Created in 1756 by the government of the Marquis of Pombal, the Douro Wine Region Valley is the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the world. The Alto Douro Wine Region is famous not only for its port but also for its more recent high quality table wines. This self-guided, hotel based walking and sightseeing tour starts from the village of Vilarinho de Sao Romeo in the middle of the region, then continues down to the small port-town of Pinhão on the Douro River and finally travelling via train to the great city of Porto for a couple of nights. There are a number of walks that you can do based from our charming and quiet guest house at Vilarinho, before you descend to the Douro for more leisurely activities such as boat rides or wine tasting. A couple of nights in Porto give you the opportunity to ramble around one of the best preserved cities in Western Europe. All activities are optional, the Vilarinho guest house is so peaceful, you might want to spend your time reading on the veranda quaffing the local vinho. Spring and autumn are the ideal time to visit, although there can be great extremes of temperature between the valleys. September and October are best for seeing the harvest, although the exact times vary slightly each year. The most colourful time of year is October to early November when the vines turn, orange, red and purple. Spring can be a quiet time to visit, after the vine pruning, where nature is coming back to life after often surprisingly cold winters.
This trip involve walking between 4 - 5 hours per day. You will need a reasonable level of fitness and good health.
Make your own way to Porto Airport, take a Metro or taxi transfer to either Porto-Campanhã or Sao Bento railway stations. Reaching Porto-Campanhã, is slightly quicker from the airport, but the train to Pinhao is quite small and at busy times it may be prudent to go to the starting station at Sao Bento in order to get a seat. Train to Pinhão (2.5 hours), Taxi to Vilarinho de Sao Romão (25 minutes).
Accommodation: Stay for the first 3 nights in a beautifully restored manorial house in the hills high above the Douro Valley, dating back to the 1600s. All the rooms have their own character and are ensuite. There is a pleasant lounge and a beautiful shady wisteria engulfed verandah. The pretty gardens have a small outdoor pool (maybe closed early and late in the season).
Walks described can be done in any order, on any day. This circular walk takes you deep into the working wine estates of golden terraces laced with vines. The walk passes through the village of Celerios before dropping steeply into the valley of Pinhão where there are some amazing Escher type perspective views of the vine terraces from across the hills in certain lights. You will walk through many small estates, crossing the river twice before winding back up through forest and vineyard to Vilarinho.
This is a straight forward walk which takes you through the pine and eucalyptus hillsides above Vilarinho. A lovely tour for walking through peaceful countryside and a couple of villages before returning to the 'Casa'. You will get to see vineyards of various sizes. There are a couple of very sleepy villages on the way including Vilela and the appropriately named Fermentoes. There are opportunities for cafe stops on the way where a simple lunch could be obtained. There are some steep tracks with gravelly surfaces through forests and vineyards.
Today you can either walk down to Pinhão, or if you want more time in the town, you can transfer with your luggage to the hotel. The walk is a beauty, taking you back down to the Douro and spends some time above the course of the Pinhão River which meets the Douro at Pinhão. The first half of the walk is through the woods, pine, heather, eucalyptus, broom and thyme of the hills of the ‘Serra de Alem,’ dropping steeply into the attractive village of Provesende. Next you head off through vine country, with yet more steep descents until you are right down by the Pinhão River, walking beside it until the River Douro. This afternoon you may have time to do a boat tour on the Douro or visit one of the famous wine estates for a tour.
Accommodation: Overnight at a very special hotel in a wonderful location by the Eiffel Bridge and the river. The old house and the lands around it are part of an 18th century estate, exquisitely renovated into a magnificent 5 star hotel with all comforts, facilities and high standard service whilst maintaining the charm of the old days in the traditional architecture that has been carefully preserved. There is an outdoor swimming pool with lovely views to the river. There is also a tennis court, beautiful gardens, games rooms and library Bar. The restaurant specialising in Portuguese cuisine.
You will have time for optional activities such as a boat ride up the Douro under some of the famous 'Quintas' - wine estates, or for an estate visit before you take the train with your baggage to Porto. Check into your Hotel and enjoy the afternoon and evening in the vibrant Ribeira district, down by the quays. There are lots of traditional 'tascas' (taverns) with marine cuisine.
Accommodation: Our hotel is central to the old part of the city and the Riberia district. It is a fusion of 5 listed buildings, fully renovated and totally modernised into a 4 star hotel.
Full day in Porto. We suggest a walking itinerary taking in the famous sites such as the Cathedral, churches such as 'Igreja de sto Ildefonso' and the 'Igreja Clerigos' with its monumental tower. Maybe walking along the upper and lower spans of the famous Luis I road bridge, admiring the riverside districts of the old towns on both river banks. We would also recommend a trip across the river to the other town, 'Vila Nova de Gaia' where you can take your choice and visit one or more of the famous port lodges. Prices and tour times will vary,Taylors do a good one with tastings for approx. 6E. Not all require bookings.
After breakfast make your way to the airport either via the Metro or Taxi service.
A great trip to a beautiful part of the world with minor glitches only. All accommodation was excellent. Eating together and meeting other guests at Casa de Vilarinho de S. Romao was a plus.
C. Babbs, Rochdale, UK, 27 Jun 2016
Per Person, Twin Share