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The Douro Valley

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The Douro Valley is one of the main tourist attractions in northern Portugal, which is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world. With its terraced vines, its magnificent views and its numerous activities, it attracts the curious and wine lovers every year. The experience is unique in this wildest and most mountainous wine region of Portugal, a destination not to be missed during an extended visit to Porto.

Pinhao Photo: AdobeStock kite_rin
Pinhao Village

The Douro Valley, 3 very varied sub-regions to discover

The Douro Valley extends over 250,000 hectares divided into 3 sub-regions which follow the course of the Douro River. Climate, typical soil and landscapes, despite their proximity, each presents unique characteristics:

  • Baixo Corgo, the lower part of the Douro Valley, is a wild area with 14,000 hectares of vineyards where 16,000 producers work all year round. Cool and humid, the climate is ideal for growing with Atlantic influences. Its high rainfall provides very fertile soil, earning it the privilege of being named the best region for port.

  • Alto Corgo or upper part of the Douro, is the most touristy region of the Valley with some pretty villages like Pinhao or Tua to visit along the river. The Mediterranean climate allows us to obtain grapes concentrated in sugar, perfect for the production of vintage port with 20,000 hectares of vines.

  • Douro Superior, the easternmost part of the Douro Valley and the sunniest. Its intense heat, sometimes reaching 50°C in summer, makes the arid land unsuitable for vines. Unlike its neighbors, its main attraction is not the wine, but its prehistoric cave paintings considered to be the most beautiful in Europe, especially those located near the town Vila Nova de Foz.

Structured and fruity red wines or light and aromatic white wines, the Douro Valley is renowned for its viticulture. Discover the particularities of these 3 attractive sub-regions, each in their own way.

Read our article on the Douro River to find out more about this essential commercial artery in the region and its development.

Vila Nova de Foz Coa Photo: AdobeStock Iuri-Silvestre-Wirestock
The Douro near Vila Nova de Foz Coa

The Douro Valley, a wine region to visit near Porto

Wine tourism is very developed in the Douro Valley where many producers offer guided tours and tastings of their production. From table wine to vintage port, there is something to satisfy all palates through a complete route between Baixo Corgo and Alto Corgo, the particularity of which remains its terraced vineyard structures. Nicknamed the Enchanted Valley, it offers incredible views of stepped vineyards dotted with a thousand colors depending on the seasons. Live an exceptional experience in the heart of vineyards, accompanied by passionate winegrowers. Due to the location of the grapes, the harvest is done by hand, a meticulous work open to the curious who want to discover the profession for a day. Do not hesitate to inquire, some areas even operate as hotels, another way to immerse yourself in hillside life in the Douro Valley.

Pinhão on the banks of the Douro

The viewpoints of the Douro Valley and its visit from Porto

A must-see during a visit to Portugal, the Douro Valley is one of the most popular places in the country. Lush vegetation, breathtaking views and delicious high-quality wines, the discovery is worth the detour.

To get to the Douro Valley from Porto, several solutions are available to you:

  • By car via a rental which allows you to reach Régua, Pinhao and Vila Nova de Foz crossing the Valley by the N222 road. Steep and winding, it is ideal for reaching visiting points and wine estates easily, and for accessing hiking trails for the adventurous. Plan more than a day, it takes a few hours to reach the Douro Valley before exploring it.

  • By train, a picturesque way to travel on the Linha de Douro line, one of the most beautiful railways in Europe. It is advisable to stay there since the one-way trip already takes 3 hours.

  • A boat cruise on the Douro River is an excursion renowned for its calm and beauty. The landscapes seen from below are magnificent, a sublime setting to photograph during the crossing which can last a few hours, a day or a week.

  • A guided tour by minibus is ideal for enjoying the panorama while listening to an enthusiast's explanations of the history of the Douro Valley. Some areas are stopping points to meet the winegrowers and taste the region's wines.

Linha do Douro Photo: AdobeStock Armando-Oliveira
The train line in the Douro Valley

Don't miss the magnificent lookouts and incredible viewpoints during your walk:

  • The Belvedere Sao Leonardo, on the road to Vila Nova de Foz which leads to Régua, discovers the splendor of the Douro wine region,
  • Casa de Loivos, north of Pinhao, offers an exceptional panoramic view of the hillsides,
  • The Sao Salvador de Mundo Belvedere on the left bank of the Douro opens onto a contrast of color and landscape of great beauty, between olive trees, vineyards and orchards.

