One of the best ways to cool down on a hot summer´s day is to take a walk along the Rio Chillar from Nerja. Unusually for Andalucía, this route is most suitable for walking during June, July and August, as there is plenty of shade, plus the river to keep you cool.
The scenery is spectacular and there are birds, butterflies, dragonflies, wild flowers, grasses and even sugar canes to be spotted along the way. If you’re really lucky, you might even catch sight of a mountain goat.
This is a very popular walk for visitors and locals alike, and can get quite busy, especially at weekends.
As you progress, you will criss-cross the river many times until eventually you have no option but to wade through the water. The riverbed is very stony, sometimes with pebbles and often with boulders, which can make your feet sore after a couple of hours walking – so don’t wear flip-flops or they will float away in the water.
As you walk, the current is flowing towards you from the mountains, so at times you will need to take care not to slip on the wet (and sometimes mossy) river boulders. This is where a walking stick might prove handy.
Eventually you will reach a very narrow section of the gorge where you can touch both sides at the same time. Here is where you will encounter the first set of rapids (cahorras), which are easily negotiated with care, and where there are knee-deep pools in places. You will become aware of the roaring sound of the river.
A little further on, the gorge widens out again, and there are plenty of places to eat a picnic and take a cool swim in one of the natural pools, filled with crystal clear water.
The river walk up the Rio Chillar is suitable for families as children love splashing in and out of the water. Click here to read the account of a family who negotiated this walk with three young children.
Don’t worry about getting lost on the river walk, as you just follow the river bed and, because you return the way you came, you can make the walk shorter if you want to. We walked up at a strolling pace, past the narrow gorges, had a swim in the pool, stopping a couple of times along the way and returned to the cement factory in under 4 hours.
The river walk continues on past where we stopped, until eventually you reach a dam, where there is a series of refreshing waterfalls for you to bathe beneath.
MY TIP: Go earlier in the morning and take a picnic lunch to enjoy by one of the pools.
Word of warning
DO NOT attempt this walk if there is a forecast of rain or there have been recent storms. The narrow gorges (barely six feet wide in places) roar with flash floods during bad weather. Take a mobile telephone, though I’m not sure how strong a signal would be, and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.
What to wear
It’s best to wear shorts or, at the very least, something you don’t mind getting wet.
You should wear strong, comfortable walking shoes or trainers to protect your feet and ankles as often you will be wading somewhere between ankle and knee-deep in water, particularly when negotiating the gorges.
What to take
Sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water. A stout walking stick will prove useful, too. You might also like to take a towel, swimwear, camera and a picnic.
How to get there
On foot: You can walk down to the river bed from just behind the bus station on Avenida de Pescia in Nerja. At the roundabout near the bus station, walk to the end of Calle de Joaquín Herrera and follow the path down to the river. Google map here.
You will then need to walk up towards the cement factory, always keeping the river on your left, past gardens, avocado groves, builder’s yards, caves and fincas. Eventually the valley begins to narrow and you can begin to really enjoy the beauty of the pine trees on the steep slopes of the Sierra Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama National Park.
By car: If you want to save a couple of kilometres by taking your car to the start of the river walk, drive east along Avenida de Pescia from the bus station, towards Maro. At the roundabout go straight ahead – you will see Iranzo supermarket on your right and, a little further on, Nerja Health centre (Centro de Salud) on your left. At the next roundabout (which is signed to Burriana beach to the right), turn left (inland) onto Calle Julio Romero. After two hundred metres or so, bear right onto Avenida la Constitución and follow this road as it climbs uphill. A little further along, where the road forks, stay on Avenida la Constritución which is to the right.
Look out for two large electricity pylons on top of concrete blocks on your left, and you should turn left here, between the pylons onto Calle Mirto.
On your right there is a large, free car park where you can leave your car whilst you do the river walk.
