DISCOVERING COMPORTA & BEYOND

DISCOVERING COMPORTA & BEYOND

I first became aware of Comporta after reading a travel article a couple of years ago and it remained firmly on my wish list ever since. Whispers of white sandy beaches, forests of pine, juniper and oak, rice fields, vineyards, little tourism and a laid back vibe all sounded like my kind of holiday destination.

Once research got underway it became apparent that Comporta itself is just a small, white washed village on the West Coast of Portugal’s Alentejo region and often when people speak of ‘Comporta’ what they are actually referring to is the broader, surrounding area as a whole, located between the municipalities of Alcacer do Sal and Grandola.

I’m so pleased that I didn’t fixate too much on Comporta village itself because there is so much to discover beyond it!

The region is very remote and everything is spread out so a car is an absolute necessity. We used Centauro car rental at Lisbon airport, an experience which wasn’t entirely without its problems, however the car itself was immaculate and very comfortable. The journey from Lisbon to our accommodation took around 90 minutes.

Evening drives as we headed out to dinner were set to a backdrop of blazing sunsets, and on the way home illuminated by a giant, glowing moon. The roads are empty around Comporta for the most part and the scenery is wild and largely untouched by man.

Here’s a round up of all of my best bits:

WHERE TO STAY . . .

We couldn’t have been happier with our choice of accommodation Monte Do Brejinho De Agua. A peaceful, converted farm in the remote countryside, surrounded by nature and a short drive from the most amazing, unspoilt beaches. You can read my blog about our stay here.

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WHAT TO DO . . .

Head to the beach - with over 60km of continuous coastline to explore you will find yourself completely spoilt for choice.

You need a car to access all of them so parking is available and often at the entrance to the beach there’ll be loos and showers and some sort of cafe/bar.

Praia da Comporta gave us our first glimpse of icing sugar sands and turquoise water, neat little rows of sun beds and straw parasols and a drinks service on request from the beach bar.

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We visited Praia do Carvalhal in the evening as the sun was setting over deserted sands.

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Praia de Aberta Nova was recommended to us by our hosts at the farm where we were staying and was closest to our accommodation. From the entrance to the beach if you take a short walk (around 15 minutes) you can find a stretch of sand entirely to yourself. I took a walk alone one afternoon and it was eerily beautiful to be surrounded by nothing but wide open space and nature in every direction without having to share any of it with a single soul!

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Praia do Pego offered yet more unoccupied portions of paradise a short stroll from the beach entrance.

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Pego is also home to Restaurant Sal, nestled in the dunes as you arrive. This is the one restaurant that most tourists make a bee line for and as a result we were advised by locals that there are better places to enjoy a more ‘authentic’ experience. That said, in a Conde Naste reader’s vote back in 2015 it topped the list as one of the best beachside cafes in the world.

Praia de Melides was perhaps our favourite beach of all. A long stretch of sand that separates the sea from the Melides lagoon. The beach bar Lagoa e Mar has a laid back vibe and provides a nice spot for a lazy lunch (I was a fan of the Forest Salad and super fresh, botanical gin & tonics served in giant balloon glasses the size of my head!)

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Go horse back riding - I knew before heading to Comporta that horse back riding was on offer but to be honest I didn’t think I would be brave enough to give it a go. Scarred by a childhood memory of a runaway donkey on Scarborough beach which saw me hanging on for dear life whilst my poor Mum chased frantically after us. I had never really been inspired to get back on, until now. There are a couple of companies in and around Comporta that offer guided rides but again this one came as a recommendation from our hosts at the farm.

Luis Lamas is a veterinary surgeon from a family with a passion for raising sport horses. With 24 horses spread across 2 sites within the area, I felt like we would be in safe hands with Luis and the animals would be well cared for.

We opted for a beach trek and met at the stables where we discovered we were going to be riding in an intimate group with just one other couple. Horses were matched to riders by height and personality and before long I was in the saddle, riding on the back of a gentle, 19 year old, Lusitano horse named Risonho. The pace was slow and steady and I immediately felt at ease.

