Douro. A beautiful region in the north of Portugal that is renowned for its Port wine farms. The endless wine terraces, on the many hills, are one of the most stunning things I have seen in Europe. The river starts in Porto but the wine region really starts near the town Peso da Regua, and continues to the Spanish border. That’s about 60-Kilometers of wine fields!
A Portuguese colleague recommended me to go to the Douro region, according to him it’s ‘the most beautiful part of Portugal’. As you can imagine I was a bit sceptic about that statement but, after checking out some photos, I figured that I needed to give it a shot. After driving, and hiking, in the Douro region for a full day I got why he was convinced of this. First of all, it’s totally undiscovered by international tourists, so you feel like you have discovered a small piece of heaven that nobody knows about! Secondly, the wine and olive farming terraces give the hills in this area this little bit of extra beauty. It’s a bit like the rice terraces in Asia, but for wine. And in Portugal. I haven’t seen all of Portugal yet, but I have yet to see an area in Portugal that is more beautiful than Douro. Maybe even in Europe.
Things to see in Douro:
If you’re driving from Porto or Vila Realyou should go directly to this ‘ miradour’. You’ll get treated to one of the best views in the region. Go to the top of the mountain and you’ll find a small church with inscriptions of a famous Portuguese poet, so bring your dictionary. Take a moment and enjoy the view.
Have some lunch, visit a Quinta, or take some pictures at the old train station. You have now seen the first bits of Douro but the most beautiful parts are still to come. The best Quintas (wine farms) are in this area, so keep that in mind while driving here. Quinta das Carvalhas and Quinta do Bomfim appear to be very good.
Castelo de Numão ***
In the middle of nowhere, or, what the Portuguese people will call, Numão. Here you’ll find the ruins of a castle that you can enter for free and even climb (not recommended). I can guarantee that you’ll get confused when driving into town because you need to drive through streets that you can’t imagine leading to a castle. Keep a close eye on the signs (sometimes well hidden) and follow your instinct! Once there you’ll find no place to park your car, but chances are that nobody is there anyway. You can just park it alongside of the entrance and it should be fine. I was the only one there, so I could take the time to discover the castle walls on my own. Really nice stop to get out of the car, take some pictures and enjoy the peace that surrounds you.
Other places you might like to visit in Douro:
Vila Nova de Foz Côa ** – If you book in advance you can visit an archaeological site. Because I didn’t know I needed to book a tour up-front I couldn’t experience it for myself, .
Torre de Moncorvo ** – nice place to drive by and make a quick stop at the medieval church.
Miradouro do Penedo Durão **
Barca D’Alva ** (next to the Spanish border)
If you make it this far, I would recommend to take the EN325 back to Torre de Moncorvo. Because, you will drive through the heart of the Douro Valley NP, which is completely undiscovered by mass tourism. Beautiful green hills, authentic small villages, no tourists, what more do you want or need? Douro has totally blown away my expectations and I will definitely come back for some more exploring and wine tasting!