The Douro Valley in northern Portugal offers spectacular vistas of terraced vineyards on both margins of the river Douro with the colour of the land changing throughout the year. In February and March when the almond blossom is out, there is an added white pinkish tone to the region, and in the autumn, the vines look particularly beautiful when they take on a reddish and golden colour. Our luxury holiday rentals in Douro Valley enjoy panoramic views over this outstanding scenery.
Zigzagging roads up and down mountainsides and between tributary valleys can make driving a challenge, but they do open up the dramatic and stunning scenery for enjoyment. There is still very little in the way of developed tourism in the region and you will feel “far from the madding crowd”. Yet the tranquil landscape of the Douro Valley offers plenty to see and enjoy from nature walks to river cruises, a very relaxed approach to exploring the area.
The “Alto Douro Vinhateiro” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which recognizes the area around the Douro Valley where wine has been produced for the past two thousand years. Since the 18th century, its main product (port wine) has been world famous for its quality. You can visit numerous “Quintas”, learn about the process, taste their products and buy Port directly. The region also has some excellent local restaurants, both simple and sophisticated, to choose from.
Some villages particularly stand out for their cultural richness and unique landscapes: Provesende with its baronial houses built around a central square; Favaios where Moscatel (pudding) wine of the same name is made; Ucanha with its tower and medieval bridge; Salzedas with its monastery; Trevões, Barcos & São Xisco are all well worth a visit.
Whilst Pinhão by the river is famous for its train station covered in blue and white tiles depicting a bygone era in the Douro, and from its quayside, you can enjoy a 2-hour up-river cruise on a traditional Rabelo boat, sail a yacht along the river, or even hire some canoes.
Larger towns include Peso da Régua on the riverside, which being at the centre of the port industry features the Museu do Douro as well as the Solar do Vinho do Porto, where you can learn a bit more about port. A pretty market town with a castle and a cathedral south of the Douro river, Lamego also hosts the “Nossa Senhora dos Remédios” pilgrimage with 686 steps leading up to the 18th-century church – we suggest walking up before lunch at one of the many small restaurants around its main square. Whilst at Vila Real located north of the river, you will find the 18th century Palace of Mateus and gardens, famous for Mateus Rose wine!
If you fancy a spot of pampering instead, the 6 Senses Spa as well as the Vila Gale in Régua, both offer some great treatments.
Not to be missed is the unforgettable Historical Douro Train trip up-river from Regua, past Pinhão and onto Foz Tua. Never leaving the riverside the steam locomotive goes past Douro Quintas and damn locks, with the landscape of terraced vineyards changing to dramatic rocky outcrops, making this one of Europe´s great rail journeys!