Relax in the Douro Valley; Escape to Portugal’s Wine Country

Travel Advisor Juli Hall sitting outdoors on stairs in denim shirt.
Curated By

Juli Hall

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  • Portugal

  • Adventure Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Nature Escapes

  • Relaxation

  • History

  • Local Food

  • Local Culture

Views of the Douro Valley from the river in the Vila Real Region.
Curator’s statement

There are so many places to love in Portugal, but one of my favorites is the Douro Valley. Here you can combine peaceful scenery, delicious food, culture, history and of course, a chance to get on the calm waters of the Douro River. There are many ways to experience this area, whether via road, train or river, but to capture its true essence to its fullest, I recommend combining multiple modes of transportation.

The Douro Valley is perfect for wine lovers and makes a great escape for a romantic getaway or celebration for a milestone event with your favorite people. It’s a way to experience Portugal in its most authentic form and break away from the crowds.

Visiting the Douro Valley could make for its own trip to Portugal flying in and out of Porto or an extension as you explore cities like Porto and Lisbon. If you are looking for a place to escape and find serenity amidst stunning views, local culture and connect with authentic makers then I recommend at least five days in Portugal’s wine country. If time only allows for a quick visit, it’s still worth going because what I can promise is that once you experience the magic of the Douro Valley, you’ll be planning your next visit before you know it. Each trip I plan for clients is as unique and individual as them. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like help planning a custom trip to Portugal’s wine country.

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Where to stay in Douro Valley, Portugal

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Six Senses Douro Valley

A relaxing, luxury vacation spot overlooking the Portugese hilly countryside and offering artisan experiences and vineyard tours.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Octant Douro

Where luxury meets tradition amidst the vineyard landscapes of the Douro Valley.

Fora Perks
  • Complimentary 50-minute massage two.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

The Vintage House Hotel, Douro

The Vintage House Hotel in Douro is a charming riverside retreat where wine enthusiasts and travelers can savor the beauty of Portugal's wine country.

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Travel Advisor Juli Hall sitting outdoors on stairs in denim shirt.

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Things to do in Douro Valley, Portugal

Castelo Rodrigo makes for a great day trip while exploring Portugal’s wine country.

Your tour of the Douro River starts just an hour north of Porto. Below are some highlighted spots to include in your tour. Any combination of locations would make for an incredible journey and could be hand-selected based on interests and the number of days you have to spend exploring.

Explore the Vila Real District. With so much to see in one area, Regua is a must-see spot. Here you can wander the quaint village of Regua, where you can walk through town, eat with the locals, and take in the beautiful views of the bridges in town. You’ll want to be sure to visit beautiful historical sites such as Mateus Palace and Lamego, known for its Baroque architecture and grand cathedral with its famous staircase.

Next stop, Pinhao. Located in the heart of the Douro Valley, Pinhao is a great base for exploring this region of Portugal’s wine country. The village is surrounded by vineyards, with so many wineries in the area that you can visit for tours and tastings.

One of the most famous and most interesting tours is that of the Sandeman Winery. At this winery, you will learn about the history and craft of port wine and be able to do a wine tasting and purchase your favorite wines. Not to mention, the winery is located at the top of the hill, providing incredible views of the valley below. You will truly get the best sense of the Douro Valley and the wine country from up there. You may not want to leave!

If you can’t get enough of the history of port wine and all the varieties created from this area, a visit to Favaios is a must. The only maker that makes the famous Moscatel wine, here you can tour the town, learn about the history, do a wine tasting, learn how they make the local four corners bread and have lunch in the village.

Pinhão is also known for its beautiful railway station, which is decorated with azulejos (painted tiles) that depict scenes from the Douro Valley. Staying in town will give you a chance to connect with the locals and decompress from a day of exploring.

Continuing down the river, whether by car or boat, the next stop is Vila Nova de Foz Coa.

Depending on your interests, you can visit Castelo Rodrigo, an ancient village from the 12th century that is still in operation today. Here you will learn the history of how many cultures and religions existed together in peace and harmony to build community. 

On your way, you can also stop at Saphina above Barca d’Alva for incredible views of the border of Spain and Portugal. This area will give you a way to get outside and explore Portugal’s wine country and truly embrace the views and landscapes that the Douro Valley has to offer. 

If being active is more your style, consider a visit to the Passadiços do Côa for see views from a wooden walkway with over 890 steps or if you have more time, spend some quality time in the National Park of Portugal, Arribes del Duero. Whichever option  you choose, you are guaranteed memorable views and with Portugal’s mild weather, it’s a place you can visit almost year-round.

From here you could continue into Spain for a day trip or short stay to wander the streets of Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From its vibrant city center to its historical churches and cathedrals, this city is absolutely worth visiting if your schedule permits.

A return trip to Porto could be designed to add more stops, stay overnight and take a long lunch break on your trip back. You could once again combine modes of transportation to get a full experience of Portugal’s wine country depending on how much time you have.

Day trips

Many of the stops listed above would involve a day trip from where you are staying overnight. In this region of the Douro Valley, a car is needed. It’s a safe and easy place to drive (as long as you don’t mind curvy roads) or private transportation can be arranged for you. Above all else, the priority is to spend some time on the water because the views of the rolling hills of Portugal’s wine country should not be missed from the river.

Places to eat & drink in Douro Valley, Portugal

The Sandeman Winery offers daily tours and tastings as well as gorgeous views of the Douro River and Valley.

One of my favorite things about visiting the Douro Valley is the unique dining experiences available. In Portugal's wine country, you will not find chain restaurants or big cities with endless restaurant options. Instead, you will find locally owned restaurants, boutique hotels and small wineries scattered throughout the Douro Valley offering lunch or locals that have converted their kitchens into small gathering places to serve farm-to-table meals. What I can promise you is that you will have some of the most memorable and delicious meals in Portugal’s wine country.

A few notable mentions include:

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, A 2-Week Bucket-List Adventure through Argentina and Chile. This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Portugal.

Travel Advisor Juli Hall sitting outdoors on stairs in denim shirt.

Travel Advisor

Juli Hall

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Portugal.