When my partner and I recently decided to go on a two-week trip to Portugal, visiting a remote Portuguese town was at the top of my list! Going off the beaten track lead us to discovering Mertola, a hidden Portuguese gem. This slice of paradise is free of swarms of tourists, quiet and peaceful, and food and accommodation is incredibly cheap. My only regret about our visit – not staying long enough!
You’ll need a car and a GPS (or pretty good directions) to reach Mertola. We picked up a car late morning in Lisbon, and opted for the slightly longer 260km route via Evora, a great little city to make a lunchtime stop in. After lunch and a stroll in Evora, we continued on the road to Mertola at a cruisey pace, making it there by 4pm. Mertola really isn’t on the way to anything, so you’ll have to make a detour to get there. This is part of the beauty of Mertola, however, as not many people go out of their way to reach it!
Lisbon 235km, Faro 118km, Lagos 172km, Evora 132km
Where to stay
Mertola is full of beautiful, quaint and reasonably priced guesthouses. We checked into Quinta do Vau, a gorgeous guesthouse with welcoming and friendly staff, located on the outskirts of the city. The rooms are clean, modern and tidy, and most of them feature an incredible view over the old town and castle. So magical, especially at night!
The best thing to do in Mertola? Just to BE. Mertola is so quiet and slow that it really is an ideal place to just enjoy a book, the company of your travel companion, or simply do nothing!
My first move when we arrived was to cool off in the pool at our accommodation, and bask in the late afternoon sun while enjoying the view of the city. I could have done this for days, honestly. But, with less than 24 hours in Mertola, we wanted to get out and explore the city as well.
Before sunset, we headed to the city for a wander. The cobblestone streets are narrow and charming, and the white painted walls make this city such a romantic place to wander around. Located in the centre of the city, at the highest point, you’ll find the old castle, which is also worth a visit.
Where to eat
I would recommend looking for somewhere to eat fairly early in the night, as there isn’t a huge choice, and things seem to close early. We thought we were out of luck in terms of food, until we wandered down an alleyway on the city’s edge and came across Terra Utópica, a cute little restaurant with a rooftop terrace and tables overlooking the river. The food was divine, and such good value for money! This was honestly one of the best meals I had in Portugal.
We were also served breakfast at the guesthouse the next morning. Such a treat! They really went out of their way to prepare a delicious breakfast for guests, with a variety of food from yoghurt to fruit salad, coffee, juice, tea, fresh bread and any topping imaginable.
Mertola, sigh, such a slice of heaven!