I am not a fan of thematic routes as a solution to organise the tourism offer of a destination. In my opinion, although they are effective in theory (this is what we learn as tourism students :b), when put into practice that is not always the reality.
Still, as in everything there are exceptions. Therefore, I am going to tell you a little bit about the Portuguese Historic Villages Network.
This route comprises 12 genuine, full of history villages, being those: Almeida, Belmonte, Castelo Mendo, Castelo Novo, Castelo Rodrigo, Idanha-a-Velha, Linhares da Beira, Marialva, Monsanto, Piódão, Sortelha e Trancoso.
Created back in 2007, the network is managed by the private association “Aldeias Históricas de Portugal” (Portuguese Historic Villages) and has as main goals: promote these villages as a brand; establish a tourism strategy to qualify the network as a tourism product; work on the development of an investment policy to attract investors to the region; promote cultural activities in order to promote and preserve the region heritage. And, with all these policies and strategies it contributes to the social, economical and cultural development of those villages and its surroundings.
For me, this project is an example of how and for what tourism should be planned and implemented. They looked at the territory and identified its unique characteristics, something peerless, that tells a story, that as the power to touch the visitors, make them reflect, surprise them. An endogenous resource that will stand out among its competitors.
This approach has not only the power to create striking tourism products, but also servers as an agent for the preservation of material and immaterial heritage.
Besides its importance for each village on itself, the creation of this network was also a relevant instrument to implement a logic of networking tourism, specially trough the creation of tourism packs and experiences that foments the circulation of tourists around the historic villages.
All these policies led to the restoration of the villages, which are in a very good state of preservation! As predictable their revitalisation attracted more business and boosted the local economy. Sure, if you visit some of these villages they are still small agglomerates, where you will find shepherds and farmers, but also, some really nice small tourism establishments (as Casas do Coro, Kasas do Serado, Casa da Cisterna, CARYA TALLAYA – Casas de Campo, Natura Glamping – which I worte about here: https://viatoriusblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/lodging-natura-glamping-fundao/ – and many more!!), a good and diverse asset of tourism attractions and many sporty activities! So, there’s plenty to see & do in the region! From nature, to history and culture, to relaxation, there is something for everyone!!
Casas do Coro
Casa da Cisterna
If all this was not enough there is still other project I love about this network. They what to be innovative, to create something that will catch the tourist attention, which led them to develop their own products.
In my opinion this is what establishes the difference between the Portuguese Historic Villages Network and many other networks that exist in Portugal and all over the world.
Basically, some of the products were created based on these villages history, others were recreations of old traditions and now each of them represents a village, its history and the legacy left by all the tribes that passed there. For now, they have already created:
“Slippers that tell stories”
“Legends of your History”
All of these products have an important role in the social and economic development of these villages, while also serving as an instrument to preserve traditions, techniques and materials.
I hope I was able to transmit what I believe to be the spirit of this network!
Another important feature of these villages is their connection to the Jews heritage. In fact, in the region visitors can find many material and immaterial traces of the Jewish religion. Being an important piece of the region history this network developed a project with the aim to value this heritage and the products, the people and the traditions related with it.
This was just a sneak peak on what this villages have to offer, but I encourage you to get lost in the interior of Portugal and find out more! Our history is one of our best strengths as a country and as a tourism destination and these villages reflect that pride in our history. There visitors breath mystery, feel the ancient times, are stunned by the natural beauty of the region and are pleasantly surprised the quality experience they’ll have, all these while learning a little bit more about Portugal and the world!
If I was able to sharpen your curiosity investigate more on the official website: http://www.aldeiashistoricasdeportugal.com/en/