Comporta, the finest white sand in Portugal

Dozens of kilometres of white sand following southwards and facing the Atlantic Ocean are enough to make Comporta one of those places you don’t want to miss. But there is so much more – on land, sea and in the Sado’s estuary – in one of Portugal’s most exclusive locations. And all this just an hour away from Lisbon.

Comporta is the name of a small village on the southwest side of the Sado’s estuary that grew as a hub for activities such as fishing or rice culture. Is it also the name generically given to this Natural Reserve which brings together many good reasons for a visit, whether it’s an extended stay in one of its luxury resorts, a stroll or just a meal at one of the restaurants well known for the freshness of their fish.

The tourism offer in this area has created an environment of great exclusivity among its national and international visitors, who here seeking the greatest luxury of all, which is quality time. This can be found in very different and somehow familiar places, from the Sublime luxury hotel to the Casas na Areia, literally built of wood and thatch on sand.

The quality of fresh fish can be confirmed in many restaurants in Comporta village. Two good examples – and both facing the sea – are “O Dinis”, at Carvalhal beach, and “O Sal”, at Pego’s beach, this last one Condé Nast Traveler readers awarded in 2015 the best beach bar in the world. Also, worth visiting is the restaurant “Museu do Arroz”, because we also get to know another face of the history of the region, which has been an important rice production centre for about 200 years.

If we now leave the ocean view and turn into the river estuary, we will find out why Sado oysters are consumed in many restaurants around the world, recognising their enormous quality. On the embankments, it is possible to observe a complex system of dikes that control the sea entry and the salinity of the water, on which depend the nutrients that will feed these oysters.

The oyster farming in the Sado’s estuary coexists with a huge community of over 200 bird species, making this area especially interesting for bird watching.

In addition to the quality of the fish, the Sado’s estuary was also a major salt production centre. Roman ingenuity added the fish to the salt and, a little north of Comporta near Tróia, are the ruins of what was once one of the largest centres of fish salting in the Roman Empire, which operated between I and VI centuries.

If we leave Comporta by the road heading east to Alcácer do Sal, we also have the opportunity to visit another extraordinary place in Sado’s estuary. In the village of Carrasqueira we can still find a stilts pier– dozens of wooden plank corridors suspended above the water in vertical piles buried in the sludge that form multiple narrow, labyrinthine-looking corridors. It is an unusual and apparently primitive landscape; but it is especially surprising when we realize that it continues to be used daily by the largest fishing community in the region, who dock their small boats here.


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