Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Into the Douro Valley of Portugal

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Portugal is a country that I don’t think gets enough press for being a destination of both incredible beauty and excellent value.  And my recent trip to the Douro Valley proved that in spades!

The Douro Valley is the primary wine-growing region of northern Portugal.  Having read a bit about it and been intrigued, I was eager to sign up for the Douro Valley post-conference tour option at TBU Porto.    I had heard that this region was beautiful — in fact, the train route through the Douro Valley is known as one of the most beautiful train journeys in Europe.

I knew it would be beautiful — but I had no idea it would be this beautiful.

Terraced vineyards and green-brown mountains, swooping down to the glassy blue Douro River — this wasn’t just the view in certain fortunate venues.  This was the view everywhere.

I can’t imagine how hard it must be to farm land this steep — but there are quite a few people who have been doing so for centuries!

Venues with Style

You might expect a rural environment like the Douro Valley to be filled with ranches, agratourism, and other low-key venues.  Well, I was surprised by how much style some of the venues had — like the Douro Palace Hotel, whose dining room, pictured above, exuded style.

Other venues?  Quinta da Pacheica, with each of its rooms decorated in a different style (and some wild dragon decor in the green dining room!), and Quinta Nova, with an infinity pool overlooking the gorgeous valleys.

You don’t come to the Douro Valley to barrel through it at top speed.  This is a place where you come to relax and savor — savor the port, savor the food, savor the gorgeous scenery.

I’ll be honest — Portuguese cuisine has never been one of my very favorites, but I do love their fresh, delicious seafood!  The absolute best dish I had in the Douro Valley was at chef Rui Paula’s DOC Restaurant: octopus carpaccio with pesto, arugula, pomegranate seeds and a parmesan crisp on top.

It’s all about the port.

As I alluded to in my earlier post, I really got into port this time around in Porto.  So did all of us bloggers, actually!  In my mind, port has always been a bit of a stodgy drink.  Well, this trip has completely turned me around!

The tastiest ports of the trip were located at Quinta do Seixo — one of my favorite venues that we visited in Douro.  We sampled a number of Sandeman ports, including a fine amber port that had the most brilliant almond aftertaste!  It honestly floored me that there are no almonds in port!

After our tasting, it was time to celebrate — with more port tonics, of course!  (Seriously.  Buy yourself a bottle of port and drink it with tonic and some orange or lemon slices.  This cocktail will change your life.)

And visiting the Douro Valley wouldn’t be complete without a cruise down the Douro river!

From the town of Pinhão, we hopped on a traditional boat to cruise down the Douro.  Feeling the wind blowing through my hair and the sun shining on my face, sailing down this river was absolute bliss.

Pinhão is also home to one of Portugal’s most beautiful train stations, covered in blue and white azulejo tiles.

And, as to be expected, the company was smashing!

As a full-time blogger living in Europe, I can’t tell you how vital friendship and camaraderie is within the travel blogging community.  As someone who primarily travels on her own, it’s amazing to be able to travel with a bunch of your friends for a few days.  This is why I love well-planned blog trips.

(Also, how many bloggers do you recognize in this picture?)

Planning a Trip to the Douro Valley

Knowing what I know now, I would reserve at least a weekend for the Douro Valley alone, and I’d splurge and stay at a nice quinta (either of the two ones mentioned above would be splendid).  You can travel by car or by train, but renting a car gives you the most flexibility.

If I were visiting for longer than a weekend, I would plan some visits to some of the small cities around the area.  Some of the other TBU blog trips visited Guimarães and Braga, both of which looked beautiful.

Also, I’d consider going in the off-season.  While I live for summer weather, Portugal was a nice escape during the winter last year — it feels like springtime when the rest of western Europe is dealing with snow and subzero temperatures.  You’ll also find fewer crowds.  It also helps that prices in Portugal are much cheaper than Italy or France, or even Spain, for comparable quality.

Overall, I’m so happy I finally got to experience the Douro Valley for myself — it was beautiful as it was delicious.

Many thanks to Visit Porto and North and Travel Bloggers Unite for introducing me to this beautiful part of the world.

Comments

20 Responses to “Into the Douro Valley of Portugal”
  1. Gorgeous photos! The octopus carpaccio looks amazing, I remember eating lots of fresh seafood in Portugal. It’s definitely one of the best parts of visited 🙂

  2. Victoria says:

    Ha, I love that photo of all of us after a morning spent drinking copious amounts of port and wine! I look so delighted with my calippo!

  3. Would love to go tasting Sandeman Port! The guided tour of the Sandeman sherry bodega in Jerez, Spain was excellent.

    This looks like a lovely part of the world.

  4. As always, beautiful photos. You really bring the place alive. I’ve been to the Douro region twice and loved it. Did you manage to tour any of the port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia? I fell in love with port when I went on several tasting tours, including some of the smaller, independent port houses. And, as well as port, Porto has some lovely cafes, a subject very close to my heart 🙂

    However, you can’t beat a cruise on the Douro and a ride on the train back. Thanks for the memories.

    Brian.

  5. Andrea Jackson says:

    Great pictures! You should definitely put up some videos too. There are some cool ones for adventure sports like the Go Pro Hero 3. You can just attach them to your clothing or gear and it works as a camcorder. You can even rent it out now from some places like gizmotakeout.com

  6. Really lovely photos of Portugal! My grandparents have been spending 6 months of the year there for the last 10 years. I think they’ve got the right idea 🙂

  7. Jan says:

    Great pictures! This was my favorite area of Portugal. So peaceful and gorgeous!

  8. I’ve never made it out to Portugal the last few times I was in Europe but have always heard great things about the country. Would love to visit one day.

  9. The Douro Valley looks stunning, another place to add to the list. Love your blog Kate, you are so inspiring! I am on my first solo trip abroad and your blog played a big part in inspiring me to take the plunge. Thank you!

  10. Wonderful photos. We were in the Douro Valley this summer and thought it was one of the most beautiful spots on our RTW.

    Cheers,

    Larissa

  11. Ally says:

    This looks beautiful!

  12. Sofie says:

    I was planning on:
    – Porto: 2 days
    – Braga + Guimaraes in 1 day
    – Douro Valley: 1 day.
    How does that look to you? Would you take longer?
    We have about two weeks in Portugal and I’m planning on doing everything from Lisbon upwards.
    The south is for another trip:)

    • Hmm — I think you could get away with that, though know that I haven’t been to Braga or Guimaraes.

    • Personally, I would take a little longer, but then again, I really like Porto, the Douro Valley and Braga, although I’ve not been to Guimaraes. If it’s your first time in the area though, you’ve given yourself long enough to get a flavour for each of the places you are visiting and know whether you want to come back and spend more time on another trip.

      Of course, more time spent there is less time spent in the rest of Portugal!

      Hope you enjoy your trip,
      Brian.

  13. Sean says:

    Great story! Heading to Portugal next month and I am comtemplating a drive through DV from Porto. I hear the drive can be quite stressful. I have driven through Dolomites and Langhe region of Italy, how is this drive? I like driving but what are your thoughts on this drive? Thanks! Sean

  14. Katie says:

    My fiancé and I are going to Portugal for our honeymoon and I am very interested in seeing the DV. We will be there in December. Is it worth seeing the DV during that time of the year?
    Suggestions for the best way to experience a traditional Portuguese Christmas (and midnight Mass) would also be appreciated.

  15. Anna says:

    I havent been to Duoro but you need to make your way to Algarve – it is heaven on earth!

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