In the last couple of years Comporta has been on the bucket list for many travellers who choose Portugal as their holiday destination. This small coastal town marries the best of the beach and the countryside and has a lot going on in its favour, such as beaches with long stretches of sand, delicious gastronomy, adorable little houses and stylish retreats. During off peak season it is an even more peaceful and inspiring destination. In fact, one of the best times of the year to visit is Winter, when silence, desert beaches, fresh fish and wide golden rice fields can sum it up.
Beach walks and horseback rides along the dunes
Comporta is part of the longest stretch of coast in Europe, with almost 50 km of virgin beaches that stretch along the northwestern coast of the Alentejo. Turquoise waters, fine sand and wild dunes form the scenery, which is particularly beautiful in sunny winter days.
There are many beaches worth visiting, some of which are only accessible on foot and others through other beaches as there's no clear path to get there. This only adds to the charm, as the harder it is to get there, the more peaceful they are.
Going for beach walks early in the morning or when the sun goes down is a great activity to clear the mind and think with the sound of waves as white noise. For those with lazy legs a horseback ride can be just the perfect alternative. There is a fantastic project that provides exclusive experiences and allies horses and nature in the very best way.
Perks of a fishermen town
Being an old fishermen town (now with a fancy boho style) fish and seafood are the highlights when it comes to local gastronomy. The catch of the day dictates the main protein used, but when it comes to fish the most abundant are wreck fish, angler fish, croaker, sea bass, snapper and grouper. Ray is also quite cherished and molluscs such as octopus and squid cannot be missed either. Shellfish fans can rejoice as there is plenty on the menu for them too: oysters, clams, cockles, crabs, crawfish and lobster. Apart from what comes from the sea, on the estuary there are also smaller fish and eels, with which locals make a famous stew.
For wintery days the best is diving into a heartwarming massada (pasta stew), caldeirada (rice stew) or feijoada (bean stew) mixed with fish and/or seafood. Those counting calories can go for a simple charcoal grilled fish seasoned with a sprinkle of lemon juice and local herbs and served alongside local sweet potatoes, which is always a safe (and delicious) bet!
Restaurants range from simple beach snacks to stylish decorated restaurants and prices are almost always above the normal range in Portugal. Oh well, paradise doesn't come cheap!
Plains filled with rice plantations
The 1st records of rice plantations in the country date back to the 18th century on the water-soaked areas of the centre-southern part of the country particularly around Tejo estuary. In Comporta there are over 1000 hectares of rice fields between Carvalhal and Pego beaches, where this cereal has been planted for many decades. The water drenched fields are ideal to plant it and are the base of what originates the best rice in the country.
The seeds are sown between April-May and the crops reach their peak between October and December, when they're ready to be harvested. Visiting in Autumn means it's highly likely to spot this second phase taking place.
It's no news that Portuguese love rice in all sorts of ways, from side dishes to desserts. Around Comporta a handful of the main dishes revolve around rice, such as seafood rice, angler fish rice, cockles rice, and the list goes on... The best is sampling them all to build an opinion ;)
When in Comporta it's worth visiting Museu do Arroz, a local restaurant where rice is the main ingredient used. The fact it used to be a warehouse where rice was peeled back in the days only adds to its charm.
Idyllic places to stay at
The hippie chic style of Comporta is contagious and many visitors who intend to stay for only a couple of days find themselves lingering for weeks... This is easily understood when browsing where to stay. There are options for all tastes, from tiny fishermen shacks with thatched roofs to gorgeous contemporary hotels with uncountable facilities. Some literally on the sand, others in the middle of pine tree forests.
Another plus is the fact it has been growing at a slow and steady pace, which means you can find yourself in a beautiful house with no one within a generous radius, making it the perfect place to unwind and relax.
Both these aspects are definitely part of Comporta's charm, where good taste, laidback style, rustic feel, contemporary details and comfort make sense together, particularly under a starry sky and to the sound of crickets.
If you're convinced Comporta and the surrounding area are just what you were looking for, we'd be glad to help planning a weekend break or some longer holidays.
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In the meantime keep up with our regular news and journal posts about our country to travel without leaving your office desk.