Across the Sado River, where it meets the Atlantic, away from the hustle-bustle of Setúbal sits the peninsula of the Comporta area. Water birds flourish in the estuaries, inlets and lagoons. Rice is harvested from pools and paddies and cork carved off of the trees from miles of cork groves inland. Fishing boats rest on mud banks awaiting water’s return. Brilliantly bright, flat sand beaches line the coast.
Every time we return to the Alentejo region, we fall in love all over again. Each time we return we discover something new and rediscover things we already loved. This winter, to escape some work being done on our apartment for a couple of days, we headed south to the Comporta peninsula just south of Setúbal.
Sublime Comporta is as advertised. In season, it is incredibly pricey but during the off-season we found a mid-week deal that made it within reach. The hotel and spa are located on a 17 hectare property with villas and cabanas surrounding the main hotel building and dispersed about the property. With plenty of outdoor firepits, a beautiful bar area and lovely restaurant it was a great respite from the early rising, gathering dust and paint fumes. On the beach of Carvalhal, Sublime also has a beachfront restaurant which we choose for lunch one day. When in Sublime, why not be… subliminal?
When we first visited this area and the town of Comporta itself a couple of years ago, we spent about thirty minutes wandering around the village (also in the off season) and couldn’t quite figure out what the hubbub was all about. Comporta, the town, is quite small but Comporta, the region, has miles and miles of flat, sparkling beaches, beautiful estuaries, rice farms and fishing villages. Last time, confused, we headed to the beach at slightly larger Carvalhal and ate at O Dinis, next to the Sublime beachfront restaurant. This time, we were able to happen into a few of the village stores and wandered the streets a few times over the course of a couple of days. In the village, try Be for lunch. We had the bowls but the eggs benedicts, sandwiches and avocado toast all looked delicious too.
And if you were wondering, as no doubt you were, “where do the storks go to rest when they aren’t out delivering babies around the world”, it’s Comporta and this region of Alentejo where they nest atop powerline towers, rooftops and telephone poles.
The village of Carvalhal, just south of Comporta, has more restaurants to check out including 5 Sentidos, whose sister restaurant was one of our absolute favorite places to eat in Cascais. Yes, “was” is appropriately used as it, sadly, closed when the landlord jacked the rent last summer. It wasn’t open during our visit this time, but it’s worth a meal if you are in the area. With Sentidos being closed, we had lunch at O Tobias Marisqueira one day and were not disappointed by either the food or the scene. When we arrived, with the tragic melodies of Amy Winehouse wafting through the air, all six of the current patrons were eating the Prego com Ovo sandwich, so I mean it had to be good, right? (It was). Also try the trilogy of empanadas. Delicious.
We also visited the oft photographed (if the internet is to be trusted) fishing village of Carrasqueira (follow the signs for the Cais Palafitico), strolled the beaches of both Carvalhal and Comporta, tried to visit the Rice museum (open summer and fall, it turns out) and visited the beach and lagoon near the village of Melides to the south.
For our return, we took the car ferry from Troia at the tip of the peninsula over to Setubal. It is about a 30 minute ride and saves a bunch of time for 23 euro (one car, two passengers). It was running every hour (every 1/2 hour each way) this time of year (on the hour from Troia and on the half hour from Setubal). If you’re looking for big hotels, condos, golf and a gorgeous beach at the mouth of the Sado, Troia is for you. It was all closed up this time of year.
If you’re looking for a relaxing couple of days of peace and natural beauty, the resorts in the Comporta and Carvalhal area just might be for you, especially if you can find a deal or in the off-season when you can avoid minimum night stays.