Douro Valley Encompassed: Experience the Best Wineries in Portugal
Looking for the best wine in Portugal? Then look no further than Douro Valley, which is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world and one of the most scenic destinations in Europe.
With the sparkling Douro River at its heart, this Valley is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that has a deep-rooted history dating back to Roman times. The region has been producing wine for over 2,000 years. But it’s not just any wine – the Douro Valley is renowned as the home of Port, the sweet, fortified wine that has placed Portugal firmly on the global wine map.
While the best wine in Portugal is undeniably a key attraction, the Douro Valley has even more to offer, with landscapes that are nothing short of spectacular. Depending on the time of the year you visit, you’ll be welcomed by a divine palette of colours – from the lush greenery in Spring and Summer to the golden hues of the vineyards in Autumn.
After recently returning from a trip to this vibrant part of Portugal, let me share with you all the best things to do and see in Douro Valley, including its best wineries, where to stay, as well as some hidden gems!
Things to know before you get to Douro Valley
First things first, let’s talk practical details. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, including the Douro Valley, so it’s always helpful to know a few phrases before you set off on your journey.
‘Bom Dia’ (Good Morning), ‘Obrigado’ (Thank you), and ‘Por favor’ (Please) are some essentials that will endear you to the locals.
Although Portuguese is the native language, we found that most people also speak English here.
As for currency, Portugal is a member of the European Union, so the official currency is the Euro. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted across the Douro Valley, but it’s still a good idea to have some cash on hand, especially for smaller purchases and tipping.
When to Visit Douro Valley
Now, onto one of the most asked questions – when is the best time to visit the Douro Valley? Well, the answer totally depends on what you are looking to experience!
🍷 For Wine Harvest
If your primary interest is in the wine harvest, you need to visit Douro Valley between September and October. This is when the vineyards are bustling with activity as workers harvest the grapes. During this time lots of vineyards offer participatory harvest experiences where you can join the grape picking or stomping! Remember to make reservations for wineries, as some require them, especially during the busy harvest season.
🍃 For Green Landscapes and Wine Tasting
If you’re interested in green, lush landscapes and a more relaxed wine tasting experience in Douro Valley, consider visiting between April and June. The weather will generally be warm but not overly hot, and the vineyards will look stunning (perfect for getting those Instagram shots! 😉)
⚓ For River Cruises
If you’re interested in river cruises, consider visiting Douro Valley between April and October. During these months, the weather is generally pleasant and the River is especially calm.
😌 For Less Crowded Visits
If you’d prefer to avoid crowds, then the best time to visit Douro Valley is in the off-peak months like November to March. Keep in mind, though, that the weather might be a bit colder and not all wineries will be open to the public.
How to Get to Douro Valley
Nestled in the northern part of Portugal, the Douro Valley is accessible via various modes of transport including by car, plane, train, and bus. Each offering a unique experience that allows you to appreciate the country’s diverse landscapes in different ways.
🛬 By Air
If you’re coming from far away, the quickest way to get close to Douro Valley is by flying. The closest airport to the Douro Valley is Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, which is in Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city. From there, you can rent a car or take a train or bus to reach the Douro Valley.
The airport is well-served by various international airlines, making it relatively easy to find a direct or connecting flight from major cities around the world.
Kiwi is one of the best online flight booking platforms when searching for cheap airfares. Not only can you search an entire continent, but you can also select different destinations to find the lowest rates for the whole route ⬇
🚂 By Train
For a more relaxed, scenic journey to Douro Valley, consider taking a train. The Linha do Douro railway line is one of the most beautiful train journeys in Europe. Starting from São Bento or Campanhã station in Porto, the train takes you on a leisurely journey along the Douro River, through terraced vineyards, and past quaint villages.
There are regular train services to Peso da Régua, a town in the heart of the Douro Valley, and the journey takes around two hours. From Peso da Régua, local transportation or taxis can get you deeper into the wine region.
Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach booking platform, which you can use to get the best available prices, times, and train tickets for your journey.
Save up to 51% with early booking! ⬇
🚌 By Bus
If you’re on a budget, reaching the Douro Valley by bus can be an economical choice. Regular intercity buses run from Porto to various towns in the Douro Valley, such as Peso da Régua and Pinhão.
The bus ride is longer than a car or train journey, typically around 2.5 to 3 hours. However, it offers a comfortable ride and the opportunity to enjoy Portugal’s countryside views from a different perspective.
Busbud is an online bus-booking platform that has compiled the world’s largest selection of bus tickets. Wherever you’re traveling, you can easily compare bus tickets from different companies and book the best option for your trip ⬇
🚘 By Car
One of the most flexible and scenic ways to reach Douro Valley is by car. If you’re coming from Porto, it’s roughly a two-hour drive via the A4 and N108.
