Before I started developing my itinerary for Portugal, I knew there was one activity that belonged at the top of my list: visiting a port winery (or two, or three…).
One of my favourite summer activities is wine tasting. Back in Canada, this was an easy afternoon outing, with my hometown quite literally surrounded by dozens of wineries. However, Sweden and wine don’t really go hand-in-hand. This means I’ll be spending a lot less time sipping wine in vineyards this summer. For this reason, I knew that I wanted to take full advantage of Portuguese wine country while I had the opportunity.
When I began researching the best way to visit the Douro Valley, most itineraries only detailed day trips from Porto and I really struggled to find the information I was looking for. After lots and lots of research, I’ve put together this two day guide to visiting the Douro Valley that will guarantee you the best visit.
Seriously, prepare to be amazed by one of the most drop dead gorgeous locations I’ve ever visited.
THE TOWNS OF THE DOURO
The first choice you need to make when considering visiting the Douro Valley is which towns to visit.
After doing lots of research, we settled on staying near the town of Pinhão. We ultimately made this decision based on its distance from Porto, and its location within the Douro region.
Pinhão is a lovely little town, surrounded by vineyards and offers plenty to do. Additionally, the drive from Peso da Régua to Pinhão along the N-222 has be voted the be drive in the world! Based on this, we knew Pinhão would make the perfect resting point.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE DOURO VALLEY
Two words: Casa Cimeira.
Once we settled on a town, we began scouring surrounding properties for the perfect place to rest our heads. We wanted to stay at a popular ‘homestay’ [often affectionately referred to as a wine hotel, because these family-owned properties often also make their own wine]. When I came across Casa Cimeira, I knew I had found the spot.
Casa Cimeria is located just outside of Pinhão in Valença do Douro, a small village located amidst the rolling hills of wineries. Casa Cimeira is an immaculate family-owned property. It features spacious rooms, a pool, and the most spectacular views of the Douro Valley.
The owner and host Miguel is very welcoming and helpful. He offered us lots of tips to help you make the most of your time in the region.
And perhaps the most special part of the Casa Cimeira experience are the family dinners each night. We enjoyed an amazing home cooked Portuguese meal amongst other guests from around the world, sharing stories and bottles of Miguel’s homemade wine. This experience only costs 20 euros per person and was a highlight of our time here.
See also: The trendiest hotel in Porto.
GETTING TO & AROUND THE DOURO VALLEY
Driving is easily the best way to get to the Douro Valley. Plus, it is the only way you’ll be able to experience the ‘best road in the world’ from Peso da Régua to Pinhão along the N-222. And let me tell – for this reason alone, the drive is worth it. I must have said “wow, look at that” at least 100 times.
To get to Pinhão, we rented a car in Porto. For the most part, the drive was seamless. The roads were well paved, there was very little traffic, and they had two wide lanes. Getting to Pinhão was easy; however, getting to Casa Cimeira in Valença do Douro was not as straightforward. If you choose to stay in a neighbouring village to Pinhão [or any other Douro Valley town] be aware of the very steep, narrow, mountainside roads that you may have to navigate to get there. Sure, there are guard rails. But the roads are VERY narrow, and the locals do not drive slow.
However – I would argue that the ten minutes of white-knuckle driving was absolutely worth these views [although Sebastian might argue otherwise, since he was the one driving LOL]. Plus, I think I have been numb to all risky driving experiences ever since we braved some seriously scary roads in the Greek Islands.
The main towns of the Douro Valley, including Pinhão, have train stations, and you can take the train from Porto. I have heard from other people that this is a pleasant experience if you’re hesitant to drive. However, I would argue that it would be difficult to see everything the Douro Valley has to offer without a car, unless you want to hire a car/shuttle service to some of the local sights and wineries once you arrive in Pinhão.
THINGS TO DO IN THE DOURO VALLEY
EXPLORE THE TOWNS & VILLAGES OF THE DOURO
During our time in the Douro Valley, we visited Pinhão and Peso da Régua.
Peso da Régua is a charming town nestled into the mountains, where we stopped for lunch and took in the most beautiful views along the lake. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but we did have one of my favourite meals in Portugal at Churrasqueira Rio Douro. Here, we were greeted by this fiery little Portuguese women, who was running around the tiny restaurant serving all the diners. We were told to pick a meat, which was served alongside plates of fries, rice, bread, and salad. The food was incredible, and the service was amazing. This massive meal only cost 16 euros!
Pinhão is a larger town, and a popular hub for visitors to the Douro Valley. We spent an an afternoon wandering around Pinhão, having ice cream by the waterfront, visiting the local shops, and going on a boat ride along the Douro Valley. In town, there are a variety of tour operators that you can walk about to and book a boat ride [it only cost us 10 euros per person]. I really loved this experience because it wasn’t a tour – no history, no stories. It was just a relaxing time where I was able to sit on the bow of a small boat and admire the beauty of the Douro Valley.
DRINK ALL THE WINE
Shocker: we drank lots of wine in one of the world’s most popular wine regions.
A short distance from both Pinhão and Valença do Douro is one of the Douro Valley’s most popular wineries: Sandeman. The wine estate was, simply put, STUNNING. We visited their tasting room where we sampled a few of their wines, and admired the views of their vineyards and gardens. We didn’t book a winery tour at Sandeman; although based on the grandeur of the location I can imagine it would be impressive.
Located a short [very steep] 15 minute walk from our homestay in Valença do Douro was a much smaller, lesser known, winery called Quinta da Côrte. This spot is home to some of my favourite wines I had in Portugal. It also offers a “casa” where you can stay overnight if you are visiting the region. Here, we toured the facilities, learned how port wine is made, and tasted some of their signature wines – I couldn’t recommend this winery, and this experience, enough.
ADMIRE THE VIEWS
I don’t know if I have ever been to a place as serene as the village of Valença do Douro. With not a person in sight, we felt as though we had the world to ourselves. We hiked around, took lots of pictures, and sat on benches and just admired the views. I had a few serious “pinch me” moments, feeling so grateful that these locals had welcomed us into their little, tiny community.
If you are planning on visiting the Douro Valley, I highly suggest taking a day or two in your itinerary to slow down and admire this agricultural masterpiece. Far too often travel can feel fast-paced and hectic. Visiting the Douro Valley was the perfect reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way.
FEELING READY TO GET YOU WINE DRINKIN’ ON?
Before visiting the Douro Valley, I knew almost nothing about port wine [aside from the bougie-ness factor]. And I assumed that the highlight of my time in northern Portugal would be spent drinking wine on terraces and roaming through vineyards. Don’t get me wrong, we did a whole lot of that – but the Douro Valley is SO MUCH MORE. And it should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list.
PLANNING ON VISITING THE DOURO VALLEY? PIN THIS FOR LATER!
And check out some of my other Portugal posts, including my guide to all the things to do, see, and eat in Porto!