At the source of the Dão river
Hello! I am Freya van Dien, responsible for the organization and the guide of the Caminho do Dão.
At the moment of writing it is 30 years ago, 1989, that I first set foot in the Dão valley and the Beira Alta region of Portugal. That was the year my adventurous mother bought an old millers farm on the banks of the Dão river, named it Moinhos do Dão and started building a rural-tourism business. In 2013 my husband Steven and I took over the business and came to live in the Dão valley.
Ever since I moved here I have imagined how wonderful it would be to walk the entire length of the Dão valley and played with the idea to develop a walking route. In the spring of 2019 this idea became a reality and, together with my dear friend Nadine we walked the length of the river valley. The experience exceeded all expectations and made me decide to start developing the Caminho do Dão.
Walking is one of my passions in life and the desire to walk has grown with the years. For me it fulfills a need to explore the world and connect with nature and I benefit greatly from the way it refreshes and balances my body and soul. I believe in the power of walking as a way to connect with and be at peace in the world and in ourselves. As Henry David Thoreau said: “when I walk I receive pure presence by the ton”.
As a guide my goal is to facilitate a sense of connection with nature and culture in the Dão valley while walking mindfully. I am excited to get more people to walk the Dão valley, local people as well as from abroad, and share in the beautiful simplicity of the act of walking.
In the last 15 years my professional and personal focus has been on environmental education and sustainable ways of living. I took classes in Horticulture, Permaculture and Outdoor Education and I consider myself an amateur naturalist with knowledge of botany, the local flora and fauna, geology and agriculture. I have managed the volunteer and tour guide program in a botanical garden, organized spring flower hikes with an ethnobotanist friend and volunteered as a docent for outdoor education programs.
When I came to live on the Dão river I quickly became drawn to caring for the river and the life in and around it. Not just because it is beautiful work but also because it is necessary as you can read on this website. In 2015 I founded CuidaDão an environmental initiative to protect nature in the Dão valley. We have organized river cleanings and raised public awareness about the importance of protecting river valley ecosystems. The Caminho do Dão is linked to the goals of CuidaDão as it is an active way of valuing and caring for nature the river valley.
I hope that this website gives you a good impression of the Caminho do Dão and some insight in the motivations and ideas behind the project. Above all I hope that it inspires you to walk the beautiful Dão valley!
If you want to know more about my activities and background you can visit my website.
Feel free to reach out with any questions or suggestions!