The Douro is known for hosting the famous Douro wines, popular green wines, and fun sparkling wines that gain strength in an already consolidated trend! The Douro will bewitch you with its unforgettable wine, its delicious traditional cuisine, breathtaking viewpoints. The man was inspired to create it, and today, it is one of the greatest wonders of Nature, currently a UNESCO heritage site.
Is Douro Valley worth visiting?
Totally! A visit to the Douro Valley needs to be on your bucket list, and we'll give you all the reasons and more.
The Douro Valley region is worth visiting for its history, its wines, its wonderful slopes, landscapes, people, gastronomy, and unforgettable scenery. The Douro Valley has some of the best hotels, wineries, restaurants, and luxury wine tastings that are unmissable.
A trip to the Douro Valley, is a unique experience. It is to sit in front and watch one of Nature's greatest wonders from the front row. It is a place of refuge, a place to find yourself and to dive into the infinite beauty, calm, and tranquility. It is an idyllic setting, it is passion and love.
In 2001, UNESCO classified 24,600 hectares of the Alto Douro Wine Region as World Heritage. The Douro River offers such fabulous landscapes that are engraved in the memory of those who glimpse them.
The Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated and regulated wine-growing region with the largest diversity of grape varieties.
The peculiar climate - a microclimate of its own due to the mountain range that protects it from the influence of the Atlantic Ocean - guarantees the necessary conditions for the production of the world-famous Port Wine and makes the landscapes even more beautiful, imposing, and breathtaking, in any season of the year.
If you are interested in wine, a visit to the Douro Valley will be particularly exciting.
What is the Douro Valley famous for?
This region, full of secrets and incredible sites has numerous highlights. However, if you are wondering, here are the reasons not to miss the Douro Valley on your next visit to Portugal:
For the wine and its memorable Quintas
The main reason, or one of the primary reasons, to put this lush valley on your itinerary is, of course, its vineyards! The Douro Valley is famous for being the oldest demarcated wine region (meaning it is defined by strict boundaries) on the planet, and a large part of it was even made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. It's a beautiful landscape, lush grapes, and wonderful wine!
For the breathtaking views that are unlike anywhere else in the country
Vineyards with terraces going up and down the rolling hillsides on either side of the curvy river are responsible for the region's unique landscape. Portugal is a country full of natural beauty, but the Douro Valley is considered one of the country's "crowned jewels." Some of the best viewpoints to see the green hills and the Douro River are in Ventozelo (near the Portugal-Spain border) and the São Leonardo da Galafura viewpoint, located between Peso da Régua and Pinhão.
For its cruises along the River
Do you love a good cruise? If you know that the only way to get your vacation is with a little time in the sun while on the water, then taking a boat ride along the Douro River is by far one of the most memorable ways to see the valley. It will be deck chairs at the ready and a bon voyage for a day in the sun.
For its local cuisine
Another reason to make your way to this part of northern Portugal is the local cuisine, and it is anything but light. Follow the locals to the neighborhood tascas, where meats, fish, and stews fill the menus. Some favorite dishes include grilled cod, roasted suckling pig and octopus salad. Even if you're not hungry, ordering a plate of cheeses and charcuterie to go with a glass of local wine is always a good idea.
Where to Go in the Douro Valley?
The Douro Valley could also be called the enchanted valley such is the beauty and enchantment that its landscapes offer. Leaving from Porto, where the river flows and where the Douro wines (table wine) and Port (fortified wine) produced on its slopes also flow, we can get to know this Cultural Landscape, classified as World Heritage, in various ways: by road, by train, on a cruise boat, or even by helicopter. None of them will leave us indifferent.
Currently, the Douro Demarcated Region, extends over 250,000 hectares, and vineyards occupy about 48,000 hectares, which corresponds to about 19% of the total area. It is divided into three areas: to the west, the Baixo Corgo - Lower Corgo (up to Régua), in the center the Cima Corgo - Upper Corgo, and to the east the Douro Superior - Upper Douro.
