*As seen in The Logbook
Located on the Southwest coast of Alentejo in Portugal, Aterra is an ecological campsite that offers a unique and wholesome glamping experience that aims to reconnect guests to nature and themselves. Surrounded by woodlands and grasslands guests can spend their nights in a range of tents including romantic rajasthani tents, stunning yurts and stylish tipis. Days can be enjoyed participating in one of the many activities on offer, such as horse riding, cycling, yoga and kayaking. Or, guests can enjoy the calmness of this secluded sanctuary with a massage or chilling at the large fresh water lake, or surfing at the nearby Vicentina Coastline.
We spoke with founders Francisco and Claudia de Brion about how this wonderful resort took shape. He explains, “After travelling around the world and enjoying our wedding in a tipi we were inspired to do it ourselves.”
Choosing Sao Teotonio near the Vicentina Coastline, an area of outstanding natural beauty that offers stretches of beautiful beaches and headlands as their location, ATerra Glamping launched in 2012 and has nine units.
Francisco was a garden designer and Claudia was a teacher and while they may not have had the experience in hospitality, they believed they had something special and unique to offer Portugal’s glamping scene.
“Aterra is simply an extension of us,” Francisco says, “An extension of our home and our hospitality. We have always loved playing host to friends and family and it is something that comes naturally to us.”
Aterra Eco Camping are especially popular with families and offers everything that you would expect of a successful glamping site. Francisco and Claudia seek to provide guests with a taste of the freedom, peace and tranquility that they enjoy themselves. And, to achieve this goal they have approached it with a holistic, healthy philosophy.
“Aterra is a chance to reconnect with nature and has been carefully designed to reflect our experiences,” he says, “Having lived abroad and travelled widely, Aterra reflects the influences and inspirations that we have had from different cultures and styles.”
It is thanks to this that the resort has a hybrid element that combines Portuguese and regional specialties with other stylings and flavours of the world. Such as the strong and immediately recognisable Indian connection and affection.
Francisco is responsible for most of the construction at the resort. Revealing that much of what is seen has been crafted by him and by using locally sourced materials.
“It was a pleasure to be able to apply my previous experience in gardening, permaculture and ecological construction,” he says, “Having the skills to design and build the structures, gardens and furniture means that we were able to get exactly what we envisioned. While making use of what is available locally.”
Meanwhile the activities available were strongly influenced by his wife’s experiences in teaching.
“Claudia was a primary school teacher and worked in many different types of schools,” he says, “Day to day she saw the fundamental importance of taking care of people and of our Earth. Knowing that these things are so important but require engaged-involvement she included them into Aterra.”
As such, through Aterra, Claudia is able to give children this opportunity to be involved. Allowing them to have the freedom to explore, play and discover through fun and practical experiences.
A small farm onsite allows the resort to be self-sufficient and the chance for guests to interact with animals during their stay. Direct contact isn’t always necessary either, just being able to hear the sounds that animals make is enough to help someone relax.
Francisco reveals that one of the challenges of setting up Aterra was investment and that they continually invest back into the business each year.
“We believe in the continual yet organic growth of Aterra,” he says, “We always endeavour to improve and expand our services yet retain our ‘home-grown’, personal touch.”
Focused on increasing quality over quantity, they plan to keep the campsite as a small enterprise. The aim is to extend their standards of comfort and range of facilities whilst keeping it affordable and maintaining their clientele. It is a collaboration and a two-way street, and they are very interested in what guests have to say about their camp and how they can improve.
Up to ten staff members join them during the busiest periods in the summer and these include people with experience and skills but also many staff looking for work experience and the opportunity to learn from the couple. Francisco believes that all of this is important to the business.
“Good relations and communication amongst the staff are the key,” he says, “Having a good team of staff gives the heart to our business. We live, work, eat and socialise together. We also have regular team meetings and make sure that all the needs of the staff are met.”
In the future they play to further develop their accommodation facilities to provide year-round permanent structures elsewhere on the land. These include half a dozen individual pods made out of different natural, local and recycled materials.
“We hope to expand our open farm and gardens to invite non-guests to visit,” Francisco says, “And things like educational tours for families and school holiday camps. We also plan to increase our organic production so that visitors can purchase our goods from a small farm shop.”
Believing that experience is the best teacher, Francisco and Claudia travel each winter to refresh themselves and to gain new ideas. This also gives them the opportunity to experience being guests themselves.
“It’s a great teacher to be on the other side of the desk,” he says, “And for us to see the value in what we are offering. We never know what the future holds but we believe that our concept is giving people a ‘grounding’ and balance of the natural, basic, good things in life!”
When it comes to keeping current, the couple are always working with social media. This is an important tool to promote their business and to conduct research on the experiences of glamping guests and travellers at different sites around the world.”
“We are on the usual social media platforms,” he says, “But also have Freetobook on our website, use Airbnb a lot and work with some other travel companies in England, Germany and Switzerland.”
WHAT TO EXPECT?
Francisco and Claudia firstly want guests to have a good time and make some great memories. Secondly, they wish to demonstrate a way to live that doesn’t harm the Earth. The resort completely utilizes the potential of its surroundings, it works harmoniously with nature and creates minimal waste. If there is a message to be taken away is that you can have a high standard of living that is also ecological and ethical.
“Our philosophy of life is to work to live, not live to work,” Francisco says, “We love what we do, and this makes work a pleasure. You have to work hard to achieve anything rewarding, but for anything to grow you have to allow it the time it needs. Be patient, thankful and humble. We believe in making the most of life, seizing opportunities and focusing on the potential. It’s what’s made our site what it is.”
ADDRESS: Carvalhal das figueiras , cx 5707 corgo da casca , 7630.635 Sao Teotonio
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 00351936914279