Dreaming of a beach holiday in Portugal? Many of us are planning a great escape as soon as it's possible to travel. The big question is: do you opt for the sandy havens of Comporta or the Algarve? Your choice will depend on the kind of beach life and activities you prefer. With this in mind, here are a few ideas from our own travel experiences, and our pick of the best luxury villas to rent in Portugal…
Comporta or the Algarve this Summer?
The Algarve, a popular holiday destination since the 1960s, offers beautiful sandy beaches and coves backed by golden cliffs, as well as a long and fascinating history. As a year-round holiday destination with its mild winters, the Algarve is inevitably much busier and more crowded, than the more recently popular Comporta, which offers a quieter and more alternative vibe. Just a one-hour drive from Lisbon airport, and with around 65 km of pristine beaches, Comporta was originally known for its rice fields, salt works, and fishing communities. However, the area known as the Herdade da Comporta, has been carefully developed since the early 1990s, initially by Portugal’s most powerful banking dynasty. It’s now an exclusive summer destination, attracting royalty and film stars who flock here to enjoy its natural beauty, and its casual and relaxing ‘hippy chic’ atmosphere.
The development of Comporta has all been done very sympathetically in terms of architecture and sustainability. Only cottages, bungalows and villas are allowed (no high-rise buildings), and there’s plenty of green space in between properties. From building homes to restaurants and shops, nature has been respected, which makes the ambiance at Comporta very special. The pine trees and rice paddies remain undisturbed, organic vegetables and fruit are produced locally, and the wildlife (mainly flamingos, herons, and storks) is respected. Most of the transport here tends to be by bicycle or golf buggy.
Speaking of golf buggies, there are several very good golf courses in the area, including the Troia Championship Golf Course (designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior, and voted 25th best European Golf Course by Golf World in 2003) and Comporta Dunes, with more courses planned. There are also plenty of beach and countryside restaurants to try, including our favourite, Museu do Arroz. This is one the earliest Comporta restaurants and serves regional cuisine inside a charmingly renovated rice warehouse, or on its terrace overlooking the rice fields. We also recommend Sal Restaurant, a fish restaurant on Praia do Pego beach, Comfort Caféon sandy Comporta beach and O Dinis Bar do Pescadores, which serves fresh fish from the catch of the day at Carvalhal beach
Top villas to rent in Comporta
We feature a fabulous selection of 24 luxury villas in Comporta - and most of our villas are very close to the beach. Here are a few to give you a flavour…starting with the 8-bedroom Villa Pavoa. Set in a rural location near the small village of Carvalhal, the villa is just a short walk from Pego Beach. The accommodation is in three traditional thatched cabanas, all with high ceilings and French windows opening to private terraces, with views of the pool and rice fields beyond.
As its name suggests, Villa Pego Beach is a short walk from Pego Beach. This 6-bedroom villa has been architecturally designed for both style and comfort, as well as blending with its natural surroundings, including native pine trees and sand dunes. On top of the house, there’s a sunny furnished terrace with a stunning private pool which can be heated on request.
Situated in Lagoa Formosa, between the beaches of Carvalhal and Praia do Pego, Villa Formosa offers quintessential Comporta chic and is architecturally inspired by traditional fishermen’s houses with the addition of plush bohemian interiors. Sleeps 10.
Looking for a large villa in Comporta? Casa Branca is a stunning new property in a quiet location 30 km from the Comporta beaches, in a Mediterranean landscape with beautiful 300-year-old olive trees. Here, guests will be tempted to spend much of their holiday at the villa relaxing in the sunshine, enjoying the infinity swimming pool and other amenities such as a gym, bicycles, and a beach volley court. Sleeps 12.
Beach holidays in the Algarve
The Algarve region, being much larger, offers a much more diverse landscape, and has also been a popular destination for decades. With 3000 years of history, the Algarve has been invaded and inhabited at different times since the Stone Age, by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and Moors. For those interested in history, there is plenty to discover in the old towns here, in terms of castles, cathedrals, fortifications, and ruins. Add to this, beautiful sandy beaches and a sunny climate all year round, as well as picturesque fishing villages, mountains, rivers, golf courses, water sports, and excellent cuisine and wine – and there are plenty of reasons to visit the Algarve!
