The Douro Valley, located in the northern region of Portugal, welcomes visitors to an enchanting world of terraced vineyards and dramatic landscapes. Considered to be the country’s premier wine region, it has gained in popularity in recent years as more and more travellers explore the region to get a taste of Portugal’s world-renowned wines!
It’s somewhat surprising that despite being Portugal’s most famous wine country, this alluring region has still managed to fly under the radar and is still considered one of the off-the-beaten-track spots to visit in Portugal. Whilst most tourists head to the larger cities of Lisbon, Porto, or even to the golden shores of the Algarve, those in the know instead head to the Douro Valley!
Douro Valley Guide
Exploring the Douro Valley will no doubt offer up stunning vistas, delicious port and wine, an endless swathe of vineyards cascading down the lush green hills. Let’s not forget the delectable Portuguese gastronomy that should absolutely be on your list of things to do when you travel to Portugal next.
Whether you want to plan a day trip from Porto or even a couple of days (which is highly recommended), you’ll get a chance to visit some of the famous wineries and port makers in Portugal and uncover the hidden delights of the Douro.
How to get to the Douro Valley & Getting Around
Set in northern Portugal alongside the Douro river, the Douro Valley region is roughly 120 kilometres / 75 miles from the largest city in the north, Porto. That is when travelling by car from Porto to Peso da Regua.
Most travellers will arrive in Porto and either plan a day trip to the Douro, as this is undoubtedly one of the top things you can do whilst in Porto, or opt to spend a few nights exploring the various towns, cities, and ‘Quintas’ (wine estates) scattered throughout the region.
As far as day trip options go, you can take this highly rated full-day Douro Valley day trip that includes wine tastings, a lunch, and a scenic river cruise, an absolute must when visiting the area. Departing from your hotel or apartment in Porto, this 9-hour small guided tour will take to you to several top spots in the Douro, allowing you to get a quick overview of the region, great for those who have limited time to explore.
Alternatively, you could also travel by train from Porto’s main Sao Bento train station, travelling roughly 2 hours to Regua in the Douro Valley.
Travelling by train will no doubt inhibit your ability to truly explore the region to its full potential. Instead, I recommended renting a car and explore the very best of the Douro Valley at your own pace and leisure.
If you absolutely have no other choice, and the scenic rail journey sounds appealing, then this wonderful Douro Valley Rail & Cruise combo day trip may be just what you need. On this tour you explore the Douro Valley where you travel to Regua by train where you will explore one of the oldest wine regions in the world before hopping on a cruise down the Douro River to Porto.
Where to stay in Douro Valley
The stunning Douro Valley region extends beyond the Douro River and is dotted with charming towns throughout. Whether you are here for a day trip or change your mind to stay for a couple of days, the valley has plenty to keep you occupied for several days. Explore the local vineyards, shop for Portugal souvenirs, and see charming and unique places of interest along the way.
As for specific accommodation suggestions, there are plenty of choices in the heart of the Douro wine region. The most popular bases for tourists to stay in the Douro Valley region include names like Peso da Régua, Lamego, and Pinhão to name a few.
The gorgeous, contemporary 4* Lamego Hotel & Life, set in its own orchard and vineyard and only a short walk to the town centre, as well as the opulent 5* Six Senses Douro Valley Hotel are both exceptional choices to consider booking for your stay.
In search of a truly unique accommodation experience? Why not book into the beautiful Quinta da Pacheca (The Wine House Hotel) wine estate where you can even spend a night in a large wine barrel room!
Best towns and villages to visit in the Douro Valley
Whether you take a train, a cruise, or drive through this region, there is a complete lack of crowded streets or traffic jams that will put your mind at ease. Discover some fascinating towns and villages in the Douro River Valley region, most of which still remain under the radar.
Here are some of the popular towns and scenic places to visit in the Douro Valley.
Pinhão is probably the most famous village in the Douro Valley and one that most visitors flock to. It’s also here that many river cruises depart from. The village itself is a charming and sleepy gem that’s worth exploring and truly comes alive when harvest season kicks into full gear in September. This also happens to be one of the most beautiful times of year to visit the Douro Valley when autumn hues of reds, oranges, and golds colour the landscape.
In the town itself, the train station is worth a visit for its beautiful tiled works. Nearby you’ll find yet another exciting viewpoint from which to take in the incredible landscape. So impressive are the views that the Casal de Loivos Miradouro viewpoint was named by the BBC as amongst the most spectacular in the world.
Beautiful Lamego and the nearby Pesa da Regua are regarded as the gateways to the Douro Valley region with many visitors arriving here by train from Porto. Lamego itself is a great base from which to explore the region and boasts incredible architecture, such as the Our Lady of Remedies Sanctuary as well the historic centre that includes the Lamego Cathedral that dates back to 1129 and the Lamego Castle. If it’s charm and history you’re after, then Lamego is most certainly worth paying a visit.
The town of Trevões is located south of the river, away from the more popular northern villages. It’s a charming town that offers stunning views thanks to its vantage point. Dating back to the middle ages, this small village of around 500 inhabitants, is renowned for its architecture and national monuments.
The Igreja Matriz de Santa Marinha de Trevões church with its intricate wooden ceilings and the ornate golden statues dating back centuries is worth paying a visit. The Museu do Trevões also pays homage to the local culture & history with their displays and is a great way to learn about the town’s past.
