Jewish Legacy in Portugal

Set out on a journey of discovery through towns, cities and villages, of a heritage rich in memories evoking the Jewish presence in Portugal.

Although there are some earlier references, it was between the 5th and 15th centuries that the Sephardic Jewish community, or Iberian Peninsula Jews, settled in the territory that is now Portugal contributing in the most diverse ways to Portuguese culture. Protected by the Kings, many of its members, amongst whom were philosophers, humanists, scientists and merchants, but also more common tradesmen, such as cobblers, tailors and weavers, participated actively in various significant moments of Portuguese history, in particular the foundation of Portuguese nationality and the settlement of the land, and later contributed financially and scientifically to the Age of the Discoveries. An important figure was the great 16th century mathematician and cosmographer, Pedro Nunes, who invented the nonius, a navigational aid.

In 1496, the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews from Portugal obliged them to convert to Catholicism and become New Christians. Many left the country, but many others remained and secretly kept their faith, forming the so-called marranos or crypto-Jews. The symbolic marks and inscriptions of those times can still be seen carved in the houses of former Jewish quarters, whose traces survive in places like Trancoso, Belmonte, Guarda and Castelo de Vide.

Rua Nova (New Street), Rua Direita (Straight Street), Rua da Estrela (Star Street) or Espinosa are examples of names which indicate the former existence of a Jewish quarter. If you look at the houses, you will see a large door on the ground floor giving access to the store and a narrower one to enter the residence, located on the upper floor. They demonstrate the importance given by the Jews to trade. In some you can still see the slot for the “Mezuzah” (a parchment with words from the Torah, which according to Jewish faith should be placed on the right hand side of the doorframe).

One of the first printed works in the country was an edition of the Pentateuch, by Samuel Gacon, published in 1487 in Faro. Today there are several museums focusing on the Jewish presence in Portugal, such as in Castelo de Vide, Belmonte, Faro and Tomar, the latter housed in a 15th century former synagogue. It is also quite easy to discover the history of Portuguese Jews by following the Jewry Route, a testimony to the encounter between peoples and cultures, which we are proud to preserve.

In their Diaspora, the Jews also disseminated the Portuguese language and culture. During World War II, Portugal welcomed many thousands of Jews escaping Nazi persecution. Their existence has been legal in Portugal since 1912, and today the Jewish community has synagogues in Lisbon, Porto, Trancoso and Belmonte.

Find more information at:
- Portuguese Network of Jewish Quarters - Sepharad Routes:

-The Porto synagogue is the largest in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most beautiful Jewish houses of worship in the world. It is open for tourist visits from Sunday to Friday, by prior arrangement:


From February 26th to March 5th don't miss the Carnival in Madeira

Carnival officially begins on the Friday before Lent and only ends on Shrove Tuesday, with the whole island being caught up in the intense and contagious liveliness.

The Carnival festival in Madeira is one of the region’s liveliest festivals. Funchal city wakes up on the Friday morning to the sound of brass bands and carnival parades bringing their good humour to the whole of the downtown area, which is then continued at night with concerts and shows in the Praça do Município for five consecutive days.

On Saturday night, it’s time for the great procession of floats to come out into the street. After following their traditional route through the city, they concentrate in the Praça do Município, where there is much singing and dancing in a magical atmosphere of music and merrymaking.

On the day of the Carnival itself (Shrove Tuesday), Funchal explodes in a great outpouring of merriment. In the afternoon, irreverent merrymakers from all over the world parade in front of the crowd who are in turn infected by this atmosphere of playful caricature - it is time for the popular parade. Throughout this period, the streets of Funchal are decorated with patterns of lights and inundated with background music alluding to the Carnival period. Let this contagion infect you, too! 

For further Information visit in Madeira

Porto Airport once again voted 3rd best in Europe

Porto Airport was once again the recipient of an ACI-Airports Council International* award, as third best European airport. 

The three recipient airports in Europe were Moscow, Zurich and Porto. Keflavik and Malta came in fourth and fifth respectively.

This award is the result of ANA’s overall effort to create awareness and push its in-house resources and service providers to continually improve customer service quality.

“We were proud to be chosen by our passenger as one of the three best airports in Europe. This is our eight award in the past eight years and is particularly relevant to us at a time when Porto airport reached the 6.4 million passengers”, said Jorge Ponce de Leão, Chairman of ANA.

