Xistopedia

“Those who seek find themselves. Whoever visits the Aldeias do Xisto is transformed”

“Those who seek find themselves. Whoever visits the Aldeias do Xisto is transformed”
villages and territory
__

When Portugal looks at itself it’s not just a maritime country. At the same time it is made up of villages and agriculture. It also has an understanding of nature, and the human relationships which define the Portuguese so well. Inland, there are the Aldeias do Xisto, a land full of undiscovered dreams that Rui Simão, the Executive Coordinator of ADXTUR - Schist Villages Tourism Development Agency, described to us. Learn more about this national identity.

The Aldeias do Xisto Network is a sustainable development project that functions at a regional and supra-municipal level, bringing together 20 local authorities and over 200 public and private stakeholders in the Central Region of Portugal. From the outset, its primary mission focused on the recovery of communities, starting with infrastructure such as sanitation, water and telecommunications, but not only that. It was also important to raise the population’s self-esteem, and re-establish an idea of a future that had long been lost in time. “The stone age”, is how Rui Simão, our interviewee, characterised this first phase, which was the start of the birth of hope – something basic, but as dignified as the reconstruction of façades, roofs, community spaces and public buildings.

Having successfully overcome this challenge and with the Aldeias do Xisto Network now in place, the river beaches, the footpaths and a handful of partners in the field of tourism were also included.
The second phase, curiously titled “growing pains”, focused on extending the offer, increasing awareness, expressing the fundamental values of the Aldeias do Xisto brand, such as the vitality of the communities, appreciation of the way of life, social responsibility, individual and collective well-being, nature conservation, and the spirit of togetherness. With this stage completed, there were already more than one hundred accommodation units and a huge number of people who were proud to be part of this project.

Step by step the third phase was reached – the transformation of awareness into business. The development towards a project capable of creating, producing and designing quality goods and services that are above all representative of the area’s cultural identity, an identity that has been prepared to reach both national and international ears.
With more than 500 rooms brought together on Book in Xisto (an exclusive booking platform, available in five languages, operating under the principles of fair trade, and with all the information needed to make the experience even more unforgettable), the Aldeias do Xisto present the most amazing experiences that the interior of Portugal has to offer. Today, it is possible to pinpoint its exact location on the map. Does that seem irrelevant? Let’s not forget that sometimes the most vibrant landscapes are also the most unfamiliar. ADXTUR has the pride and courage to present these destinations, once again graceful but undervalued in the past.

For Rui Simão, there are special places in this area that visitors should not leave undiscovered “If I had to choose just one route, I would choose the major Aldeias do Xistoroute. That trip passes through at least four distinct landscapes: Serra da Lousã, Serra do Açor, Vale do Zêzere and Beira Baixa. The ideal would be a stay of two or three days in each of them and I’m sure that at the end of that you would feel like visiting the rest of the area”.

Symbiosis between the past and the present

The defence of the spirit of community life, the way of being and living in the villages, human relationships and nature are, of course, factors that must be maintained and here it is actually possible to empower them. Indeed, for ADXTUR this idea is intrinsic. “This perspective that we obviously want to preserve is not just to safeguard the villages and their way of life. We want to project them into the future. We want Portugal to recognise their value, to see them as reservoirs of national identity and what it imeans to be Portuguese”, explains Rui Simão.

To make this happen in practice, initiatives have been carried out that link design with nature and communities. National and international fairs have also been attended by all those involved in the Aldeias do Xistoproject, taking the wealth of inland Portugal to all corners of the world. The aim is, in essence, to be aware of the path of modernity, without forgetting that which defines this area: the secrets of the past it holds. “We cannot lose the ability to make bread, to plant pumpkins, to make cheese, to build the world around us with our own hands”, states our interviewee, adding that “to complement what our traditions are, we have to design with new thinking and create initiatives that lift us up, that lift our area, we have to create the desire and even the perception of value in the heads and the hearts of those who come into contact with us”. It is certain that the spirit of unity and partnership will remain until the end of time.

Resilience put to the test

All over the world we are living in uncertain and, for many, demotivating times due to the pandemic that has taken hold in society. However, the truth is that the Aldeias do Xisto brand grew from the encounter between the strength of those willing to resist and the spirit of utopians. “Our capacity for resistance has always been put to the test, as since the beginning many did not believe it was possible to build a project like this, which we have been involved in for 20 years. It is a source of pride to be part of this history”, explains Rui Simão. With this, our interviewee refers to the year 2017 and the fires that tragically broke out and, as now, the future trembled. However, side by side with the 27 villages, together with partners and associates and the many people who regularly deal with this project, it was possible not only to build it, but also enhance it, since the essence of the Aldeias do Xisto cannot be burned.

A series of events followed that could have troubled this conviction (such as storms and landslides), but with a will strong enough to move on, that did not happen.
“There will be time to enjoy the Centre of Portugal again”, was the message from the Central Portugal Tourism Board after the appearance of COVID-19. So, together with its network of regional and national partners, ADXTUR realised what the next step would be. Over a period of two months, selling tourism ceased to be a priority and planning began for its reopening. “Portugal has grown immensely in recent years, but with this problem we realised that, in structural terms, it was very much geared towards the external market. With the pandemic, it had to look inwards and discover domestic tourism. This situation offered an advantage to all regions that had been less exposed to the virus, but the ones that were best organised, including the Aldeias do Xisto villages, were better off”, assures Rui Simão.

