A few years ago when Inês, my wife and business partner, told me she dreamed of living in Alentejo, this place came to mind. I told her: if it’s the same as when I knew it, it’s a small piece of heaven in the middle of Alentejo, with rapids and waterfalls, even in the Summer. We got in our jeep, brought a tent, and camped here. The place was untouched, and Inês fell in love immediately.
In one month, we decided to leave Lisbon for good and start a small business. That’s how the project Azenhas da Seda was born 13 years ago. We began with canoeing, then night-time canoeing, then up river and down river, and then the hydrospeed boards because the river has lots of rapids, something unusual in Alentejo. After we bought the canoes for rafting, we began to develop soft canyoning programs, and we are up to 12 activities in total.
Providing accommodation was a suggestion from our clients. We found the perfect solution when we had a friends’ wedding here at the beach and, as a wedding present, we gave them a night in one of these tents by the shore. We decided glamping was the way to go and we only accommodate the clients who come to us for the activities.
To those who don’t know us, I say to come to Azenhas da Seda and see it for yourself. It’s an unusual place where you can know Alentejo in its liquid state, where water is present in every activity and even in the accommodation, where you can fall asleep to the sound of waterfalls.
The watermill and the old miller’s house were in ruins, with wild plants taking over everything. We put a lot of work into rebuilding everything, but now this building is both our house and the guests’ lounge room.
Our story and mission
When I was 18, I decided I wanted to travel a river, in survival mode, for a week. I started to study the map and saw that there were two dams in this area, Montargil and Maranhão, and several brooks. That was a lot of water.
I brought a canoe, a pot, one-kilo bag of rice, 100 escudos (the former Portuguese currency, which now is about 0.50 euros), and a sleeping bag. And that’s how I started the journey of discovering Ribeira da Seda. I ended up on this beach and when I went to check out the rapids I realised it was full of crawfish. So I got the pot and ate a plate of crawfish with some rice. I continued my journey, and I managed to survive for one week in Ribeira da Seda.
I’ve been working in the tourism industry for 33 years, and at one point both me and Inês were tired of our life in Lisbon. I began to think back through my life memories, looking for beautiful places where I had been in Alentejo and where I had done some activities.
When we organised our friends’ wedding reception here on the beach, we borrowed a tent just like the ones we have now, and we placed it by the river, for them to spend the night. When they came in for breakfast, they were in awe for hearing the birds and the water! That´s when a bunch of bells started to go off inside our heads.
Our first thought was to turn this into a home where we could spend the weekends but, within one month, we changed our minds and decided to leave Lisbon and start a small business.
There is no other glamping project in Portugal with both accommodation and activities. Furthermore, most of the memories will be born from these activities, that is what everyone will remember when they leave. And that is also what makes them come back, to try something they didn’t the first time.
Right now we have 12 different activities, all easy to do but always exciting!
Discover an oasis
We were tired of our life in Lisbon. It was time to leave. And then we saw so much potential in this place, because it was so unusual, that we decided to leave Lisbon and move to a place where we have quality of life, quietness, and tranquillity. That’s exactly what we were looking for.
We have clients that come here for the hydrospeed but that, along the way, think they’re being tricked. Then they are surprised when they find so much water in the middle of Alentejo in the middle of Summer.
We moved here 13 years ago, so we are as much from Alentejo as we are from Lisbon. And we used to live in Bairro Alto, amongst all the confusion. Living here was an option. I never miss Bairro Alto. We go to Lisbon a few times, not many, but we come back quickly. We’ve already found our oasis.
Ribeira da Seda starts a little below Portalegre, at Serra de São Mamede, and flows through the village of Seda, hence the name. Near Cabeção it joins Ribeira de Tera and, together, they form Ribeira da Raia.