Sustainability has become a global concern, so traveling should be a more conscious action because respecting the environment is increasingly imperative. At the Berlin tourism fair, Portugal was elected as the most sustainable destination in Europe, highlighting 9 Portuguese destinations which promote a more sustainable tourism.
1. Alto Minho
Alto Minho is a sustainable destination thanks to measures to reduce energy consumption. All Alto Minho municipalities voluntarily have joined the European Commission initiative “Pact of Mayors”, committing themselves to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources in the territory, in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 20% by 2020, and thus contribute to the European Union as a whole fulfilling the objectives outlined in the framework of the Energy-Climate Package in 2020. Alto Minho is also the only Portuguese sub-region totally certified by the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. In order to encourage the use of means of transport that cause less environmental impact, an action plan was put in place to Sustainable Urban Mobility. There are ecological trails and several walking routes, with itineraries that stimulate the discovery of nature and culture of Alto Minho. The only existing national park in Portugal, National Parque of Peneda Gerês, is part of the Alto Minho region and is classified as a World Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. Bertiandos and Corno de Bico are also two Protected Landscapes and the Natural Park of the North Coast and the Minho and Coura estuaries, represent habitats of different species.
Águeda has been promoting the upgrading and enhancement of its spaces to improve sustainable tourism, through its history and culture. The city seeks to combine technology and innovation with tourism offerings, an example of which are the new mobile applications to help tourists discover the territory. Águeda bet on mobility, the municipality wants to implement a network of urban bike lanes, pedestrian trails and car-free areas. There is a project called Águeda, which seeks to encourage citizens to use public electric bicycles. In addition, they intend to create solutions for public structures, with regard to water consumption, since they are not always the most appropriate, due to the conditions of the equipment, leading to water waste. Thus, a measure was proposed and applied to public buildings, leisure spaces, green spaces, public toilets, sports venues, etc., in order to reduce water consumption and contribute to the implementation of the National Program for the Efficient Use of Water (PNUEA ).
3. West Region
The West Region of the country consists of 12 municipalities that promote development and quality of life. The beaches have an excellent status according to the directives of the European Union and people with reduced mobility have not been forgotten, because there are about 16 beaches that are accessible to them. More than 31 million euros have been raised in applications for European and national financing, including projects with direct application to the municipalities in the area. It is estimated that the total savings will be around 4.7 million euros per year, from an environmental point of view and in the contribution to the fight against climate change, avoiding annual emissions of around 15000 tons of CO2. A large part of the territory is a protected natural area, so 87% of the West Region cannot be built on. The region boasts the largest underwater reef in Europe, Nazaré. The cultural heritage of the region is shown in the form of restored museums and historic buildings, including the Monastery of Alcobaça, which has been distinguished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4. Torres Vedras
Torres Vedras has been promoting environmental awareness among its citizens, having even created an Environmental Education Center, with the purpose of showing the importance of reducing water consumption, as well as the reuse of treated wastewater and the use of water from the city. Torres Vedras has 20 km of coastal area and seeks to protect and promote biodiversity. Sustainable urban mobility is an essential pillar in this municipality’s sustainable development strategy, being implemented according to different levels of approach and operationalization instruments. The Mobility Strategy aimed, on the one hand, to diagnose the main weaknesses of the current transport system in the city of Torres Vedras, and on the other hand, to define a set of measures aimed at improving mobility and quality of life throughout the city, the bicycle being a transport option that the municipality considers healthy, practical and accessible to the majority of the population, without fuel consumption fossils, without atmospheric emissions and with low noise levels.
5. Serras do Socorro e da Archeira
The Protected Landscape of the Serras do Socorro e da Archeira (PPLSSA) consists of the Serra do Socorro, Archeira, Galharda and Monte Deixo. The first two deserve more prominence, but the 1,223 hectares of protected landscape in the municipality of Torres Vedras are distributed by the Parishes of Turcifal and União das Freguesia de Dois Portos and Runa, also covering areas of the Union of Parishes of Santa Maria, São Pedro and Matacães. The flora stands out in agricultural and forest areas, lined with the water lines. The fauna has countless species of small mammals, butterflies and birds. It is a place rich in nature, history, culture and landscape.
In the report on the Sustainable Index of the Territory of Sintra 2020, Sintra remains above the average of Portugal with 69.7%. This document is based on 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, 169 goals and 244 indicators, which define the priorities and aspirations for the global sustainable development of the 2030 agenda, and analyzes the global indicators with applicability to the local reality, seeking to maintain coherence and the alignment between the various levels of analysis (global, national and local). Sintra is a coastal destination and many of its beaches have been rated as excellent, considering the quality of the water. In addition, it preserves one of the country’s greatest architectural and natural treasures, recognized in 1995 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sintra was one of the first municipalities to create a strategic plan to combat climate change.
Considered by Green Destinations as a sustainable destination, Cascais invested in reducing CO2 emissions by more than 20% by 2020. The municipality has been promoting the use of sustainable mobility, placing free bicycles at the service of citizens in various locations in the city. Environmental education is also a major focus for the municipality, which promotes guided tours of local and natural culture, and historical heritage in the Pisão Natural Park. At the Pedra do Sal Environmental Interpretation Center (CIAPS), the first public “Zero Energy building” in Portugal, you can also learn about the area’s coastal biodiversity. Cascais’ priority is to achieve sustainable development, which guarantees the pursuit of human needs at economic and social level, without jeopardizing future generations and respecting the ecological limits of the planet. The defense of the environment appears as one of the strategic vectors for the autarchy.
Lagos is part of the ECOXXI Project, coordinated by the Blue Flag of Europe Association, aimed to identify and recognize good sustainability practices developed at the level of the municipalities, and valuing a set of aspects considered fundamental to the construction of sustainable development, based on the pillars of education for sustainability and environmental quality. Lagos has won several awards for its sustainable practices. More than 60% of its territory is a natural conservation area and all of its beaches as well as the Lagos marina have the Blue Flag. Cultural heritage is present in prominent monuments and historic buildings, with the municipality betting on the preservation of local traditions, heritage and culture. Several hotels in Lagos have made commitments regarding sustainability, reducing the environmental impact of tourism and responding to an intensification of environmental awareness.
In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean rises the archipelago of the Azores, consisting of nine volcanic islands. Here you can walk through breathtaking landscapes in coastal forests, enjoy the warm waters, waterfalls and natural pools, or whale watching, canoeing, horse riding, among many other activities. Azores are known for promoting their sustainability, taking into account their rich geodiversity and marine life, as well as natural areas with well-regulated hiking trails. Renewable energies are also going strong. The Regional Water Plan of the Autonomous Region of the Azores, supports the rational use of water. In addition, companies in the tourism sector are guaranteeing long-term social and economic benefits.
It is important that all of us, as individuals, think about ways to make our lives more sustainable, in order to protect our planet in the present and or a better future.