We trekked along dusty tracks in brilliant sunshine, over pine scattered dunes and down onto to the pristine white sands of Melides, the waves of the Atlantic breaking at our feet. It was such an incredible experience and I’m so grateful for the amazing memories.

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Visit the old fishing village of Carrasqueira - and walk the Palafitic Pier, built on higgledy piggledy stilts that stretch out into the waters of the Sado Estuary.

The tangle of wooden board walks was built by local fisherman during the 50’s and 60’s to provide easy access to their boats whatever the level of tide.

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WHERE TO EAT . . .

Sublime Comporta - Super swanky Sublime was way out of our price range to stay but being only a 10 minute drive from our farm, was a handy option for dinner and drinks. The design is stunning, all neutral tones and natural textures. We opted to have dinner alfresco in the recently opened Tasca Da Comporta, a no reservations restaurant serving small plates. We passed an azure pool, plush seating area surrounding a smoking fire pit and open air bar. You can’t fault aesthetics here, the place is really beautiful but our joy at bagging an outside table soon turned to despair as we were engulfed by a swarm of mosquitos which silently marked their territory across my back, arms and legs. As the tables around us complained about the bugs, repellent was handed out by staff and we decided to move inside. Still the mozzies were everywhere! Service was slow and not as slick or attentive as I would have expected from an establishment as luxurious as this and I was starting to feel disappointed, that was until, the food arrived. Freshly baked wheat bread with roasted garlic, homemade olive oil and marinated olives, Salt cod, chips and scrambled eggs, beef ‘Pica pau’ with homemade pickles and Bordalaise chicken rice were all very delicious and the cocktails were great too. Thank goodness.

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Gloria - In contrast Gloria couldn’t have been more different. A local place for local people. At the end of a dirt track, this no frills joint serves up traditional grilled piri piri chicken. Families tucked in around communal tables with wipe clean plastic cloths, workmen drank beer while watching the football, old boys congregated on the outside terrace, smoking while waiting for their take home dinner and every now and again there was a satisfying buzz as a mozzie flew into the blue UV abyss of a bug zapping light. We were the only tourists and through broken English were told that there was no menu. We were offered the same as everyone else. Bread, olives and cheese to begin, barbecued peri peri chicken, fries, salad, a carafe of wine and a beer, all for the unbelievable sum of 22 euros. The grilled chicken and humble tomato salad were absolutely delicious and I know I will be dreaming of this meal for many years to come!

To find Gloria, follow directions for restaurant O Gervasio in Brejos and where O’G is found on the right hand side, Gloria sits on the left.

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O’Dinis - Known locally as the restaurant of the fishermen, O’Dinis is a casual seafood restaurant over looking Carvalhal beach. It has been on this spot for many years and is renowned for its simple but delicious grilled fish and wonderful ocean views.

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Dona Bia - On the main road that leads to Comporta, embellished with giant storks nests, Dona Bia has a beach shack feel and nautical decor. Situated near the paddy fields it is appropriately well known for its rice dishes and quality seafood. Our lobster rice was brought to the table still bubbling away inside a deep metal pan, under the lid, a cauldron full of flavour and the most generous helping of lobster meat I have ever eaten!

5 sentidos - The last supper and perfect ending to our holiday. The fish and seafood were delicious, they mix a mean margarita and don’t even think about leaving before sampling the honey and orange pie with pistachio for dessert - heaven!

WHERE TO SHOP . . .

The only ‘shop’ we set foot in all holiday was the Summer Market at Casa de Cultura in Comporta which we stumbled across one evening while looking for somewhere to have a drink. An upmarket but rather commercial edit of stalls geared towards tourists, selling ceramics, jewellery, cookware and textiles.

WHAT TO BRING HOME FROM YOUR TRIP . . .

Beautiful scallop shells from the beach and local wine.