Porto airport was in the top three between 2006 and 2011 and was voted by passengers as the best European Airport in 2007.

At an international level this is yet another positive factor for the Porto region, also recently voted best European Tourist Destination.  

Airport Service Quality (ASQ) is a world class customer service benchmarking tool, and of great importance to airport management world wide. The results are based on passenger surveys, representing their views on 34 key indicators, namely services provided, waiting times, courtesy, cleanliness and comfort.

*ACI – Airports Council International is the only global trade representative of airports. ACI Europe represents 450 airports in 44 countries, responsible for over 90% of air traffic in Europe and for over 1.5 billion passenger a year. 

Source: ANA 


The new 2014 Music Season at the Palace of Queluz

The new 2014 Music Season at the Palace of Queluz – Tempest and Galanterie – has just been announced. The artistic director will be Massimo Mazzeo, from the Portuguese Centre of 18th-Century Musical Studies (DS-CESP) and the programme for the season, which begins on 8 March, will consist of two cycles, Carnival and Autumn, involving a total of 11 concerts. Works by Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn, among others, will be presented, in what Massimo Mazzeo describes as a “reconciliation between different atmospheres of culture, whether seen from a historical point of view or through present-day cultural programming.”

António Lamas, President of the Board of Directors of Parques de Sintra, has spoken of his satisfaction at being able to “bring 18th-century music back to the National Palace of Queluz, linking the Palace’s name to a musical season of the highest quality”, which will include such names as Ronald Brautigam, Alexander Lonquich, Thalia Ensemble, Pedro Burmester, Jos van Immerseel and the Gulbenkian Orchestra among others.

Massimo Mazzeo stresses that “the season does not seek to be speculative or populist in any way and is also intended to provide an opportunity for the presentation of new Portuguese musical ensembles, recognised for their work, as well as for the originality and intelligence of their musical proposal.”

Download the programme here.
Information:(+351) 21 923 73 00

The restoration of the Grand Hall of the Palace of Pena is now complete

Salão Nobre, Palácio da Pena ©Parques de Sintra
The project, which involved an investment of 262,500 euros over three years, consisted of the overall refurbishment of the infrastructures, the repair and correction of the flooring and the restoration of the wooden and stucco cladding of the walls and ceiling. It also involved the restoration of the chandeliers, the stained-glass windows and the furniture specially commissioned by King Fernando, including pieces that are normally kept in reserve and the porcelain objects. Based on historical information and the support of consultants, an attempt was made to return the Hall to its original state. In conducting historical research, the project had the support of the analyses made of materials by the José de Figueiredo Laboratory (General Directorate for Cultural Heritage – DGPC).

The need to undertake repair and restoration work in the Grand Hall of the Palace of Pena was already an urgent affair, given the condition in which the room found itself, particularly the poor state of the flooring, stained-glass windows and badly conserved porcelain pieces, the deteriorated state of the stucco work (which was already beginning to disappear), the furniture that had lost most of its original colour and the infrastructures that were completely out-of-date given the Palace’s present-day needs.

Among the project’s more innovative or original features are, for example, the fact that it took a month to find the original colour of the walls through chromatic analysis undertaken in the laboratory; the placement of LED strips outside the windows so that the stained-glass panes can be observed at night-time; the adoption of an innovative fire detection system involving continuous suction of the air (with constant analysis of the CO2 parameters) and without the need to place special boxes on the ceiling; the use of LED light bulbs not only in order to reduce energy consumption and prevent fires, but also so as not to cause deterioration of the palace’s collection (due to the absence of UV rays); and the four days that were needed to reposition the chandelier after its restoration and to reassemble the statues of the “Turks”.

The linings of the walls and ceiling (with both smooth and relief stucco work) were treated using the original techniques and materials. They were thoroughly cleaned, followed by an extensive and complex restoration of their original colour (after painstaking research).
The flooring was completely repaired and restored, with interventions taking place at the level of its structure and its surface, and the introduction of new infrastructures. This process included removing a significant part of the wooden floor for the purposes of disinfestation and in order to strengthen the supports of the beams in the walls, as well as to replace the deteriorated areas.

