When I planned my Portugal vacation, I knew I needed to plan a day trip to Douro Valley. While we ended up staying one night at Casa das Torres de Oliveira, right in the heart of the Douro Valley, a day trip to the region would be a great addition to your trip to Porto, or if you’re short on time. While we wished we had more than one day to explore the Douro Valley and its wineries, we made the most of our time here and gave us a thirst to come back again soon.
For our day trip to Douro Valley, I wore a linen ASTR dress from Nordstrom (sold out, similar linen dress here), an Hermes Jaguar Quetzal silk scarf (similar silk scarf print here), leather sandals from Clarks, a Gucci Marmont shoulder bag and Sonix Birdie sunglasses.
This linen dress kept me cool and comfortable in the strong Douro Valley sun! A silk scarf is also a great accessory for adding some interest to a plain dress or wrapping on a handbag to add some flair.
Drive along Highway N-222
My first tip to plan a day trip to Douro Valley is to drive your own car. While going on a tour is effortless, I personally hate being on somebody else’s schedule and not being able to stop and smell the roses (literally, gorgeous rose bushes are everywhere in Douro Valley). Half the fun of driving around the Douro Valley was bending up each and every turn and exploring a new vantage point below. Doing this in an air-conditioned tourbus would have completely spoiled the magic.
While you might not be able to drink as much wine and have to elect a designated driver, driving along highway N-222 is unlike anything in the world. Highway N-222 is renowned as the world’s best road and I couldn’t agree more. We left our hotel in Mesao Frio, then went from Peso da Regua, crossing a bridge onto the N-222 and drove all the way to Pinhão. You will pass by quaint towns, Quintas and beautiful bridges spanning the Douro River. I saw many motorcycles along this route, which would be even more of an experience if you ride!
Make sure to stop along the way, there are many roadside stops that offer spectacular views, and the perfect photo opportunity.
Douro River b0at cruise in Pinhão
After snaking your way along the scenic Highway N-222, stop in Pinhão, a small town whose main draw includes a few wineries and the starting point for many Douro River cruises. While you can plan your cruise ahead of time, we stumbled onto the last one-hour boat cruise of the day on a retro solar-powered boat. Amazingly, we were the only people aboard, and we had a private tour! It is definitely worth doing a Douro River boat cruise later on in the day when it’s both cooler, and many tourists have already gone back home. The tour was very calm, and we learned a bit about the various wineries nearby from our guide.
Winery tours in the Douro Valley
After completing our boat tour, we learned that the wineries are very busy and most do not take walk-ins. This was one aspect of our Douro Valley day trip we wish we had planned in advance. For example, Quinta das Carvahalhas has a few tours per day, and require Jeep vehicles to navigate up the steep terrain of the winery. Coming from our experience in the Niagara region, we are used to waltzing in to a winery and going on a short tour or tasting. Because of the terrain and the popularity, it can be more challenging, so book ahead of time!
Our boat guide recommended we visit Quinta de la Rosa for port, however he told us it books up weeks in advance! Both of these wineries come recommended by locals, and are both located in Pinhão, allowing you to maximize your time spent in the Douro Valley. Of course, I like to wander and stumble upon things, so keep your mind open to other smaller wineries along your journey.
Instead of doing a traditional wine tour, which can be overrun by tourists, I would highly recommend staying at a small inn at a winery itself. This way, you get to experience the stunning vista of a winery on a hill, while also relaxing. We stayed at Casa das Torres de Oliveira, and had a lovely end to our day trip to Douro Valley by enjoying a glass of wine under the stars… an experience you wouldn’t get from any tour group!
The Douro Valley region was one of my favourite travel experiences. I dream of coming back here for a few days and exploring different towns and wineries. Driving along the steep roads and beautiful cliffs was unforgettable.
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