Inevitably, all the pluses of the Algarve do make the area very popular as a holiday base, but certain areas are very built-up and can be very crowded in high season. Many of our holiday villas here tend to be in the quieter Western Algarve, within an easy drive of the historic walled coastal town of Lagos, with its origins dating back as far as 2000 BC. With its 15th-century walls and cobbled streets, the Old Town quarter is a must-see attraction for visitors. Highlights include the 18th-century church of Igreja de Santo António and the watchtowers of the Baroque Castelo dos Governadores. An ancient maritime city, Lagos is now renowned for its picturesque, sheltered beaches with sandy coves, framed by rock formations, which offer some of the best swimming and windsurfing opportunities on Portugal’s coast. Don’t leave the town of Lagos (particularly if you’re self-catering) without exploring its fish market, with its wide variety of fresh seafood, as well as local farmers’ produce, including fruit and vegetables, almonds, olives, and cheeses.
Less than 30 minutes drive further west from Lagos, is the charming fishing village of Salema, part of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and the Algarve coast. With a beautiful sandy beach. Salema is also one of the few communities in Portugal which has a small indigenous fishing fleet of traditional colourful boats, and freshly caught fish can be enjoyed in the local restaurants on the same night. The sandy gently sloping beach is ideal for swimming and, with a Blue Flag certification (meeting high standards for water quality and safety), it’s safe for children. We have two very charming beach houses right on the sand here, Salema Beachside 1 (sleeping 4), and Salema Beachside 2 (sleeping up to 8)
Large villas in the Algarve
If you’re seeking a large villa to rent in the Algarve, we also offer three wonderful options. Villa Salema View, Praia da Salema,and Villa Salema - all situated on the cliff top of Praia de Salema, facing south, with breath-taking views over Salema beach and the sea.
Another interesting area to consider is the idyllic Galé Beach, one of the region’s longest stretches of coast, bordering the Salgados nature reserve, which offers bird watching, walking, and biking opportunities all year round. Guests can also enjoy a variety of local restaurant options from casual to fine dining, including the world-famous piri-piri chicken from the nearby town of Guia, which many claim offers the best piri piri chicken in Portugal. The restaurant, Ramires, which created the original recipe, is still there and is one of the most popular restaurants in the area. Our stunning Villa Hibiscusis situated right on the edge of Galé Beach and has large furnished terraces and a swimming pool overlooking the sea.
Active pursuits and golfing in the Algarve
While the Algarve is one of Portugal’s most popular destinations, it’s also very diverse, so it’s worth researching the different areas to decide which one will best suit your interests. The Algarve offers many leisure options whether it be exploring historical sights, visiting wineries, birdwatching, golf, hiking, cycling, surfing, water skiing, sailing, diving, deep-sea fishing, and sailboat cruises. The Algarve is also famous as a major hotspot for golfers all year round – unsurprisingly, given it offers 31 golf courses in total, 10 of which have been especially recommended by Leading Courses.
We also offer an impressive villa, Casa Alto do Cerro on the Eastern Algarve, in a quiet location, just a few minutes’ drive from the charming town of Loulé. This 5-bedroom villa benefits from spectacular views over its beautifully landscaped gardens and swimming pool to the sea. Loulé, originally a Roman settlement, with the remains of an ancient castle in its old quarter with cobbled streets, offers a variety of bars, cafés, restaurants, and shops. An indoor market selling delicious fish, fruit and vegetables, olives, and cheese is held every day except Saturday, in an impressive Moorish-style market hall on the Praça da República. The beaches and golf courses of Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago are around 20 minutes’ drive.
We also offer many more beautiful villas to rent in Portugal and other beach holiday locations:
Mallorca, Ibiza, Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Crete, Corfu, Zakynthos