Alto Douro Vinhateiro
The Douro River has given life to many regions, but the one that bears its name is the one that exerts an unusual fascination. It is all its surroundings, of rare beauty, which mix the river with miracles of nature, where the vines grow on difficult soils, schistose and granite, and the work of man on its slopes, gave it the terraces that draw the hills.
The Alto Douro Vinhateiro was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in the category of Evolving and Living Landscape in 2001. The thirteen municipalities that are part of the area distinguished by UNESCO are Mesão Frio, Peso da Régua, Santa Marta de Penaguião, Vila Real, Alijó, Sabrosa, Murça, Carrazeda de Ansiães, Torre de Moncorvo, Lamego, Armamar, Tabuaço, S. João da Pesqueira and Vila Nova de Foz Côa.
Baixo Corgo - Lower Corgo
The Baixo-Corgo covers the entire right bank of the Douro River, from Barqueiros to the Corgo River (Régua). It covers the counties of Vila Real, Santa Marta de Penaguião, Mesão Frio, Peso da Régua, Armamar and Lamego. This is the region with the smallest territory, but with the highest percentage of planted vineyards.
It has a high production of Port Wine, being the cradle of viticulture in the Douro region. However, it has also been showing excellent quality in the production of table wines. The wines produced here are generally younger and fresher, and have a fruity character. With an average of 14,000 hectares of plantation and 16,000 producers, there are only a few hectares for each producer.
Cima Corgo - Upper Corgo
The Cima Corgo is supported by the Baixo Corgo, continuing west to the Cachão da Valeira. It includes the municipalities of Tabuaço, Sabrosa, Alijó, Murça and São João da Pesqueira.
The landscape of this sub-region is totally distinct from the others. The slopes form a rugged relief and the river valleys are geological formations made of schist, and the soil is rougher. The climate is drier and yields are low. Cima Corgo contains the largest concentration of high quality historic vineyards.
Douro Superior - Upper Douro
It is the largest of all the sub-regions and also has the hottest and driest climate. Its relief is less rugged, with softer slopes, making mechanization easier. Due to the reduced rainfall, the vines produce less, but still yield some of the best Vintage Ports.
Wine production is one of the most relevant things in all sub-regions, but the Upper Douro region stands out especially for its fauna and flora, and for its historical traces.
When to visit the Douro Valley?
Due to its mild temperature, the Douro Valley region is a destination that can be visited all year round, however there are times of the year that are more favorable to visit, depending on tastes.
April and May are some of the best months to visit the Douro valley: the weather is still not too hot, and you have all the beauty and colors of spring working together to help you have a memorable experience. Some great activities include hiking, boat trips and, of course, visits to local wineries.
However, between September and October is also an extraordinary time. It's time for grape picking, the smell that hangs in the air is different. It smells like fresh grapes, it smells like wine. People are happy. The heat can still be felt. The feeling is one of friendship, mutual help, happiness. You can hear singing, music, and in the farms you can witness secular traditions that will be translated into wines.
The end of the year between November and December, arguably colder, is more romantic. We sit by the fireplace, sipping a glass of DOC table wine or a port. The options are endless, but at the window we always have the terraces with brown autumn traces, or the vineyards with frozen roots of the winter sunset.
In the Douro Valley, the magic is different, it is unique. Any time of year is a great time to visit. Come and enjoy it, you won't regret it.
How to visit the Douro Valley?
There are several possibilities to visit the Douro Valley. If you prefer to visit the valley without major concerns, talk to us, our tours have transfers included, and you don't need to worry about that part. However, if you want to visit by yourself, these are some options you can use.
Douro Valley By Train
With eleven daily departures to Peso da Régua, and five daily services to Pocinho, the Douro line is an important rail route.
Douro Valley By Car
A car brings a lot of ease, which is why all our tours include transfer with driver. However, if you are taking a trip and already have a rental car, to go to the Douro Valley, the roads are great. The Douro Valley is idyllic to drive, the N222, voted the best road in the world, is the road that connects Peso da Régua to Pinhão and is an unforgettable scenic Route.
