Aterra Eco Boutique are a highly visited glamping destination nestled in the Portuguese rainforest. Offering high end hotel standards of comfort while surrounded by teeming jungle life, the site is a welcomed poultice to the modern-day executive or business traveller, looking to draw out the grime embedded by rigorous city living.
Surrounded by towering oaks, the nights at Aterra are filled with sounds as abundant as the stars in the sky. Mornings are still and quiet as the sun rises over the canopy, preceded by the cheerful choirs of early rising birds of paradise. The temperature is mild and warm, the air filled with the scents of indigenous fauna and flora. Not too long ago, our ancestors thrived in environments like this, and a primal instinct exists in all of us, drawing us back. Perhaps this explains the undeniable allure of eco-boutique glamping that feels, to so many, like home.
WHY IS ESCAPISM IMPORTANT FOR THE SOUL
Speaking with the owners, Claudia and Francisco who founded the destination in 2011 following their adventures in Asia, Aterra Eco Boutique has from the start offered a balance luxury with a natural and thriving environment. Revealing that sustainable, eco-focussed hospitality does not need to compromise on one’s modern comforts.
As a team, their joint ability could not have been better suited. Francisco’s background comes from garden design and landscaping, experience that is essential in the ongoing negotiation of land between the lodges and the surrounding, and ever encroaching, rainforest. Meanwhile, Claudia taught in a primary school and as such, knows how to manage any sort of animal that may come exploring from the trees.
“We love travelling and receiving people,” Claudia explains, “And we wanted to offer a place that would immediately connect people with nature without sacrificing the sort of comfort that glamping is known to offer.”
After almost twelve years, Aterra has evolved with the times while keeping that quintessential core focus. Well known in the glamping world and often booked out months in advance, Aterra attracts many Portuguese locals as well as international travellers, this is unique in the industry where a location tends to mostly offer new accommodation experiences for foreigners. That so many locals visit the destination, shows that there is something special that connects with people and not necessarily just travel trends.
One of the reasons is the way in which the pair have bucked the trend of fast expansion and over-farming of a good idea. Many glamping sites capitalise fast on their locations and crowd in different places to stay, but since the beginning Aterra has only added two extra accommodations. As Claudia explains, they have always focussed on quality rather than quantity. While they are here, guests want to feel that they are on their own adventure and not just another keyholder in a large group of visitors.
“We like to add details to enhance the beauty and comfort of Aterra and make improvements to satisfy and surprise our returning guests,” she says happily, “To this end we have added more services and activities, such as kids programs, yoga, horse riding, alternative therapies, and more entertainment such as bars, music and a varying international menu in our restaurant to satisfy the pallets of any international foodie.”
Travel trends are always shifting and the difference between a busy site and one with empty beds, is down to whether the site offers what guests are looking for at that time. The team of ten at Aterra Eco Boutique keep a keen eye on the shifting topography of their industry, making full use of the data gleaned from the front lines when speaking to the guests. Additionally, as avid travellers, Claudia and Francisco are always looking out for good ideas to emulate from their own adventures.
“We take ideas from our own travel experiences,” she says, “Continually upgrading and improving the guest experience we offer. This is our life project, and our legacy. Guests will take home a unique memory of us that will inspire them in the future, we want to make sure it is a good one.”
The same kaizen approach is used when futureproofing the business to ensure they are ready to capitalise on changes in technology, trending topics and the developing needs and tastes of guests while keeping the amount of contamination on-site to a minimum. Aterra provides a reliable escape from what Claudia considers a technologically stressed society, bringing people back down to earth and reconnecting them with nature.
“While still providing the most comfortable beds to ensure the deepest, most enjoyable sleeps,” she adds, “Why create a paradise in a paradise if you can’t have some luxuries?”
Keeping abreast of the latest developments and travel trends that could offer positive or sometimes negative affects to their business, Claudia and Francisco have partnered and stand with organisations sharing their stance on eco-sustainability.
One of these is the Portuguese based, Quercus. An independent, not-for-profit environmental organisation founded in Portugal in 1985 by a collective of citizens dedicated to conserving and defending the environment with an eye on sustained development. Named after the common Latin name for oaks, after the holm and cork oaks that thrive in the country and supply home and bounty for those living there, the organisation has for almost forty years navigated the fluctuating areas of biodiversity, waste, water, energy and climate change. Supplying a source of information and direction for their associates.
Following the big changes in travel after the Covid period, the team made the tactical decision to not rely so much on tourism from afar, and to engage more with the local community within Portugal. International travel is still a vital part, but there is a wonderful appreciation for those who may be neighbours coming in to enjoy what is on offer.
“I think the Covid chaos only enhanced peoples need to have more contact with nature and other people!” Claudia says.
This year a few carefully selected developments are taking place, such as weddings, corporate retreats and festivals not to mention other surprises to add more beauty and comfort. Including such things as eco spa- but more details on that later.
COMPETITION, ALL ABOUT KNOWING YOUR STRENGTHS.
Glamping has been the fastest growing sector in the travel industry in recent years, fuelled by social media and an unreachable ceiling of creativity. Glamping can offer dozens of different accommodations in hundreds of different locations, some of them promise palatial luxury in far flung exotic areas while others offer the most exquisite adrenaline rushes first thing in the morning in the form of hammock tents slung over canyon walls. From an outsider’s point of view, glamping can seem chaotically competitive but as mentioned previously, Aterra’s advantage is knowing their strengths and what they stand for. As Claudia explains, competition is always good as it keeps us on our toes, keeps us growing and improving our services in both big ways and small and it always helps cement our fundamentals.
“Good hospitality always starts with comfortable beds, clean sheets, great showers, exquisite locations and good relationships with guests,” she says, “If you stripped away everything else at Aterra you’d find this is our base line standard and why our biggest competition is ourselves.”
ADDRESS: Aterra, Sao Teotonio, Portugal
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 00351936914279
*as seen in The Logbook.