You can drive closer to the start of the river walk (though parking is more restricted and there is a danger of being towed away and fined if you park in the wrong place). If you want to park closer to the river – drive past the row of houses on your left and continue until you see a fork in the road. Take the right fork towards the mountains, and follow the newly concreted road which slopes downwards and underneath the motorway bridge. Google map here
Soon after you drive underneath the motorway bridge, there is a large lay-by on your right with parking for 6-8 cars. After this, the track becomes narrower and more stony, but you can keep driving until you reach the end of this track, just before the old, abandoned cement factory on your right.
This is also where the official car park is, with parking for 63 cars (at a cost of €1). As you can see, when we visited yesterday (27th June 2014) the car park was locked, and judging by the weeds around the gate, hasn’t been used for some time. Perhaps this car park is only open in August – I don’t know. There is another large lay-by (with parking for 10 cars) just outside these gates, where we parked our car.
I wouldn’t recommend you abandoning your vehicle just anywhere at the side of the track down here (other than the two lay-bys I have mentioned) as they are likely to be towed away at a cost to you of between €100 and €600 euros. You have been warned!
This is one of my favourite walks in the Axarquía. Where do YOU love to walk?
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Thanks for the link … this is a great walk during the summer months because of the shade and the cool water. Children, dogs and adults love it! 🙂
Thanks a lot Marianne for all these detailed helpful information.I really love this activity,I have done it a couple of times near my home town,and I have really really enjoyed it ,what I wanna know is, if it is possible to go to rio chillar in march? I’m taking a trip to madrid, malaga and marbella in mid march and if ,weather wise, it is possible to go to rio chillar I would like to give it a try .
Sheereen – Hmmm not sure about March. Much would depend on how much rainfall there has been in the preceding week or two to when you want to walk as the river could be deeper. You’d have to play it be ear, I’m afraid 🙂
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What a beautiful place for a walk, Marianne. Those pools look so refreshing. 🙂
This is one of the only walks possible during the heat of summer because of walking in the cool, river water. It’s always a favourite 🙂
We’ve got to go back this summer. I can’t wait!
Wonderful, isn’t it? 🙂
Hi, thanks for the info. We live near the river and have heard of the walk,, but now we will explore it, and we can walk from the house!
Perfect! At least you won’t need to worry about getting your car towed away 🙂
Have fun, Carol.
Wonderful to be able to walk such a distance following the river. Your description and photos make it very appealing, and the information & instructions are very user friendly and useful. I’m happy you are enjoying the season 🙂
Sounds amazing! I would love to do this someday Marianne. The narrow gorge reminds me of the Wadis in Jordan.
Hi Madhu – yes, very much like the Wadis 🙂
It’s good to be able to enjoy a long walk here, even when it’s hot!
Hi Marianne we are coming over in November for four months until March is the walk possible at this te of the year.
Mary and Stewart
Hi Mary and Stewart
I’m pretty sure that you would get the chance during your stay – but you MUST keep an eye on the weather before you set off. If there has been plenty of rain during the previous days (or weeks) there will be lots of water in the river – and flash floods might prove dangerous. The best thing is to ask around before you go – or watch the weather for yourselves.
It IS a very pretty walk 🙂
Hi Marianne, it is the first time I respond to your blog. We’re from Belgium and since october last year, we live now permanently in Rubite near Trapiche. Your blog is super ! You have given us a lot of ideas of things to do ! In July family and friends are coming over, so we will do the river walk for sure ! Have a nice day !
Hi Caroline – welcome to the Axarquia! I’m sure you are enjoying your new life here. Thanks for writing to me 🙂
You’ll have fun doing this walk with your friends. Make sure you arrive early, as it gets quite busy!
Good afternoon Marianne, we did the river walk today and I must say, it was SUPER !!!! We took family who is visiting us now and they were very impressed ! Many, many thanks for your good advice !
That’s excellent, Caroline – I’m glad you all enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know how you got on. This is a great time of year to do the walk, even in the hot weather with the water to keep you cool 🙂
This reminds me of my most recent trip me and a few amigos did last weekend, to Rio Verde. Have you heard of it? Rio Chillar looks just as fun, and next time I’m down that way, which could be very soon, I’ll be sure to check it out! Fab photos and brilliantly detailed directions Marianne!