All the furniture was completely restored, particularly the footstools and ottomans, in order to faithfully reproduce the original upholstery. Dating from the 19th century, this consists of goatskin dyed with a natural red colour, according to the analysis made of pieces of the original material by the Leather Industries Technological Centre.
The decorative objects, such as the Asian porcelains, were also submitted to conservation and restoration work, in an attempt to reproduce their exact appearance in the time of King Fernando.

The restoration of the lighting (the chandelier and the four torches held by “Turks”) was one of the main features of the project. These were all completely dismantled and cleaned; and, once the rust had been removed and their surface stabilised, they were protected and fitted with special light bulbs.

The restoration of the stained-glass windows also included the repair of the frames, the consolidation of the lead calms, and the treatment of cracks and gaps in the colouring.
The Calabash Stairs and the Entrance Hall were also restored, the former intervention involving a full restoration of the decorative painting (which was almost completely erased) and the correction of the natural ventilation, while, in the latter space, work was largely centred on the restoration of the moulded stucco panels.

The intervention also included complete alterations to the infrastructures, which involved placing the electric sockets in floor boxes (instead of in the walls) and thus removing all wires from view; the lighting was designed to be adapted to various uses of the room, based on LED technology; and the natural ventilation was improved through grilles placed in the ceiling and roof and simple ventilators.


The perfect green at Madeira Island

Like an eternal Spring, Madeira is a golf destination par excellence all year round. Two different islands boast three magnificent golf courses and accommodation, leisure and well-being offerings which delight any golfer.

The climate is mild throughout the year, the untouched nature offers clean air and unforgettable walks, the cuisine is rich in tradition-steeped flavours. Here, you will not be short of choices for a memorable holiday. And it is just a few hours by plane from Europe.

The tradition of golf on this Island dates back to 1937, when the Englishmen Miles, Leacock and Blandy built the first nine-hole golf course. You can practise on one of two courses, Palheiro Golf and Santo da Serra Golf Club, with 18 and 27 holes respectively, both notable for the beauty of their surrounding landscape.

Porto Santo Golf, located on the Island of the same name, 40km from Madeira, is a 27-hole course, designed by the famous golfer Severiano Ballesteros. With 9km of beach and limpid waters, the island of Porto Santo invites you for a dive after a round.

The Madeira Island Open is Included in Madeira’s golf tournament programme, and is part of the PGA European Tour. It is the most important golf tournament held annually in Spring in the region.

Currently, Madeira has all the facilities to welcome golfers of every handicap, including prime quality accommodation, which makes the islands a paradise for the lovers of the sport who will not fail to delight in the challenge of each hole and the surrounding scenery.

More info about Golf in Madeira at:

Cristiano Ronaldo opens the CR7 Museum in Madeira

©Museu CR7
The museum devoted to the international Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is open to the public. The Museum exhibits his collection of trophies, including the 2008 and 2013 Ballon d'Or awards.

The Museum is located at Rua Princesa D. Amélia, 10, and it is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The displayed pieces include the many CR7’s trophies, the insignia as Grand Officer of the Order of Infante Dom Henrique awarded to the  player last month by the President of the 
Portuguese Republic, a  retrospective of his career and a life-size wax figure of the player.

This museum, which represents an important new addition to Madeira’s museum scene, is already a success in terms of influx of visitors and allows all fans to get to know a little closer the career of one of the best footballers in the World.

For further information, visit the official Facebook fan page of the CR7 Museum

Source: Turismo da Madeira 

10 reasons to visit the Azores - UK

If you live in the UK, discover the 10 Reasons why you should visit the Azores!

More information about the Azores at:

10 reasons to visit the Azores - USA & Canada

If you live in the USA and Canada, find the 10 Reasons to Visit the Azores

More information about the Azores at:


Porto elected best European destination 2014

Porto is exceptional. In more ways than one. Elected Best European Destination 2014 by the european citizens, Porto, the "Cidade Invicta" (unvanquished city) is history, is architecture, culture, gastronomy, trade, encounters and discoveries.

          Porto - European Best Destination 2014 from Atmos Aerial Filming on Vimeo.

Porto has all the charm of towns which happily cohabit with their river. You can stroll along the River Douro (river of gold) in the Ribeira, fly over it by helicopter or discover Porto ‘s architecture, its amazing landscapes and magnificent bridges by taking a cruise on this majestic river. Porto is also a sea city and in the briefest of time a tram will bring you to Foz do Douro’s gentle beaches face to face with the Atlantic.

