The Douro Wine Region Valley itself, the world’s oldest demarked wine region, has been carved into the land by the Douro River, creating deep valleys. These are surrounded by mountains made of glittering schist, studded with vivid green vines which turn flaming orange over autumn. The result is a particularly heavenly 373 mile stretch just an hour and a half from Porto, the main gateway to the Douro Region.
The Douro Valley is an enchanted place, a magical landscape through which the mighty river flows to the sea. The region’s famous vineyards line the hillsides, making the cultural landscape just as thrilling. It is no surprise the valley is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Let’s take a tour.
Your journey along the valley involves criss-crossing the river through breathtaking countryside. You could kick the adventure off with a visit to Vila Nova de Gaia, where Port wine is aged, and taste it for yourself. You can still see the ancient rabelo boats used to carry the previous fortified wine to the coast before the region’s dams finally made the river navigable.
Lamego must be one of the country’s most beautiful cities, home to a vast blue and white tiled flight of steps leading to the Shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. You’ll also love quaint Pinhão, on the riverbank, whose pretty railway station is decked out with ceramic tiles decorated with scenes of wine-making.
The castle of Numão, on the river’s south bank, is packed with drama, and the wonderful Vale do Coa Archaeological Park, an open-air rock art gallery, offers another fascinating World Heritage Site to discover. There’s fascinating Palaeolithic rock art to marvel at, dating back at least 22,000 years. Then there’s Barca de Alva and the International Douro Natural Park, a place of perfect peace and beauty.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg. You could stay here for weeks and still have wonders to discover. So how do you get to the Douro Valley?
Porto is an excellent starting point, with everything from cruise boats to trains, buses, hire cars and helicopters available. The river is tranquil and smooth, making boat adventures a lovely option, nice and leisurely. Pick up a cruise boat up at Vila Nova de Gaia pier, opposite Porto’s Ribeira, to enjoy a day trip or a multi-day adventure.
If you enjoy the rhythm of a train journey take the Linha do Douro from São Bento station in central Porto. It’ll whisk you away on a three hour trip to Pocinho with exceptionally beautiful views along the way. Pick the right hand seats for the most stunning river and vineyard vistas of all. Porto is also home to plenty of bus tours, another cool, calm and comfortable way to drink in the surroundings – and sample local wines at farmhouse quintas along the way.
Hire a car if you like, then DIY your way through the Douro Valley at your own speed. Fruit sellers line the road with delicious wares for sale and again the views are spectacular, this being the N-222, connecting Peso da Régua with Pinhão. The route has been given a coveted Avis Driving Index award for being the World’s Best Road, and that’s what we call special.
If you’d like to treat yourself to awe-inspiring views from above, hire a helicopter. Tours range from twenty to forty five minutes and can take you as far upriver as magnificent Mesao Frio, an ancient Roman stopping point for weary travellers in far-off days.
A break in the Douro Valley comes with all sorts of not-to-miss treats, including numerous lookout points or miradouros, each with a view more breathtaking than ever. To know more about the place’s history and culture visit the excellent Douro Museum in Peso da Regua, a museum dedicated to the region’s famously tasty wines and ports. As you’d expect there’s a wine tasting session to enjoy. And if you get hooked on the flavours, like so many people do, explore more and take in as many quintas as you can manage, each offering an exciting wine testing session along with tours of the premises and wines for sale.
Inspired? Do it now. Explore our site, book a great deal, and prepare to let the legendary Douro Valley magic into your heart.