The Douro Valley is the majestic region that surrounds the Douro River as it flows across northern Portugal, creating a stunning natural landscape. The terrain is rugged and mountainous, with steep slopes that have been transformed into terraced vineyards.
This means that, apart from its other-worldly beauty, this region is primarily famed for producing high-quality grapes used in the production of Port wine and table wines. The vineyards are planted on the terraced slopes, taking advantage of the unique microclimates and soil conditions to produce distinctive and flavourful grapes.
Come along on an adventure through the Douro Valley, where we will tell you how to best soak in its awe-inspiring vistas!
Why is it a must-visit destination?
We believe the Douro Valley is a must-visit destination, starting with its idyllic setting. You will feel like you are facing nature’s greatest wonders as a spectator in amidst a mosaic of greenery. This idyllic landscape results from an agreeable microclimate particularly agreeable throughout the year.
The Douro Valley is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to its cultural and historical significance, this region is a perfect holiday destination and a hub for wine enthusiasts! The scattered wineries offer the opportunity to taste a wide variety of exceptional wines and learn about the traditional techniques.
Another upside is the warmth and hospitality of the locals in the Douro Valley really makes a difference on how visitors feel when they come here. Their genuine friendliness and willingness to share their knowledge and culture will make your experience even more special!
Things to do in the Douro Valley
Even though the Douro Valley is mostly about wines, it is a great fit even if you are not a lover of this drink. We have compiled some of the best activities (wine related and non-wine related) that you can have here and that will provide you with great memories and a new love for this region.
Go on a Wine Tasting
Port wine is the most famous product of the Douro Valley. It is a fortified wine, meaning that it is supplemented with the addition of a grape spirit (brandy) during fermentation, resulting in a higher alcohol content and a sweeter taste. Even if you have already tried it, a trip to the Douro Valley demands another taste test. Some say it has a special flavour when you drink it “at home”.
Therefore, wine tasting is the number one reason that brings travellers to the Douro Valley. And rightfully so, because here you will find numerous traditional Portuguese wine-producing estates. Some of these have been in operation for centuries and after your visit, you will be a total expert when it comes to the wine-making process and the best flavours. This activity allows you to sample high-quality table wines made from indigenous grape varieties.
Do a boat trip along the Douro River
Taking a boat trip along the Douro River is a delightful way to admire the valley's heavenly surroundings from a different perspective. The boat rides usually start in Pinhão and take you through the heart of the wine region, passing by lush hills and charming towns and villages, each with its own unique character and history.
Places like Pinhão, Peso da Régua and Lamego offer glimpses of the authentic Portuguese way of life. We recommend you explore these towns as well, visit local markets, admire historical landmarks and feel like a local.
This scenic experience is a great way to either start or end your day since the landscape has an extra glow during the mornings and sunsets. Whichever option you choose, it will not be a regular boat trip, it will be a journey that will heighten your senses and leave you with a deep appreciation for the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Portugal.
Sample the authentic regional gastronomy
The Douro Valley's regional gastronomy is a reflection of its natural bounty and complements its wines perfectly. You can indulge in a variety of delicious dishes showcasing local ingredients, such as the traditional stew "cozido à portuguesa," cured meats, fresh fish, and the regional specialities "bacalhau" (salted codfish), "caldo verde" (kale soup), and "pastéis de nata" (custard tarts). As an appetizer, do not miss out on an assortment of flavourful cheeses.
Pairing these dishes with the region's wines will enhance the culinary experience!
Drive along the N222
The N222 road is often hailed as one of the most scenic drives in the world. It stretches through the Douro Valley, offering breathtaking vistas of the terraced vineyards, quaint villages, the winding river and the surrounding hills. The route is dotted with viewpoints where you can stop and take in the awe-inspiring panoramas, which makes it a must-do activity when you travel to this region.
It was even named "Best Driving Road in the World” in 2015 by the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, so you know all the fuss is true!
Leave the riverside and visit Vila Real
While the Douro River and its valley are the main attractions, taking a short trip to the nearby town of Vila Real can be very rewarding. Vila Real boasts a rich cultural heritage, evident in its churches, museums and cultural events. The São Domingos Church and São Pedro Church are notable examples of religious architecture in the city.
The prominent landmark is the 15th-century Gothic-style Mateus Palace, famous for its stunning gardens and wine estate. The palace is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Portugal.
To recharge your batteries, Vila Real offers a special taste of northern Portuguese cuisine. Here you can enjoy local specialities such as "Posta à Mirandesa" (a tender beefsteak) and "Bola de Carne" (a meat pie).
As part of the Douro Valley, wine is always present in Vila Real. If you have not had the chance of participating in a wine tasting or visited a winery, this town has a plethora of estates eager to tell you all about Portugal's finest wines, including Port wine.
Stop at a viewpoint and take in the view
The Douro Valley is full of scenic viewpoints and stunning views unlike anywhere else in the country. Whether it be from the vineyards, from the boats or from the N222 road, you will always be immersed in a mind-blowing blue and green oasis.
One of the favoured viewpoints is Miradouro da Foz do Tedo, in Armamar. Here you will witness the mouth of the Tedo River as it winds through the Douro hills until it becomes the Douro. This is one of the most enthralling scenarios on the N222 National Road.
Casal de Loivos, in the north of Pinhão, is another heavenly stop, considered by BBC London as one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, where the serenity is only slightly interrupted by the chirping of birds and the sound of distant trains that pass by the illustrious Pinhão railway station.
Only one more viewpoint! São Salvador do Mundo, in São João da Pesqueira, is another marvellous choice to properly admire and value the surroundings at an altitude of 493 metres.
From here you will clearly see the Douro River, its tributaries and the steep slopes that contrast with the vineyards, olive trees and orchards. In the distance, you can see the Valeira dam as well. This viewpoint is actually part of the Sanctuary of São Salvador do Mundo, which is part of a set of chapels built in the 19th century. Let these postcard-worthy sights be the perfect backdrop for new heart-warming memories!
Go up Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
Nossa Senhora dos Remédios is a swanky church located in Lamego, a town in the Douro Valley. This church is originally from the 14th century, but its striking Baroque architectural style adorned with ornate decorations, statues and tiles is the result of various renovations in the 18th century, contributing to its present-day splendour.
To go inside Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, you must climb a grand staircase with 686 steps, flanked by splendid blue-and-white-tiled panels. The effort is well rewarded with breathtaking views of Lamego and the surrounding Douro Valley from the church's elevated position.
Inside the church, you can admire a collection of religious artefacts, including paintings, sculptures and intricate altars dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies. The interior is ornamented with refined Baroque artwork, creating a sense of grandeur and spirituality, part of the Portuguese cultural and architectural heritage.
A natural wonder