Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Over the past years, I heard a few times that Comporta, a village, and peninsula about 1.5hrs south of Lisbon, is a bit of a hidden gem. So with no plans for 2020 Christmas, as family gatherings had been canceled mostly, we decided to drive the 6 hours from Madrid to the Portuguese coast. The first impressions were surprising - a mix of wild beaches and dunes, rice fields, pine forests, as well as traditional and extremely stylish and modern houses. We opted to stay at the Quinta da Comporta, which we loved. But there are plenty of great accommodations in the area, from hotels to Airbnb's to campgrounds. Because of the hotels' location, I started most runs south of Comporta, in a village called Carvalhal.
I had the time to explore 3 main areas for running:
- the rice fields stretching from our hotel to Comporta (light red on the map)
- the northern part of the peninsula around Troia, the dark red area, and
- the dunes and pine forests next to the rice fields, highlighted in yellow above
Let's start with the rice fields. At first, they looked, at least for me, overwhelming and complicated, but it is simply a stretch of canals from north to south, with several trails in parallel or 90 degrees to them, crossing via small bridges. As you can expect, the area is completely flat and super-
easy to run. I guess it depends on the time of the year, but the fields were PACKED with birds of all sorts, which was super impressive, including some huge storks and herons. On my first run, I crossed the dunes to a "secret" beach, called Praia dos Brejos. The hidden trail is on the same height as a small pump station, which will serve as a marker to know when to "turn left" (i.e. head West). This beach, but that is true for the entire coastline I saw, is stunning and at least in the winter months (of COVID...), there is no one else, except some fisherman.
As expected, running on sand is hard. I got lucky once when the tides were pleasant and the stretches close to the water were firm enough to run on, but even that was tough. Even harder was running on the ATV-made trails in the dunes, where the sand is super loose. While it sounds extremely romantic, and the views are incredible, it hurt me badly after a few days. I even tried some Skinners for semi-barefoot running, but have to say that didn't convince me either. Likely just a matter of practice. The yellow area on the map above shows a dune run, where I chose the beach for one way, and the dunes, including the pine forest area, for the way back.
One run I truly enjoyed was along the entire rice field, south to north until I reached the village of Comporta. From there, I was heading east crossing the tiny villages of Cambado and Carrasqueira. My goal was the old wooden pier Cais Palafítico da Carrasqueira, supposedly a worthy sunset picture opportunity. I'd say it didn't disappoint.
The run was around 17 km and super easy orientation-wise, and as previously mentioned, everything is super flat.
The last area worth mentioning that I had a chance to explore was the northern end of the peninsula itself, the darker reddish area on the map above. I needed to take the car
and parked next to the road when the first houses showed up in Sol Troia. From there, there is a paved bike lane next to the road that is pleasant to run. I chose the beach for the first part, which was relatively easy due to low-tide and the resulting firm ground. I can't truly vouch for the views and the landscape, because there was heavy fog. Again, the run is super flat, I met maybe one other person on the entire run. The village of Troia at the tip of the peninsula was dead, everything was closed, and the fog gave it a pretty dystopian feeling.
Overall, I loved running in Comporta. For me, it was a nice change from hilly Bilbao to something more manageable. The landscape is stunning and I loved the combination of wild and deserted beaches, the dunes with the pine forests, and the somewhat unexpected rice fields. Lots of fun stuff to be done besides running, from taking the ferry to Lisbon (well, Setúbal to be precise), horseback riding, fat tire e-bikes, and more. We had a great time.