Ecotourism and how to enjoy it in the Algarve

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ecotourism algarve joao ministro

The “father” of the Via Algarviana

João Ministro didn’t start the Via Algarviana but he has worked on it from the beginning and knows it really well. Through his company Proactive Tur he has made a tremendous impact on sustainable tourism and ecotourism in the Algarve. Nick sat down with him in his Loulé office and discussed a huge range of issues.

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Ecotourism in the Algarve show notes

  • ProActiveTur started in Querença and has since moved to Loulé.
  • João was born in Loulé, studied Environmental Engineering at the University of the Algarve and was naturally drawn to ecotourism.
  • He worked for a public institution in Setúbal and around the beautiful Sado Estuary.
  • He returned to work in Almargem.
  • We discuss the changes in the Algarve over the last 30 years and the interior has changed radically with urbanisation fuelling a migration to the larger towns and cities.
  • He has always worked with nature, growing up on his fathers farm, so it was a natural move to continue in this area in his career. Sustainable development.
  • The Via Algarviana is ecotourism defined. Walking and biking 300km across the entire Algarve.
  • In 2001 a conversation started in how to attract more people to the countryside and in 2009 it opened. In 2004 João and his team toured the villages to explain the concept. It was quite strange for the locals to understand why people would walk for so long and so far. We discuss the origins of the Via Algarviana, going back to historical times.
  • Doing the Via Algarviana by horse, donkey, bicycle and foot.
  • The experience differs a lot depending on the season in which you travel:
    • spring for flowers (high season),
    • autumn is good for farming olives and medronho,
    • autumn near Cape St Vincent for birds.
  • Traditional foods along the route: soup with chickpeas and beans, stews, pork from Monchique, fish near Cape St Vincent.
  • Where to sleep on the Via Algarviana: “wild camping is not allowed but not forbidden” 🙂 . Old schools are good places to ask to sleep as are the Fire Stations.
  • No permit required, you can just go and walk the route based on the maps on the Via Algarviana site or contact a tour operator like João’s company Proactive Tur. Here is one of the packages on offer: http://in2south.pt/en/programas/7caminhadas/56as-melhores-caminhadas-do-algarve-8-dias-guiado
  • Dinosaur footsteps and amazing geology, archeology
  • Joao’s recommendations for enjoying Natural Tourism in the Algarve:
    • West Coast,
    • Monchique,
    • Serra do Caldeirão for cork and natural trails,
    • Castro Marim for sea salt and birds,
    • Ria Formosa for birds and food,
    • Alcoutim for rich stories archaeology,
    • Loulé and Querença for botanical reasons with endemic flowers and plants plus good quiet roads for cycling in the mountains.
    • The bottom line is there is huge diversity here in the Algarve.
    • The photographic light is incredible and the opportunity is immense all year round.
  • João has no favourite town in the Algarve, they all have their different attractive characteristics. We talk about the role of history in creating interest in certain locations: “immaterial culture” in the Algarve.
  • Local crafts also tell a story of the area you’re in. Project TASA, one of João’s initiatives, teaches young people these old fashioned techniques to create traditional products: “The primary mission of TASA is to bring strategic innovation to the craft industry, ensuring its place as a profession of the future”.
  • Ameixial Walking Festival triples the population of the village for one weekend of the year. Always the last weekend of April.
  • A new energy in the Algarve is blowing through the region: the popularity of different events like Trail Running, Stand Up Paddle, Share Algarve, Algarve Bike Challenge all reflect this new feeling of collaboration through sharing. It is infectious!

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