Beyond the eclectic capital of Lisbon, Portugal offers its visitors a wealth of nature, quaint rural villages, and even the world’s oldest demarcated wine region. One of the best places to experience all four is the Douro Valley.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Douro Valley is named for the Douro River which flows from the Portuguese city of Porto across the northern stretches of the country before passing over the Spanish border. The waterway measures 557 miles (897 kilometers) and sits at an altitude of 2,157 meters (7,077 feet).
What to see in the Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is one of Portugal’s leading viticulture destinations which makes the region a hit with wine enthusiasts. Rising at both sides of the river you will see terraced vineyards that yield grapes for the production of Port wine (vinho do Porto). As a demarcated region, the area is defined by strict boundaries.
Wineries and vineyards, or quintas, welcome tourists and there are a variety of wine tours available that enrich you with knowledge about the Portuguese wine industry while you sip velvety Port. One of the best times to visit the Douro Valley is during the annual harvest that falls during mid-late September.
The Douro Valley is known for a series of spectacular view points including São Leonardo da Galafura, São Salvador do Mundo, O Carrascalinho, and Quinta do Vale Meão. Overlooking the quintessential Douro Valley town of Pinhão, Miradouro de Casal de Loivos was granted the title of one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the world by the BBC.
Hikers will be equally enthralled by the Douro Valley which offers a plethora of trails to suit all ability levels. Gentle options take you through the vineyards and many of the viewpoints are accessible via road or public transport while more advanced routes navigate steep climbs in order to access panoramic viewpoints.
How to explore the Douro Valley
There is a wide variety of options for how to visit the Douro Valley. You may choose to rent a car and travel the length as a road trip. Note that the road features its share of ups and downs and in some parts, it becomes very narrow. For experienced drivers, the freedom of driving independently is a wonderful choice.
Linha do Douro is a scenic railway that connects Porto with Pocinho and takes three and a half hours in total. If you have time, it is worth extending the journey by alighting along the way and exploring the towns and villages. Another exciting way to explore the Douro Valley is to hop aboard one of the boat tours that operate on the water itself. The most luxurious way to see the valley is via a yacht or helicopter charter.
If you’re struggling to decide which method of getting around most appeals, then you may be interested to hear that it is possible to mix up train and boat travel.
For more information about Portugal, check out the free presentation that I prepared in collaboration with Turismo de Portugal. Contact me when you are ready to book your trip to Portugal or the Douro Valley and we will discuss the best way for you to explore this beautiful pocket of nature. Until then, remember to take my quiz which will help you discover the rest of the world’s leading wine destinations.
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