THE FARAH GUIDE TO VISITING THE DOURO
The Douro Valley is one of Portugal’s most iconic destinations - and for good reason. Its incredibly steep hills are lined with terraced vineyards as far as the eye can see, plunging down to the quiet Douro river. Terraced olive and peach orchards are scattered among the vineyards. Quintas, which are Portuguese wine producing estates - are dotted across the steep terrain - and their sheer quantity makes it clear that port and wine production are king and queen in the region.
The view from the small town of Pinhão
How much time do I need?
The question is how much time do you have? If you’re looking to breathe in the Douro atmosphere and experience one wine estate you can perfectly do it in one day. Go in the morning (either by car, train or boat), visit one Quinta, taste wines, learn about wine, the terroir and the history.
Go for a weekend and make sure to stay at a winery to get the full experience and make sure you try as many wines and regional dishes as you can.
If you’re looking to really explore the region and have a wine lover’s dream trip, stay for four or five days and make a plan visiting the different regions within Douro: Baixo-Corgo, Cima-Corgo and Douro superior. Take a deep dive in the uniqueness of the different terroirs, visiting different wineries as you go, and look for hidden gems like the spectacular viewpoints overlooking the Douro river or Spain.
Beautiful hotels and wineries, like Quinta Nova, await you at all 3 levels of the Douro Valley.
How to get there? Should I rent a car?
If you are interested in visiting wineries and small off the beaten path towns, I would suggest renting a car in Porto and driving to Douro. The ride is under two hours and will give you the flexibility to traverse the three diverse wine regions of the Douro valley and explore some of its wineries and hidden gems! A word to the wise - roads are windy and difficult, but well worth it if you are adventurous! It has many time made the list of one of the top driving roads, for its curves and breathtaking views.
Those looking for a more relaxed ride can take the train from Porto which snakes next to the river and provides an absolutely gorgeous journey. Stops are frequent and there are some smaller towns and villages you can visit and stay in with easy train access.
And for the ultimate experience you can take the boat ride up-river from Porto and experience the slow pace of the water as you soak in all the natural beauty of the region.
Ubers and taxis can also be called from any hotel.
When to visit
The Douro will be a beautiful region no matter what time of the year you come.
The Douro Valley has hot dry summers and relatively cold winters. July through August, temperatures range from the 80s - low 100s while January averages in the 40s and 50s. The spring and fall are the most temperate times to visit but you may want to let the vines decide for you.
Hot summers and cold winters in the Douro Valley. Spring and Fall are temperate and top picks!
April through July, the buds break open and fill the hills with a beautiful green. In September you can experience the buzz of harvest - incredible in this terraced region that shies away from industrial production and uses old school techniques like foot stomping. If traveling by car, you will definitely be delayed in transit due to tractor traffic! October through November you will experience a golden Douro as the grape leaves change color.
While the cold weather and barren vines may deter some travelers in December through March, it is also a great time to visit as you can experience the pruning of the vines and the benefit from the steep drop off in tourism.
WHAT TO DO
No matter how you get there, either driving or on a boat ride, you will see vineyards and gorgeous wine estates on both sides of the Douro river. Each winery will be as inviting as the previous one so expect to fall in love with the place and wanting to stay longer than you had planned.
Hiking out for a Douro picnic at Quinta do Tedo
Once you’re there, you can walk the vineyards, have fabulous wine tastings of both Douro and Port wines, enjoy meals by the quiet river, have a cute little picnic, enjoy outdoor activities or spend time in a pool.
Places like Quinta do Tedo (you can find 5 reasons to visit them here) or Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo are favorites but you have literally dozens to choose from.
The view from the pool at Quinta Nova
We will shortly be adding more to this post including our top picks for restaurants, museums and more!