Porto knows how to make you feel welcome; very likely it will conquer your heart and leave a long lasting impression. You will find it hard to leave.

Source: European Consumers Choice 

Vilamoura Atlantic Tour 2014 - 12th Feb to 9th Mar

From the 12th of February to the 9th of March 2014, come to Vilamoura and see close-up an exciting equestrian competition!

250 riders and 600 horses are in Vilamoura for the 2014 Atlantic Tour Competition.

In this four week show jumping , riders will compete in 8 competitions, which will count toward Rankings of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).

The event is great fun for equestrian enthusiast and casual observer alike. Beautiful horses and the pageantry of show jumping make the Atlantic Tour one of Vilamoura’s most prestigious events of the year.

Manta Dive wins Tauchen award

Galo Resort Hotels long-time partner Manta Diving Center- Madeira has once again won in 2014 the award for "The best Diving Center in the Atlantic" by the renowned German diving magazine “Tauchen”. 

This is the 7th time, within 13 nominations, that this diving center and school has won the "golden dolphin award" in this specific category.

Every year the vast community of customers of the magazine Tauchen and different related diving companies vote for the best diving spots, equipments and centers worldwide. The official prize giving ceremony took place in January during the Nautical Trade Fair in Düsseldorf, where Manta Diving was present with its own stand.

The MANTA DIVING CENTER is based over 30 years at the private beach complex of the Galo Resort Hotels in Caniço de Baixo, directly within the Underwater Nature Reserve of Garajau. Its unique diving location, professional and friendly team, as well as, its ISO quality certification where the key factors to win this prize.

An important and rewarding distinction not only for Manta Diving Center, as well as, for the Galo Resort group and our customers!

More information at:

Source: Manta Diving Center


Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Lisbon

©Turismo de Lisboa
Lisboa is the ideal destination to celebrate as a couple the most romantic day of the year: St. Valentine’s Day.

To make the most of this very special day, Lisboa offers hundreds of wonderful experiences of a romantic nature.

A walk in the company of your loved one is always a good option to feel the pulse of the city. A tour through the historic neighborhoods, from São Jorge Castle to Sé Cathedral, is filled with Moorish nooks and alleyways inspiring vows of love that can be sealed with a visit to Santo Antonio Church, the city’s matchmaking saint. 

Enjoy the sweeping panoramas from the various belvederes in city: Santa Luiza, Portas do Sol, Graça, São Pedro de Alcantara and Santa Catarina, just to name a few. From the summits of the city’s seven hills you can admire Lisboa’s sublime light, in a perfect setting for dating. 

You can also enjoy special moments for two relaxing on the terraces of the capital’s traditional kiosks situated in some of the most cosmopolitan public squares and gardens, such as Principe Real, Largo Camões and Avenida da Liberdade.

Heading along the Chiado, in the direction of the Baixa and continuing to Avenida da Liberdade, you can find the ideal gift to surprise your loved one in the various traditional shops and designer brand boutiques.

The shopping offer is both tempting and original. 

Enjoy the late afternoon to contemplate Lisboa seen from the Tagus, aboard one of the many cruise ships that sail up and down the river, inspiring scenes worthy of the greatest love stories. Along the way you can enjoy privileged views of some of the city’s biggest attractions, especially Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower, Lisboa’s most famous monuments.

Returning to the city centre, Terreiro do Paço is the ideal place to find a romantic setting, with a special dinner at one of several restaurants in this monumental public square that excel in sophisticated décor and innovative cuisine.

Finally, end this Valentine’s Day with a flourish to the sound of great music in the many bars and clubs of Bairro Alto, Bica and Cais do Sodré. 

More information about Lisbon at:
- Follow Me Lisboa: Monthly tourist Guide for visitors
- Lisboa City Breaks Brochure
- Brochure Lisbon "A personal Experience" 

Source: Turismo de Lisboa

February Algarve Events Guide

Going to the Algarve during the month of February? So discover here what’s happening in the Algarve region.

The Algarve is known for its beaches, natural landscapes, bars and golf courses. And for its restaurants, hotels, monuments, and of course, for entertainment.
The offer of entertainment destination is diversified and includes events of public and private partners that invite you to enjoy emotions and traditions, sounds and regional flavors, that the Algarve Tourism organizes in this guide leaflet.

