Nature tourism in Lousã: a glimpse into the past

Benefiting from the idyllic scenery of the Lousã saw, nature tourism is highly popular, having experienced a post-pandemic boost. Mainly found in the area surrounding the Schist Villages, this category of tourism is characterized by responsible traveling that aims to conserve the environment, involving activities in the countryside and the improvement of local welfare.

Schist house located in Casal Novo

Lousã´s mountain range offers a series of activities that delight nature lovers, such as nature trails, star gazing, a castle dating back to the 7th century, adventure sports (like motocross) or the observation of the existing wildlife.

According to tourist guide José Gaspar, there was a post-pandemic increase in demand for nature tourism stating that the Schist Villages were so crowded during this time period that people were unable to move freely. Despite this increase, the amount of local accommodations remained the same.  The tour guide continues arguing that unlike many other kinds of tourism, this one doesn´t generate as much carbon emissions, instead promotes the safe-guarding of wildlife and also educates people. Apart from that, it also plays a key role in the dynamization of the local economy, especially after the refurbishment and renovation of the old schist villages.  As most of the residents are temporary, many of the abandoned houses are now local accommodation (like Airbnb’s) and therefore most traditions and original culture were lost.

Manuel Carvalho, actor and property owner in Casal Novo, said he rents the houses to increase his monthly budget, recalling, from his window pane, the changes he has been witnessing in the saw since he first bought his house back in 1997, namely the disappearance of many native plants. Unfortunately, most of the land of the tree ranges is owned by private individuals.  Due to this, some of the owners end up cutting down the trees and doing “whatever they want” with the land, making changes in the native landscape. These actions may have an impact on tourist numbers, because some of them might think their expectations are not met.

Carvalho thinks that life in these villages depends on the village’s revival, despite reservations some locals have regarding this refurbishment, opposing it, fueled by nostalgia and fearful of an identity loss. The actor is however an avid defender of the phenomenon arguing that if it stops,  the municipality will die a slow death.

In Lousã mountain ranges, there is a lot of concern and investment in order to keep the best possible conditions to attract tourists. These activities play a big economic role in this region despite the difficult balance between tourism and sustainability.

Gustavo Santos, Inês Amaral, Roze Aleksa Bogdane, Sara Mifsud, Tjaša Tanja Marolt