You’ve most likely heard of Porto in Portugal, but did you know that just nearby is the spectacular Douro Valley?
This picturesque riverbank region is home to some of the best wines and Port wines you will ever taste.
It is a magnificent place for a drive or a boat cruise and should be part of your next visit to Porto.
Top tips to visit Douro Valley
With beautiful riverbanks, spectacular slopes covered with vineyards and the birthplace of Port wine, it’s no wonder tourists are flocking in droves each year to visit the Douro Valley.
If it’s not already on your travel wish list, then our go-to guide will compel you to experience the beauty and magic of the Douro Valley.
Where is the Douro Valley?
The UNESCO listed Douro Valley is located in the north of Portugal, just one and a half hours from Porto, which is considered the main gateway to the Douro Region. Stretching over 600 km (373 miles), the Douro Valley is a large historic and cultural region of Portugal, long devoted to vineyards and the production of some of the world’s best wine.
How do you get to the Douro Valley?
Porto is the starting point for your scenic adventure to the Douro Valley with several transport options available. From cruise boats, trains, buses, car or even by helicopter! No matter which mode of transport you choose, each guarantees an equally impressive and picturesque journey that will amaze you.
Getting there by riverboat
What better way to explore the Douro Valley than a cruise on the tranquil river. Cruise boats depart from Vila Nova de Gaia pier, located just across from Porto’s Ribeira.
There are several types of cruise boats available from day trips, for time-sensitive travellers, to multi-day cruises for a more relaxed and extended visit. Prices for cruises start from approx €70.
Tour by Getyourguide
One of the tours we’ve done before and we recommend is “Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, Cruise & Lunch in Vineyard”
With this tour, you’ll be able to enjoy a wonderful 9 hours tour in landscapes of the Douro Valley.
Plus, you get:
- Instant confirmation
- Printable voucher
- You can plan ahead
- It’s an affordable tour (for the amazing package)
- It’s 100% safe. (I’ve bought it myself)
Getting there by train
Undoubtedly, one of the most picturesque railway lines in Europe, Linha do Douro, departs from São Bento station in the centre of Porto and takes you across the entire Douro Valley to Pocinho. Train enthusiasts will enjoy exceptional views as you ride through the heart of the Douro Valley (particularly on the right-hand side which has the best views of the river and vineyards.) The total trip time will be around three hours and the return ticket is about €26.
Getting there by bus
There are various bus tours available from the centre of Porto. You can take a day tour bus or a Hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus at Porto. Buses allow you to see the Douro Valley on the road and do some wine tasting at the farmhouses (“quintas”) without ever having to worry about the drive home! The bus tour takes an average of nine and a half hours and most include a guided tour, Douro Valley cruise and Port wine tasting with prices between €30 and €50.
Getting there by car
Travelling to the Douro Valley by road is a truly unforgettable journey because you have full control of where and when to stop. Try the fruit sold the side of the road and the countless amazing viewpoints throughout the Douro Valley. If you’re not enticed already, the N-222, which connects Peso da Régua to Pinhão through the Douro Valley, was recently awarded by the Avis Driving Index as the World’s Best Road!
There are several car rental agencies of Portugal available at Porto Airport and also in the center of Porto. We advise booking early for the best rate.
Getting there by helicopter
For the extravagant traveller, there’s also the unforgettable opportunity to view the Douro Valley from above by helicopter. There are various types of tours available with trips of around 20 and 45 minutes. The Douro Valley helicopter departs from Massarelos Heliport and goes up the River Douro as far as Mesão Frio.
Top places you should visit in the Douro Valley
Lookout points (“miradouros”) are plentiful in the Douro Valley with Miradouro São Leonardo de Galafura being a must-see for any traveller. Situated between Peso da Régua and Pinhão, this site encapsulates the magic of the Douro Valley with a view that will leave you breathless!
Paleolithic rock art
Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa in Vila Nova de Foz Côa is one of the main places you should visit as it is home to the world-famous Paleolithic rock art sites that date from 22,000 to 10,000 years B.C. Almost once lost in the construction of the nearby dam, the site now remains an active research zone and is open to visitors on guided tours.