More about the Algarve at:

TAP allows use of electronic devices on board

Since Jan 14, 2014 TAP Portugal allows the use of personal electronic devices during flight provided they are set to "flight mode" or its equivalent; that is, as long as wireless and Bluetooth are switched off and disabled.

The use of laptops is, however, prohibited during take-off and landing, with the equipment needing to be safely stored away to ensure the safety of other passengers.

It should be noted the regulations governing the use of electronic devices on board must be strictly adhered to, and that the use of such devices as walkie-talkies, portable radios, remote control toys, etc., is not allowed at any time during the flight.

This change follows a recent decision by EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency), which states the use of electronic devices by passengers on commercial flights is safe as long as certain measures such as switching on the "flight mode", are taken.

Source: TAP Portugal

TAP Portugal to launch 10 new routes in 2014

During 2013, TAP launched only two new services from Lisbon, to Boa Vista (Cape Verde) and Tangier (Morocco) while dropping flights to Milan Linate and Turin. The airline’s growth was achieved with no additional aircraft, and primarily through an increase in load factor. 

However, before Christmas, TAP Portugal’s CEO Fernando Pinto announced plans to grow the airline’s network by a further 10 destinations in 2014, with two new Brazilian destinations (Belem and Manaus) launching in June, and a further eight new routes starting in early July.

Launch date

3 June
Manaus (MAO)
3 (A332)
3 June
Belem (BEL) via Manaus
3 (A332)
1 July
Bogota (BOG)
4 (A332)
1 July
Panama City (PTY) via Bogota
4 (A332)
2 July
Gothenburg (GOT)
4 (A32S)
2 July
Nantes (NTE)
6 (ER4)
3 July
Hannover (HAJ)
4 (A32S)
4 July
Tallinn (TLL)
3 (A32S)
Date to confirm
St Petersburg (LED)
tbc (A32S)
date to confirm
Belgrade (BEG)
3 (A32S)

The addition of Hannover brings to six the number of destinations served in Germany; after Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. In 2013, TAP Portugal transported 627,000 passengers on its German routes, representing growth of 18%. The new Hannover route, plus increases in frequencies on the existing routes, means that capacity will be up 22% between the two countries in 2014.

Total weekly seat capacity across the whole network is set to grow this summer by around 8%, with ASKs on track to grow by closer to 12%, thanks to the introduction of the new long-haul routes. Destinations served with at least four daily flights this summer from Lisbon are Barcelona, Brussels, Funchal (Madeira), London Heathrow, Madrid, Milan Malpensa, Paris Orly, Porto and Rome Fiumicino, as well as between Porto and Paris Orly.

This June TAP Portugal will be flying almost twice as many weekly seats between Europe and Brazil as any other airline, offering non-stop flights to 11 Brazilian cities from Lisbon (plus Belem via Manaus), plus two routes to Brazil from Porto. These long-haul routes to Brazil account for just over one-third of the airline’s capacity this summer, if measured by ASKs (Available Seat-Kilometres).

TAP Portugal offers almost twice as many weekly seats between Europe and Brazil as fellow current Star Alliance member TAM Airlines (though TAM joins oneworld at the end of March), with Air France and Lufthansa the next biggest operators in the market. While TAM’s weekly seat capacity is actually down 6.6% this June, TAP Portugal’s is up 11%. The airline will be keen to maximise its impressive links to Brazil this summer, especially while the World Cup is taking place from 12 June to 13 July.

Source: TAP and ANNA.AERO

Porto Airport With New Route

Flybe, Europe’s largest independent regional airline, has unveiled a major expansion of its operations at Birmingham Airport with the announcement of seven new routes that includes a four times a week service to Porto.

