The Mira de Aire caves reopened this Tuesday and immediately welcomed visitors. “On Wednesday morning we had the double movement of the previous day,” remarked the complex administrator Carlos Alberto, looking forward to a “year that will be good” when the country “goes back to normal”.
Last year, the pandemic saw the closure of the caves in the municipality of Porto de Mós in the Leiria district between March 15 and July 31, resulting in 2020 being the “worst year ever” with “59,077 visitors” . With the exception of 2020, “2012 was the weakest year with 72,020 visitors” when the country lived as part of the “Troika”.
According to Carlos Alberto, the caves had 140,000 visitors in 2019 and the first two months of 2020 were “a good sign” as “January and February saw a 20% increase in visitor numbers” compared to the same period of the Year 2019.
Last year, despite the pandemic, the month of August was practically normal in terms of wealth. “However, many people couldn’t visit because the queues were too long and we even had to put up the“ sold out ”sign,” recalls Carlos Alberto.
Because of this, in a week after reopening, the concern is focused on compliance with hygiene and safety regulations. “I’m afraid that if there is no human awareness it could decline. We started to see how the mask was left, the terraces were full unconditionally … ”he commented, explaining that despite the closure, the complex kept the 21 employees – and hired another – after going on state Had resorted to aid.
“We had support in several programs. Without this support it was difficult to resume activities as the billing fell sharply ”, he clarified and expressed the wish that“ the country not close again ”.
The Mira de Aire Caves opened to the public on August 14, 1974 and received 7,183,618 visitors with paid tickets through December 31, 2020. “The best year ever was 1976 when the caves had 306,000 visitors,” said Carlos Alberto, illustrating that the caves received 13,500 people in just one day, September 13th of that year.
Carlos Alberto stressed that this would not happen today due to environmental protection, adding that “the caves were a mandatory ticket for people going to Fátima at the beginning” and “excursions were made in Katadupa”. “In the past we felt the great weight of the proximity of Fátima when people combined visiting the sanctuary with coming to the caves. Now there are a lot of people who are purposely trying to know the caves, ”he said.
On the other hand, “tourism related to the environment and speleological tourism are growing, for the most part effectively promoted by an international association [International Show Caves Association] that the Mira de Aire caves are part of, ”he said. According to the administrator, 45% of the visitors are foreigners and the rest are nationals. In a normal year, domestic and foreign students represent between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors.
With a length of 600 meters and a depth of 110 meters, “11 kilometers of caves with a maximum depth of 230 meters are currently known,” he said. In addition to the caves, the complex includes a water park, the reopening date of which depends on the measures taken by the General Directorate of Health, 13 bungalow accommodation units with a capacity for 52 people, as well as a restaurant, bar and restaurant. Load.
The cave has a function room as well as an internship and wine tasting area where “Casa Ermelinda Freitas has 13,500 bottles of wine,” said Carlos Alberto.
The complex also includes the Fossil Museum and the Interpretation Center of the Estremadura Massif, the latter with free entry, as well as the windmill, two exhibitions, one with photographs that indicate 70 years of caving in the Mira de Aire caves, and one with minerals and fossils Rocks and the educational farm.
“I hope the country doesn’t close again,” added Carlos Alberto.