Algavre region, Portugal

Alternative forms of tourism in the rural hinterland based on cultural and natural heritage

Alternative Tourism
A region example of how alternative forms of tourism in the rural hinterland, based on cultural and natural heritage can promote sustainable development and preserve the natural environment, foster coastal-rural collaboration, and land-sea synergies.


The Algarve region is the southernmost region of Portugal. The fishery industry had a predominant position in the regional economy until the middle of the 20th century. Today coastal tourism is the most important sector of the region and a leading economic driver in the region but also a major motor of coastal change. The increase of leisure activities in the coastal area takes place at the expense of agricultural land and natural ecosystems (e.g. wetlands). Increased urban pressure and pollution, a consequence of mass tourism, lead to the permanent loss of some of the important littoral sites that form part of the NATURA 2000 Network in the Algarve. Local initiatives based on the cultural and natural heritage of the region offer a good example of alternative ways of mass coastal tourism for the sustainable development of the region.


  • Lack of cooperation
  • Seasonal population variability
  • Public awareness & lifestyle (including food habits)
  • Nature conservation
  • Cultural conservation
  • Sustainable economic growth



  • Agro & eco-tourism



The Algarve area offers different examples of coastal-rural collaborations and land-sea synergies based of local cultural & natural heritage. The recovery and promotion of a traditional salt production, part of the local cultural identity, and restoration of salt pans of a high ecological value in Castro Marim, enhanced the biological, economic and cultural potentials of the coastal wetlands, crossroad of land and sea influences. The project includes certification of traditional salt, establishment of an association (to organises a collective marketing, find new markets, involve youngsters, develop eco-tourism activities) as well as a cooperative of small-scale traditional salt producers (to facilitate the commercialisation of their products), promotion of the biodiversity (management plan including monitoring). Other initiatives of the project lead to the establishment of a route of Traditional Salt from the Atlantic, the promotion of tourism in the areas through the establishment of a common identity and the support in the establishment of museums and interpretation centres about the traditional production of salt. The study of new uses and products obtained from the salt pans in Castro Marim (such as special algae, other halophytic plants and clay), that are compatible with the traditional production of salt and the objectives of nature conservation has been promoted through projects and partnerships with research entities.



Another initiative (a FARNET best practice) worth presenting is the ‘KM 0’ branding initiative which promotes local sourcing and enhances the collaboration of stakeholderS in the whole economic chain process (production, processing, sales, marketing, and consumption), for sustainable development of the area, based on culinary tradition and local products. The brand identifies quality foods produced close to local consumers. To attract the initial interest of the public and other regions, a launch event was organized, bringing together local producers and famous chefs as well as Spanish and French delegations of catering professionals to discover the products and learn how to prepare them. The event covered a wide array of local products, from wines to dairy products to pastries, and offered a specific workshop for local seafood products. Six other events of this kind, two gourmet itineraries and a presence in the local and online media are amongst the tools being developed by the project to attract visitors and professionals. In parallel with this outreach strategy and the brand development, a third action seeks to work on the image of these products and the conditions in which they are sold or consumed by providing a clear and coordinated message to consumers on the benefits of purchasing local products branded Km 0. 

Local gastronomy and historical heritage are opportunities and tools to promote “alternative” and sustainable tourism in rural coastal hinterland, increase economic activity in/during the off-season, safeguard culinary heritage and raise awareness of the importance of local production, processing, and knowledge. The ‘Eating Algarve Food Tour’ is a company specialized in culinary activities, food and cultural tours in historic and gastronomic neighbourhoods of the Algarve. They developed a combination of the regional gastronomy and history to offer the authentic Algarve, by providing explanations and tastings of 100% Algarvian ingredients, traditional dishes, drinks, activities and visits to millenary heritage sites. During these experiences, tours visit, share, and promote interaction between the local vendors/partners and customers. Each tour integrates a network of restaurants, shops, museums, private properties, and others, which take part in the total experience. The company works closely and in collaboration with family businesses, local producers, local people, institutions and regional associations, and intends to contribute to the boost of the small economy and the community’s self-esteem. The local guides, the heritage site partners, the tourism agencies and associations, press and social networks, travel agencies, hotels, restaurants and vendors are the most important stakeholders. Algarve Food Tours aims to contribute to the establishment of the Algarve as an internationally recognized gastronomic destination and a brand, beyond the common offer of Sea, Sun, Sand, and Golf.