From Porto (you can read all about our time in the city here), we took the train on a 2.5 hour scenic journey to Pinhão, a quaint town deep in the Douro Valley. The entire valley is filled with a dramatic landscape, full of terraced rows of vines; it really is a spectacular sight to see. There are plenty of wineries ("Quintas") nearby the town visit, but definitely set up your tours and tastings in advance. You will need to either rent a car or set up a tour/taxi for the day; we recommend the latter so you can fully enjoy the delicious wine!
Getting to the Douro Valley
The closest airport to the Douro Valley is Porto. We got a great deal on flights, arriving on RyanAir and departing on Monarch (you can read our review of low cost carriers here). You can also fly TAP, British Airways, and other airlines.
Porto to Pinhão
After staying in Porto for the Festa de São João do Porto, we took the train from the São Bento railway station out to Pinhão. Tickets were very affordable, and the train was basic, but comfortable. The journey itself is beautiful, presenting dramatic views as you head up river from Porto.
Other Places to Stay in the Douro Valley
An alternative to Pinhão is Peso da Regua, another town you can visit via train and easily tour wineries from. It is a bit closer to Porto than Pinhão if you are pressed for time.
Our tour of the Douro Valley
Once in Pinhão, we had a private full day tour with a company called Jorge Barefoot, and it was amazing. Jorge provides private and semi-private half-and full-day tours that can include wine/port tastings, an olive oil tasting, a boat tour, and a great lunch - truly a fantastic day! Head to his website for more detail, but we'll share our experience below.
Jorge picked us up right at the Pinhão train station. He took us to our hotel to drop our bags and freshen up briefly before heading out on our adventure.
Tips: stop a notice the beautiful artwork at the train station, both here and back in Porto.
Our first stop was at D'Origem, a family owned winery in the heart of the Douro. When we arrived, the owner's son gave us a tour of the what they call the olive oil museum; olive oil has been made on the site for over 100 years, and they did a great job preserving the equipment and explaining the production process. Next, we tasted the olive oil and wine they produce (both wine and Port wine) as we looked out at the spectacular view in the tasting room. They also offer a special grape juice, made from the same grapes without the fermentation so the younger visitors can enjoy, too!
Casal de Loivos
We then drove to a breathtaking viewpoint, Casal de Loivos, which is high up in the hills, looking out over the Douro Valley below. The picture speaks for itself!
Quinta do Infantado
Another family owned winery, Quinta de la Rosa was an awesome stop on our trip. The winemaker brought us into his house and we tasted at his dining room table. He brought out nearly a dozen different Port wines and some newer vintage wine they are producing. We also toured the barrel room and got to see the large tanks called "lagares" where the grapes are crushed into juice; this is still done manualy by foot over hours and hours at many of the wineries in the Douro!
Restaurante Toca da Raposa
After two wineries (and having had less than 3 hours of sleep the night before), we really needed some fuel. Jorge took us to Restaurante Toca da Raposa in the town of Ervedosa do Douro. We indulged in a five course meal, complete with wine pairings from local wineries. The food was all included in our fee paid to Jorge, but the prices are very reasonable, and you feel like a local eating in this small hillside village.
Tips: Just as you drive north from Ervedosa Do Douro on the N22, stop and take in the beautiful views over the terraced vineyards and the river Duoro.
You may not realize that cork wine stoppers are made from the bark of a tree, the cork oak. These trees can be found throughout the Doruo, so make sure you stop and take a look (Portugal is one of a few regions in the world where the trees grow, and over half of cork production happens in the country). You might notice trees that look a bit funny, seemingly shaved, like the one in the picture above. That means it was recently de-barked, something that can only be done every 7 years!
Quinta de la Rosa
After lunch and taking in the views, we stopped at one final winery, Quinta de la Rosa. We toured their barrell room and enjoyed a tasting of their wine and port wines. You can also stay at the property in one of their B&B rooms.
River Boat Tour
Our day long adventure was capped off with a boat tour on the river Douro itself. It was quite unique to be able to see the dramatic landscape from the water level, especially after being so high up from snaking our way through the hills. As the sun sets, there are ample opportunities to take beautiful photos. A unique fact about the river is they have massive pumps that push water up river at night when electricity is inexpensive so they can re-run it through the power generating dam.
Where to stay in the Douro Valley
Vintage House Douro in Pinhão
This hotel was right near the center of Pinhão and had excellent amenities. Situated right on the river, this hotel is a perfect place to rest your head after a day of wine tasting and exploring the Douro Valley. The restaurant offers upscale meals, and delicious breakfast options.
Read about our time in the city of Porto.