for all we had achieved.
A Simple Picnic
As I stared at the view for what seemed like eternity, Simpa was laying out a most welcome picnic. Figs, nuts, hummus, and breads. Products she had grown or made herself. It was the most gratifying meal I have ever had. No – the piles of buttered toast and tea which I devoured after giving birth to my first child will always come first. It was the second most gratifying meal I have ever had.
We sat together chatting, nibbling and gazing at the glorious views. I asked Simpa about the small white altar at the top of the mountain. She delighted in telling me the story – In 1643 Francisco de Pinto built this shrine, the story of which, according to legend starts just off the coast of Nerja. Under his command three ships left the Italian city of Verona for Cadiz.
A terrible storm hit the ship and it began to sink, desperate Saint Francis of Pinto asked God for help. He promised God that if everyone survived he would build a shrine on the highest mountain he could see. After the storm had passed he followed through on his prayer and the position that he chose for his sacred place, unbeknownst to me, was the spot I had just trekked to. Today it is known as “Cruz de Pinto”.
Once my hunger was satiated and the chat had quietened, Simpa pointed downwards and down we went. I stopped to take pictures of the local fauna. I noticed birds, small reptiles and butterflies abound on the descent. More stories were recalled – about meeting her husband on a trek and hiking for days in only flip flops. But you should take the hike and listen for yourself. Nerja is a beautiful place to sit by the sea and relax, but it is also full of untapped gems and I can’t wait to go back to find more.
Best Tips for Hiking in Nerja
On this particular trek with Local Experience you are very well looked after but don’t be afraid to ask for a break and wear good socks and comfortable boots or trainers.
How to Get to Nerja
Direct flights to and from Malaga are daily from most airports in the UK.
Take the A line bus from the airport to Malaga bus station. It takes 25 minutes and cost €3. Find ALSA pay cubicles 4-6 to purchase your ticket. It costs around €6.45 one way. The bus departs from Stand 38 and takes approximately 1 hour to reach Nerja. There is an airport bus in the summer months direct to Nerja which runs once a day at 11:45 am. You can book tickets in advance at ALSA. A taxi direct to Nerja from the airport is approximately €80.
You can book online at “Local Experiences” here.