Located in the municipality of Mértola, this fortified village is located in the southeast region of Portugal and belongs to the district of Beja. Nicknamed 'vila museu' which translates to museum village. Mértola is known as the “Alentejo melting pot” due to its depth of culture and heritage, Mértola overlooks the valley of the Guadiana River in a landscape filled with olive trees.

Mértola was an independent Islamic kingdom during the 11th and 12th centuries. Known for its numerous festivals, a prominent highlight is the Islamic festival, which celebrates the strong Islamic influence in the village, this festival is held biannually in May. Other festivals include: The River Fish Festival, the Honey, Cheese, and Bread Fair, the Hunting Fair, and summer village festivities.

Author: Cristina da Costa Brookes;

At the end of March, we decided to make the drive from the Algarve to Mértola and spend a couple of days immersed in the medieval village. The drive took about an hour and a half and was surprisingly an enjoyable experience due to the breathtaking vivid green scenery you are greeted with as you cross into the lower Alentejo. The somewhat bendy road had lynx, deer, and cattle road signs along the way and rolling fields filled with both yellow and purple flowers that paved the way to this peaceful village.

As we approached Mértola you could see its castle in all her glory perched on top of the hill amongst the clouds looking down to the beautiful Guadiana River which lies below. The scene is almost like a painting from a fairy tale, driving across the bridge, you are transported back in time to a medieval village.

Author: Cristina da Costa Brookes;

When we arrived, we decided to visit Azenhas do Guadiana as we felt this would be the best place for a picnic. We parked up at the top of the Azenhas do Guadiana and strolled down the hill to where we found picnic tables overlooking the river and a small waterfall. It was a really peaceful spot and we soaked up the sunshine for some time.

Following this, it was time to check in to our accommodation, Casa do Funil, which was located on a cobbled street and was one of the whitewashed houses draped with brightly coloured bougainvillea. The primely located accommodation has views over the Guadiana River and is a quaint place to stay and discover Mértola. We had a comfortable room, with an en-suite bathroom and the host even provided a mini fridge. The accommodation also boasted incredible views of the river from our room as well as on the terrace which was a great place to unwind with a glass of wine.

Once we had settled in, we decided to take a closer walk along the river which had caravans parked alongside the bay and many were enjoying kayaking along the river in the sunshine. To get down to the river, we walked down the cobbled streets until we reached the famous 16th Century Clock Tower.

Author: Cristina da Costa Brookes;

The following day, we had a toastie and coffee at the local café and decided to wander up to Mértola’s national monument, its castle. On our way up, we visited the whitewashed Matriz Church of Mértola which is beautiful inside. Once you go through the church, there is a small Islamic museum, which we found interesting to visit. We then made our way to the castle, which had the most incredible panoramic views of the whole village and the river.

Author: Cristina da Costa Brookes;

The grounds were filled with poppies and it was great to see the exhibitions inside the castle, with one showing the evolution of the castle over time and the presence of the order of St. James.

Pulo do Lobo

In the afternoon, we decided to explore the Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana so we headed to Pulo do Lobo waterfall, which translates to Wolf’s Leap. The waterfall is at an altitude of between 33 and 35 metres in a very narrow gorge in the Guadiana River and was undeniably impressive.

It was interesting to read more about the waterfall, and where it comes from, “According to legend, only a brave man or a wild animal when chased could leap over this gorge.” Pulo do Lobo can be reached on either bank, from the village of Amendoeira, on the road from Mértola to Beja (left bank), or, if coming from Serpa, via the village of Vale de Poços, where the route is signposted to the right (right bank).

Author: Cristina da Costa Brookes;

Alentejo Gastronomy is “King”

Alentejo cuisine is one of the richest and most diverse Portuguese cuisines, at its heart is olive oil, garlic, coriander, and of course a generous helping of pork!

I am not going to gatekeep the fantastic place we ate at, Tamuje Restaurant was the perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two on their intimate balcony. The service was excellent and everything came out in a timely manner.

We had the usual couvert with soft Portuguese bread, tuna pâté and olives, followed by garlic and coriander squid for starters. We enjoyed some fizz from the region to celebrate our getaway and then waited excitedly for our main course, where I had Alentejano steak fried to perfection topped with a delicious cream sauce and sautéed potatoes, whereas my partner opted for the traditional black pork with plenty of garlic and coriander, which just melted in your mouth. Homemade desserts could not be missed, so we had a homemade ice cream sandwich and chocolate mousse which was the cherry on top of a wonderful trip.

For more information, please visit www.visitmertola.pt/mertola-vila-museu/guias-e-folhetos/.


Following undertaking her university degree in English with American Literature in the UK, Cristina da Costa Brookes moved back to Portugal to pursue a career in Journalism, where she has worked at The Portugal News for 3 years. Cristina’s passion lies with Arts & Culture as well as sharing all important community-related news.

Cristina da Costa Brookes