Wine and heritage in Portugal’s rural valleys

14 January 2021

Portugal’s waterways are an inviting proposition for any European traveller that’s looking to escape for a few days and slow the pace a little. In Northern Portugal, the Côa River feeds into the Douro amidst a stunning landscape of vineyards and lush valley sides, before winding its way down to Porto on the Atlantic coast. Along the way, the rivers pass by historic settlements, miles of picturesque landscapes and UNESCO World Heritage listed sites featuring Palaeolithic rock art.

 

Visiting the vineyards

The Douro and Côa Valleys were made famous by their production of port; the sloping hillsides lay laden with row upon row of vines interspersed with quintas where the wine is produced. Many of the vineyards in the region allow guests to take a tour around the property, getting to know the process a little better that goes into producing the famous port – maybe even tasting a glass for themselves.

 

The Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, receiving demarcation in 1756, but production of wine in the area actually dates back over two thousand years. Over this time, people have transformed the mountain sides into fertile terraces and developed practices that have been handed down through the generations to create the unique landscape and port wine flavour that we find today. Whichever vineyard you visit, we recommend taking your sample out in the open where you can soak in the views of lush green hillside in summer and fiery red foliage in the autumn.

 

Regional heritage

To learn more about the wine growing history of the Douro Valley, visit the Museu do Douro in Peso da Régua. In Lamego, you’ll find a different flavour of the region; the Shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios sits atop Mount St. Stephen decorated in baroque style, featuring an ornate blue and white tiled wall and staircase. The city’s art museum is also well-deserving of a visit thanks to its collection of 16-century paintings and historic tapestries.

 

The Côa Valley has been recognised by UNESCO for the historic significance of a collection of sites around its banks where 25,000-year old drawings have been found carved into the rocks. These historically important artefacts depict various animals and hunters that once inhabited the valleys and have led to the area being considered to be one of the most important open air Palaeolithic rock art sites in the world.

 

How to experience the valleys

A boat trip down the Douro allows you to fully immerse yourself in area’s beauty, taking in the sights and sounds from your peaceful vantage point. Many boat tours include hopping off points to visit historic wine cellars and afternoon stops at local restaurants for authentic local dishes, such as goat stew and cod hash, so speak to your Travel Counsellor about finding the trip that is right for you.

 

The romance of train travel couples perfectly with the enchanting feel of the Douro Valley. Meander along the Douro Line between Régua and Tua, which for much of its route remains side by side with the river. Another popular way to see the valleys is with a bird’s eye vantage point onboard a helicopter, leaving from Porto.

Many visitors and locals alike, still prefer to explore the area on foot, hiking the network of trails through Parque Natural do Douro Internacional in search of the rich variety of flora and fauna that exist there; look out for eagles, wild boar, ospreys and roe deer.

 

Staying in the area

Around the Douro valley region, much of the accommodation is perfectly attuned to the tranquil, relaxed atmosphere, with a particular focus on wellness. At Six Senses Douro Valley, the spa offers floor-to-ceiling views out across the community garden from its indoor pool. Douro 41 is built into the river’s terrace, combining contemporary luxury with the natural landscape at the water’s edge with its own docks where you can depart from to discover the tranquil waterways. For an experience of palatial grandeur, few compare to Vidago Palace. The hotel’s collection of artworks and intricate adornments create a setting fit for royalty with an onsite golf course.

 

Get in touch with your Travel Counsellor today to find out more about the Douro Valley and to ask any questions you may have relating to flexible booking options and financial protection.

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