Cool Comporta or Wild Africa – where will you go?

Comporta, Portugal


St Tropez in the 1950s. The Hamptons, but 100 years ago. The new Ibiza. Comporta has been called all manner of “it” names imaginable. But despite the celebrity fans (Christian Louboutin, Philippe Starck and Madonna to name but a few), and its increasing appearance on effusive listicles and in glossy travel magazine spreads, Comporta still boasts an underthe-radar charm that’s all its own.

As honeymoon destinatio­ns go, it couldn’t be handier. Just an hour south of Lisbon Airport, but miles away in terms of vibe. Instead of cobbled streets, pastel buildings and views of the Tagus, you have scrubby pine forests, glowing rice fields and endless kilometres of amazing, isolated beaches, fringed by gently swishing dunes. It’s wild in the best way.

When people talk about Comporta, however, they rarely mean the small, unassuming little beach town, charming as it is. Rather, they are referring to an entire region, taking in a cluster of smaller towns and villages, all dotted along the west coast

of Portugal’s Alentejo region. A big part of Comporta’s appeal lies in what it isn’t: Here, there is a cheery and stubborn resistance to gentrifica­tion. There are no f lash resorts, clipped golf courses or chain stores. Like the various barely visible designer villas nestled amidst the pines and dunes, most of the area’s untamed charms are hidden – but that’s part of the fun.

While there is little by way of hotel accommodat­ion (though that is rapidly changing), Sublime Comporta is one exception (B&B from €380, sublimecom­ A series of luxe, eco-friendly, cabana-style villas spread around a 17-hectare estate right in the middle of a cork plantation, it feels exactly like the kind of place celebritie­s go to for downtime.

We arrived frazzled and a little anxious, having navigated some hairy roundabout­s on the way from Lisbon Airport. A quick tour to take in the resort’s amenities soon sees our shoulders unknotting. There’s an organic garden, compact but fullfeatur­ed spa (complete with a heated indoor pool), bar, restaurant and the most recent addition – a Bio Pool, a manmade organic lagoon bordered by terraced suites with thatched roofs (you can already spot lily pads floating on top of it).

Whether your intentions are to honeymoon in a far-off bucket list destinatio­n or you’re looking for a quiet spot a short flight away, we have two idyllic suggestion­s.

Of course, there are also pools aplenty, one for each of the two- or three-bedroom cabana villas.

Here, there’s a lot for honeymoone­rs to do – picnics by the beach, bicycle rides, dolphin watching, horse-riding; that is, if you can drag yourself away from the pool, the spa or moreish sunset cocktails, drunk by the glow of a giant, crackling brazier.

A quick drive brings you to one of the area’s many beaches, themselves another surprise: bare, sandy strands stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions. A ten-minute walk and you leave other sun-worshipper­s and bars selling cheap and tasty local beer behind. Soon, you feel like you have the place to yourself; just you, some sand dunes and that chilly Atlantic sea and its shimmering turquoise shades.

Another great way to experience Comporta is to make like the well-heeled expats and get a villa of your own. We stayed at the impressive, stylish Lagoa Formosa (from €6,300 per week, abvillaren­ Designed by Frenchman Alexandre Neimann, it is an interiors lover’s dream: all whitewashe­d walls, impossibly high ceilings and exposed beams with all manner of ceramics, objets d’art and antiques artfully dotted around the place. Made up of three different cabanas, a design nod to local fishermen’s houses, the property features an impressive cactus garden, a postcardpe­rfect pool terrace with panoramic views over the beautiful rice fields, as well as a pretty shaded pergola under which to recline with a good book and a glass of local wine. There is WiFi, but, tellingly, no TV. Lagoa Formosa is all about peace, quiet, and lots of pool time, with the odd stork sighting providing some excitement.

If you fall in love with any of the tableware in the well-stocked kitchen, you’re in luck: Alexandre also runs a must-visit interiors store, Barracuda, in the nearby sleepy town of Carvalhal (barracuda-comporta. com). Stocking early 19th century vintage pieces alongside his own collection of contempora­ry home accessorie­s (made in collaborat­ion with local craftspeop­le), it’s the perfect place to pick up souvenirs you’ll use and treasure.

At first blush, a stay in Comporta can be a bit disconcert­ing if you’re used to the usual hustle and bustle of city breaks or busy resorts. But within a few days, the glorious quiet, towering forests, dreamy beaches and rural, untamed surroundin­gs start to work their magic. You check your phone less. You lounge more. You fall asleep earlier and wake with the sun, for the simple pleasure of seeing its rays burst across the rice fields or through the pine trees. You rest. As I take in the lush tranquilli­ty of it all, I am reminded of something French interior designer Jacques Grange (who owns property in the area) said of the region: “For me, luxury is a space in the wilderness.”

 ??  ?? A private pool villa at Portugal’s Sublime Comporta resort
A private pool villa at Portugal’s Sublime Comporta resort
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