COMPORTA 24.2.2016


There is only so much here as you need to rest: walls, a roof and a small platform; a bed, a shower and a small kitchen inside. What really matters is outside.
The horizontal lines of the landscape are formed by the peaceful blue sky, white sand, slow, navy blue–brown waters of the river and dense greenery. It might seem thick reed at first – we are standing by the river after all. However, it turns out that there are rice fields extending just behind the riverside thicket. Definitely surprising if you are in Portugal.


The platform overlooks an old fishing harbour. The high gangways are held only by thin poles. This apparently delicate structure is an ingenious solution which lets the local fishermen access their boats easily during low tide, even when the estuary is very muddy. This is Palafitte – a harbour in Carrasqueira (an hour’s journey from Lisbon), a folk architecture masterpiece unique in Europe.


The surrounding areas are highly valued owing to the natural resources of the Sado River, in whose wide estuary fresh waters mix with the salty ocean. The specific landscape provides good conditions for cultivating rice and is a home for many animals, especially birds. By the riverside there is an untypical hotel: it can only accommodate two guests. Cabanas no Rio (Portuguese for ‘huts by the river’) consists of two small houses with triangular roofs. It has no swimming pool or SPA centre, a marble reception desk or TV sets in the rooms. The unique character of this place stems from simplicity: it satisfies only the basic needs. The lack of typical conveniences allows or even provokes the tourist to engage in direct contact with nature. The wooden huts, each with the surface area of 12 sq. m, resemble fishermen’s cubbyholes which can be seen in the harbour. That was the precise intention of architect Manuel Aires Mateus, who constructed the houses using old, unnecessary planks of the same colour as that of the wooden structures in the harbour. Thus, the existing landscape could be preserved in a virtually unchanged form. ‘This material can be used in various ways, but its nature remains unchanged,’ the designer explains his selection of used wood. The houses develop two spaces. One of them is a sleeping room with a bathroom and a shower – the latter can be used both inside and outside. The other is a living room of sorts with a small kitchen for preparing simple meals. Outside there is a platform with a moored kayak for the guests. You do not need anything else to be close to nature.

Alpa. When the guests at Cabanas no Rio become satisfied with peace and loneliness, they can visit the nearby towns abundant in restaurants serving regional dishes and wines. In the direct vicinity there is also a stud offering horse rides on the beach and a kind of a local travel agency which rents boats to watch dolphins and organizes guided tours of bird breeding grounds. A night costs EUR 200 (breakfast and daily tiding included).