The Douro Valley is one of Portugal’s most iconic destinations - and for good reason. It's incredibly steep hills are lined with terraced vineyards as far as the eye can see that plunge down to the quiet Douro river. There are no major highways around the river, but rather small winding roads that snake through small vineyards and villages leading you either up river to Spain or down river to the city of Porto. Terraced olive and peach orchards are scattered among the vineyards. Quintas - Portuguese wine producing estates - are dotted across the steep terrain - their sheer quantity makes it clear that port and wine production are king and queen in the Douro.
When to Visit
The Douro Valley has hot dry summers and relatively* cold winters (*note, I am a Californian!). July through August temperatures range from the 80s - low 100s while January averages in the 40s and 50s. While the spring and fall are the most temperate times to visit - you may want to let the vines decide for you …
April through July the buds will break open and fill the hills with a beautiful green. In September you can experience the buzz of harvest - incredible in this terraced region that shies away from industrial production and uses old school techniques like food stomping. If traveling by car you will definitely be delayed in transit due to tractor traffic! October through November you will experience a golden Douro as the grape leaves change color. While the cold weather and barren vines may deter some travelers in December through March, it is also a great time to visit as you can experience the pruning of the vines and the benefit from the steep drop off in tourism … note, hotel deals to be had!
If you are interested in visiting wineries and small off the beaten path towns I would suggest renting a car in Porto and driving to the Douro. The ride is under two hours and will give you the flexibility to traverse the three diverse wine regions of the Douro valley and explore some of its hidden gems (blog post to come!). A word to the wise - roads are windy and difficult.
Those looking for a more relaxed ride can take the train from Porto which snakes next to the river and provides an absolutely gorgeous journey. Stops are frequent and there are some smaller towns and villages you can visit and stay in with easy train access. And for the ultimate chill experience one could take the boat ride up river from Porto. Ubers and taxis can also be called from any hotel.
Stay posted for the next post detailing Douro towns to visit as well as restaurants and hotels! - Rachel