“A Closer Link with Nature”
Holiday Workshop on Medicinal Wild Plants
In the green mountains of  mid-north Portugal
Where streams of pure waters are freely flowing
And the air is naturally perfumed and clean
Hike into the mountains and valleys, meet the wild plants in their chosen habitat
and learn about some of their qualities and folk uses.
Gather your own medicinal and culinary herbs;
Make extracts, medicinal oils, herbal pillows, magic amulets;
Discover the benefits of a water massage under the cascade;
Embrace Nature

Program (7 days)

1st day - arrival

  • Arrival, most probably in the afternoon. Become acquainted with the group and the surroundings. Outline of the workshop.
  • Evening meal in the kitchen, using local products as much as possible.
  • After dinner, sky watch. There seem to be more stars here than elsewhere, due to the altitude, clean air and geography of Portugal.

2nd day

  • Breakfast in the garden or indoors, depending on the weather.
  • Meet the closest “neighbor herbs” growing on old walls around the house and along the path through the surrounding forest; collect samples of identified species for later use.
  • Stop for a drink of water from the freshest spring in the area.
  • Depending on the season, take a dive in the river.
  • Lunch in the house/garden: Mama´s soup, local bread from a wood oven, fresh goat cheese from the highest village on the mountain, salad from neighbors’ gardens…
  • Afternoon: walk to the “Alley of the Hugs”, a very ancient and narrow path towards the upper side of the village in the direction of the flank of Safra Mountain, where we find and collect different interesting species such as Bacharis trimera, Caluna vulgaris, Rubus vilosus, Crataegus oxyacantha and others, depending on the season.
  • On the way, we can take a “water massage” under the cascade and cut some bay leaves from the tree hanging over the water.
  • Back home: discuss drying methods, organize the articles we collected.
  • Dinner.

3rd day

  • Up the mountain to Santo António da Neve (Saint Anthony of the Snow, fifteenth-century chapel) where snow used to be collected and kept in snow pits (still there) for the summer refreshment of the Royalty. Here grow some good species for medicated oils: anthemis n., hypericum p., caluna v., etc.).
  • Discussion of top subjects on top of the mountain under the old cedar trees;
  • Lunch catered on location, while enjoying a great panoramic view at an altitude of 1200 meters.
  • Along the mountain crest are several places/hilltops, each with its special herbs and breathtaking views, and fresh-water springs of varied mineral quality. Back home: work on notes and the articles collected.
  • Off to the next village, for a regional meal specially prepared for the group by Dona Emília.

4th day

  • Trip (1 hour drive) to ancient mountain, historic and prehistoric site, a power place where wild lavender, rock rose and other species grow (specially for our herbal pillows) among amazing rock formations.
  • Picnic lunch on a magic spot, next to the ancient circular fortress in the legendary town of Sortelha (magic ring), and Terreiro das Bruxas (terrace of the witches); the perfect setting to consider the magic use of plants.
  • Back home, dinner at Lusitana´s patio.
  • Continuation of homework.
    - 5thday
  • Walk the ancient road over the small roman bridge to Coentral, rest by the old fountain, continuing with hike along Ribeira do Quelhas towards one source of the river.
  • Explore the riverbed and riverbanks: authentic biotopes where rare species of plants and insects are to be found; also, natural pools where one can have healthy and refreshing dives followed by reflection on the surrounding, embracing nature.

6th day

  • Home pharmacy: medicinal oils, extracts, and discussions; work on notes, with pauses to dive in the stream, walk under the oaks or just expand your gaze looking out into the landscape.

7th day

  • Herbal magic and aromatic healing: herb cushions/pillows, herbal compresses, smoke healing-smudging, herbal incense, herb bundles, amulets, etc.
  • After dinner – packing

8th day

  • Departure, probably early in the morning  (if with public transport)


In principle, every day we will

  • have specially prepared meals, in the house or garden, or catered on location; sometimes we will prepare the meals ourselves to experience cooking with herbs
  • visit the habitats of different species in different areas of the mountains and riverbeds; this involves some walking/hiking
  • have small lectures, take notes in the house and on location; eventually make sketches or photos of species
  • do practical exercises The daily program will be discussed every morning and adapted depending on season conditions of weather and others.

The daily program will be discussed every morning and adapted depending on weather conditions, the season and so forth.

Accommodation and assistance

We have three houses in a small village nestled in the mountains of Serra da Lousã, 220km north of Lisbon, 55km southeast of Coimbra. There is a stream with pure clear water a few steps away, where we can swim in several places.

The houses are simple rural architecture with thick stone walls, restored in recent years, simple and functional with a certain degree of comfort, surrounded by nature. All three houses have tap water that comes from pure springs in the surrounding mountains; one of them has a spring in the garden. The rooms have good beds. We share four bathrooms, two of them with bathtubs, the other two with showers; all four have hot water.

The bridge over the stream, several meters from the house, leads to an old mountain road through a forest comprised of old oaks and chestnuts but also pines and eucalyptus, creating a quality of air quite unique.
Along the rivulet running down the valley, and up the mountain are several picturesque villages, and we have a charming small town 5 km away, Castanheira de Pera, with some modern necessities: post office, banks, Internet, shops, café, market, etc. and a spectacular swimming pool with waves, built in the stream.
In the village, which has few inhabitants and at 900m elevation is protected by the mountain, we have a feeling of being out of time and out of the world – at least, the urban world most of us know. Here we are in intimate relation with nature, participating more fully in all of its manifestations; the lovely valley, carved and fed by our rivulet, lies ahead as we look from the veranda at a tapestry of orchards rich in varying tints of green; birds, cascading water, the constant song of nature on a background of silence.At night the amazing clear sky seems closer, the stars brighter, the moon bigger and…no airplanes!

No shops either; the baker comes by tooting his horn every morning with fresh bread. We are assisted by a local lady who helps with the shopping, housekeeping and transport to more distant locations, and D. Lusitana, who will do most of the cooking.