Incredible days in the Douro Valley
It was not our first time in the dazzling Douro Valley, yet we somehow felt this time was the one we enjoyed the most. We decided to do it, once again, the unhurried way, spending some days in the region instead of just going for a day trip as some travelers do. And it proved to be a wise decision: the winding roads along the river, amazing food and world acclaimed wine, picturesque villages and jaw dropping views made for an unforgettable experience.
Try to start your trip the best possible way by spending some days in amazing Porto and then heading to the valley. And whether or not you have enough time to do both, you will likely head to Douro from Porto, given that it is the main hub in the north of the country. Our Portuguese friends insisted we took the fast route at the beginning of the trip, since this was a less attractive part of the valley. We followed their suggestion and took the highway to Amarante and then followed the N101 towards Peso da Régua. As we reached the river bank, right before Peso da Régua, we were graced with one of the most spectacular views of the valley. If you opt to follow this route, make sure you stop to breathe in the fresh air and admire the beautiful vineyards and breath-taking views of the river at this point. There happened to be a fruit stand there that day and we were delighted with the very fresh plums and cherries we bought and savored along the way. From this point onwards, continue along the picturesque winding riversideroad all the way to Pinhão. It is a wonderful scenic route with the most gorgeous landscape and plenty of opportunities for pictures, wine tasting and delicious food.
The region around Pinhão is where we recommend staying a few nights. It is midway from most of the amazing attractions in the valley, including food, wine and scenery. We thoroughly enjoyed our days at Quinta de la Rosa, one of the most charming quintas in the region, not only for its perfect location but the excellent facilities, great ambiance and excellent gastronomy. We particularly enjoyed the fact that it is still family owned and run, the current team being the 3rd generation of the Berqvist family. The original owner, Clara, received this quinta as a christening gift and her passion for the place can still be felt around the whole property. The villa, suites and cozy bedrooms are all very graceful, some bearing grandchildren’s names, many whom we saw having some fun at the quaint swimming pool overlooking the river. Clara’s love of cooking is evident in the many dishes served in the restaurant and the waiters take pride in telling customers that many of Clara’s original recipes are used to this day. We trust you will, as we did, have a most enjoyable time at Quinta de la Rosa. If you are keen to visit vineyards and do some wine tasting, De la Rosa will certainly please you: it has some of the highest and most impressive vine walls in the Douro, as well as the unique Inferno (hell) Valley, so named due to the high temperatures it reaches in the peak of summer. This quinta‘s vineyards are some of the few responsible for the Douro Valley being classed a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Nearby, we visited Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, considered to have some of the best wines in the region. This is an excellent option for wine tasting or for a stay in the region. We were captivated by its amazing swimming pool over the Douro, the small chapel and the top-notch service. It is no wonder this quinta is one of the best winery stays in the country. The owners were also responsible for the restoration of Pinhão’s small train station, which has an amazing collection of typical and original Portuguese azulejo tiles, as well as a delightful shop selling some regional delicacies like sardines, salami and cheeses, which you can also taste at its terraces, of course accompanied by some very good wine.
If you are planning to have a guided wine tour, probably one of the best choices is to visit Quinta do Seixo, with its steep terraces, great cellars and the perfect explanations of production processes. We were delighted with strolls through the vineyards, open-air tasting at dawn and the astonishing valley views. We later learned that outdoor gourmet picnics can be arranged, which we decided not to miss on our next trip to the region. Now, if you fancy larger hotels, and bearing in mind that the local standard is smaller properties, an excellent choice is the Vintage House hotel. With around forty rooms, this riverside hotel is practically on the water and we felt tempted to spend hours and hours by the pool or at the hotel’s terraces. It is located in the heart of Pinhão and the small wine shops and old iron bridge over the Douro bring extra charm to the stay. It is also just minutes away from the main wineries in the region.
Excellent wine and amazing food go together, don’t they? Besides the delicious food we had at the quintas‘ restaurants, that we highly recommend you try, one of the most recognized eateries in the valley is DOC. Located minutes from Pinhão, this riverside venue has amazing first class dishes which are not to be missed if you are in the mood for refined food. Its owner, and chef, Rui Paula had such success he opened a restaurant in Porto, called DOP, just to make sure his clients could enjoy his creations a little further away. Another option for an amazing eating experience is the restaurant at the recently inaugurated and luxurious Six Senses hotel. Even if you do not feel like having a proper meal, we highly recommend you go for cocktails, since the hotel is magnificent.
Before we leave you, we would like to make sure you take note of this: Casal de Loivos. Jaw dropping, breathtaking, magnificent… all these adjectives fail to do justice to the views from this viewpoint. The images will likely stay in your memories for years to come. Just ten minutes away by car from Pinhão, once you reach the small village, make sure to go all the way up to its miradouro (viewpoint) and get ready for some wonderful topography and terrain views. Take your time and enjoy it as much as possible. In our case, we happened to meet a couple and sat on a bench together for hours appreciating the landscape and chatting. Delightful!
Be a discerning traveler and book some days in your agenda for a Douro trip. You will be granted a most enjoyable travel experience.
By Suite 49 team, who recently explored Porto and the Douro Valley, one more time, to bring you the best the region has to offer.