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Ever since our PR Manager, Tom, first visited Porto as a student he’s been itching to go back. A trip to the
Douro Valley, an easily accessible, two-hour train journey from Porto, provided the perfect excuse to return to Portugal for a relaxing week in the sun, accompanied by spectacular scenery, gorgeous weather and of course plenty of wine tastings!
Below, Tom shares his favourite photos from the trip:
1. Skirting its namesake river, the Douro Valley is often described as Portugal’s most scenic wine region. Its neat terraced vineyards are everywhere you look and the visual effect was simply mesmerising!
Although its popularity seems to have soared in the recent years, the Douro has a wine-producing culture that dates back centuries. I was surprised to find out that, in fact, it is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world – since 1756!
3. As much as I love walking, when you are so close to the water you have to take advantage of it! A river cruise on the Douro, even if it’s only for an hour or two, offers a completely different perspective of the landscape.
4. Travelling upstream on a traditional ‘rabelo’ ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. These flat-bottomed wooden boats are native to the Douro region and you will not find them in any other place in the world.
5. Although the Douro produces high volumes of table wine these days, the region is still mainly associated with port wine production. We discovered that there is even a dedicated ‘Route of Port Wine’.
6. One of the best things about a self-guided holiday is that you can take your time to explore at your own pace – there’s no rush! The region is dotted with so many beautiful historic towns and traditional villages that we often felt compelled to slow down and soak up the atmosphere.
7. Although the cobbly town of Pinhão is the heart of the region’s tourism industry, we found that it has a hidden gem: its quaint train station, whose walls are adorned by a series of hand-painted tiled murals.
8. It’s easy to see why the train ride to Porto is often described as one of the world’s greatest rail journeys!
9. No trip to northern Portugal would be complete without a stop at Porto, the country’s second city. I loved going for a stroll at Ribeira, the former fishing neighbourhood, which these days is lined with riverside pavement cafés and restaurants.
10. I’m a big fan of the ‘azulejos’, Portugal’s typical architectural feature that dates back to the 19th century. This photo is taken at São Bento train station, whose interior is covered by 22,000 of these blue-painted tiles that depict various historical scenes.
11. The imposing Dom Luís I Bridge, one of the city’s 6 bridges and the icon of Porto, was completed by a student of Gustave Eiffel in 1886. It still is quite a spectacle and the views from the top are sensational…
12. Porto’s main attraction needs no introduction: the clue is in its name! The city’s history is inextricably linked to port wine and there are various places offering tastings. We chose Taylor’s, whose peaceful garden comes complete with its resident hens and roosters!
If you're inspired to discover this beautiful region of Portugal, Sherpa Expedition’s
trip has departures starting from 15 March 2019 and costs just £860 per person. 7-Day Douro Rambler
The Americans call it
leaf peeping, the Japanese call it momiji gari. But if you're looking to be inspired by the shades of autumn foliage, you don't need to travel all the way to New England or the Far East – Sherpa Expeditions have a number of trips departing in the next few weeks where you can experience the splendour of the changing leaves.
PORTUGAL | Douro RAMBLER
Surround yourself with colour as autumn transforms the photogenic Douro River Valley, which slices across northern Portugal. As the terraced vineyards that slope along the riverbanks prepare for winter, they turn into an endless sea of red, orange and yellow. From visiting small working wine estates to taking scenic boat trips, there will be plenty of opportunities for wine tasting tours, where you can fortify yourself against the autumn chill with a glass of the region’s famed local port.
Departure dates until 15 October -
click here for details and booking.
SPAIN | hiking in hidden Andalucía
The weather in Andalucía’s mountains can be harsh in the summer and winter months – but visit in autumn for beautiful gold and yellow colours of chestnuts and poplars lighting up the valleys, while the hedgerows and paths are lined with figs, mulberries, walnuts and pomegranates. With the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, this is an exhilarating walk among terraced fields and through white-washed villages and along irrigation channels that date back to the Moorish era.
Departure dates until 20 November -
click here for details and booking.
