Portugal City Travel Guide: Mértola
Mértola, 54km south east of Beja, is a beautiful and historic town located at the highest navigable point of the Guadiana River, at its confluence with the smaller Oeiras River.
Mértola, like many towns in this area of the Alentejo, has a history of trade with Phoenicians and Carthaginians followed by settlement by Roman and Moorish invaders.
Mértola is surrounded by the splendid countryside of the Parque Natural Vale do Guardiana, home to the rare black stork (Ciconia nigra).
17km north of Mértola on the road to Serpa is the Mina de São Domingos, a former copper and pyrite mine once owned by a British company. The open-cast pit remains along with a number of the mine buildings including the old mine headquarters now the converted Hotel São Domingos and a Portuguese miner's cottage. There is also a small English cemetery which holds the graves of a number of English managers and their families.
The town of Mértola itself is set on a high spur above the rivers. The walls are Moorish when the town was known as Martulah and were built over the Roman originals. In the middle of the old town stands the remarkable parish church, the Igreja Matriz - a former mosque and now a National Monument built in the 12th century.
Mértola was retaken by the Christian King Dom Sancho II in 1238 but this chuch and a smaller one, the Capela de São Gens, just outside Serpa are they only two former mosques in Portugal that were converted to churches after the Reconquest. The Igreja Matriz retains the Moorish arched doorway and the mihrab - a niche pointing to Mecca.
Mértola's castle was originally from the Moorish period but the splendid keep dates from the 13th century from the period after the Reconquest. Just outside the castle walls is the former Moorish quarter the Alcácova do Castelo, which has metal walkways over the various historical layers of Mértola: Roman drains, Moorish walls and a later Christian cemetery.
The excellent Museu de Mértola consists of a series of mini museums including the Museo Romano showing the foundations of a Roman house under the Câmara Municipal, the Museu Arte Islâmica with an important collection of Moorish glass, ceramics and funerary stones and the Museu de Arte Sacra (Museum of Religious Art) in the Misericórdia church.
The Basilica Paleocristã in Largo do Rossio do Carmo has 30 tombstones dating from over 1500 years ago.
Mértola Tourist Office
Mértola Tourist Office.
Rua da Igreja 31.
Tel. 286 610 109.
Find information on where to hire bicycles or kayaks on the river.
Getting to Mértola
Mértola is not connected by railway and the nearest train stations are at Beja to the north and Vila Real de San Antonio to the south.
Mértola is on the N122 south of Beja and north west of Alcoutim.
Mértola has bus connections with Vila Real de Santo Antonio (1 hour, 20 minutes), Serpa (90 minutes), Lisbon (3 hours, 50 minutes) via Beja (50 minutes) and Setubal (3 hours) and to Evora (3 hours) via Beja with Rede Expressos.
Recoomended places to stay in Mértola include the Beira Rio guest house, the Quinta do Vau, the Hotel Museu and the Casa da Tia Amalia across the river in Além-Rio. See here for a complete listing of hotels in Mértola.
Book Hotel Accommodation in Mértola
Try the local cuisine of Mértola at Migas in the Mercado Municipal or at O Rapucho on Avenida Aureliano Mira Fernandes.
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The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
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