The medieval village of Barcos, set in the Tabuaço municipality dates back hundreds of years and will no doubt transport you to a bygone era. Today you can wander through the historic town and admire some of its most important sights such as the Nossa Senhora de Sabroso Chapel, the Roda dos Expostos, or the town hall.
The charming village of Provesende is located only a short 13 kilometres / 8 miles from Pinhao, in fact, you can actually hike between these two villages passing along São Cristovão do Douro. This incredibly steep hike is not for the unfit though!
The town itself is beautiful with an impressive array of noble manor homes set aside quaint cottages. With a rich and interesting history dating back to the Iron Age, (remnants you can still observe today if you head up to the Picoto de São Domingo chapel) this picturesque town is well worth a visit when travelling through The Douro.
Top Wineries to visit in the Douro Valley
With a rich history of 2000 years of wine production, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is indeed one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world. It’s no surprise then that wine tourism is a big deal in the Douro and a visit to a handful of the traditional wineries and estates, known as ‘Quintas’, is an absolute must. Here are a few of the most popular wineries to visit in the Douro Valley.
Quinta de Ventozelo
The Quinta de Ventozelo estate not only offers some of the most beautiful vistas out over the valley but also a great wine experience. The land where the estate is based was believed to have once been farmed by Cistercian monks. With a rich history that dates back as far as 1288, it today forms part of the Gran Cruz group, one of Portugal’s largest port wine exporters.
Today the estate produces a range of wines, gins, and even olive oil. You can enjoy an immersive guided tour through this gorgeous Quinta learning all about its history and present-day production.
Quinta da Pacheca
Another popular vineyard is Quinta da Pacheca, made famous for its large barrel rooms where you can overnight in the heart of the vineyard. As you explore this estate, which is also a popular wedding venue, you can enjoy a guided tour and taste some of the port and wines produced here, some of which range in the 30- or 40-years old.
Booking into the Quinta da Pacheca hotel and indulge in a spot of relaxation at their onsite vineyard spa, or enjoy a range of their experiences that include harvesting, culinary, and wine tasting experiences on offer.
Cellars of Murganheira
In the heart of the Verosa Valley, you’ll find the Murganheira estate, known to be one of Portugal’s best sparkling wine producers (although they do also produce some still wines too).
Murganheira offers 30-min guided tours from Tuesdays through to Saturdays where you can learn about their unique “Dégorgement à la Volée” manual fermentation process as well as visit the interesting granite cellars where their sparkling wines are stored to age.
Quinta do Tedo
Quinta do Tedo is another fabulous wine estate to visit where you can tour the winery, learning about the Port and Wine production, olive orchards, and for those who want to get really hands-on, or should we say, feet-on, can enjoy a spot of traditional grape trampling during the harvest season.
Complete your visit by booking an overnight stay in the Quinta do Tedo Bed & Breakfast that boasts a swimming pool and yet more breathtaking views of the valley.
Other attractions in Douro Valley
It will take you about an hour and a half by car to reach the majestic Douro Valley from Porto, and it goes without saying you are in for an unforgettable experience once you are here. The landscapes of the Douro Valley are made up of rolling green hills, vineyards, wine estates, and the beautiful Douro River that snakes through the region.
Apart from its picturesque villages and vineyards, there is a lot more to explore and uncover in the Douro Valley region. Here are some top attractions of the valley.
Parque Natural do Douro Internacional
Explore this stunning natural park located along the Douro River and stretching out across 4 municipalities. The International Natural Park of Douro is one of 13 natural parks located in Portugal and also serves as a border between Portugal and Spain. Drive through the park to experience the flora and fauna and natural beauty of the region, spanning around 86,500 hectares.
Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
Visit the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios church and sanctuary that is located in the town of Lamego and climb up its 686 steps to reach the shrine. The church is located at the top of the hill and offers some grand views of the valley from the Pelican fountain.
São Salvador do Mundo Sanctuary
Head for the sanctuary at São Salvador do Mundo for yet more beautiful views. The sanctuary itself is made up of 10 smaller chappels that are dotted along the hillside. The views out over the Cachão da Valeira canyon and Douro River is simply exquisite from up top of the sanctuary.
Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley
It is time to soak up some history and makeup of the region by visiting the Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley. A fascinating visit awaits you as you admire the rock art on-site at the largest open-air Palaeolithic museum, which carries more than 2,000 years worth of history.
Drive along National Highway 222
Estrada Nacional 222 or Highway 222 may seem an odd choice to add as an attraction, but this stretch of road that meanders along the 27 kilometres / 17 miles from Regua to Pinhao is a must! Not only is it known for being a hair-raising experience as you motor along the 93 bends, but it also offers some of the most spectacular views of the region and its lush green rolling hills.
Admire the Azulejos
If you are in Pinhão, make a special trip to the small train station as it is worth a stopover. The building of the station is inlaid with beautiful azulejos, traditional Portuguese ceramic tiles that are usually painted by hand. It would be a mistake to ignore the blue and yellow pieces of art that are real masterpieces.
Whether you embark on a day trip from Porto to the Douro Valley or you spend a few days exploring the region, you will no doubt leave feeling mesmerized by your visit and sure to fall in love with the region. A piece of advice, make sure to pack your camera, as you will be pulling it out every few seconds to capture the unforgettable scenic views and incredible images through your lens.
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