Portugal is that small country next to Spain that usually people tend to ignore, but once they step in they can’t help but fall in love with the amazing cities, landscapes and traditions. When enjoying a week in the northern part of Portugal, including the country’s second largest city of Porto, plan for at least a weekend in beautiful Douro Valley as well.
Finding Wine in North Portugal
The Douro Valley has Three World Heritage Sites recognised by UNESCO: the Alto Douro Wine Region, Historic Centre of Porto and the Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Coa Valley and Siega Verde. The riverbanks that line Porto and its six bridges over the Douro river house buildings relate to the wine production. On the opposite bank of the historic center, you can find the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, where you have the famous Port wine cellars that you can visit as Sandeman or Cálem.
Road trip through the Douro
However, it is not the same to taste wine in an urban space than doing it surrounded by nature and the own vineyards that have produced those excellent drinks.
The best way to get to the Douro Valley from Porto is renting a car with some friends, giving you freedom to enjoy the most of the breathtaking views that you will find on your way. Green and brown are the main colors that will dominate your adventure over many fields. Following the Douro, you will be on one side of it, desiring to cross it and drive as well on the other side.
The views from the road are spectacular. An image of vivid green involving the river all over the long way and blooming the earth with wealthy vineyards welcomes you to the valley where we will head to the Vila Real District towards the working city Peso da Régua. This is a place to settle for a few days while you can enjoy different attractions and emotions.
If you can indulge a generous budget, you can even make this trip more interesting and unique by staying at one of the best-kept secrets of the area, The Six Senses Douro Hotel Spa. A totally charming 19th-century manor house set on a hill overlooking the vineyards and the river. The luxury resort has everything you might need to experience during those days at the enchanted valley on a contemporary design space.
The atmosphere is utterly captivating, and as soon as you leave your car and open the big doors of the hall, you breathe peace. A friendly receptionist will welcome you, and even if you are just visiting the space, he will invite you to take the lift and go down through the stunning property and discovering the wine library, the garden, the outdoor swimming pool and the restaurant The Vale de Abrao. For a less formal meal, the Quinta bar and lounge is ideal, with a delicious tapas menu where you can feel how their approach is tasty and healthy.
One of the major points of The Six Senses brand is the sustainability and wellness, as well. For example, they have a partnership with a local farmer to use his land for a vegetable patch and fruit orchard. The Six Senses has a clear aim to improve the carbon footprint from activities associated with the resort and spa operations.
Speaking of the spa, it is one of the most exciting spots of the whole hotel. It’s a premiere place to rest and treat yourself with an approach about nature and Portuguese tradition in addition to the elements of water, stone and wood. The heated indoor pool is a must on those winter days when the weather is cold, and the landscape is more brown than green.
Tranquil escapes by the river
For those that want to spend a little less on this fantastic trip, there is a splendid alternative for staying a couple of nights, the Delfim Douro Hotel, close to Peso da Régua. With an outdoor swimming pool and simple but lovely rooms facing the river, you can make it your place to rest, and you can enjoy the wonders of the area. At Peso da Régua, you have the Douro Museum to enjoy a showcase of the wine-making industry. For tasting wine, you can go to the wine warehouses, “armazéns de vinhos”. After that, the ideal option is to take the historic steam train to Pinhao, a picturesque village, while you enjoy the real Valley scene. Do not miss the old century houses and palaces all over the region, some of them are open to the public.
Culinary delights and perfect sunsets
Between Peso da Régua and Pinhao at Folgosa, you can enjoy an excellent meal at DOC, a top restaurant from the acclaimed Chef Rui Paula. A beautiful building designed by Architect Miguel Saraiva features an open window to the Douro within an excellent gastronomic experience showing traditional Portuguese cuisine with modern conceptions and techniques linked to feelings and old memories. Chef Rui Paula adapts the menu to the change of the seasons featuring the Sea, the Land and vegetarian options. One of his most complete suggestions is the Douro Menu. From the seven signature dishes composing the menu, we can find some top rooted products as the Egg cooked at Low Temperature with Portuguese Sausage “Alheira” or Grilled Octopus with Infusion of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Garlic. Flavours to pair with some of the best wines from the region at a top environment.
Before leaving behind The Valley, go up to one of the viewpoints to enjoy the best landscape windows, two of the most popular ones are the Sao Leonardo at Galafura or Santo António.
There are many attractive options for enjoying The Douro Valley, but these are the ones that will blow your mind as you feel and taste the wine in its surrounding fields.