GERMANY | Bavaria - King Ludwig's Way
Saturated with alpine flowers in spring and crowded with tourists in summer, southern Germany offers more relaxed tempos for leaf-peeping during the autumn months. Home to the idyllic Romantic Road, this is fairy-tale country, with geranium-bedecked chalets, onion-shaped church spires and copper-turreted castles rising out of red and green forests – including the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle, the eccentric King Ludwig’s most famous architectural masterpiece.
Departure dates until 22 October -
click here for details and booking.
AUSTRIA | The Lake District and Dachstein Alps
Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area – there is nowhere better to experience autumn unfold in Austria than the heart of the Lake District, which encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier and breathtaking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through ochre mountain forests, explore glimmering lakeland shores and visit alpine villages of wooden chalets.
Departure dates until 20 October -
click here for details and booking.
If you like the look of these trips but would prefer to visit next spring, summer or autumn, you can book for 2019 now.
Visit Portugal’s Douro Valley and walk in the amazing wine terraces and
Quinta wine estates high above the Douro River. Read on to find out about 5 reasons for spending your active holiday in Douro Valley.
The Douro Wine Estates
Walking in the Douro Valley should be regarded as a ‘Quinta-essential’ walk: it takes you deep into the working wine estates of golden terraces laced with vines and wires to support them. The local people will be busy picking the grapes in September/October while at other times in the year, there are activities taking place such as pruning, training, spraying or weeding. Some times of the year, you will hardly see a soul about. Most of the
Quintas, estates or inns in the Portuguese countryside, produce their own wine. The area is of UNESCO World Heritage interest, and there are some amazing Escher-type perspective views of the vine terraces from across the hills in certain lights, dissected in places by roads and paths.
Discover the two famous ironwork bridges
when you’re visiting the Douro Valley. They both date back to the late 1800s. Walk across the Gustav Eiffel Bridge that connects both sides of River Pinhão and that is also a main landmark in the charming village of the same name. The bridge was designed by, surprise-surprise, Gustav Eiffel who was also involved with the ‘Luis I Bridge’ in Porto. Nowadays, the bridge is considered as a national masterpiece.
When you visit Douro Valley, you can also walk high above the magnificent Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge. This is Porto’s most recognisable landmark over the river Douro. The iron bridge was designed by Seyrig, one of Gustav Eiffel's co-workers, in 1886.
Cruise along the Douro River
Relax and take a replica Barco Rabelo, wine boat for a little cruise along the Douro River while passing numerous wine estates that advertise themselves via large riverside boards. You can slouch in a bean bag quaffing a tawny port, watching riverside birds. To break your walking days, you could hire a boat to visit the village of ‘Tua’. There are a couple of restaurants there, which are excellent to have some lunch at before catching the train back to either Pinhão or Oporto.
Porto, O Pretty Porto
Get lost in Oporto (Porto)! This is a must on your Douro Valley holiday. Having survived through periods of European war, Porto has a maze of ancient streets and old buildings focussed on the River Douro. It is a proud and friendly city bursting with cafes, bars, restaurants and some unusual stores selling things like Portuguese guitars.
Check out some of Porto’s ornate churches that are decorated with blue and white
azulejos tiles such as the Igreja de Sto Ildefonso church. The railway station, Estação de São Bento, is also internally decorated with a mass of these tiles illustrating Portuguese landscapes and train travel.
There are lovely squares, and terraced vistas. Always you will find good restaurants (ask around for
) where you can taste famous national dishes such as tascas bacalhau, dried and salted cod, in its varying preparations.
The Port Lodges
Visit a couple of Port Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia. This town is a separate entity to Porto (just across from the river and easily accessible); most importantly, this is where all the traditional factories of the wine estates exist. Here, the port is made by adding spirit to stop the wine fermentation process and the finished product is then aged, usually in oak barrels. A visit to a couple of the estates is recommended, they often have the most beautiful premises and outlooks. There is a small entry charge that includes tasting a few ports or wines. There are so many lodges to choose from including Dutch and German brands. For Anglophiles perhaps the most famous are Sandeman, Grahams, Croft, Churchills, Ferreira, Taylors, Offley and Cockburns. Some also do food, which is just as well before you wobble back to your hotel!