Seats are on sale now at plus details of full schedule and travel is effective from 12th April. The majority of flights utilizing Flybe’s new 88-seat E175 jet aircraft.

eff 12APR14 Birmingham – Porto 4 weekly

BE1852 BHX0745 – 1005OPO E75 5
BE1852 BHX0800 – 1020OPO E75 6
BE1852 BHX1140 – 1400OPO E75 2

BE1852 BHX1235 – 1455OPO E75 7

More info at:

Source: Flybe

Last day to vote for Madeira and Porto as European Best Destination 2014

For the 5th year running you are invited to select the European Best Destinations for 2014!
They are 20 tourist destinations selected and Portugal is running with two: Madeira and Porto. 
You don’t have to travel a long way to find the ideal holiday destination. There are endless reasons for visiting Madeira!
In addition to its stunning scenery and luxuriant mountains, this archipelago offers a mild climate all year round, a warm welcome, peace, safety and security which all together make your holidays unforgettable.
To really get to know Madeira, climb to the top of a mountain and enjoy fantastic, breathtaking views or follow the trails and paths in the Laurissilva Forest along more than 1,400 km of Levadas, in a unique encounter with the island’s soul.
Feel the energy flowing from the cosmopolitan ambiance of Funchal’s streets and purchase some souvenirs, like the famous Madeira embroidery, wine or wickerwork.
Take a tour around the island, stopping off on the way to admire the landscape or to enjoy a traditional gastronomic delicacy. For more energetic visitors there is scuba-diving, surfing, windsurfing or jet-skiing.
Romantics may prefer a wonderful sailboat trip along the coast to enjoy the sunset.
But to make this your dream holiday, you really must spend some time on the paradisiacal island of Porto Santo 40 km from Madeira, only 15 minutes by plane or 2h30 on ferry. Known as the “golden island”, Porto Santo is blessed with a 9 km fine, unpolluted sandy beach washed by a clear, calm sea - all you need for a perfect stay.

Discover these enchanted islands… happiness is so near!
Why voting for Porto?
Porto is one of Europe's oldest tourist destinations. Its wealth of monumental and artistic heritage, Port Wine, open-air leisure spaces and cultural life are just some of the reasons to visit this city.

At any time of the day, 365 days of the year, Porto has a special charm for anyone visiting the city for the first time, as it does for those coming back for a second visit, to discover a city that is simultaneously modern and authentic.

In 1996, the historical centre of Porto was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The city unfolds along the river bank and the sea shore, to reveal charming vistas, inviting esplanades and all the pleasures of the outdoors, framed by its green spaces.

Setting out to discover Porto means bumping into surprise after surprise. Whilst maintaining its welcoming and conservative nature, the city is, at the same time, contemporary and creative. This can be seen in its streets, its architectures and its monuments, its museums, its leisure spaces, its esplanades and its shopping areas which run from the traditional to the modern and exclusive.

Events enliven the annual cultural and sporting calendars, culminating in ‘São João’, the city’s very own Feast.

At night, Porto turns into a new and different city, with entertainment and leisure opportunities that cater to all tastes and excitement that bubbles up to fill the streets with energy and cheerfulness.

There’s a wide offer of lodging ranges from well-known hotel chains, charming guesthouses, welcoming hostels and comfortable apartments.

As the main gateway to the North of Portugal and three other World Heritage Sites, Guimarães, Foz Côa and the Douro Valley, a whole world of experiences awaits the visitor. Each day can be quite unlike the day before – one day you might be in a World Heritage city centre, the next at the seaside or on a wine tasting trip up the Douro valley, or hiking through the National Park or exploring an important religious site, such as Fátima or Santiago de Compostela.
With such good motives it will be difficult to decide in which one to vote, but today is your last chance, so don´t wait any longer...make your decision and vote now!

No need to register, one click and your vote is in ;) 
Source: European Best Destinations


Dark Sky Alqueva wins second place in the 2013 Ulysses Award

Dark Sky Alqueva has recently won second place in the very competitive and highly regarded United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) Ulysses Award for Innovation in Non-Governmental Organisations.

The Ulysses Awards, commonly known as the "Oscars" of tourism, are a range of prizes awarded annually by UNTWO, which has its headquarters in the Spanish capital.

It is essentially teamwork, with contributions from a number of experts from several municipal authorities, especially Reguengos de Monsaraz, and from members of the Rota Dark Sky® (Dark Sky® Route), that has helped Genuineland –  Turismo de Aldeia (Village Tourism) to move this programme forward to its present success. The initiative was also sponsored by Turismo de Portugal, by the General Directorate for Agriculture and by the Secretary of State for Tourism, who provided institutional support for our candidature for the Ulysses Award.

It is notable that Dark Sky® Alqueva was recently identified by the European Commission as an example of innovation and good practice, as seen in the document "Enhancing the competitiveness of tourism in the EU – an evaluation approach to establishing 20 cases of innovation and good practice."

