DOURO VALLEY SEASONS
Locals say a year in Douro Valley is made up of nine months of winter and three of hell. While Portuguese are self-proclaimed dramatists and climate change might have helped moderate (to some extent) scorching summer temperatures, the saying holds true.
Portugal's Douro Valley has hot, dry summers and relatively cold, rainy winters. July through August, temperatures range from the 80s to 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 and seasons help you decide!
Hot summers and cold winters in the Douro Valley. Spring and Fall are temperate and top picks!
Visiting Douro Valley in winter and spring
Between February and March
The almond and cherry orchards bloom, painting the sombre post-winter landscape in tufts of pink and white. From the end of March through June, the vineyards’ buds break open and their shoots and leaves grow ferociously, filling the hills with vibrant green.
Between April and June
Migratory birds fly in, complementing Douro’s already rich diversity of resident species. But flora and fauna are not alone to emerge from their winter slumber… late spring’s warmer weather opens patios for al-fresco dining and beckons nature lovers to explore Douro’s network of certified trails on foot or bike (we’d opt for an electric bike to boost up uphill, or to pedal the flat N222 on a Sunday when there’s less traffic!)
The view from the small town of Pinhão in the June
Visiting Douro Valley in summer and fall
If you only had one chance to travel to Douro Valley, Farah suggests the summer when all the iconic harvest, al fresco dining, river cruising and international tourism action is in full swing, or fall when the colours start to change, things calm down and you can enjoy heartier food, blue skies and beautiful hikes.
A summer Douro Lunch at Quinta do Tedo
Between July and September
Douro Valley buzzes with tourism and harvest preparations. Portuguese, like most Mediterraneans, live for summer when towns come to life with open-air fairs, music and dining until the wee hours.
Savour a vineyard picnic, embark on a boat tour, hit up one of Douro’s quaint river beaches and don’t forget to look up at the pristine starry night skies. Take note, if travelling by car, you will definitely be delayed in transit due to harvest tractor traffic!
Towards the hotter end of summer, locals find a week or two to embark on their annual beach migration. But lucky us, the businesses that prepare all year for this peak moment in international tourism - Douro’s best restaurants, hotels, wineries and experience providers - remain at your disposal.
You can also tap into a half- or full-day experience of the harvest hustle - incredible in this terraced region that shies away from industrial production and uses old school techniques like foot treading in granite lagares (aka open fermentation vats).
Hiking out for a summer Douro picnic at Quinta do Tedo
Between October and November
The apple harvest on the high plains near Armamar is followed by the olive harvest, when you can observe locals whacking olive trees with long sticks to make it rain olives, the traditional way. Fall welcomes a whole new flock of migratory birds and incredible hues of vibrant red, warm orange and majestic gold as the vineyards change colours.
Did you know that while red grapevine leaves turn from red to orange to yellow, white grapevine leaves turn straight yellow due to their lack of colour?
Fall Colors in the Douro
Between December and January
While the cold weather and barren vines may deter some travellers, it is also a great time to visit as you can observe the pruning of the vines and enjoy the quiet drop-off in tourism (and those low-season hotel deals!).
Douro’s melancholic winter scenery pairs beautifully with a glass of velvety Port wine or rich Douro red wine by the fire and heartier local dishes.
The bottom line is - the Douro Valley will be a beautiful region with lots to do no matter what time of the year you come!
My wife and I are travelling to the area at the end of October into November and Quinta de Tedo is on our list! I hope that we have the chance to say hi,
Plan on taking a group of seniors in late October – travel permitted.