The Caminho do Dão is a week-long nature pilgrimage, down the entire length of the Dão valley from the source to the mouth of the river. Going on a pilgrimage is a simple yet powerful act that can generate sense of connection to the world, to ourselves and of peace and regeneration, just by walking. That is the experience the Caminho do Dão wants to provide.
Besides being an interesting experience for hikers the Caminho do Dão also wants to be of value to local communities. One of the goals of the trail is to strengthen a sense of connection between the local community and the valley and in doing so, contribute to the general wellbeing (pride and a sense of belonging) of people living in the valley. Also, if the trail is valued by visitors as well as by locals this can help increase regional efforts to value and safeguard the valley’s natural and cultural qualities which is one of the goals of the project.
The mission of the project is ‘to support life (flora, fauna and human) in the valley’. As a touristic product it does not just want to benefit from the natural and cultural qualities the Dão valley, it wants to give back to these qualities. The Caminho do Dão is envisioned as an experiment with Regenerative Tourism and works with methods based on Regenerative Development*. The mission is rooted in an awareness of the social and environmental situation in the Dão valley and by the rich layering of meanings and symbolism of a river that carries the name Dão. Dão being a conjugation from the verb dar (to give) meaning ‘they give’, ‘the dao’ being the same as ‘the tao’ which literally means ‘the path’ and is an eastern philosophy of the interconnectedness of life, and last but not least the river being a symbol for life.
The first small steps are being taken to concretize the project’s mission. In collaboration with the Freguesia de São João de Lourosa and the Agricultural department of the IPV a pilot is being developed for ‘Regenerative Tourism’ where a percentage of the revenue of the Caminho do Dão will go towards nature restoration in a designated area along the river. In the same Freguesia local associations have shown interest in doing the work to keep the trail open. Under the title ‘O Caminho do Dão ~ um caminho de inspiração’, the organization is inviting professionals from various backgrounds such as agriculture, biology, art, environmental education, well-being, history etc. to walk the trail together. The goal is to generate a conversation, ideas and content that can contribute to making the Caminho do Dão a project that supports life (flora, fauna and human) in the Dão valley in various ways.
Freya van Dien,
Moinhos do Dão, Fornos de Maceira Dão
* The trail can initially be experienced as a group walking program and in the future it will also be offered as a package including the route in GPS coordinates, overnight stays and meals.
* Regenerative development is a process-oriented whole systems approach to design. The term "regenerative" describes processes that restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials. Regenerative design uses whole systems thinking to create resilient and equitable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature. More about this subject here.