We went for this option because its one that will reward you with gorgeous views as you drive along winding roads flanked by rolling hills and terraced vineyards. Driving also gives you the flexibility to stop at charming villages or viewpoints along the way….The only downside is that you’ll have to designate a driver if you plan on indulging in wine tastings throughout the day!
When we hired a car in Portugal, we used Discover Cars, which is a fantastic car rental comparison website you can use to find, compare and rent a car globally ⬇
✓ Best things to do in Douro Valley:
Known for its jaw-dropping landscapes, terraced vineyards, quaint villages, and of course, being the birthplace of the best wine in Portugal, the Douro Valley offers an incredible range of unforgettable experiences.
Here are some of the best things to do in the Douro Valley:
⚓ Do a Douro Valley River Cruise
Hop on a river cruise and soak in the awe-inspiring views of the sparkling River twisting its way through the Valley, the rolling hills adorned with vineyards, and the charming villages that dot the landscape. Undoubtedly, this is one of the best and most relaxing ways to admire the beauty of Douro.
If you’re feeling fancy, you could even do a private Yacht Cruise along the River, which is currently on sale for only 60EUR! ⬇
🍷 Explore the Douro Museum
Located in Peso da Régua, the Douro Museum is a great place to learn about the region’s history, culture, and winemaking traditions. This fascinating museum offers interactive exhibits and displays that showcase Douro Valley’s significance, making it the perfect place for history buffs to spend the afternoon.
🏞️ Discover the Valley’s Local Villages
Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the small, rustic towns scattered across the Valley. Get lost in the narrow, winding streets, visit ancient churches, or try some delicious local cheeses and fresh river fish.
I particularly recommend checking out the charming town of Pinhão, which is a hub of wine production in the Douro Valley. Here you’ll be able to admire the beautiful azulejo tiles at the iconic Pinhão train station, stroll along the riverfront, and explore the quaint local shops and wine bars.
If you get the chance, venture to The Vintage House Hotel in Pinhão for lunch. Here you’ll step into a world of timeless sophistication, with lush gardens and a stunning pool right on the River. Despite it being a super luxurious 5 Star Hotel, our lunch was surprisingly affordable – I had a cheese board which cost less than 20EUR!
Another obligatory spot in Pinhão is Miradouro Casal de Loivos. The views from this terrace are simply breathtaking. In fact, the BBC (London) once declared the views from this very spot to be among the 6 best views in the entire world!
Lamego town is also well worth exploring. Visit the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios here, which is a stunning baroque staircase leading to a hilltop sanctuary, and explore the narrow streets lined with colourful houses.
Food wise, Six Senses is hands down the best place to eat in Lamego, but you will need to book in advance. We opted for the Garden Barbecue at Six Senses which is a pop up open during Summer evenings, serving the best meat, fresh fish from the Atlantic and delicious seasonal vegetables from their Organic Garden.
🚂 Ride a Historic Train
When it comes to immersing yourself in the captivating charm of the Douro Valley, there’s no experience quite as unique and enchanting as the Douro Historical Train journey. This timeless adventure serves as a portal, transporting you back in time while delivering unparalleled views of one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions.
The immersive experience on the Douro Historical Train is not just about the eye-catching landscapes though. It’s also about enjoying the soulful tunes of traditional Portuguese music performed live in the carriages, while you sip on the region’s famous port wine!
🥾Take a Hike or Bike Ride 🚴
Lace up your hiking boots or rent a bicycle to explore the Douro Valley’s stunning landscapes up close. There are numerous trails and paths that offer breathtaking views and the opportunity to connect with nature.
Here are some of the best trails you can explore in the Douro Valley:
🥾 Hiking Trails
- PR1 Natural Do Douro Trail: This is a moderate 8km circular trail that starts and ends at the São Cristovão do Douro. The trail offers beautiful views of the terraced vineyards, olive groves, and the Douro River.
- Rota do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Route): A long-distance route that covers the entire Douro region. This route passes through various vineyards, wine cellars, and traditional villages, offering the chance to truly immerse yourself in the wine culture of the Douro Valley.
- The Douro Grand Hiking: A more challenging route that spans from Pesqueira to São João da Pesqueira, passing through Vale de Figueira and Ervedosa. It offers stunning panoramic views of the Douro River and the region’s terraced vineyards.
