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Tom's Douro Valley Grape Escape

Douro Valley, Portugal

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!

Douro Valley terraced vineyards

2. 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!

Douro Valley terraced vineyards

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. 

 

Douro Valley river cruise


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.

 

Douro Valley river cruise


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’.

 

Douro Valley port


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.

 

Douro Valley historic villages


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. 

 

Pinhao train station


8. It’s easy to see why the train ride to Porto is often described as one of the world’s greatest rail journeys!

 

Douro Valley rail trip


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.

 

Ribeiram Porto


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.

 

Sao Bento train station


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…

 

Dom Luis 1 Bridge, Porto


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!

 

Port tasting in Porto


If you're inspired to discover this beautiful region of Portugal, Sherpa Expedition’s 7-Day Douro Rambler trip has departures starting from 15 March 2019 and costs just £860 per person.