Geotourism makes its mark on Portugal

18 September 2009

Geotourism - tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place,its environment, its culture and the well-being of its residents - is becoming an increasingly popular holiday choice for many European tourists.

With the 8th Annual European Geoparks Conference being held in Portugal from 14 to 16 September, the country is fast establishing a reputation for itself as a world class geotourism destination.

In particular, the 4617 square km Naturtejo geopark supported by UNESCO , boasts a rich geological heritage. The geopark, located approximately 200 km from the Portuguese capital Lisbon, is characterized by a range of ancient landscapes including river gorges, waterfalls, granite landforms and a historical Roman gold mine - the Conhal do Arneiro.

Activities on offer here include a 439 km trekking network made up of short and long walking trails, boat trips, and kayaking opportunities in the River Tagus and River Zêzere. For the less adventurous, a minibus tour taking in some of the geological highlights of the park can be arranged, as well as stopovers in historical villages that surround the area. The Azores and Porto Santo Islands also offer similar geotourism opportunities.

Miguel Perestrello, the Portuguese Director for Tourism in the UK, said, “Geotourism is an effective way of stimulating economic activity whilst promoting sustainable tourism. We want to want to offer a whole range of tourism products, starting from the typical sun and sea holiday to the Geotourism or Ecotourism nature breaks which encourage the preservation of our geological heritage and natural surroundings.”

Portugal’s varied landscape also makes it possible to participate in bird watching programmes across a whole range of natural habitats including mountain ranges, estuaries, cliff tops, cork oak plantations and coastal lagoons. Just minutes away from Lisbon, the River Tagus Estuary is home to over 100 species of birds and a bird watching experience can be easily built into your travel itinerary.

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