Infused with an elegance that only the most unpretentious simplicity can realise, every detail here invites you into a deep retreat. The gaze is carried far – no cities or landforms to hinder it. The marshes, heaths, pine forests and beaches stretch as far as the eye can see. But this Portuguese micro-village, located in the far west of the Alentejo, has made emptiness and flatness its greatest wealth.
An Atlantic Saint-Tropez? Not in the least. Rural, arid, almost austere, Comporta and its surroundings forbid any frenzy and seem, on the contrary, to praise slowness and discretion. With a laidback attitude and natural beauty, it’s a destination where you’ll find unspoiled, white sand beaches and spaces studded with cork trees beyond the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve.
Between the Tagus River and the Algarve, east Alentejo borders Spain and the west is bathed by the Atlantic Ocean. At the heart of Comporta’s idyllic natural reserve, Quinta da Comporta, is the first sustainable signature project – dreamed, built and designed – by renowned Portuguese architect, Miguel Câncio Martins. Providing exclusivity, an authentic local experience and high-quality service, the boutique wellness resort’s spacious pool villas, townhouse apartments, suites and rooms, create a delicious opportunity for a genuine journey inwards.
It’s the harshness of the hues that first grabs you in this region. Large areas of yellow grass stunned with, and drowned in, light. Never ending brown tillage. Grey swamps where nothing moves. It’s the immensity and the immobility that make you dizzy here (and, too bad if you’re not far from zero altitude).
As if the whole world was nothing more than a matrix of skies, lands and waters – too vast for you alone, because yes, here, you tend to feel alone in the world. Like you’re the only one and it’s all yours for the taking.
So a nothing, in this bare region, brightens your eyes and your mind. For a little while, you feel friendly feelings towards it. Poplars neatly lined up lining a path, their dark greens and silvery reflections effectively create a chromatic explosion. And you doubt that anyone ever told you of these groves of pine forest and of secret valleys gently sloping where vines grow, nor of these dunes at the foot of which the longest white beaches receive the Atlantic waves, because if they had told you, you wouldn’t be this gobsmacked about the total bliss factor involved.
The agriculture of the rice industry in Comporta isn’t exactly millenary. It’s a product of 1920s capitalism which turned the Atlantic Campany, an Anglo-Portuguese society, to create the Herdade da Comporta, an area of 12,500 ha of which the marshes were drained, hoed, irrigated, and domesticated. The Herdade and its rice fields, in 1955, were bought by the Espírito Santo family, the most powerful banking dynasty in Portugal, who, while exploiting the land, little by little discovered its charms.
They’re the first vacationers to Comporta, soon followed by their elite friends. The Espìrito Santo has always ensured that the region remains as less developed as possible: the concrete wanderings of the Algarve, mass tourism – very little here for those aficionados among us. The jet-setters who invest here rather buy peasant shacks and then dress them up in wicker, linen, seagrass: a thoughtfully studied rusticity results, among those living in Portugal, it’s called the ‘Comporta-style’.
We get the drift here that Quinta da Comporta was conceived to become somewhat like a three-dimensional form of prayer to slowing down, a barrier against the headlong rush. And to wrap that big bundle of a chill-pill up, all around there’s only water, sleeping water. But there’s no need to be suspicious of it. I tried rather to imitate its calm and constancy.
As a tribute to the cultural heritage of the region, built from the love and respect its author feels for the location, Quinta da Comporta offers an inspiring lifestyle through the integration of traditional architectural lines, connection to its natural environment, proximity to the locals and inherent history.
Spacious deluxe and duplex rooms and rooftop suites mirror the typical white houses in the region with distinctive terracotta-tiled rooftops. The exclusive pool villas take shape as the characteristic thatched houses, meanwhile the local barns inspired the restaurant and Oryza spa.
The neutral palette of tones is set by the use of salvaged natural materials of the area, such as wood, wicker, glass and stone with décor motifs designed by local artisans that colour each space with considered rusticity.
Dreamer, Architect, Project Developer and Designer
Internationally known for his talent of interpreting a space and transforming it into something unique, Miguel Câncio Martins’ designs and architecture reflect his respect for harmony and sophistication.
Quinta da Comporta embraces the fundamental pillars of sustainability. The personal connection Miguel Câncio Martins has with the destination reinforced his commitment to perpetuate the sublime authenticity of Comporta, from the preservation of the natural landscape and surrounding ecosystems, to respecting the integration of traditional architecture, the local community and the unique character and history of the location.
The construction project gravitated around the rehabilitation of pre-existing structures and materials throughout the property. The development process was thoughtful and dedicated to privilege a low impact construction concept throughout the resort.
The use of solar panels and the implementation of treatment processes allows for the reuse of residual waters in the gardens; the exclusive use of bikes and electrical buggies inside the resort cuts back on toxic exhausts and cutting-edge methods adapted to deter the mosquitos preserves their ecosystem.
The spirit of the village is celebrated by the reinvention of the lines of old warehouses, fishermen cabanas and typical thatched houses. The eco conscience of the resort prolongs itself into the use of locally sourced materials and artefacts that Portuguese artisans continue to craft genuinely. Bunho and vime, rattan décor details, handcrafted wooden furniture, traditional ceramics and tableware from Caldas da Rainha city and other carefully chosen pieces are an integral part of the experience.
This same concept extends to the resort’s spa with rice as the main element for beauty and wellness treatments, and to its restaurant where local products and seasonal dishes are made with vegetables, fruits, edible flowers and herbs harvested in the resort’s own organic farm.
The sustainability commitment is also tangible in the connection created with its locals and the traditions of the village. The main street that gives access to the resort was revitalised, giving a new dynamic to the area, yet honouring the heritage that characterises the location and that has had an impact on the architect’s life.
You can play golf on award-winning courses, go horse riding or diving. This is an excellent destination for surfing too. The resort includes a heated infinity pool overlooking the rice fields, a restaurant and bar, a cinema lounge and a spa.
All this is just over a couple hours drive away from Lisbon.
photography by Frederic Ducout