Mertola & Alcoutim

Bom Dia dear friends and fellow travellers. Off to explore a little today, upon the recommendations of a good friend with much knowledge of this beautiful Country and our trusty ‘Rough Guide‘. We are cheating a bit and taking the hire car but always seeing things through the eyes of a Motorhomer. We know a few of our friends, who’s judgement we trust, have taken their vans up to Mertola so we are confident it is Moho friendly. It’s an attractive drive, steep in parts, but a steady incline, nothing too taxing. The route takes us out of the Algarve and into the scenic Alentejo region. The approach to Mertola as the castle walls come in to view is simply stunning. Now, we parked just a little way from the bridge on the left on the large Carpark by the Bombeiros. Plenty of room for vans in there, however, our pals found their way down to an Aire by the river and indeed, when we had a coffee in the market hall cafe overlooking the river, there were Motorhomers parked below. Methinks it might be a good idea, if your nerves are anything like mine, to park where I suggest and maybe investigate the route on foot or bicycle first as it’s a bit steep and squeezy. The co-ordinates for overnighting by the river are on searchforsites anyhoo. It’s a truly beautiful spot. The medieval town of Mertola sits high above the Guadiana and Oeiras Rivers, guarded by an imposing Moorish castle.

It was a thriving river port back in the day, known for its weary and copper mining industries. The town has a lovely ‘old Portugal’ feel to it, almost as if time has stood still. The tiny Mercado building sells great local produce and has a quaint little cafe with the most incredible views. The 13th century castle is well preserved and the small Church at the foot of the castle still retains its Moorish features dating back to its original days as a Mosque. Mertola is an interesting place, steeped in history. You can see the Arabic influences all around. It’s a jumble of whitewashed, red roofed houses, brightly coloured bougainvillea and orange trees. We spent a very pleasant day wandering around the steep, cobbled streets winding up from the river. The Museums within the walled town were unfortunately not open as it’s still out of season. A shame but we will have to save them for a future visit.

We then drove back down through the stunning Alentejo countryside to our next destination, Alcoutim. For you Motorhomers, there is an Aire, don’t miss the signpost, some ten minutes out of town. Again, co-ordinates are on searchforsites. It’s a bit scruffy but does the job. Alcoutim is an attractive village on the banks of the Guadiana River. Again, it was a popular River Port historically, dominated by the Greeks, Romans and Arabs, all whom have all left their mark. It has a 14th century castle with amazing views over the river to Sanlucar in Spain on the opposite banks. You can take a very short boat trip across for a couple of Euros and be in Spain with an hour’s time difference for lunch!! Sanlucar mirrors Alcoutim with its own castle ruins to explore. There are a handful of decent looking restaurants in Alcoutim. Apparently Lamprey is the dish to try here. Another beautiful church and just generally a very pretty place to visit with a relaxed, friendly feel to it. The cobbled backstreets lead down from the castle to the small main square and the riverfront. The river current here is very strong but there is a tributary just off the Mertola road with its own sandy beach that looked great for a swim.

It’s been really lovely to see a couple of new places, especially ones off the beaten track. Portugal has so much to offer aside from the obvious tourist traps. It’s well worth wandering outside your comfort zone! Time to return to base now though. All this exploring has made us thirsty! We bought some locally produced Alentejan wine in Mertola to go with supper. We have swordfish from the market to grill on the BBQ with a yummy olive and tomato salad and fresh crusty bread.

Hope our little road trip tempts your travel taste buds!

TTFN my lovelies. Take care, until the next time. Love to all 🇵🇹🇵🇹❤️

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