The all-important topic of sustainability is seeping its way more and more into today’s tourism industry. No more so than in Portugal, where last September I had the pleasure of visiting some of the villages in the stunning Serra da Estrela mountain range.
It was the ideal spot to combine eco-conscious values with the exciting concept of seeing all the world has to offer – the perfect recipe for guilt-free travel!
Serra da Estrela
Guided by Dra Célia Gonçalves, Executive Director for Aldeias de Montanha (the Mountain Villages project), I was introduced to some fascinating locals across the Center of Portugal.
The mountain villages are built on character, community and craft – all tied together by natural resources. As my time there went on, I came to realise that the villages were truly interconnected, with busy hands working harmoniously to sustain both the land and its inhabitants.
Is there anything more appealing than the idea of furthering your career while visiting some of the world’s most spectacular locations? Serra da Estrela’s answer to circular economy offers just the opportunity.
We visited three co-working spaces –one in Lapa dos Dinheiros, one in Videmonte and one in Alvoco das Várzea.
All three are well-equipped with the connectivity and technology required to take on workers from all backgrounds.
This project aims to connect the mountain villages with the rest of the globe, inviting remote workers and digital nomads from all over to work from the area.
Each of these spaces is decorated using upcycled furnishings and locally sourced materials, including refurbished office furniture and tapestries designed and woven at the Burel Wool Factory in the nearby village of Manteigas.
Burel Wool Factory
The Burel Factory is the birthplace of trendy, colourful and cosy products for all uses and occasions. The factory has a zero-waste policy, using all waste material in the development of future projects.
The factory prides itself on using 100% locally sourced wool from high in the Serra da Estrella mountains, from the indigenous bordaleira and churra sheep breeds.
Lisbon-based designer Sandra Pinho teamed up with the Burel Factory in a project celebrating and honouring the hardworking and dedicated women cheesemakers of Serra da Estrela.
Pinho designed an elegant cape to give recognition to the queijeiras, the women who have been providing the region with its treasured regional cheese for generations.
The capes will be sold and the profit used to provide further training and tools to the cheesemakers in order to continue their legacy and keep the industry operating for years to come.
The process of The Quiejeiras Project will be documented in a book titled As Histórias das Guardiãs da Montanha (The Stories of the Guardians of the Mountain).
The passion for local produce is evident across the region, each village facilitating the creation of food products unique to Serra da Estrela.
Stopping off in Videmonte, we visited the village’s community oven, where locals gather as a group to bake. I had the opportunity to join in as a team of passionate residents worked together methodically and speedily to make rye bread.
After spending a week in the region, I really grew to appreciate the simplicity of life in these quaint little villages. The hard work involved in keeping the region running efficiently and sustainably comes naturally to the locals, each taking on their own role in a cooperative community.
A huge thanks to Visit Portugal for inviting me along on this trip.