More recently still, Dark Sky® Alqueva was highlighted by the prestigious magazine National Geographic as one of the attractions for visits to the Alentejo in 2014.

With the future of the programme in mind, as well as future developments in Science and Tourism, The Astro-tourism Society was created. The mentors to this Society are Apolonia Rodrigues, the creator of the Dark Sky® Alqueva Programme and president of Genuineland – Village Tourism, and Eduardo Fayos-Solà, the president of the Ulysses Foundation. The Astro-tourism Society, with its headquarters in Portugal, is international in scope, and has as its mission the promotion of a deeper knowledge of and a deeper emotional response to science, using tourism to achieve this aim.

José Calixto, President of the Municipal Authority of Reguengos de Monsaraz, states that this award is a "more than justly deserved" recognition of the Dark Sky® Alqueva Programme.

The Authority, in reaction to this great news for tourism in the Alentejo, has highlighted "the great degree of work and the professionalism of Dr Apolónia Rodrigues and of the members of the Dark Sky® Route as a fundamental factor in promoting the Alentejo and in creating high-value tourism in the region." José Calixto has also pointed out that "this award is more than justly deserved and brings to the world's attention one of the world's finest skies; the Dark Sky® Alqueva Programme now employs good practice at world-class level, and this fact fills us with pride."

More about Dark Sky® Alqueva and the Dark Sky® Alqueva Route

A major purpose of Dark Sky® Alqueva, the first place in the world to be given certification as a Starlight Tourism Destination, awarded by the Starlight Foundation, is to bring new life to the Alqueva region after nightfall, enabling visitors to get full enjoyment from this spacious land under a clear and starry sky, allowing them to wander wherever their imagination takes them.

Alqueva offers a nocturnal skyscape that has unique characteristics for a Dark Sky® Reserve.

It is within this context that the Lands of the Great Lake of Alqueva Partnership was created. It is coordinated by Genuineland – Village Tourism, the other partners being TGLA – Tourism in the Lands of the Great Lake of Alqueva, EDIA SA., and CCDRA – the Alentejo Regional Coordination and Development Commission. The Partnership's aim is to implement the Dark Sky® Alqueva Programme.

The Dark Sky® Alqueva Programme is a structuring project concerned with sustainable development, and envisages the European Commission's Agenda for a Competitive and Sustainable European Tourism being applied in the council areas of Alandroal, Barrancos, Moura, Mourão, Portel and Reguengos de Monsaraz. The Programme seeks to respond to challenges such as seasonality in tourism demand, the impact of tourist traffic, improvements to the quality of work in the tourism sector, improvements to the quality of communities faced with change, minimising the impact of both the use of resources and the production of waste, preserving and increasing the value of natural and cultural heritage, making the enjoyment of holidays possible for everyone, and using tourism as a tool for global sustainable development.

Thus, its aim is to create a tourist destination whose attraction is the enjoyment of a starry sky free of light pollution and to facilitate the provision of night-time activities for tourists. In order to develop the Dark Sky® Alqueva Programme, the public-private partnership that coordinates the project has created the Dark Sky® Alqueva Working Group, which brings together municipal authorities, companies working in the tourism and energy sectors, associations, and national and international experts.

Associated with Dark Sky® Alqueva, the Dark Sky® Alqueva Route is being created to make it possible for tourists to participate in nocturnal activities such as walking excursions, excursions on horseback, astronomy and stargazing activities, bird watching and the observation of nocturnal wildlife, among others. The Dark Sky® Alqueva Route includes a range of places for accommodating tourists, restaurants, bars and cafes, interpretative guidebooks and pamphlets, and tourism companies that specialise in providing for what is coming to be known as "astro-tourism".

At the end of 2011, Dark Sky® Alqueva was certified as a Starlight Tourism Destination, the first destination in the world to obtain such certification. This certification, awarded by the Starlight Foundation, recognises the quality of the night skyscape of the Alqueva area, as well as the tourism activities related to the sky, and is itself recognised for this purpose by UNESCO and by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

The Starlight Foundation was created in 2007 to put into force the Declaration in Defence of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight, which classifies the night sky as a Scientific, Cultural and Environmental Heritage of Humanity. The declaration was signed and recognised by international organisations such as UNESCO, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and UNTWO.