Douro Valley

What you need to know before visiting the Douro Valley

If you’re after good weather, spectacular views, delicious wine and tasty food, look no further than the Douro Valley!

View from Royal Douro Valley Hotel and Spa
Panoramic view from Royal Douro Valley Hotel and Spa

I’d say it’s definitely worth spending 3 days in the Douro, more if you love wine and are looking to do more activities like Stand Up Paddle, Kayaking or Hiking. I’ve outlined here a few things to do in the region.

CRUISE THE DOURO RIVER BY BOAT

If you’re staying in the Douro Valley, at a place like Pinhao or Regua, you’ll find you can easily book a short boat trip up the river. The tours are usually about an hour and are a good opportunity to just relax and enjoy the scenery.  Equally, just ask your hotel or airbnb host for some ideas/suggestions if you’re staying in other areas of the Douro Valley.

DO A WINE TASTING

The Douro Valley has been a protected region since 1756, making it the oldest wine region in the world.

We booked a tour with CMTours and had a great experience. 

You can also arrange your own wine tours for a cheaper price – for example, Quinta do Popa offers great wine tastings for only 25€!

DRIVE ALONG NATIONAL HIGHWAY 222 (ESTRADA NACIONAL 222)

Find an excuse to drive from Peso da Regua to Pinhao. The EN 222 was elected in 2015 as the best road to drive in the world, after a study commissioned by Avis Rent a Car, and it’s frequently included in lists of enjoyable routes to drive.

VISIT PINHAO AND PESO DA REGUA

Peso da Regua | This city is considered the capital of the Douro Demarcated Region, so it is an almost mandatory stop. It boasts of plenty of stunning viewpoints and also probably one of the most built up places of the region with quite a lot of wineries within easy reach.

Pinhao | A small village but one that packs a punch. Make sure to also visit the Pinhao train station – adorned with the traditional azulejo tiles you’ll find all over Portugal. It is arguably one of the most iconic stations in Portugal. 

From this station you’d also be able to catch the historic train along the river (seasonal, prices from 42€. I’d recommend the regional trains as the views will be similar and a lot cheaper!).

TAKE A TRAIN RIDE

If you’re not renting a car, don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need one. In fact, car or no car, I’d recommend a train ride. The national/regional trains offer nonstop stunning landscape views as the track is by the river. 

CHOOSE WHERE YOU STAY WISELY

When I booked my most recent trip to the Douro Valley, I must admit that I didn’t even really think about the location practicalities and because we were hiring a car, I didn’t think there would be any problem, and there wasn’t. However, if you aren’t going to hire a car, you need to think about how easy it’ll be to get to where you want to go or what activities you’re after. 

For example, if you’re not hiring a car, you may want to consider one of the main towns like Pinhao or Regua. Choosing the right location can make a difference between a meh experience and the experience of a lifetime!

A couple of suggestions (this is a popular location so it’s worth booking far in advance to get the best prices, or share an AirBnB with friends):

The Vintage House Douro, Pinhao | Ideal in terms of connections to activities and wineries. The hotel itself has a gate directly onto the promenade by the river and it’s easy to jump on a boat tour or do some stand up paddle or kayaking. It’s also walking distance to the beautiful Pinhao train station.

Douro Royal Valley Hotel & Spa, Baiao | Breathtaking views and a lovely quiet hotel. Potentially best to visit only if you have a hire car as it’s otherwise a bit trickier to get to. Although not impossible as it has 2 nearby train stations (which will also easily and for only 7€ return get you to Regua for a day trip). Water sports like jet skis available outside the hotel.

The Wine House Hotel – Quinta da Pacheca  | Stay inside a wine barrel! | Conveniently close to Peso da Regua, this hotel offers you the opportunity to sleep not only at a winery, but inside a wine barrel.

AirBnBs | there are so many fantastic places available to suit every budget – but check distances to the main towns of Pinhao and Regua (and train stations nearby) as the area is mostly rural! 

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