Experience a sustainable Portugal

Portugal is emerging as one of the most popular vacation destinations in Europe, and that shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, Portugal has a pleasant – and diverse – climate, a remarkable digital infrastructure, and also puts a lot of emphasis on maintaining the integrity of the environment. Newly built eco-settlements dot the country, and the Portuguese government has been pursuing a consistent course in environmental protection for years. An ideal destination for ecological and sustainable vacations? Yes – but not only! Portugal is also becoming increasingly popular for so-called digital nomads, people who can work mainly remotely. Let's start with some numbers that already tell us a lot about Portugal and then look at topics like flora and fauna, sustainable projects as well as the topic of organic accommodations in Portugal.

Some facts about the country

  • - The Western European country on the Iberian Peninsula has an area of just over 92,000 km². Portugal includes the islands of the Azores and Madeira. The cultural and political history of Portugal dates back to ancient times, with the current national territory forming around the 11th century. If you are interested in the history of this small nation, you can find a lot of good reading about it on the Internet.
  • - The Portuguese population currently numbers in the region of 10 million citizens, has more than doubled since 1900 and also increased between 2018 and 2021 despite the economic consequences of the Corona pandemic. Still, Portugal has one of the oldest populations in the world today. We'll get to that below. A population density of 112 inhabitants per km² means that you can still find many rural retreats in Portugal. By comparison, France has a comparably low population density of 106, while Germany lies well above that with 232.
  • - By far the largest group of migrants without Portuguese citizenship are – no great surprise – Brazilians; linguistic proximity makes this possible.
  • - In Portugal, tourism is now responsible for nearly 9 percent of GDP, with most visitors coming from the United Kingdom as well as neighboring Spain. In 2016, Portugal was the 30th most visited country in the world with almost 12 million tourists (with the Algarve as the center) and in the following 5 years it could be observed that tourism became even more important for the country.
  • - And to conclude, an interesting fact: Portugal comes from the Latin Portus Cale, where Porto of course means port and Cale most probably means calidus, warm. The Romans referred to the emerging urban environment around their fortress complex in Porto – now a major city with a population of over 230,000 – as “warm port.”

Portuguese flora and fauna

Let's take a look at the topics of flora and fauna, something that usually interests us in our country overviews. And here, too, we can see that Portugal is a very diverse country. Many tourists may only know the Portuguese south coast with its picturesque towns, beaches and cliffs. But the country has much more to offer than the Algarve.

The north of Portugal is relatively cool and humid and, simply put, consists of two traditional landscapes:

  • - The Minho, in the northwest, is one of the most densely populated areas of the country. This area is called “the green garden of Portugal” because of its climate and generous vegetation.
  • - In the northeast is Trás-os-Montes (which means “behind the mountains”). This side of the country away from the sea tends to be more mountainous and is characterized by hot summers as well as cold winters. The year-round vegetation is less pronounced than in the former area and becomes more sparse toward the border with Spain.

If you like winter sports, you will probably love Central Portugal. This largely hilly to mountainous region offers a number of opportunities to get active in the winter months. And the south of Portugal is mainly composed of the landscapes Terras do Sado, Alentejo and the already mentioned Algarve. In general, it can be said that the climate there is very dry and hot; the surface of this southern region is also either flat to somewhat hilly.

If you are familiar with the fauna of Spain, you basically already know almost everything there is to know about the animal world of Portugal. The pardelluchs, which is still known in Spanish parts of the Iberian Peninsula, is most likely already extinct in Portugal; wolves, on the other hand, are no longer found in Spain, but still in parts of Portugal. It is interesting to note that Portugal lies on some important migratory bird routes leading from Eastern, Northern and Central Europe towards Africa. So for passionate ornithologists, Portugal would have to be very high on the list of possible vacation countries, especially seasonally.

From us with heart

In this section we take a look at sustainable, ecologically meaningful projects that have aroused our interest in the respective country presented. As far as Portugal is concerned, we do not want to present you a single initiative, but a whole group of diverse projects. These are eco-settlements, as we also know them in Western Europe, but in Portugal they have become so popular that one can speak of a real movement.

Eco-settlement in Portuguese is called ecoaldeias (very similar to “ecoaldeas” in Spanish) and today there are numerous ecoaldeias all over Portugal. The Ecoaldeia de Janas settlement is just one example of many.

But why are so many Portuguese interested in living in an ecoaldeia? This is where the aforementioned problem with Portugal's increasingly aging population comes into play again. Many of the oldest people are drawn to more urban environments because the options for care and healthcare are simply better there. Farms and, in some cases, small settlements are left behind. But growing old together and “taking care of each other” is also returning and is once again high on the agenda. Old and sometimes abandoned villages are being rebuilt and repopulated with young families. Many of these projects offer so-called “turismo rural”, that is, what we like to call “farm vacations”: Feeling, experiencing and – if desired – helping out are on the program here.

Of course, ecoaldeias each have different ideals, goals and programs; but for the most part they are based on clear ecological principles, on mutual social responsibility between generations, and on traditional agriculture and the preservation of old handicrafts.

Stay tuned: New organic accommodations in Portugal

We have been running some organic accommodations in Spain for a while now, such as this fascinating organic hotel in Andalusia, which is very close to the border to Portugal. Soon you can look forward to exciting organic accommodations in Portugal, some of which are also attractive for digital nomads. Just keep following our blog and you won't miss anything.