The best times to visit Douro Valley for an active holiday are spring, between mid-March until June, and autumn (fall) from around September until mid-October and when also the
takes place. annual grape harvest
Porto Walking Tour
Our walking holiday in Portugal’s Douro Valley takes you to finish in the up-and-coming city of Porto also known as Oporto. The Portuguese city is divided by the river Douro and Villa Nova de Gaia on the other side is well worth a visit too.
Perhaps ahead or at the end of your trip, you want to extend a few days to discover why the city’s historical core is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are so many things to do in the town and this shortened Porto walking tour may be a good start to go out and explore.
© Manuel de Sousa
Join us on this short trip on foot that includes 11 things to see in Porto. We start at the Feitoria Inglesa, near the hotel that we normally use on the Douro Rambler trip. It was designed by British consul John Whitehead in 1786 and is also known as the British Factory House. It is one of the most fabled buildings in the Ribeira district of Porto and stands where Rua do Infante Dom Henrique crosses Rua de São João.
Casa do Infante
© Manuel de Sousa
With your back to the Hotel Carris, turn left and follow the road to the Casa do Infante. Porto-born Henry the Navigator, who was a prominent figure during the Age of Discovery, reputedly was born in this house. The house is now a museum about Oporto and a visit is certainly something to do when in Porto. Learn about the city’s history since the Roman colonisation of what was then ‘Portus Cale.’ Through diagrams, videos and historical artefacts, this castle-like history book teaches you about Porto’s people, growth and activities through time. It's an interactive and interesting way of getting to know one of the most charismatic cities of Portugal - and its free.
Praça do Infante Dom Henrique
© jad99 from Graz, Austria
Follow Rua do Infante Dom Henrique to Praça do Infante Dom Henrique. A statue of Prince Henry the Navigator graces this square. Highlight of the square is the Igreja de São Francisco, which originally was a Gothic church. Its adjacent museum once was the property of a Franciscan monastery. The church boasts the most lavish, spectacular church interior in Oporto – and competition is fierce! It is one of a kind with arcades in front of the church that are a typical blend of Gothic and Moorish elements. The single nave gives a wide impression and is the largest nave of this kind to be found in Portuguese churches. The altars in the transept are decorated with gilded sculpture work framing 16th century panels, probably painted by Flemish artists.
Rua das Flores
We follow our Porto walking tour on Rua Ferreira Borges west and veer north to Largo de São Domingos. At the top of this square, continue northwest along Rua das Flores (Street of Flowers). Some visitors consider this the most romantic street in all of Porto. It has long been known for the quality of its silversmiths, but what makes the street so architecturally striking is its wrought-iron balconies. This charming street eventually opens onto Praça de Almeida Garrett, with the Sao Bento train station (1896). Its grand main hall is decorated with large tiles tracing the historical events of transportation in Portugal.
Igreja dos Congregados
© Diego Delso
We now head up Placa de Almeida Garrett and turn left in front of the blue tiled church that is called Igreja dos Congregados. The church was built in 1703 with renovations done in the 19 th century followed by the exterior of the church in the early 1900s. This is when the tiles of its façade were done by Jorge Colaco.
Placa da Liberdade
You then arrive at Placa da Liberdad, which has its origins in the beginning of the 18th century. It was in 1718 that a project for the urbanisation of the area began and this included the creation of new streets and an ample square, known as Praça Nova (New Square). In 1866 a monument dedicated to King Peter IV, a monarch closely linked to Porto, was inaugurated in the middle of the square. During the 19th century, several factors increased the importance of the square and the town hall moved to a building on the northside. Towards the end of the century, facilities like the D. Luís Bridge and São Bento Train Station were opened nearby. Liberdade Square was a political, economic and social centre for Porto and remains an important attraction of the city.
