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Cork Harvesting in Alentejo: Private Tours in Portugal

Portugal is the world’s first cork producer. Each year 100 thousand tons of cork – 55% of the world’s production- are extracted from Portuguese cork forests (Montado). Cork harvesting is in fact one of the most unique traditions of Portuguese rural culture. This highly specialized activity can be discovered through tailor-made tours in Portugal. Although cork is a widespread, versatile material (from the cork stoppers in wine and champagne bottles to elements of cutting-edge technology) many people still don’t know its origin: the bark of the cork oak tree. At the Montado, in Alentejo, man have been extracting cork from the trees for centuries, using only a hammer. You too can be part of this fascinating story by including a visit to the cork forest in your tailor-made tour in Portugal.

Tailor-made tours in Portugal: Cork harvesting, a secular tradition

A private tour in Portugal around cork will unveil the secrets of a centuries-old tradition in the most authentic way. The Portuguese have been extracting cork from the cork oak since the 18th century. Before that, it was the timber of the cork oak tree that was considered of value. Used to build ships that sailed the world during the Portuguese Discoveries, cork travelled the seven seas. Summer is cork harvesting season, and the perfect time to plan your tailor-made tour in Portugal around this sustainable material. On each tree, cork bark is stripped every nine years (hence the marks on the trees, signaling the numbers of each year) by man who have learned the technique with their predecessors. Cork harvesting involves very specific skills: a seasonal task, it is one of the better paid rural works in Portugal today.

Private tours in Portugal: inside the Montado, the forest of cork trees

The secular tradition of cork harvesting is one of the highlights of rural culture in Alentejo. Our customised private tours in Portugal will take you to the heart of the Montado, the beautiful, biodiverse forest of cork oaks. In Alentejo, man have praised the generosity of cork oaks for years: they say this tree “gives more than it takes”. However, cork harvesting is not an easy task. The workers, who you will meet in a visit to the Montado in a tailor-made tour in Portugal, must evaluate if the bark has reached the optimum state of maturity before they strip it through vertical cuts on the tree trunk. A mix of determination and delicacy, the art of these man is “to strip the tree without hurting it”.

Cork is culture: Tailor-made tours in Portugal

Cork is a fabulous raw material: lightweight, elastic and compressible, impermeable and highly resistant to temperature, it is also an excellent acoustic and thermal insulator. This explains why more and more architects and designers are discovering it and exploring its features in their works. A tailor-made tour in Portugal around cork will take you even further. You will discover the birthplace of cork, the Montado, where cork is a matter of culture. At Episode Travel we can design a private tour in Portugal that includes a day at the Montado. There you will learn about cork harvesting and discover an enchanting natural landscape, while staying at a superb hotel in the heart of Alentejo. This will be the occasion to rest and enjoy the region’s fantastic food and wine options. A genuine, flavorsome, unique tailor-made tour in Portugal to reveal the mystery and the magic of cork culture and more.