One of the tools that is useful in this context is Book in Xisto which offers the possibility of planning and booking the most suitable experience for each person, according to their wishes, as well as support staff who “contact people who have made a reservation and strive to appreciate their reasons and interests and thus, starting from the chosen location, suggest what they can visit. Basically, the aim is to maximise the experience of those who visit”, acknowledges our interlocutor.

On the official webpage of the Aldeias do Xisto (www.aldeiasdoxisto.pt), there is a section that is constantly updated with relevant information, such as basic safety and well-being measures recommended by the Portuguese Tourism Office, what you can do before leaving home to protect yourself and even which accommodation has the Clean&Safe seal. My Xisto Trails was also designed so that visitors, can, on their own initiative, learn where the river beaches are, pathways for walkers, the mountain bike trails, the viewpoints, the best places for observing nature or the night sky, and so on.

A happy 2021

Rui Simão confessed that the months of last summer had been extremely positive, with more reservations and requests than ever before “We have great agility, and immense cohesion in terms of our partnership, so we are able to respond quickly as a group and it is undeniably these qualities that have given us an advantage in this complex year, however, the Aldeias do Xisto do want to grow, yes, but as part of a country that also grows. As the Aldeias do Xisto become more prominent, Portugal also wins because it gains a piece of itself”, he admits. With absolute conviction in the network’s ability to cooperate, our interviewee believes that ADXTUR will be an asset for national growth and for that reason initiatives are already being programmed that will make 2021 a happy year.

With our eyes on the near future, vouchers valid throughout the Aldeias do Xisto network are already on sale this Christmas to be used throughout 2021. “What we want to transmit through this is confidence, we want to say that we are here, the area is here, nature and the nature of the people are also here. For us physical distance is not the same as social distance. We can be extremely close without being in physical contact”, says Rui Simão. These vouchers can be used in low or high season and can be acquired through Book in Xisto, to use in restaurants, hotels, houses, for experiences, including all the products available on the platform.

It is with hope and optimism that ADXTUR is facing a favourable 2021 year for everyone, not forgetting that there will certainly be the need to give rein once more to the free spirit that dwells within us. And so our interviewee leaves us with an invitation to all those who want to visit this area next year “Come and discover this national identity that we guard with such tenderness, come and be part of our history. “Those who seek find themselves. Whoever visits the Aldeias do Xisto is transformed”.

explore

restaurants
João Brandão
João Brandão
Oliveira do Hospital
restaurants
Fugas Restaurant
Fugas Restaurant
restaurants
Museu da Chanfana
Museu da Chanfana
Miranda do Corvo
restaurants
Varanda do Casal
Varanda do Casal
Casal de São Simão
restaurants
Bem-Me-Quer
Bem-Me-Quer
Martim Branco
restaurants
As Beiras
As Beiras
Pampilhosa da Serra
restaurants
Callum
Callum
Oleiros
restaurants
Santo Amaro
Santo Amaro
Sertã
lodging
Casas da Mina - Hostel
Casas da Mina - Hostel
Cabeço do Pião
lodging
Casa do Caminheiro Hostel
Casa do Caminheiro Hostel
Talasnal
lodging
Sete Quintas
Sete Quintas
Retorta
lodging
Casas do Sinhel
Casas do Sinhel
Relva da Mó
lodging
Arganil Municipal Camping Park
Arganil Municipal Camping Park
Sarzedo
lodging
Aldeia Ruiva Campsite
Aldeia Ruiva Campsite
Aldeia Ruiva, Proença-a-Nova
lodging
Casas do Favacal
Casas do Favacal
Favacal
lodging
Hotel Parque Serra Da Lousã
Hotel Parque Serra Da Lousã
Miranda do Corvo
lodging
Casa da Moenda
Casa da Moenda
Benfeita
tour
PR2 MCV - Gondramaz Schist trail - In the Miller’s Footsteps
PR2 MCV - Gondramaz Schist trail - In the Miller’s Footsteps
village
Comareira
Comareira
offer
Geological Walk in Sobral Fernando
Geological Walk in Sobral Fernando
village
Benfeita
Benfeita
offer
Passeio Geológico de Foz do Cobrão e Sobral Fernando
Passeio Geológico de Foz do Cobrão e Sobral Fernando
offer
Dia e Noite no Centro da Natureza
Dia e Noite no Centro da Natureza
tour
PR1 PPS - Fajão Schist trails  – Climbing the cliffs
PR1 PPS - Fajão Schist trails – Climbing the cliffs
Casas do Rio
heritage
Chapel of São Sebastião
Chapel of São Sebastião
heritage
Igreja Matriz de Aldeia das Dez
Igreja Matriz de Aldeia das Dez
village
Martim Branco
Martim Branco
heritage
Religious tour in Pedrógão Pequeno
Religious tour in Pedrógão Pequeno
tour
Panoramic Road: Barroca - Fajão
Panoramic Road: Barroca - Fajão