Vineyards in the Douro Valley
Lush green, the gentle contours of the hills covered with hectares of vine plantations and the lazily meandering river - this is the landscape of the Duoro Valley, a region in northeastern Portugal that produces the famous port wine. On both sides of the river, from Peso da Regua to the very border with Spain, there are plantations. Over the course of several centuries, thousands of narrow terraces for vine cultivation have been created, and their beauty scattered along the steep banks of the river has been appreciated by experts and since 2001 the landscape of the Douro Valley has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The wine-growing tradition of the region is approx. 2 thousand. years, and the area covers 10% of the total area of vines in Portugal.
The best choice when visiting the Alto Douro wine region (Upper Douro) is a car trip - then you can reach less frequented, picturesque places. The second option is to travel along the river by train. Some courses are traversed by a historic train, not a standard one, with a black locomotive and wooden wagons, so this trip is even more attractive. Passenger ships carrying tourists regularly sail on the Douro. The time of such a trip and crossing the dams is about 2 hours, and during the cruise you can admire the quintas, i.e. the property of wine producers, located among the wine terraces.
In a camper van among grapevine plantations
Traveling along the valley, it is worth taking off the main routes and delving into the network of tiny streets. The quality of the surface of some of them leaves much to be desired, but it is worth visiting these areas - the landscapes viewed fully compensate for the inconvenience while driving. The vineyards are usually unfenced, and the owners are nice and willing to invite tourists for a tasting. The best time to go here is in September, when the grapes are ripe. Vindima (grape harvest) takes place in a traditional way - everyone helps each other, and after hard work, the person who was picking grapes on a given day invites the others to dinner. The whole rite of grape picking along with the dances accompanying the ceremonial completion of work can be seen in many films, incl. in "Walk in the Clouds" (1995), starring Keanu Reeves and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón de Angelis.
To the north of the valley there are interesting and worth visiting places. Vila Real is home to Casa de Mateus - a palace with delicious gardens, which is very popular among tourists. The famous residence is the work of António José Botelho Mourão and was built in the 18th century with all the splendor of that period. On the other hand, these gardens are decorated with the labels of Mateus Rosé, semi-sweet wine produced since the end of World War II. While passing through Pinhaõ, about 55 km away from Vila Real, it is worth stopping at the train station to see its azulejos - 24 hand-painted tiles depicting scenes from the harvesting of grapes and surrounding landscapes. The old station building has been turned into a museum and shop with items related to the wine traditions of the region.
Caravanning trip along the valley
The area between Peso da Regua and Pinhaõ is unique and fascinating. Most of Porto's vineyards are located here, and this area is protected by UNESCO. There are many plantations here, as well as alcohol tasting opportunities. Halfway between the villages is the Quinta do Tedo vineyard, which can be visited daily from 10am to 7pm. Visits are free, wine tasting costs 4 euros or it is also free - if you plan to buy a bottle.
The part of the route leading from Pinhão to the Spanish border and along it to the north is the most beautiful, sparsely populated, even wild section. It is home to the International Douro Park, a very picturesque area, very popular with tourists.
In Pinhaõ, you can head north and visit the village of Murça, which has a pig statue (porca de Murça). This is a granite Iron Age statue standing in the center of the city. After returning to the route along the valley, it is worth exploring São João da Pesqueira , a place considered by many to be the heart of the Douro wine region. It is famous for the most beautiful viewpoint in the entire region - a place called Sao Salvador do Mundo (Savior of the World).
The area tempts tourists not only with the beauty of landscapes and the wealth of vineyards. In addition to the beauty of nature, it offers a variety of monuments from ancient times. In Vale de Côa, in rock shelters, there are prehistoric drawings. On the other hand, tourists who want to get to know the region as much as possible can go even further south and visit Foz Côa. Here lies the Côa Valley Archaeological Park , an archaeological complex of rock carvings from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, which can be admired outdoors. It is one of the largest clusters of prehistoric monuments in Europe and has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Overnight at a campground in the Douro River Valley
The beautiful regions attract thousands of people, and the tourist infrastructure of the valley is extensive and well-organized. Visitors to the Douro can stay in one of the many guesthouses or hotels, or stay in the immediate vicinity of nature. Approx. 23 km from Pinhaõ is the Naturwaterpark Parque de Diversões do Douro (Quinta do Barroco - Póvoa, Vila Real), a campsite where you can pitch a tent, park your camper or rent a place in a cottage. A pitch for a motorhome costs 6-9 euros a day, and an accommodation for an adult 2.5-3.5 euros. The area is huge - there are swimming pools with slides, basketball courts, golf course, you can also play paintball here and make friends with the animals from the farm. In a word, whatever your heart desires. It is definitely worth a trip to the Douro River valley. You will never forget such a vacation.
A writer by profession, a passion of a cat. One day he will see what is behind the Urals - good to Vladivostok. So far, when he can, he enjoys the sun of the countries of southern Europe. And it's also fun;)