Do you think mass tourism has conquered even the last remaining paradises of Europe? Not really. Those landscapes that make us look in awe at what nature can accomplish still exist.
The area between the Sado estuary and the port city of Sines some 80 km south of Lisbon, Portugal is one of those landscapes. On one side lie unspoilt beaches, some say the finest in Portugal, and on the other endless extents of pine forests, sand dunes and rice paddies that glow in a fluorescent green. It’s all rather magical, from the unique light to the ever-present sights, sounds and smells of nature itself which here, at least, are undoubtedly in command.
The village of Carrasqueira, the only one overlooking the Sado estuary, still has a Palaeolithic harbour. It was the harbour used daily by the local fishermen, but has recently turned into a sightseeing destination.
How to get to Comporta and Melides:
You can reach Comporta from Lisbon or via the motorway and exciting at the height of the beautiful upriver town of Alcácer do Sal and then continuing for another 25 km through the pine forests along the river (approx. 120 km). The other option would be the ferry boat that departs in the port city of Setúbal, south of Lisbon, and will bring you to the Tróia Peninsula. From there it is not far to Comporta (approx. 70 km).
The best beaches in Comporta and Melides;
Although the beach extends over more than 60 km, there are not many entrances. The most beautiful are in the northern area. Actually, the beach already begins in Troía, however the first “real one” is the Ilha do Arroz (rice island) near Comporta. 15 km to the south, at Carvalhal, there is the “Praia do Pego” and the “Praia do Carvalhal”. The restaurants on these three beaches are beautifully set in wooden structures are all very chic and in quite expensive. A good observer will spot the one or other famous person enjoying a caipirinha on the terrace. Less expensive is the restaurant at the beach in Aberta Nova, a few kilometres north of Melides.
Ilha do Arroz – Foto: Francisco Huguenin Uhlfelder
All beaches offer various attractions for everybody: Sporty travellers have the opportunity to burn off energy in the turquoise and slightly cold water. Swimming, surfing, kite surfing and even horse riding is possible. Travellers who prefer to relax or take a long barefoot walk along the beach, will for surely not be disappointed. There is something to do for everybody, even if it is doing nothing.
There is a small bitter pill which is easily fixed with mosquito repellent. Whilst the abundance of rice fields is a beautiful sight and relaxing to the eye, they do attract mosquitoes in the evening. However, most locals are prepared and equipped with plenty of products to mitigate their activity and forget the little troublemakers very fast.
Francisco Huguenin Uhlfelder
Restaurants and beach bars:
To wind down after a long day, many restaurants and beach bars invite you to tasty dishes and cocktails. Especially the places right on the beach offer a great ambience. However, they might be more expensive. Among them are the Sublime Beach Club, O Diniz and the Sal in Carvalhal and the Ilha do Arroz near Comporta.
Further inland prices are lower and the more local restaurants have their own, more authentic and unique atmosphere.
We have tested some restaurants and strongly recommend to try some of their special dishes:
One or two kilometres to the south of Comporta, on left side of the road, you will find the “Dona Bea”. Every dish the restaurant offers is good. Hence making it difficult to decide for one. A bit further south in Melides we suggest the excellent “O Fadista”. The local dishes such as “choco frito” or “secretos” from the Iberian black pig are delicious.
The “Tasco Gino” is located in Alcácer do Sal, the first restaurant on the right after passing the historic lift bridge, approximately 24 kilometers upriver from Comporta. The journey to that restaurant is worth it for two reasons: the “Puntillitas” (little fried squid) and different prepared cods. Choose between “pataniscas de bacalhau”, “bacalhau assado” and much more.
Francisco Huguenin Uhlfelder
Where to stay in Comporta and Melides:
The disadvantage of such an undiscovered, secret place is that there are only a few nice and beautiful overnight accommodations. Here is a little selection:
House – Sobreiras Altas, Melides
Beautifully restored traditional Portuguese village house, complete with orange and lemon orchard, small pool and garden. 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. 12 minutes from beach.
Muda – Carvalhal, Alentejo, Portugal
Fashionable luxury boutique hotel about 20 minutes south of Comporta. Pool, restaurant and spa. Has its own beach bar 15 minutes away.
Bicas – 15 minutes from Carvalhal
Carefully decorated bedrooms and spacious villas invite you to this haven of tranquillity in the pine forests of Comporta.
Grândola - on the road to Comporta
Enjoy the authentic atmosphere of this former farmhouse nestled in endless cork oak forests. 20 minutes to the beach and 30 minutes south of Comporta.
Luxurious and trendy hotel in the rice fields of Carvalhal just south of Comporta. All amenities you may need and you can almost walk to the beach.
Torrão – a 45 minute drive in the calm hinterlands
Cute little hotel above a lake about 25 minutes inland from Alcácer do Sal. Great place to get away from it all.