Portugal is absolutely lovely, no doubt about it. To me, the city of Porto is just stunning and by far my favorite out of the three regions l have been so far. While l appreciated the beauty of the whole country for different reasons, I have to say that if l were to live in Portugal, I am pretty sure that my choice of residence would be Porto as opposed to Lisbon, the choice of the majority of my friends. The Alto Douro wine region is extremely impressive and a UNESCO heritage site. Since we both love wine and port wine in particular, we definitely wanted to do a Douro wine tour on our last visit. We were not disappointed. Quite the opposite. Here’s a recap of the day trip from Porto for some absolutely delicious wine.
Douro Valley Wine Tasting and Cruise: An awesome day trip from Porto
Our Douro Valley day trip for wine tasting was sweet for lack of a better word. Douro Valley takes its name from the Douro River. The most famous export of Porto is of course wine as the name suggests and the Douro Valley is also home to delicious red and white wine, and a particular “Vihno Verde” which translates to green wine and as we discovered only grows in this region.
We chose a small group tour from getyourguide for our day trip. We had used them prior on our Auschwitz visit and we were impressed with the service. Once l knew they conducted a Douro Valley day trip from Porto, I immediately booked us 2 spaces and paid via the app. The cost was €95 per person. Our tickets were downloaded and we were confirmed for the tour. Our AirBnB address for double checked for pickup and that was it. Quick and painless. You can find the details on the tour here.
How to get to Douro Valley from Porto:
Douro Valley by Car:
We were picked up early in the morning at the appointed time. There were already 2 couples in the van, and off we went. The drive was about three and half hours. It was a comfortable ride, and l think l might have dozed off a bit as it was still early.
Porto to Douro Valley by boat cruise:
Another way to visit the Douro Valley is via a boat cruise from Porto. I had considered this as well, but l felt like the boat would move way too slowly and be boring after a while. I had memories of one we had done along the Danube River from Budapest. At least the car could go fast. The cruise is a good option for people who get car sick and prefer the real slow pace of the boat.
Douro Valley by train:
You can take the train at the main station in Porto, the Sao Bento station to Pinhao. The train schedule can be found here. The journey time is about three hours and half as well. The advantage over a car is that you get to see stunning views a bit clearer instead of whizzing by it. If you’re with a tour, it works out better in my opinion because there is no need to try and figure out the best places to go once you’re in the Douro Valley, trying to find local transportation etc. in the rural area would be a pain. Several operators conduct tours via cruising including get your guide company.
Related Post: Porto Guide
Our small group tour included stops at two local wineries where we got to sample a variety of wines. Prior to this trip, I had been familiar with Ruby Red and Tawny (my favorite) ports. It was quite eye-opening to find that there were so many more types of port. Our knowledgeable guide, was born and raised in the Douro Valley and you could hear the pride in her voice as she lovingly described the process of port wine making and everything else about wines in general. She had been with the current company several years working for them in Porto and when the opportunity to work in the Douro Valley came up, she was more than happy to return home. It was a bit surprising to me. Most people her age (I pegged her for about 40) would have been happy to be away from small town life and would never think of coming back home, but she relished it. She talked about her volunteer job as a fireman (it was such a small place that everyone was a volunteer personnel of sorts, police, medical aides). It was fascinating to listen to her.
Along the winding hills and dips leading to the Douro Valley, she entertained us with stories of her life and wine. Everybody in the Douro Valley pretty much works in port wine production according to her. When the grapes are being harvested, the locals, from young to old are employed as “crushers”. Visions of Lucy stomping on the grapes came to mind. She said everyone walked around with colorful feet and hands from the grapes. There are also “pickers” who work on the land to harvest the grapes. They also get a lot of temporary workers who come in to help harvest and the population explodes, only to die back down when the season ends.
Our first stop was a lovely picturesque lookout point from where we could safely take pictures thanks to the guard rails. No selficide allowed! We continued on to our first wine production destination which was a gorgeous winery that had recently been acquired by lo and behold,… an American couple. Our guide turned us over to an employee of the winery who proceeded to show us the grounds. We got to visit the cellar and see the giant vats in which they make the wine. It made me wish that we had been there during the season to actually see them being utilized as opposed to picturing it. We got to sample three different wines if memory serves me right. A white, red, and rose port, which was surprisingly quite good. The portions were quite generous and we could have seconds or thirds if desired. I had 2 glasses of the rose for good measure, mine and Federico’s. I may have had another of the LBV!
After the visit, we were driven into town and a nice little restaurant where we had a typical Portuguese lunch, accompanied by more wine of course. Let me just say that at this point, our tongues were loosened and talk flowed freely with the other two couples that were on the tour with us. A very enjoyable lunch. Post lunch, it was on to a scenic Douro River cruise where we met up with some other people from different groups. The boat was full and it was an enjoyable hour. The Douro Valley is absolutely picturesque and the landscape was lush and green. Need l say that there was more port wine on board. It was a port wine tour after all.
Our second winery stop produced not just wine, but olives, olive oil, almonds, and honey. We had a tour of the olive oil production facilities and afterwards got to taste the products manufactured. We purchased some nuts to bring back with us. We had wanted honey too as it was quite delicious but since we had hand luggage only, we knew we wouldn’t be allowed to bring back the honey since they were more than 100ml sizes. I did suggest they consider making “travel sizes” of their products. We ended up buying a bottle of red wine to consume at our hotel.
On the drive back to Porto, we were all a bit tired and so there was little small talk. We had been the last on, and were dropped off first so that was pretty cool too! Overall, the experience was wonderful. We definitely enjoyed the Douro Valley wine and cruise tour and would recommend it because:
- Small group. Our size of seven people including our guide was just perfect. I feel it’s a compact and manageable size and we got personal attention. We agree that it’s one of the best Douro Valley wine tours from Porto that should be done.
- Generous portions of the samples of wine, olives, olive oil and food.
- Pickup from our AirBnB and drop-off as well so had nothing to worry about.
- WiFi in the van was appreciated even though we didn’t use it.
- The lovely cruise to see the beauty of the Douro Valley from another point of view.
Should you do a Douro Valley wine tasting tour?
Yes, absolutely. It was a wonderful experience. Even if you’re not a big fan of port, there is still plenty other types of wine to enjoy. It’s nice meeting other travelers and the cruise was wonderful. All in all, a very enjoyable experience.
Have you visited Portugal? If yes, did you get a chance to visit the Douro Valley and was it enjoyable?