Peso, Galafura, Poiares, Lourevo, Moura Morte or Vinhos, there are many others where you can stop to observe the marvelous nature of the Douro Valley.

Do you like beautiful views? Read our article on the most beautiful viewpoints in Porto.

Salvador do Mundo photo: AdobeStock dudlajzov-Sao
The viewpoint of Salvador do Mundo

The wine villages and the most beautiful villages of the Douro Valley

Apart from the wines to taste, this region of Portugal is also famous for its charming villages to visit.

  • Lamego

Lamego is a small, very steep town in the Alto Corgo region, nestled in the middle of the hills. You will need good shoes and breath to climb the 686 steps of the magnificent baroque staircase that climbs Santo Estavao hill to the Nossa Senhora dos Remedios church. Lively and touristy, its Avenida includes outdoor cafes and markets to discover the peaceful and welcoming atmosphere of Lamego. Former Moorish castle, Gothic cathedral and 18th century villas, it has quite a story to tell, notably the coronation of Alfonso I who was crowned king of Portugal there in 1139.

  • Tua

The village of Tua is a destination where calm and serenity reign in the face of the great beauty of the landscape. On the right bank of the Douro, it overlooks the Valley and Lake Tua, a contrast of green vegetation and pure water which offers an exceptional panorama. Many hiking trails are accessible around the lake to immerse yourself in this unmissable wild nature of the Douro Valley.

Lamego Photo: AdobeStock estivillml
Lamego in the Alto Corgo region

Of course, the vineyards remain the landscape imposed on the postcard, particularly in the few wine villages not to be missed:

  • Barcos, south of the river, can be discovered through alleys which lead to the fort or the Notre Dame de Sabroso chapel. Authentic and peaceful, it retains a remarkable architectural heritage.
  • Favaios is a village of Roman origin as evidenced by the remains of the castle. Then occupied by the Moors and then the Christians, it retains several churches and chapels from the 17th to the 18th century. Admire the magnificent villas and mansions inhabited by the producers of Favaios and taste the Moscatel wine honored in the region.
  • Provesende, located above the Pinhao River, is a wine village renowned for its port wine. The richness of the soil allows the development of Provesende which is made up of pretty villas and manors along the streets.
  • Ucanha is a charming destination nestled among forested hills. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, the village offers a unique landscape over the valley's vineyards. Cross the 18th century bridge, an ancient Roman road, and enjoy the beach on the banks of the Douro.
  • Salzedas is considered the most remarkable monastery in Portugal, witness to a rich past following the passage of the Lusitanians, Romans, Suevi, Visigoths and Muslims.
  • Trevoes is located on the Douro wine villages route, an important tourist site in the Valley thanks to its rich past and listed buildings.

Grab your sneakers and your cameras, the hike promises to be perfect for beautiful photos among all these villages to visit.

Provesende Photo: AdobeStock_streetflash
Provesende, pretty village surrounded by vineyards

The must-sees of the Douro Valley

Picturesque and charming, the Douro Valley is one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe. During a vacation or a short stay in Porto, it is a region to absolutely visit with some unmissable activities:

  • Eat in a Quinta, a winegrowers' residence with an atypical style in the heart of a wine farm which also serves as a restaurant and sometimes a hotel. On the terrace or in the room, admire the magnificent view of the hillsides and the vineyards, while enjoying a port as an aperitif.
  • Take a boat cruise between Pinhao and Tua on a traditional boat called “Barco Rabelo”. Lasting 2 hours, it allows you to observe breathtaking views invisible from the national road.
  • Visit Peso de Regua, the cradle of port production thanks to the transport of wine barrels on special boats to Vila Nova de Gaia for aging.
  • Visit the Douro Museum located in Peso de Regua, a must to learn about the history of the Douro and the development of port. Between temporary exhibition and room dedicated to wine traditions, you will be knowledgeable about the flavors and names of the different ports.

Have fun throughout your stay, the Douro Valley is large enough to keep you busy for a good number of days.

The Douro Valley now has no more secrets for you, you are ready for an excursion full of color and surprises facing the magnificent landscapes that await you. Remember to book your tickets and above all taste the wine of this magnificent wine region before returning.