The Douro River winds its way from the north of Spain, along the Portuguese border and eastward to Porto where it meets the sea.
Roughly midway on its course across Portugal, a stretch of its waters is flanked by a dramatic valley covered in bright green rows of grape vines. This is the Alto Douro where wine has been produced for some 2000 years, becoming the first wine growing region in the world to be formally demarcated in 1756, and it is all a UNESCO World Heritage protected landscape.
It is most famous for its port, a sweet brandy fortified wine that must originate in this valley to be considered the genuine article.
Winery touring and tasting is the main order of the day, with a wonderful array of traditional and boutique growers to discover.
The region’s sprinkling of historic towns and rustic villages are also wonderful to wander around, while the rugged mountains to east are home to the Côa Valley’s prehistoric rock art and some great hikes. Other popular activities in the area include challenging mountain biking, laid back river cruises and bird watching.
When to go
As the temperatures and sunlight hours begin to rise in April, the Douro Valley becomes a more rewarding place to visit, though some may find the peak temperatures in August a little too hot. June and September are particularly good times to visit, when temperatures are pleasant and fewer tourist crowds are in attendance.
What to do
- Sample the delicious wines of the Alto Douro
- Discover the Côa Valley’s prehistoric rock art
- Go hiking in the region's dramatic mountains
- Take a river cruise down the Douro
- Encounter traditional villages and towns dotted across the landscape
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