Douro Museum (“Museu do Douro”)
Museu do Douro (website is in Portuguese) is a museum located in Peso da Régua dedicated to promoting the heritage of the Douro Valley and Port wine. This is a modern museum outlining the history of the Douro Valley where you can learn about the cultural importance of the region and also learn the Port wine production process with a great tasting session at the end, of course.
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Vineyards and “quintas”
One of the main reasons people travel through the Douro Valley is to obviously visit the “quintas,” which are a vital part of the Douro Valley history as they have produced the world famous Port wine for centuries. If you want to get involved in the action, most of them will offer wine tours in Portugal through their grounds and most importantly: Wine tasting sessions!
galgTop 5 “quintas” to visit in the Douro Valley
1. Quinta da Roêda
Quinta da Roêda in the village of Pinhão is the oldest “quinta” still active today and is the producer of Croft Port, one of the most distinguished Port wine houses. During the harvest time you can join in to tread on the grapes at the wineries (“lagares”) or you can also book a guided walking tour through the grounds.
2. Quinta das Carvalhas
Quinta das Carvalhas is probably the largest and one of the most emblematic wineries in the Douro Valley. It’s located at the mountain of Carvalhas, which is 550 metres (1804 feet) tall and offers a stunning 360 degree view over the Douro Valley. On offer is a wine tour where you can taste their wines and learn about the wine production process.
3. Quinta do Crasto
Located on the right bank of the Douro Valley is Quinta do Crasto with origins that date back to the early 17th century. In 2008, Wine Spectator awarded Quinta do Crasto Reserva Vinhas Velhas 2005 as the third best wine in the world that year. On offer are various experiences that include an estate guided tour, Port wine tasting and meals served with a stunning view over the Douro Valley.
4. Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo is a place of extreme classic beauty in the heart of Douro Valley. With history dating as far back as 250 years, the property displays conserved structures and the cellar’s original building still standing since 1764. Some experiences available include wine and food tasting, a day in the harvest and the unique opportunity to be a winemaker for a day.
5. Quinta do Vallado
Quinta do Vallado was built in 1716 and is one of the most famous of the Douro Valley region. It’s located very close to Peso da Régua, on the banks of the Corgo River. In addition to the production of wine, the farmhouse has also been converted into a hotel. Here you can enjoy river picnics and evening dips in the pool while enjoying a glass of Port wine. You can also do a wine workshop with experienced winemakers.Where to stay in the Douro Valley
If you’re not already thinking about staying in some of the magnificent “quintas” in the area, there are also several hotels in the Douro Valley.
Some of the best ones are:
For travellers choosing to stay in Porto, you can find a range of hotels such as:
- Hotel NH Collection Porto Batalha;
- Porto A.S. 1829 Hotel;
- Portobay Hotel Teatro;
- Hotel Aliados; and
- InterContinental Porto.
You can also visit Lamego, a tiny town right next to the Douro Valley.
What’s the best time of the year to visit the Douro Valley?
Arguably, there is no such thing as “best time of the year” to visit the Douro Valley as its beauty can really be appreciated all year-round.
At the beginning of spring, you’ll find beautiful patches of white and pink from the almond trees throughout the Douro Valley with movement on the vineyards preparing the vines for summer.
Towards the end of summer, most “quintas” are in harvest and will feature events where you can take part in the winemaking process. Some are still using the traditional way of crushing the grapes by foot.
Squishy between the toes but great fun!
In late October, the valley turns golden with the arrival of autumn and it’s absolutely perfect for photography enthusiasts who visit the many stunning viewpoints in the Douro Valley.
In winter, the olive harvest begins for many acclaimed olive oil producers in the region. There are always special activities in the hotels especially for the festive season.
How much time do I need to see the Douro Valley?
For those who don’t have much time in Porto, a single day trip will allow you a brief, but enjoyable experience of the Douro Valley. Although, with so many exceptional things to see and do, we recommend staying at least three days to really absorb the rich culture and history of the region.
With breathtaking views and some of the world’s best wines readily available, you definitely won’t be rushing to leave any time soon!
Ready to explore the Douro Valley? Did you have any other questions or comments? You can let us know below.