Tower of Igreja Torre dos Clerigos
© António Amen
The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni: an Italian architect and painter who did extensive works in the north of Portugal during the 18th century. The church was finished around 1750 and the main façade is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment. The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763. The whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles. There are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors and with its 75.6 metres in height, the tower today still dominates the city. This great structure has even become the symbol of the city.
Placa de Gomes Teixeira
Just beyond the church there are pleasant cafes and a small garden called Pc. Da Cordoaria. Closeby are the Photographic Museum and the Natural History Museum. Continuing on from the church, you soon arrive at Placa de Gomes Teixeira, a large cobbled square with Fonte Ledes (fountain of lions) within it. This is one of the nicest squares of Porto and a must-visit. It got its name on 1936 in honour of Francisco Gomes Teixeira, a well-known professor at the University of Porto. Some of the buildings around the square belong to the university, explaining the students in long black gowns that you are likely to see. There are also a lot of interesting shops and cafes in the vicinity as you would expect from a university area.
Carmelitas & Carmo Churches
© António Amen
Across the square, look carefully and what looks like just one big church are actually two connected by what is one of the world's narrowest houses: just 1 metre wide. The house that separates the two churches was inhabited until about 25 years ago. It was built due to a law that stated that no two churches could share a wall, while also ensuring chastity between the monks of Carmo and the nuns of Carmelitas.
Return back towards Sao Bento, but before entering the road with the station, continue along Rua de 31 de Janeiro to shortly reach the top of another square, the Placa da Batalha
From the Batalha square you can walk along Rua de Cimo de Vila and straight on through Rua Cha to visit the modern tourist office. If you continue along the road which becomes Avenue Vimara Peres, you can walk right across the top of the iconic Ponte Luis I bridge (by Gustave Eiffel) to get some great views over Ribeira and Villa Nova de Gaia. Just beyond the bridge, you can take a road up left to a further viewpoint: the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. The 16 th Century fortified monastery is one of the best things to do in Porto if you are interested in panoramic views. The cloister is just beautiful. You can visit the church on a guided tour only for about 3 Euros, so check the times. You go up to the top of the church in the company of a soldier: this place is under military ownership and therefore does not get any UNESCO funds despite being included in the world heritage area.
To continue our Porto walking tour, take the steeply descending street under an arch behind the cathedral, this is another one of our favourite streets in Porto.
Continue along Rua de Dom Hugo, a narrow street that curves around the eastern side of the Sé (square), until you come to some steep steps. These were carved through remaining sections of the town walls that existed in the Middle Ages. The steps bring you into one of the most colourful and poverty-stricken sections of Porto, the Ribeira district. The backstreets of this historic neighbourhood have much charm. The area abounds with arcaded markets, churches, museums, monuments, and once-elegant buildings. Locals come here for the low-cost tascas (taverns) and seafood restaurants, and if you’re interested in , there are several places to go. fado music
From the Cais da Ribeira you can take in the port-wine lodges across the Douro at Vila Nova de Gaia. If you want to visit the port lodges, you can do this as a separate walk or continue from where you left off.
If you are interested in combing a visit to Porto with a Douro Valley walking holiday, or if you like to learn more about this part of Portugal, you can easily get in touch with our team of travel experts via this website, phone or email.
Easter this year (2018) falls in the first weekend of April and is a great time for catch the first beams of sunlight all over Europe. The obvious question then is, where to go for Easter in Europe this year? In Italy, Spain and Portugal, all catholic dominated countries, there are processions and other religious celebrations for the holiday – as there are on Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Often, these are very colourful and traditional events that are well worth travelling for and to take part in or observe.
To give you an idea, here are five places in Europe to celebrate the Easter holidays and that are easily combined with a walking trip.
