- Countryside Ancient vine-framed valleys
- Country life Traditional quintas, keen oenophiles
This north-western patch of Portugal is golden by name ('Douro') and golden by nature, with sepia-tinged hills and amber-hued valleys.
A striking, sun-kissed mountainscape, neatly combed with vine-filled terraces, where the tranquil River Douro lazily winds its way from the Atlantic coast to Spain. On its gentle journey, it passes through the oldest wine-producing region in the world: little wonder these wild, earthy winelands have been awarded Unesco World Heritage status. Portugal’s second largest city, Porto stands proudly on Douro Valley’s oceanside edge; from here, you can follow the river into the fertile region once best known for Mateus rosé, but now celebrated as an epicurean paradise.
Do go/Don’t go
This is a great place to go off-season, especially as winters here are mild. August can be scorchio but never unbearable; June until September have less rain, and the latter is harvest time and an especially lovely month to watch the grapes being collected.
Planes Porto is the main airport for the Douro Valley; Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies to Porto from London Stansted and Liverpool airport. TAP (flytap.com) flies from London Heathrow. If travelling by helicopter | there is a helipad at Quinta Romeneira.
Boats A boat trip along the magnificent Douro River is essential – even if you only manage a small section. Stretching from the border with Spain down to the Atlantic Ocean, historically wine was transported along it in flat-bottom boats called rabelos, Romaneira has a pine rabelo available for private tours.
Trains A visit to the Douro Valley provides a unique opportunity to ride a steam train through postcard-perfect countryside. Even if you don’t need to jump aboard, it’s worth visiting just to see pretty, azulejos-tiled Pinhão, one of the most charming train stations in the world, with the backdrop of the Douro River behind.
Automobiles If you want to explore | a car is an advantage. The heart of the winelands | and the village of Cotas is about 150km from Oporto | 350km from Lisbon | 30km from Villa Real. It is easy to drive around and routes relatively uncomplicated | but the motorways aren’t for the faint-hearted as the lanes are narrow.
- Taxis Ask your hotel to arrange transportation in a 4x4.