Off the beaten track, the village of Mertola, Portugal is breathtaking with its river, castle and historical variety of architectural influences. Below is my guide to plan your visit to this picturesque hilltop village.
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Why visit the village of Mertola in Portugal? - Video
Mertola is one of the most fascinating villages in Portugal.
- white houses on a hilltop
- a castle and fortification wall
- a river just below
- a mosque / church
- splendid views of the region.
Let's start with a short video to give you an idea of what a visit to Mertola could look like:
I think it is one of the best places to visit in Portugal.
Many photos and details after the planning tips.
Planning tips - visiting Mertola, Portugal
How to get to Mertola
- In the Alentejo Region
- In the Parque Natural do Vale Do Guadiana
- At the border with Portugal, and not far North of the limit of the Algarve region
- Lisbon to Mertola - 2h30 drive
This location with its GPS coordinates and planning info is included in my eBook to help you easily plan your Portugal road trip and itinerary:
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- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
- The carpark is part of the entrance of the walled village. Continue on the road.
- Facilities between the Mertola church and the Mertola Castle
- Free Mertola maps at the information center
- Cafes right near the entrance of the village
- Plan half a day to walk around
Mertola Hotels and accommodations
- I stopped at Mertola on my way from Evora to Tavira. I wish I had spent the night in Mertola rather than in Tavira. It must be stunning when the light goes down and even better at sunrise
- Here is a link to the best rated hotels and accommodations in Mertola Portugal on Bookings
Views of Mertola village
One of the best things about Mertola is that River Guadiana flows at its foot. See the bridge in the picture below? Well, you can cross to the other side of the river to enjoy absolutely breathtaking views of Mertola.
And below are the views you can get with the Mertola Castle at the top and the church just under it.
This is River Guadiana looking in the other direction from the bridge. This is the typical landscape of the Nature Park of Vale do Guadiana, in which Mertola lies in the center.
If you drive a little bit further along the river on the opposite side to the village of Mertola Portugal, you reach a small jetty with more views of the castle and the church, as well as the wall around the village.
Walking in the Portuguese village of Mertola
Do not try to drive in with your car. The alleys are narrow and I have seen people get stuck!
And, like in many of the Portugal villages, it has been built on a hill and walking around is quite a climb :-). However, with those white walls and views, it is a real pleasure to stroll inside.
Mertola Church - Igreja Matriz
One of the best things to do in Mertola Portugal is to admire the unique church. It has a long and complex history and a very unique style!
Originally it was a mosque. The Mertola mosque was erected in the 12th century.
However, when Mertola was integrated into the Portuguese Kingdom in 1238, it was slightly altered and became a church consecrated as St Mary's church (Igregja Matriz) by the Order of Santiago.
It is so unique to see this blend of architecture. Look at the doorway reminding us this used to be a Mosque!
Museum of Mertola
Inside the church you can see a sign about t"he Mertola Museum". The person in charge gave us access. Located under the Mertola Church, this is a small but very well-done museum.
It displays architectural details and pieces as well as objects found in burial sites. After the Mertola mosque was consecrated as a church, the wealthiest and most powerful people began to be buried around with objects such as pins, fragments of crucifix, beads from necklaces and rosaries, rings...
And at the top of the hill you can visit the Mertola Castle.
A fortification had already been built during the Islamic Period but only the base of a few towers and the curved entry system remain. At the end of the 13th century, a Christian Castle was erected to establish the headquarter of the Order of Santiago and the residence of the governors.
From the 18th century on, the castle lost its military function and was declared abandoned.
Today both the castle and the church are national monuments.
Here is the door to enter the castle
Views from the Castle
The best part of visiting the castle is to admire the views of the village of Mertola from above.
Below are a few pictures taken in various directions around the castle.
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