Easter in La Palma >> Majorca, Spain
As elsewhere in Spain, Majorca celebrates the
Semana Santa (Holy Week) for Easter. The island is in a festive mood from the Thursday before Easter onward, when the biggest processions take place. The most colourful one is the La Sang procession in La Palma. Other Mallorcan places to go for Easter are the churches with performances of children and other special Easter events. On the Sunday you may find many people on the streets for their local pilgrimage and abundant picnics. Make sure to try the Easter pastries of and panades when you’re in Majorca this Easter. rubiols
Head to Majorca a few days before Easter to enjoy all of the large processions that take place around the island and spend a few days in La Palma before you head off for your days of walking. Away from the burgeoning coastal resorts, discover the majestic Sierra de Tramontana massif of limestone peaks tumbling to the turquoise waters. Venture forth on a series of hikes through shady forests, olive groves and ancient farmsteads, visit tiny sun-drenched beaches and spend the night in a traditional monastery, listening to the sound of nightingales from your bedroom window.
Interested in visiting Majorca for Easter? Browse for inspiration the Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries walking holiday.
Easter in Florence >> Tuscany, Italy
Make sure you’re in Florence on Easter Sunday and be up and ready by 9am for the spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart). A tradition that goes back to the 12 th Century, today, this is still an important Easter practise for the city of Florence. A cart is drawn by oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Church Square, now connected with the altar in the cathedral via a wire, here it is lit by a dove-shaped rocket from the cathedral so that it causes a 20 minutes fireworks show ‘the explosion of the car’. The whole spectacle happens in traditional 15 th Century style with flowers, music, and clerics.
Combine this Easter tradition with a week-long cycling or walking holiday in Tuscany. Follow the backroads in the early spring months and spot the first flowers come to bloom among cypresses, vineyards, traditional Tuscan architecture – and of course the rich Italian cuisine, oh the cuisine...
Interested in visiting Florence for Easter? Browse for inspiration the Tuscany on Foot, Cycle San Gimignano to Siena, Walking South of Siena, Cycling South of Siena, and Tuscany Cycle Explorer walking and cycling holidays.
Easter in Kato Paphos >> Cyprus
Right outside the church of Agia Kyriaki in the coastal town of Kato Paphos (the start and/or finish point of our Cyprus walking trips), the Passion Play, or Way of the Cross, takes place. It is one of the many Easter celebrations taking place over the island of Cyprus. Most of the residents are member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has its own Easter traditions. Normally falling at different dates than the Christian or Catholic Easter, this year in 2018, celebrations are just one week later commencing on 6 April. Eat traditional lamb dishes and the Cypriot bread of flaounes and join any of the festive processions and performances.
Fly in to Paphos ahead of your eight or eleven day Cyprus walking holiday and stay a few days to celebrate Easter. Then set off to explore the Troodos Mountains on foot and admire the rugged mountains, orchards and vineyards, profusion of exquisite, wild flowers and migratory birds that you can see particularly in spring.
Interested in visiting Cyprus for Easter? Browse for inspiration Winter Walking in Cyprus, The Troodos Mountains and Akamas – 11 days or The Troodos Mountains and Akamas – 8 days walking holidays.
Easter in Braga >> Douro Valley, Portugal
There are several places to go for Easter in northern Portugal. Close to the starting point of our walking holiday, Porto, there is the city of Braga. Both cities host many concerts, dance performances, religious celebrations and street theatre activities during the Holy Week, but head for Braga to witness the Ecce Homo procession and many more Easter celebrations. It is led by coffin-bearers wearing a traditional purple robe on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. A traditional dessert to try for Easter if you’re in Porto or Braga is the Easter sponge cake of Pao de Lo.
The surprisingly unspoilt
Douro Valley is just a 1-hour train ride away from Braga and home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine and you can experience the importance of grapes when you stay at a beautifully restored manor that owns a small vineyard. Enjoy pretty walks in the wine county of Douro Valley in spring when nature is coming back to life and trails are usually quiet.
Interested in visiting Douro Valley for Easter? Browse for inspiration the Douro Rambler walking holiday.