I’ve heard of it, Josh, but never done it.
You and your amigos would love this walk, I’m sure 🙂
Thanks for your kind comment – I was amazed how many other blog posts I read where the directions were completely wrong. I can only think they must have copied from each other!
we will obviously have to return dear Marianne! this looks super, and your description is so clear and helpful, just as your guidance was when we met in Malaga recently 🙂
Thank you, Christine. I’m confident anyone would love this walk. It’s such FUN 🙂
I love this ! How beautiful but I would only go with you and your perfect guide knowledge! ( Your toe nails look perfect after such a hike my dear!) Takes a LOT to make me give up my Trainers : )
Well, THAT can be arranged, Kathryn. When are you coming? 😉
Actually, I seem to have knocked and soaked most of my nail varnish off during that walk. What fun though 🙂
This looks fantastic. It’s on my list now.
Pretty sure you’ll love it, Sophie. Go earlier in the day 🙂
I like the sound of this one but do your feet get icy cold?
No Gilly, because it was 31C here, yesterday – so the water is lovely and refrehing 🙂
This looks just my kind of thing, and reading your post makes me sad my walking days are over 😦 but, hey, I’ve had some good hikes in the past)
AAwwww that’s the spirit, Sue. 🙂
Bang to rights!
Sue I am so sorry to read this?
Well, it’s life! With MS. My muscles fatigue …. It doesn’t mean I can’t get out at all, it just means walking is severely limited. But, I’m learning to dance in that rain…..
Good girl 🙂
I know your stamina as it shines brightly through your work. Hugs!
🙂 thank you!
Looks like a lovely walk, Marianne, and dips in the pools and waterfalls would be really refreshing. I wish I had a whole summer in the south of Spain so I could do things like this. 🙂
OH yes, you’d have SO much fun, Cathy.
Put it on your list – after China! 🙂
We’ll see, Marianne. I would love to, but Mike is having his own ideas of where he’d like to go!
Wow what a beautiful place. I lived 30 years in Miami am now back in germany my birthplace, considering in 6 years to move to your area. Please tell me in Germany we have a big Problem with ticks they are overtaking nature City parks and gardens! Do you have a similar situtaion there?
Love your Blog
Yes, this area is very beautiful. I’m sure you would like it. There are quite a few German people living in this area (especially in Torrox Costa).
There are ticks here, especially in the countryside, but I wouldn’t say that they are taking over.
Hi, thanks for your answer, hope you googeld me to learn more about me. Attached some of my artwork would like to know if you think that there would be a market for it. Cheers be well. Fran
We hiked this Friday, June 27, starting from Frigiliana! What a great hike! Everyone loves a nice River Walk!
We must have passed you along the way, Ron, as we hiked up from Nerja – though you would be following the Rio Higueron down the nearby valley from Frigiliana. The Rio Higueron eventually flows into the Rio Chillar near to the motorway bridge in my photo.
I just came across this response, Marianne! We actually hiked UP the Rio Higueron and along the first part of the trail to the Nerja Caves, but only to a barranco that has a trail that winds down above the Rio Chillar. There’s a great spot above the trail for a sandwich, and then it leads down a bit steeply but walkable into the Chillar, where we turn up and walk through the Narrows to the first “swimming hole”, then we walk back into Nerja.
HA – well, you’re the expert, Ron. Hey, better late than never with a response, huh? 🙂
It sounds lovely. Our river walk here is not so shady but the river is very popular for swimming until it dries out in August. It’s a hot walk down to the valley and then back up again though (and we won’t drive down as we decided when we came here not to drive to places in the town we can walk too, and also once you have a parking place very reluctant to give it up 🙂 )
Yes, it’s a gorgeous walk, Wendy – and unusual to be more suitable for the summer months.
I can well understand your reluctance at giving up a parking space 🙂