🚴 Biking Trails
- Ecotrail Douro: This is a converted railway track running along the Douro River from Peso da Régua to the border with Spain. The route is relatively flat, making it a great choice for cyclists of all levels. The full trail is 160km, but you can ride shorter sections of it!
- Douro Valley Bike Tour: A guided multi-day tour that starts in Porto and goes through the heart of the Douro Valley, covering several vineyards, historical sites, and beautiful landscapes.
- Pinhão Cycling Route: Starting from Pinhão, this circular route covers about 27km. It passes through various quintas (wine estates), providing you with plenty of opportunities to stop for wine tastings as you go!
If this sounds a bit too active for you, why not just find a scenic spot to set up a picnic and take in the beauty of the Douro Valley, while savouring local flavours.
✓ Best Wineries in Douro Valley:
Of course no trip to the Douro Valley would be complete without actually exploring its incredible vineyards and wineries!
While you’re here, one of the true highlights is taking guided tours to learn about the winemaking process, sample delicious local wines, and gain a deeper understanding of the region’s rich viticultural heritage.
Here are a few of the most famous wineries in the Douro Valley that offer exceptional experiences:
🍇 Quinta do Vallado: Located in Peso da Régua, Quinta do Vallado is one of the oldest and most renowned wineries in the Douro Valley. They offer tours of their gorgeous vineyards, cellars, and wine museum, providing a deep insight into the winemaking process. Wine tastings are also available, allowing you to savour their exquisite wines – we only paid 25EUR each for this experience, which was money well spent!
🍇 Quinta do Crasto: This family-owned winery in Gouvinhas, is well-known as one of the best Douro Valley wineries. They offer guided tours of their vineyards and cellars, allowing you to learn about the winemaking process while enjoying breathtaking views of the Douro River.
🍇 Quinta do Vale Meão: Situated near Vila Nova de Foz Côa, this renowned winery produces award-winning wines from their own vineyards. Their tastings and tours provide insight into the winemaking traditions of the Valley, along with the opportunity to sample their exceptional wines.
🍇 Quinta do Panascal – Fonseca Port: In the heart of the Douro Valley, near Pinhão, you’ll find Quinta do Panascal. As part of the esteemed Fonseca Port house, this winery offers insightful tours that delve into the history and production of Port wine. Don’t miss the chance to sample their vintage Ports.
🍇 Quinta da Pacheca: These pioneering viticultors are found in Lamego and have been perfecting the art since 1738! As part of the Pacheca package, you’ll get warm hospitality, breathtaking views and authentic experiences (including wine tasting from the barrels, cooking classes, and even taking part in the harvesting on certain dates).
Remember, these are just a few suggestions, and the Douro Valley is home to many more exceptional wineries. Exploring the area for yourself will give you a chance to discover hidden gems and experience the rich wine culture that makes the Douro Valley so special.
You might even want to check out Quinta de Mateus (below). While this architectural marvel is not technically in the Valley itself, it is the birthplace of the renowned ‘Mateus Rosé’ wine and offers an unmissable journey into Portugal’s illustrious past!
Of course, all of the above are just a few of the many wonderful things to add to your Douro Valley itinerary. Hopefully it’s clear that whether you’re a wine enthusiast, nature lover, or history buff, this magical place will absolutely have something special for you to enjoy!
✓ Most Instagrammable Spots in Douro Valley:
The Douro Valley is a place of incredible natural beauty, charming towns, and picturesque vineyards, making it the perfect destination for capturing some awesome content! Here are some of the most Instagrammable places in the Douro Valley:
- Miradouro de São Leonardo da Galafura
This viewpoint offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Douro Valley. With its terraced vineyards and winding river, it’s a great spot to capture the sweeping beauty of the region.
- Pinhão Train Station
Known for its beautiful blue azulejo tiles depicting scenes of the Douro Valley, the Pinhão Train Station is an iconic and photogenic spot. Capture the intricate tiles and step back in time with your Instagram shots!
- The World’s Most Scenic Road
Estrada Nacional 222 is often hailed as the ‘most beautiful road in the world’ by publications like Wine Spectator. No matter the season, every turn on this stunning journey through Douro Valley will deliver epic content for your Insta! From terraced vineyards, punctuated by charming quintas, to endless olive and almond trees, every mile is an Instagrammable moment!
- Quinta do Crasto
Visit Quinta do Crasto and head to their viewing point for a stunning glimpse of the vineyards and the Douro River below. It’s an ideal spot to showcase the natural beauty of the region (and make all your friends at home exceptionally jealous!)
- Peso da Régua Bridge
The iron bridge in Peso da Régua offers a unique and picturesque perspective of the Douro River winding through the valley. Get some pictures here to truly capture the essence of Douro Valley’s charm.