Easter in Alghero >> Sardinia, Italy
Fly in to Sardinia’s Alghero airport and spend a few days to celebrate the Easter holidays. Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most famous places to go for Easter and are influenced by the (Spanish) Catalan culture. Celebrations evolve around the Santcristus, a wooden statue that washed ashore in 1606 and now symbolises Alghero’s religious identity. There are processions from Good Friday onward and on the Thursday before Easter you can witness the raising of the Santcristus at the Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
These celebrations could form a fantastic start or end to your Saunter in Sardinia walking holiday. Your walks start in Santu Lussurgiu, 2 hrs away from Alghero, and take you around the Montiferru Mountain Range, Sinis Westlands, sea cliff of Su Tingiosu and many ancient sites as you follow romantic Mediterranean trails. The advantage of travelling in spring and around Easter is that you will find much bird life and generally quieter trails.
Interested in visiting Sardinia for Easter? Browse for inspiration the Saunter in Sardinia or Cycling in Sardinia walking and cycling holidays.
For more information on where to go for Easter in Europe or on any of the suggested destinations, please
contact our team of travel experts.
We’ve probably all had those conversations where you’ve been advised to visit Y after mentioning that you liked walking in destination X. Perhaps because it offers the same kind of weather, walking conditions, historical sites or because it is a remoter place with a similar feel.
For this latter reason, we sat down and came up with these four alternative travel destinations in Europe that are less visited, but offer a similar walking experience to places better known like the Alpine Pass Route, Majorca, the French Pyrenees, and Burgundy.
If You Liked the Alpine Pass Route >> Try the Wildstrubel Circuit
WHY? The Wildstrubel Circuit uses trails that have served since Roman times to link the German-speaking Bernese Oberland and the partly French-speaking Valais. At the time, the mountains of the Bernese Oberland and Valais formed a natural barrier and Kandersteg was a hamlet literally at the end of the road. When you follow the ancient trails, cross the Gemmi, Rawyl, Lotschen, Bundeschrinde and Hahnenmoos passes linking attractive Swiss villages that are still hidden places. Throughout the tour, the scenery is expansive, with views extending across the Oberland, to the 4000m peaks of the Valais, and down the Rhone valley. Tell me more about the ‘quieter’ Alpine classic, the Wildstrubel Circuit >>
If You Liked the French Pyrenees >> Try the Spanish Pyrenees
WHY? The Spanish side of the Pyrenees has a drier climate than the French side and is less visited, the Spanish Pyrenees are therefore a great alternative travel destination. It offers a magnificent array of rugged mountains, deep gorges, beech and pine forests, cultivated terraces, ancient stone bridges, unspoilt towns and villages with many historic buildings. All of this is linked through a network of waymarked trails and paths. Tell me more about the less-visited Spanish Pyrenees in Alto Aragon >>
If You Liked Burgundy >> Try the Douro Valley
WHY? Calling all wine lovers! The surprisingly unspoilt Douro Valley is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world and a great alternative travel destination to Burgundy. Established in 1756 when the Port industry developed, Douro Valley has Portugal's highest wine classification as a ‘denominação de origem controlada’ and, although associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine. Tell me more about the unspoilt Douro Valley >>
If You Liked Majorca >> Try Corsica
Do you love the classic Mediterranean travel destinations like Majorca in Spain but are you running out of ideas of what else to try? Only two hours by plane from the United Kingdom, the Corsican landscape boasts granite peaks, deeply wooded valleys, pine forest and cascading streams before leading to the clear blue waters of the sea – and all this with a French twist! Corsica is an alterative travel desitnation that is especially attractive for walking holidays.
Tell me more about French-influenced Corsica >>
For more information on these alternative places for walking in Europe, please download the trip notes on the trip page or
get in touch with our team of travel experts
Every year in September you can see the
Douro Valley change from its summer greens to a blanket of gold and eventually red. This is the time to enjoy late summer days in Portugal.
If you visit Portugal in September, you will find fewer crowds on the trails, weather has pleasant temperatures of around 20 degrees C and with almost no rainfall, it is a great time to visit. September is that time of year when the tourism season begins quieting down and the local people start preparing for their annual grape harvest.
