Eastern Way

Mesquita < > Mértola

Stage 2

We leave the village within the ancient stone walls that already then led people to Mértola. We enter the protected area of the Natural Park of Vale do Guadiana and, further away from the Algarve, we follow the Way to the north, towards the deep Alentejo. Here, the green of the juniper scrublands and the singular holm oak forest are worth notice. In spring, the centenary blossomed tamarisk trees add some yellow and pink to it. We breathe the fresh air and go on our way!

Igreja Matriz de Mértola

Main Church of Mértola
The former mosque of Mértola is the most relevant monument of the locality. It dates back to the second half of the 19th century and was built using Roman and later elements. Even today, two Islamic capitals from the 19th century are still preserved, reused from another mosque that existed in the city. In the origin, the mosque was bigger than the current temple, and still preserves four horseshoe arches and the mihrab, a niche oriented to Mecca to where the believers direct their prayers. With the conquest by the order of Santiago, the new lords transformed the mosque into a church and imposed its symbol on the façade. Inside, the current appearance of the roof, in a vault dates back to the Manueline era, replacing the previous wooden solution. The temple was then reduced to four sections instead of the original six. A new main portal was built, already Renaissance and designed by the sculptor André Pilarte, at the time established in the eastern Algarve. The promoter of these works was the commander D. João de Mascarenhas, whose memory was immortalized in a corbel of the interior, which contains a human bust and the inscription “IOANE”.


Mértola was the Portuguese headquarters of the Order of Santiago since 1248 (ten years after the conquest of the city by the spatharii and 1482. In fact, it enjoyed the status of seat only until 1316, as after the conquest of the Algarve, the Santiagan preferred to reinforce the heritage they held in Alcácer do Sal, although the “capital” was still in Mértola. The Order left deep marks on the city’s history and heritage, with special mention to the construction of the church of Santiago (today the sacred art nucleus of the municipal museum) and the artistic patronage of the Mascarenhas family, the town’s spathari commanders.

The portal of the church of Misericórdia/Núcleo de Arte Sacra (former Igreja de Santiago) dates back to 1558, the approximate period of temple’s construction and for the creation of the Misericórdia de Mértola. The church has, however, a previous origin. A visit that took place in 1565 clarifies that it had been dedicated to Santiago until the residents instituted the Misericórdia there. It was the closest church to the city’s medieval port, which was accessed through the Porta da Ribeira gate. The current feature of the temple dates back to a renovation carried out in the 16th century and its adaptation to the museum nucleus of sacred art occurred in the 90s of the 20th century when the multi-centered museum of Mértola was established.

The former church of Santiago’s altarpiece, dated from the end of the 19th century and attributed to the painter Júlio Dinis de Carvo, is another work of art that evokes the figure of Santiago as Matamouros (The Moor-slayer). The apostle is mounted on a white horse and has his sword drawn, while he holds the Order of Santiago’s banner with his other hand, in a composition model that is often repeated. Commander D. João Mascarenhas commissioned a large altarpiece for the main church in 1532. The works took a long time and, in 1554, it was already placed on the north side of the church, but still lacked the color application. The main panel is dedicated to the Calvário (Calvary), but the predella contains the representation of Santiago Matamouros, again on horseback, with sword and banner of the Order in his hands, attacking a group of infidels, one of them wearing a turban. The second panel of this altarpiece is also preserved, dedicated to the Pentecost, and where the figure of Santiago also stands out, with the pilgrim’s attributes.

Castelo de Mértola

Castle of Mértola
Enjoying a privileged strategic position, at the confluence of the Oeiras stream with the Guadiana river, the castle of Mértola played an essential role in the Middle Ages, both on the Muslim and Christian sides. The origins, however, seem to be Roman, when a first defensive stronghold was defined. In Islamic times, the city was the most important river port of the Guadiana, where men and cargoes between Mérida and the Atlantic Ocean, used to pass. The Islamic occupation was growing from the 19th century onwards to the point where Mértola was the capital of a small independent kingdom in the 30s and 40s of the 11th century and again in the mid 12th century. Integrated into the Almohad block at the end of that century, it was subject to great improvements, as shown by the elbow entry of the fortress, typical of Muslim defensive systems. The city was conquered by the Knights of the Order of Santiago in 1238. Soon after, recognizing the relevance of the city as a point of support for the conquests of the Algarve, the spathari installed here its seat, a statute that lasted until 1316. D. Paio Peres Correia, master of the Order of Santiago, passed a charter to the town in 1254. And it was another master, D. João Fernandes, who, around 1292, promoted the construction of the castle’s keep, still remaining today and rising to almost 30 meters high.

