Wine Culture Magazine

Follow the River Douro to a world of art, wine and adventure

The Douro Valley is one of the world’s most historic and beautiful wine regions. Photo courtesy of Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto

What better way to discover and understand a wine than to visit its region of origin? And what better way to explore that region than to immerse yourself in the terroir?

Traversing the Demarcated Douro Region, the Douro River Valley and the city of Porto promises a rewarding experience for the wine aficionado and leisure traveller alike. Your journey will transect three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the historic centre of Porto; the Alto Douro wine region; and the Coa Valley, site of rare prehistoric rock art.

A stroll through Porto reveals historical architecture, an array of artisan boutiques and impressive public buildings and statues that capture its history under the influence of the Celts, Romans and Moors. Yet Porto is hardly set in stone: the culinary scene is thriving with new talent, and the art scene is as varied and vibrant as it has been since its founding centuries ago.

Cross the River Douro from Porto Centre via the Gustave Eiffel-designed Luis I Bridge to find the country’s famous Port lodges, where travellers can sample an array of different styles before heading upriver into the majestic Douro Valley. Port is freeing itself from typecasting—it is a wine to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, and more people are bringing Port out earlier in the day. White and tawny Ports, as well as other styles, prove just as refreshing and convivial at lunch as when enjoyed after dinner.

From Porto, travel up the Douro Valley, one of world’s top visitor destinations. Guests can enjoy unique wine and cuisine experiences at the wine estates known as quintas. But this region of incomparable natural beauty also has plenty to offer every tourist looking for relaxation, adventure, history or culture.

Barcos rabelos moored on the river. Photo courtesy of IVDP

The 897-kilometre-long River Douro defines part of the Portuguese-Spanish border and is home to the most pristine riparian environment on the Iberian Peninsula. Douro International Natural Park encompasses 120 kilometres of the river, a region of olive and almond as well as juniper, oak and chestnut trees. It is also renowned for its biodiversity, as it is home to several rare and endangered bird species. A guided river cruise offers an excellent opportunity to spot birds, admire flora and gaze in wonder at the Douro’s sheer cliffs.

History buffs will enjoy exploring the Castro de Sao Joao das Arribas, a fortified settlement dating back to Roman occupation, or the medieval castles in towns like Mogadouro. Plan to visit during mealtimes so you can enjoy the region’s robust agricultural bounty, including posta Mirandesa, specially raised veal that has been declared one of the wonders of Portuguese gastronomy, or the juicy beef heart tomatoes, when in season. You can also relax and take in the breathtaking views from vantage points such as S. Salvador do Mundo, Galafura or Ujo, situated in the Tua Nature Park.

The Douro Valley’s reputation as an outdoor adventure destination continues to grow. Trails course through the valley, ideal for gravel-tired mountain biking and casual hiking. Several local outfitters rent bikes and lead guided tours through vineyards, cork oak forests and into the villages. Many specialized travel companies and outfitters offer tours that last from one hour up to a six-day journey that begins in Porto and proceeds via train to the World Heritage Site, includes a visit to the prehistoric rock engravings of Foz Coa, and ends by paddling back to Porto down the Douro River.

In addition to soaring heights and ravines cut as deep as diamonds, the River Douro nurtures the region’s outstanding terroir, which produces one of the world’s most recognized wines. A Wine EnthusiastSeven Best Wine Travel Experiences of 2020,” the Douro Winemaking Region provides visitors the opportunity to explore ancient innovations in wine production set within a Mediterranean climate. The birthplace of Port, this region has recently produced several highly regarded red, white and rosé Douro varieties as well.

We’re all keen to travel these days, to step away from our daily lives and escape within a dynamic city, hike in a new wilderness or discover a favorite wine while seated on a terrace overlooking a sublime river valley. Porto and the Douro Winemaking Region provide this very opportunity: to disappear for a few days in a safe and healthy environment, a historically rich region famous the world over for its beauty and winemaking heritage.

Plan your trip

For more information on planning your journey to the Douro, go to, or and, under “Regions,” click on “Porto and the North.” For more information on the Douro region’s wines, visit the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP) website at

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