Best things to do in the Douro Valley
An unmissable program for wine lovers and others. The tours, which are already organized, tell the stories, sometimes centuries-old, of the farms, talk about the demarcated region, and the cherry on top of the cake? They can culminate with picnics, wine and gourmet product tastings, such as cheeses and jams, and even naps under the trees.
Sometimes, walking around is letting our eyes assimilate the wonders that surround us and thus learn more about them. In the Douro Valley, that is exactly what is intended, and there is nothing better way to get to know it than to walk along its centennial terraces, which go downhill in a beautiful and endless formation of stairs to the river's edge, or even under its old train lines, which by disuse have become only monuments once used by man.
Despite its timeless beauty, it carries its cares, the shadows are few due to much of the mountains are covered with vineyards, so we always advise the use of sunscreen, as well as quantities of water to stay hydrated throughout the walk, no less important is the use of comfortable shoes and clothes.
In a region of beautiful landscapes and full of excellent wines, there is no shortage of restaurant options to balance the (important) alcohol and guarantee good times on the banks of the Douro Valley. In Peso da Régua, visit the modern and hip Castas e Pratos, with delicious food and a good wine list - the restaurant is located in the city's old train station, which makes the experience even better.
On the banks of the Douro, there are other excellent options, such as the award-winning DOC, by chef Rui Paula, with one of the best views of the river. The restaurant Terraçu's, at Quinta Nova, is a luxury apart, and the good dishes and incredible view do not disappoint. In Pinhão, the restaurant at Quinta de la Rosa offers modern interpretations of classic Portuguese dishes and, at Quinta da Pacheca, The Wine House restaurant also brings refinement and flavor to the table.
To get another view of the Douro Valley, the one that comprises the two banks of the river and all its vineyards, from bottom to top, consider taking a boat trip, the famous rabelo. There are daily tours, with more than one schedule, leaving from the docks of Peso da Régua and Pinhão.
Admire the cave paintings
The cave paintings at Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa, the largest open-air museum of the Paleolithic, were considered World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. It is 17 kilometers long, with more than two thousand years of history, which are well worth the visit.
How many days should I spend in Douro Valley?
And to enjoy all this, it is necessary to invest some quality time in the Douro Valley, 4 days are recommended, 2 days can be rushed (but possible) and 5 days a super comfortable time to explore the region with quality. For an incredible, premium, quality time, 7 days through Porto, all-inclusive, is the ultimate experience. Find out more below.
7-Day Premium Tour in Douro aboard a Private Yacht Cruise
It's a tailor-made itinerary for the wine connoisseur and well-traveled client. History, wine, and sightseeing are only the beginning. You will have privileged access (in small groups) to the most authentic wineries and wine tastings. A hands-on Chef's table experience and multiple handpicked, superior meals are some of the experiences we prepared for you.
5-Days Premium Tour in Douro
The tour that stuns even the most demanding wine enthusiast. You'll taste exquisite wine, cruise through a quintessential wine region and be familiar with all the details of Port wine production.
3-Day Tour in Douro with a Cruise in the Douro River
This is the ultimate, utmost activity for expert Wine enthusiasts. A 3-day stay in a Wine Hotel at the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A private sailboat cruise. A guided visit through some of the most famous wineries and wine estates of the iconic region.
2-Days Tour in the Douro Valley
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 2001, the Douro is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, stretching along the axis of the Douro River with an area that occupies more than 40,000 hectares. On this self-driving tour, you will have the opportunity to visit the most renowned Port and Douro wineries "Quintas" and savor the most delicious meals of this stunning Douro.
One Day in Douro with a Douro River Cruise
In a one-day wine tour, you will have the opportunity to visit some of its more charming wine estates where Port and Douro wines are produced, where you will enjoy different wine experiences and end your day with a relaxing cruise in the Douro River.