Douro River Valley, Portugal
This was our first major "target" for our week in Portugal; neither of us had ever been here before, we have Portuguese immediate family members & relatives, and we wanted to explore everything we could! We wanted to see as much of Portugal as possible, so our planning of where to go, how long to stay there, and the routes necessary for each of the next destinations took some time to put togeher. The single biggest hurdle was mapping our "want to see list" to the time span we had available!
We flew into the Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro in Porto, on the Atlantic Coast from Madrid & collected our rental car from Auto Europe. The route was straight forward; we drove on the N13 & N15 straight east into the valley. Once we reached the N2, we drove south and crossed the river on the Ponte Rodoviaria da Regua. A pleasant drive through rolling hills, vineyards and small villages.
Besides our Portugal motivations from our family's heritage, here are some other incredible reasons why we wanted to visit Portugal;
- Portugal has it all: historic cities, world-renowned cuisine, beautiful country areas with natural landscapes, and some of the world’s most spectacular beaches.
- Once the world’s maritime leader and the longest-lived of Europe’s modern empires, Portugal has a complex history to explore alongside dramatic geographic landscapes, turquoise beaches, a rich gastronomy scene, and all the Port and bacalhau (salted cod fish) you can ask for.
- Portugal won the "best travel destination" award in 2018, and after you read this article of ours, you will be able to understand why!
- Nobody anywhere does custard tarts (or pastel de natas, as they’re called here) quite like Portugal. And perhaps nowhere in Portugal does them as well as Pasteis de Belém in Lisbon, which is why queues for the sweet, rich and perfectly crisp tarts often stretch along the pavement.
- Perched on the western edge of Europe, Lisbon is the continent’s sunniest capital city, boasting an average of 2,799 hours of sunshine a year, beating out Athens, which has 2,771 hours of sun a year.
- Thanks to the rolling swell of the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is one of Europe’s best surfing destinations with a wave for every ability. Best of all, the surf breaks are relatively uncrowded.
Perhaps now you can understand our enthusiasm for spending a week in Portugal, exploring it from North to South?
Delfim Douro Hotel
Just as we drove into the Delfim Douro Hotel parking lot, we noticed that there was a River Cruise ship steaming down the Douro River from Câmara Municipal de Peso da Régua (the next town just east of the hotel).
Being veterans of several Viking River Cruises tours in France, we immediately jumped out of our car and started taking photos of the ship has it continued by us on it's way to Porto.
The Douro River is the third-longest river in the Iberian Peninsula after the Tagus and Ebro. Its total length is 897 kilometres (557 miles), of which only sections of the Portuguese extension below the fall line are navigable, by light rivercraft.
The Douro River fully enters Portuguese territory just after the confluence with the Águeda River; once the Douro enters Portugal, major population centres are less frequent along the river. Except for Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia at the river mouth, the only population centres of any note are Foz do Tua, Pinhão and Peso da Régua. Tributaries here are small, merging into the Douro along the canyons; the most important are Côa, Tua, Sabor, Corgo, Tavora, Paiva, Tâmega, and Sousa. None of these small, fast-flowing rivers is navigable.
The Douro Valley is perhaps the most well known wine producing area of Portugal. This rich river gorge just outside the city of Porto hugs the Douro River, and is famous for its port wines. The wines produced here have become legendary — in fact, UNESCO recently designated the valley a World Heritage site.
Delfim Douro Hotel
We had originally intended to check into the hotel, and then drive and find a local vineyard to visit or tour, but the hotel was so inviting, and occupies such a beautiful location on the hill above the River Douro, that we decided to spend a few hours in the pool and do the vineyard tour before dinner.
The pool area was very comfortable with a stunning view of the Douro River down the slopes of the hill that the hotel was situated upon. You could not possibly come up with a better location for a hotel!
See that left-most door in the hotel? That leads directly into the bar area if one felt the need for an adult beverage.
Delfim Douro Hotel: Poolside Lunch
The decision to hang out for a while was also driven by the fact that we had departed Madrid at a very early hour, flew to Porto, hopped into a rental car and then drove to the hotel (125 kilometers). So the concept of relaxing at the pool after a quick lunch, was a very easy decision to make.
As you can see in this, after lunch we had a cappuccino and caught up with what was going on in the world since we had departed Madrid. Nice way to relax prior to driving to the vineyard tour.
You can see that the sky was nearly cloudless that day, beautiful bright sunny day, and yet another reason why we decided to hang out at the pool!
Quinta da Pacheca Winery & Hotel
We made arrangements (online from our hotel) to tour a winery just down the road, and we had just parked the car in the Quinta da Pacheca parking lot. The walk from the parking lot to the winery office was so pretty, that we thought that a picture should be taken.
Image # 3 on the other side of their driveway, are some of their vinyards. All of which were being harvested at the time we were there. Image # 1 is the beautiful wallway from their parking lot to the hotel lobby, where everyone assembled for the tour. Image # 2 displays storage units for various products required for either olive oil or the winery.
Quinta da Pacheca has been in existence for over 300 years, and their vinyards extend all the way down the hills to the Douro River.
Grape Vats/Grape Processing
In image # 1 one of the wine workers is shoveling the grapes into a barrel delivery tube. This is how the grape juice is transferred to the vats below this level of the building.
These gray stone vats are used to hold the destemmed grapes and where the grapes are pressed ("grape stomping"). The grapes are then stored in the vats for several days.
After the grapes have been processed, the results are stored in these massive barrels (image # 2), to allow the wine to mature ("primary fermentation"). After primary fermentation, the wine will be transferred from the fermentation barrels to another vessel for aging.
Group Wine Tasting
After our tour guide had taken us through the various stages of processing, we then were taken to a port & tawny port tasting. If the name "port wine" or "tawny port" doesn't ring a bell with you, click here to learn about Port Wines.
This was an entertaining part of the tour, as we got to sample various types of wine they produce. Speaking as a person who enjoys good wine, I'd have to say that Port Wine is perhaps an "acquired taste". NOTE: Image # 2 (right side) property of 'Portugal by Wine'
Quinta da Pacheca Barrel Hotel Area
As we were departing the wine tour at Quinta de Pacheca, we happened to notice that there were some very large barrels next to the hotel. Turns out these 10 barrels were "hotel rooms" (270 square feet each), each barrel includes a bed, walk-in shower, skylight, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning. If you are interested in rates or more information about this unique hotel room, please click here to go to their web site.
There is a more conventional hotel that is located in between the barrel area and the wine processing plant. But these "barrel cabins" are unique aren't they?
NOTE: Below are some useful links where you can find even more information about the areas we have described on this page. There are of course, many other useful websites & pages, so for something specific, we would suggest using Google Search.
- Delfim Douro Hotel Website
- The Top 10 Things To See And Do In The Douro Valley on the "Culture Trip" site
- Google List for "Accommodations in the Duoro Valley"
- Wineries in the Douro Valley area on the 'Wine Tourism Portugal' Site
- Douro Valley Tours on the 'Get Your Guide' Site
- Amazon Search Results for 'Douro River Valley'
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.
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