- Vineyard Rows
Simply wander through the vineyards and capture rows of neatly planted vines extending into the distance. The symmetrical and picturesque rows make for striking photos, especially during the growing season!
Remember, while these spots offer incredible photo opportunities, exploring the Douro Valley is about experiencing its beauty firsthand, so don’t forget to put your phone down from time to time and simply enjoy the moment! 😜
✓ Best Restaurants in Douro Valley:
Besides from its stunning vineyards and breathtaking landscapes, Douro Valley also offers some delightful culinary experiences.
Here are a few of my top picks for restaurants in the area:
- Cozinha da Clara: This charming cafe and bakery in Vila Real is a great spot for breakfast or a light lunch. You’ll find loads of freshly baked goods, sandwiches, and salads here, all made with local ingredients.
- Restaurante Douro In: Located in Pinhão, Restaurante Douro In is renowned for its traditional Portuguese cuisine with a modern twist. Also, the outdoor terrace here offers stunning views of the vineyards.
- DOC Restaurant: Located in Armamar, DOC Restaurant is famous for its innovative Portuguese cuisine and gorgeous views over the Douro River. Their delish menu features dishes made with fresh local ingredients and their wine selection is exceptional.
- Castas & Pratos: Situated in Peso da Régua, this restaurant is known for its diverse menu, which showcases traditional Portuguese flavours alongside some pretty unique dishes. I highly recommend trying their crème brûlée with lavender and eucalyptus ice cream!
- Quinta Nova Luxury Winery House: This winery in the heart of the Douro Valley also houses a bar with panoramic views. Fun fact: It was actually the first wine estate in the Douro to open wine tourism facilities, and today is one of the top-rated wine tourism spots in Portugal. So, suffice to say it’s well worth checking this place out for yourself!
P.S. The Best Douro Valley Hack (for Foodies): Download The Fork to get special deals and up to 50% off hundreds of restaurants in Douro Valley! Not an ad, just a top tip from our friend who lives here! 🤫
✓ Where to Stay in Douro Valley:
We personally stayed at Imaginário D’El Rei Guest House, which is located in Mesão Frio. What I loved most about staying here, besides from the free parking and spacious room, is that it’s got an absolutely stunning outdoor pool and terrace with unrivalled views. Every hotel room also comes with its own private terrace overlooking the valley. For this amazing hotel, we only paid around 90EUR per night, which is a massive bargain considering we visited in high season (July).
Take a look – this has to be one of the best places to stay in Portugal, let alone the Douro Valley! ⬇
However, I would only suggest staying at Imaginário D’El Rei if you have a car. Although there are a few lovely local restaurants nearby, like Tasca do Zequinha and Restaurante Convivio, you will otherwise need to drive to most places from this location. So, if this hotel doesn’t tick all of your boxes, check out the best accommodation deals using Hotellook below:
✓ Epic Day Trips from Duoro Valley:
Picture Perfect Porto
A day trip to the charismatic city of Porto is an unmissable extension of your Douro Valley adventure.
Porto is only a couple of hours from the heart of the Valley and offers an irresistible blend of architectural beauty, culinary delights, and vibrant urban energy.
Here you can wander through the labyrinthine streets, admire the colourful buildings, and enjoy a glass of Porto’s namesake wine along the river, completing your epic wine journey that started in the vineyards of Douro!
A day trip to Porto truly encapsulates a unique Portuguese experience – a lively mix of tradition and modernity.
The charming town of Amarante is only about 15 minutes from Porto, so you could easily combine the two trips into one epic day trip (which is what we did)!
This picturesque town is rich in medieval history, with its narrow cobbled streets leading to centuries-old monasteries and churches, such as the iconic Church of São Gonçalo. It’s also renowned for its vibrant artistic scene, notably the Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso Museum, which pays homage to one of Portugal’s most prominent modernist artists.
While you’re in town, I highly recommend trying some delicious local pastries like “papos de anjo” and “foguetes”, as well as checking out some of the amazing local restaurants here like Zé da Calçada, Quinta do Outeiro, or Filhos de Moura.
Overall, this gorgeous town is an absolute must-visit in Douro Valley, for anyone looking to immerse themselves in authentic Portuguese culture and history.
The Douro Valley is more than just a wine region, it’s a destination with unbelievable beauty, history, and culture.
Now that I’ve shared with you all the highlights of this magical part of Portugal, it’s your turn to sample the best wine in Portugal and experience the charm of Douro Valley for yourself! ✨
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through any links. You may even get a small discount. This income goes towards the sites running costs and enables me to provide readers with free content.