The Douro Valley vineyards where the port wine is produced, are definitely one of the greatest attractions of Portugal. Let us tell you all you need to know to see this amazing place and make the most of your visit.
The Terraced Landscape
The Douro River, passing from the Spanish border all the way to Porto, is a deep, wide and scenic river irrigating the fertile lands of the Northern Portugal. Since the riversides are too steep for typical plantation, throughout centuries the hills’ grounds were cut into levelled terraces. Nowadays, there are endless terraced hills all around this area, creating a spectacular and unique landscape. I have only seen a comparable landscape on rice fields in China, and some small terraces in Cinque Terre, Italy.
It is a beautiful, peaceful rural area, filled with lush greenery of vineyards and olive groves, with impressive, elegant wineries and small villages. The heritage importance of this area was recognized by UNESCO, enlisting the entire Douro Valley as World Heritage Site.
How to get to the Douro Valley Vineyards?
There are four options to get to the Douro Valley:
Boat trip to the Douro Valley from Porto
If you want a day or half-day trip, it’s a great option. During the cruise, you will see the beautiful landscapes, and then the tour guide will show you the selected winery or wineries, usually with wine tasting and sometimes lunch.
Boat trip from Peso da Régua / Pinhão
You can get by train to Peso da Régua (closer from Porto), where the Port Wine Route starts, or to Pinhão (a bit further from Porto) – in the heart of the port vineyards. From both these towns, you have multiple options of boat trips. I recommend Pinhão, because it’s scenic and beautiful. Peso da Régua is a charmless town, although it may be a good starting point, as it has a Port Wine Museum and most trips start from there, so there is a huge choice of them.
Check boat trips to the Douro Valley from Pinhão here– starting from as little as EUR 10
The Douro Valley By Car
The beautiful landscapes can be well admired from the car, with some lovely miradouros – viewpoints – along the way. However, take into consideration that it is a rural and hilly area, so the roads are at times narrow, they are very curvy and some slopes are relatively steep. If you don’t like driving on winding roads upwards or downwards, consider the boat trip. Otherwise – take the car and enjoy the trip!
The Douro Valley By Train
The Douro Valley offers a very panoramic train route. The train passes at many points close to the river, offering great views. It runs in the summer months. Stop in Peso da Régua (for a boat trip) or Pinhão (for boat trip or walks around the area).
Check the timetables of the trains here.
The Best Douro Valley Vineyards – Where to go?
Travelling through the hilly landscape of the Douro Valley, every now and then, on a hill you see another huge white building of a quinta. Quinta means an estate, and here in particular, a winery. Quintas bear name of a vineyard or of the port producer. Some of the best quintas can be visited in Pinhão.Here are two wineries that we recommend most:
1. Quinta das Carvalhas
Elegant and sophisticated, Quinta das Carvalhas belongs to Real Companhia Velha, which has spectacular tours of wine cellars in Porto.
This huge estate welcomes you in a distinct degustation room, serving also as a showroom and shop of their precious wines. Apart from degustations, there are tours of vineyards, taking you all the way up the hill covered with the terraces belonging to the company to its guest house Casa Redonda with maybe the most spectacular view at the terraced hills of the Douro Valley vineyards. Breathtaking. However, the tours are available only on specific days of the week, so check beforehand.
2. Quinta de Bomfim, Dow’s
Elegant Quinta de Bomfim (Dow’s winery estate) offers a visit to its beautiful vast vineyards
Quinta de Bomfim is a very elegant, refined winery with one of the most beautiful vineyards in the area. It welcomes you at the reception with an interesting museum, explaining the history of the producer – Dow’s, a part of Symington family estates – and of the port wine production. Afterwards, you can have a degustation of the company’s port wines in a pleasant wine bar with a view at the river.
The highlights include the cellar and a tour around the vineyards. There are thematic routes within the vast and beautiful terrain of the vineyards, with thorough explanation of the history ot the place, its geographical and climatic properties, the grounds, the vines themselves and the environment around.
The tour gives you good understanding of the territory and the production of wine. And it’s just a great pleasure to stroll in the idyllic silence of the countryside, with the views on the terraced hills and the river. From time to time, you get a glimpse of a rabelo – a traditional boat transporting wine barrels from the Douro Valley to Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto.
Where to Stay in the Area of the Douro Valley Vineyards?
Stay for 2-3 days to fully enjoy it
We highly recommend to stay in the Douro Valley area for 2-3 days. The vineyards offer a very relaxing way to spend time, and the wineries obviously will tempt you to get a bit drunk, so you will really want to stay around ;) It is a great place for unwinding in the calm countryside.
The Romanesque Route
Moreover, apart from the traditions of port wine, the area offers the Romanesque Route with numerous medieval churches in the villages around. The Route includes 14 monuments, and it spreads between the villages of Castelo de Paiva and Resende.
Recommended hotels in the Douro Valley
There are many high quality hotel options in the area. Our advice is to stay either in Pinhão, or in other localities in charming hotels with marvellous view.
Here are hotels that we highly recommend:
- ArsDurium Douro Hotel in Cinfães – a truly magical oasis of tranquillity, surrounded by an olive grove and dense vegetation, high above the Douro River with a breathtaking view. This hotel is a real jewel, with its lovely decoration and swimming pool overlooking the garden. We stayed here and we really loved it!
- Casa Rural Da Costeira also in Cinfães – extremely charming rural house with all modern amenities, swimming pool and a wonderful view over the terraced hills.
- LBV House Hotel in Pinhão – with a perfect view at the vineyards, this hotel features very modern, tasteful interiors and lets you fully immerse into the port wine lands.
- Quinta da Galeira in Pinhão – one of the best ideas is to stay in a Quinta (winery) to enjoy the full experience of a visit, tour in vineyards, tasting and a great stay. See on the photo above how tempting are the views here!
Types of Port Wine
Port wine is a fortified wine obtained by the addition of grape distillate to the wine very soon in the process of wine fermentation. You will find more information on port wine here.
The types of port wine are the following:
- Vintage – from a single harvest
My personal favourite is tawny port, at least 10 years old. Tawny port is blended matured porto, which can be bottled without indication of ageing, or 10, 20, 30 or even more years old.
To have a full comprehension of the port wine production, you need to see two parts of the process: the Douro Valley vineyards, where the grapes grow, the harvest is made and the wine is produced and left in the barrels, and then the port wine lodges in Porto and Gaia where the port wine is ulteriorly matured in barrels and bottled.
See our recommendations of the 5 Best Wine Cellars in Porto here:
All You Need to Know about the Douro Valley Vineyards
We hope you find here both an inspiration and the tips how to make the most of your visit to the Douro Valley vineyards. If you have any questions, recommendations or tips to add, write them below!