With its pristine coastline and rugged, untouched interior, Portugal is a hidden gem of Western Europe. Its rich cultural heritage creates a beguiling mix of old-world and cutting edge, which is visible everywhere from the crumbling tiles of Lisbon to the progressive winemaking techniques of the Duoro Valley. This ethos of old and new is exemplified in the barefoot chic beach destination of Herdade de Comporta, located on the country’s southwestern coast. Popular with cool European crowds for decades, Comporta is today drawing sun-seekers from across the globe due to its unique—and distinctly Portuguese—sophistication.
With its off-the-beaten-path, undiscovered appeal, Comporta is worlds away from the overbuilt Algarve to the south. A 60-minute drive from Lisbon, Comporta is one of seven seaside villages that comprise the greater Herdade de Comporta in the Alentejo Province. The sandy peninsula sits between the Sado River Estuary (a dense pine forest) and the Atlantic Ocean.
Lisbon’s fashionable crowd has long escaped to Comporta for its windswept dunes and mellow beach scene; today it’s known for its chic homes and boutiques set alongside the quiet coast. The region has been compared to a number of languid hotspots—St. Tropez of the 1970’s, Ibiza of the 80’s, the Hamptons of the 90’s—and most recently likened to José Ignacio in Uruguay. The humble, earthy nature, however, keeps Comporta from ricocheting into the stratosphere of beach town–turned-global destinations. Expect a warm welcome from chilled-out artists, retired bankers, farmers and families who are there to relax and go off the grid.
Full of olive groves, vineyards and farmland, the Alentejo Province has been compared to Tuscany but with bright green rice fields that span between villages and steep dunes. This is rice paddy land, made up of striped plains that crisscross through irrigation canals. Seafood rice dishes are a specialty in Comporta especially at the lively and ever-popular Sal on Prego beach (Praia do Pego, Carvalhal; 351 265 490 129).
Related: Dispatch from Lisbon
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] Courtesy Nuno Marques Pedro[/caption]
Portugal is a hotbed for independent design hotels. In keeping with the laid-back vibe of the region, most hotels in Comporta are simple, but with high-design (many can be described as boho-chic, with understated pallets of natural wood, concrete and stone). The top property is Sublime Comporta, a serene hotel designed with clean lines and minimalist interiors. Casas Na Areia is comprised of four sparely decorated but breezy guest cottages set on the beach (the living room floors are sand) (www.casasnaareia.com). Cabanas no Rio offers a delightful pair of converted fishermen’s cabins (cabanasnorio.com). Comporta is also flush with beautiful design villas for rent. Indagare members can contact their travel specialist for personalized recommendations.
The beauty of Comporta is that life revolves around the beach, with hours spent puttering between the ocean and bleached-wood seafood shacks. Beachgoers sip Caipirinha cocktails on sunny decks; local men play cards and drink espresso in town. Children will feel at home, as many Portuguese families visit every summer weekend (having done so for decades.) Those keen on water sports can take surf lessons at the beach or rent a canoe and paddle through Sado Estuary Nature Reserve, home to dolphins, flamingoes and storks (R. Cláudio Lagrange). Many visitors elect to go horseback riding, as the area has many trails through dunes, forests, rice fields and sandy beaches.
Related: Portugal Destination Report
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