A celebratory ceremony, the grape harvest is where workers and villagers gather in a festive spirit (see the video below). Some of the vineyards allow travellers to take part in the ceremonies, such as the accommodation you stay in on our
Douro Rambler walking holiday. It was built during the 17 th century and located a little further up in the hills, offering magnificent views of the valley and Douro River. It owns a small vineyard that sells their grapes to a cooperative. Walkers who would like to join the harvesting activities in Douro Valley can help with picking grapes or indulge in wine and port tasting sessions. If you want to see the first steps in the wine making process, especially of the world famous port, you should visit Douro Valley this September.
You can participate in September’s grape harvest in other regions of Europe too: consider a trip to
Tuscany where the harvesting period runs until October or places in France where the harvesting time varies depending on which area you visit.
For more information on the grape harvesting period on our active European holidays or walking holidays in Portugal’s
, please get in touch with our team of travel experts in the London offices. Douro Valley
Walking in Portugal: Douro Valley
Douro Valley is one of the most beautiful corners of Portugal and this month we are excited to be launching a brand new walking trip. Our resident guide Jon Millen explains why it should be on your radar.
The Douro area is a wonderful walking area of hillsides dissected by pretty river valleys draining into the Douro River. Generally too cold in winter and too hot in summer for comfortable walking; spring and autumn (fall) are the best times to visit the region, especially in the spring when everything is quiet and the vines are awakening. In contrast September / early October is when the pace of life whisks into a bustle harvesting. In late October and November the vines turn a gorgeous colour whilst the air is
spiced by the fires from the on-going pruning operation.
The connection with Britain is almost as old as the hills. In 1678, a Liverpool wine merchant sent two new representatives to Oporto to learn the wine trade. While on a vacation in the Douro, the two gentlemen visited the Abbot of Lamego, who treated them to a "very agreeable, sweetish and extremely smooth "wine," which had been fortified with a distilled spirit’’. They were so pleased with the product that they purchased the Abbot's entire lot and shipped it home. This was the start of Britain's love affair with Port, named of course after Oporto; the city where it was stored and shipped from. These days the city is now known as Porto and is the second-largest city in Portugal.
Port became very popular in England after the Methuen Treaty of 1703, this enabled merchants to import for a low duty. During the century several wars occurred meaning that English wine drinkers were often deprived of French wine. British importers could be credited for recognizing that a smooth, already fortified wine that would appeal to English palates, would coincidentally survive the voyage to London. Almost in anticipation of this demand, The Douro Wine Region, created in 1756 by the government of the Marquis of Pombal, was the first (oldest) demarcated and regulated wine region in the world. In 2001, UNESCO classified 24 600 hectares of the Alto Douro Wine Region as a World Heritage site.
Our walk stays 3 nights in the village of Vilarinho de Sao Romão, high above the river in a restored manor house; each room carefully thought through in terms of décor and period furnishings. There is a beautiful Wisteria engulfed veranda where you could sit all day with a glass of wine, a book or some paints if you weren’t walking, it is so peaceful. There's also the opportunity to cool down in the small pool before enjoying filling dinners that are prepared using local ingredients and traditional recipes.
From here there are four walks threading through the wine estates and up and down the hills, through various villages and hamlets. The last of these drops down to Pinhão, a small port on the Douro where you have a night in a luxury hotel and can spend a couple of hours cruising the river passing the golden terraces of the various wine estates.
From here the tiny narrow gauge train takes you to the relative bustle of Porto and its sister town on the south bank, Villa Nova di Gaia. Hardly affected by the ravages of war during the last couple of centuries, the city is an architectural jewel, defined by the winding river and the Gustav Eiffel inspired Luis I bridge.
There is plenty of time to explore, for a few Euros each you can visit any number of the famed Port lodges and taste their wares. They are nearly all concentrated here including Taylors, Cockburns, Churchills, Sandeman, Croft etc. There is a kind of old fashioned decency and politeness of the locals in the area, however very few people know English so it would be a good idea to know a few Portuguese words such as ‘obrigado’ (thank you) and just as importantly ‘Saude’ (cheers).
For further information about our Douro Valley tour please
for details on how to book. For a full list of our tours in Portugal visit our visit our website page for other recommendations. Self-Guided Walking Holidays in Portugal