Ermida de Nossa Senhora das Neves

Hermitage of  Nossa Senhora das Neves
In the town of Mesquita, in the municipality of Mértola, there is a hermitage on top of a hill whose construction dates back to the pre-reconquest period. From the 8th-11th centuries onwards, the first signs of sacralization can be seen. A marble column on the site shows the date of its construction. Despite its sacralization, there are archaeological remains in the Mértola archaeological site which suggest that this place was also a mosque during the Paleo-Christian era. The first information dates back to 1515, by a visitor from the Order of Santiago. This church, which had some importance in terms of its collection, has remained unknown until today. It is known from the description that there were three altars, one dedicated to St. Benedict, another to St. Bartholomew and the main altar dedicated to Our Lady of Flowers, the patron saint of the hermitage. Later, this church was consecrated to Our Lady of the Snows, and even today we can see her image in the center of the high altar, dating from the 18th century.

e também…

Maio − Festival Islâmico

Junho − Festas da Vila de Mértola

Outubro − Feira da Caça


O Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana/Casa do Lanternim é a entidade local responsável pela gestão da área do Parque Natural, dando pareceres de caráter vinculativo em muitas dimensões da atividade turística. A sede do PNVG é ainda um posto de informação importante sobre as atividades de turismo de natureza e recursos/valores naturais do território.

After Mesquita, we follow the tarmac road for 4 km, towards the Colgadeiros site. We continue to the right through the fields, where we are accompanied by countless partridges in dizzy runs.

After almost 5 km, with the village of Roncanito on the right, we put our energy back into a cozy coffee shop in Boavista, which we leave on beaten earth, in the direction of Roncão de Cima. The path continues for 2.5 km to the center of Lombardos, a village with some support facilities.

From Lombardos we travel 1,5 km by dirt track to a wide viewpoint over the majestic Guadiana river. We walk down a steep stream to the banks of “Rio dos Patos” (Duck River) and, if we go carefully, apart from those we see a whole universe of birds that make the delights of birdwatching lovers. We are at the mouth of a stream whose flows rise and fall daily, according to the Guadiana tides. On the left, we find a bridge and a dam that allow us to cross it and access Herdade da Bombeira. We follow the path along 18 ha of vineyards, always bordering the Guadiana.

Already outside the Herdade, we continue to follow the river, in a path also marked with the pedestrian trail “PR1” signs, then climbing between hills to reach Poço dos Dois Irmãos well, just before the junction with the tarmac road (IC27). We continue along the IC27 with some caution, because the traffic here is already significant, and the berms are narrow. After 1.7 km, we are at the gates of this town-museum of Mértola.

We cross the bridge, where the currents of the Ribeira de Oeiras stream bubble up. We go up the slope on the right, along the south wall, bypassing the protected citadel inside the fortification.

Almost in the centre of the village, we head down an alley, on the left, to the Tourism Office. Here, it is imperative to seek all available information, as you will not want to follow the Path without having the opportunity to know in depth all that this ancient Order of Santiago seat has to reveal and can’t be described here. In Mértola you will feel well and be well served.


Always carry water, supplies, sunscreen, a hat, waterproof, comfortable shoes, and a map.


 CTT Post Office

 Bank/Cash Dispenser

 Mértola Tourism Info Point
+351 286 610 109


Public Entities

 Mértola City Council
+351 286 610 109

 Mértola Parish Council
+351 286 612 420

 Espírito Santo Parish Council
+351 286 675 250


 Mértola Health Center
+351 286 610 900


Points of Interest

 São Miguel do Pinheiro Parish Council

 Espírito Santo Parish Council

 Heritage circuit and Mértola Museum

 Mértola Historic and Cultural Heritage:
Order of Santiago

 Salvador Hermitage,
Mosteiro Museological Nucleus

 ICNF – Natural Park of Vale do Guadiana/
Casa do Lanternim Seat of PNVG

 Vale do Guadiana Natural Park

 Pulo do lobo

 Guadiana River


Emergency: 112
Forest Fires: 117
Mértola Fire Department: +351 286 610 010
GNR − National Republican Guard: +351 286 612 127
Mértola Civil Protection: +351 286 610 100


Do not leave the marked and signaled route. Do not approach cliffs. Pay attention to the markings. Do not dispose of organic or inorganic waste during the trail, take a bag for this purpose. If you see garbage, collect it, help us to keep the Paths clean. Beware of livestock, don’t bother the animals. Leave Nature intact. Do not collect plants, animals or rocks. Avoid making noise. Respect private property, close gates and barriers. Don’t light fires and be careful with cigarettes. Do not vandalize the Paths signage.