DestinationsTop picks for wine lovers (and river cruisers, too) in Northern Portugal’s Douro Valley — the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.

Drink to the good life in Portugal's Douro Valley

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In Portugal's Douro Valley, wineries perched atop terraced hills frame either side of the Douro River as it flows from Spain in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west.
In Portugal's Douro Valley, wineries perched atop terraced hills frame either side of the Douro River as it flows from Spain in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Photo Credit: GettyImages/PRG-Estudio

Wine lovers often head to Bordeaux, France, or Tuscany, Italy, for their wine-tasting vacations, but those in the know (and river cruisers, too) have been sneaking off to Northern Portugal’s Douro Valley — the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.

How far is the Douro Valley from Porto?

Here, sweeping terraced hills frame either side of the Douro River as it flows from Spain in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and “cultural candscape”, the Douro Valley is conveniently located less than two hours by car from Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, and is also accessible by train or boat.

Where to stay in the Douro Valley: Quinta Da Corte

For a classic Portuguese experience, visitors should check into a refurbished “quinta” (rural estate).

Consider Quinta Da Corte, which is located near the small town of Pinhao in the heart of the Douro Valley. Quinta Da Corte is a wine estate that dates back to the 19th century, but is a relative newcomer to the hospitality scene.

Completed in 2018, the once-dilapidated estate underwent extensive renovations by Pierre Yovanovitch, a French architect and interior designer who infused the quinta with simple, but bespoke furnishings and artwork.

The quinta’s designer details are on display throughout the intimate retreat, which includes eight well-appointed guestrooms spread across “La Casa” (the main house) and two adjacent living quarters, a terraced vineyard with walking trails and an infinity pool and lounge area that overlooks the rolling hills of the valley. At the communal kitchen in La Casa, guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, as well as homecooked dinners (for an additional cost) prepared by the quinta's chef.

What to do in the Douro Valley

Not to be missed are the numerous miradouros — or viewpoints — that offer expansive perspectives of the Douro River and its surrounding areas. Miradouro de Casal de Loivos is the most easily reachable viewpoint from Pinhao and delivers the quintessential Instagram shot.

Sailing the Douro River

For those eager to sail the Douro but not via a river cruise, tour boat operator Anima Durius — a recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2021 — offers a variety of sailing options with a fleet of three boats and private tours that range from an hour to full-day excursions.

What to eat and drink in the Douro Valley

Whether your clients are venturing to the Douro Valley for a quick visit or a leisurely stay, they will undoubtedly be on the lookout for top-notch cuisine and libations that are representative of the region.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of wineries for oenophiles to indulge in. At Quinta do Seixo, guests can opt for a laidback picnic amid the vines, or a brief tour of the grounds followed by a tasting and explanation of the valley’s most ubiquitous product, port wine.

And for memorable dining, check out Cozinha da Clara (Clara’s Kitchen) in Quinta de la Rosa, a hotspot for local cuisine in modern digs along the river. The menu, from chef Pedro Cardoso, often changes based on the day’s freshest ingredients, but visitors can expect classic Portuguese dishes such as bacalhau (salted cod) served with La Rosa’s own olive oil, as well as Iberian black pork and 24-hour confit suckling pig belly.

Source: TravelAge West

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