I have heard so many wonderful things about the Douro Valley and I was not disappointed, it really is a journey of a lifetime. I say journey because the drive there (1 hr 50 mins) from our home is breathtaking. I am not surprised that this stretch of road was voted the worlds best drive in 2015. Beware there are many winding hairpin roads to negotiate. I have heard that the journey by train is also spectacular. The Douro Valley is often called the enchanted valley due to it’s beauty and magic that its landscapes offer. It is listed as a World Heritage Site and you can get there by road, train, cruise boat and even by helicopter. Our helicopter is at the helicopter garage being fixed so we took our 18 year old banger of a car named ‘José Miguel’ (ha ha). If you are driving make sure you pull over at the viewpoints to admire the beauty of the landscapes which are the best I have ever seen, very serene, the colours, light glistening on the river, the aromas and the fantastic people you meet, you just have to go and experience it as no words can do it justice. The vineyard landscaping, terraced grapevines growing up the hillsides in huge perfect rows are fascinating to see in person. It is an unforgettable experience and one of my best day trips of our 2 week holiday with my daughter. Try to spend a couple of days here as there is so much to explore. There are many hotels and quintas where you can stay overnight.
There is so much to do here including: a river cruise, visit one of many vineyards and wineries, stop off at one of many wine growing quaint villages and The Douro International Natural Park is a natural park that covers the area where the Douro River forms the border between Portugal and Spain. We explored Pinhão which has a beautiful train station with stunning tiles. I absolutely love Portuguese tiling. We walked across the iron bridge which has spectacular views of the river and walked down to the Pinhão boarding pier and riverside promenade to view the boats. We also visited Casal de Loivos viewpoint. This view overlooking Pinhão is recognised as one of the top six most beautiful view points in the world with panoramic views like a picture postcard, so striking and out of this world. There are also many other famous viewpoints to visit. There is an olive oil press museum close by too. The region is also great for hiking, cycling, and water lovers can hire a boat or a kayak.
GPS Coordinates (Quinta do Pôpa): 41°09’13.7″N 7°36’04.2″W
Quinta do Pôpa wine tasting tour and private picnic
Although we are not big drinkers I was so excited to visit the Douro Wine Region Valley and visit the wineries and enjoy a wine tasting experience. I pre booked a wine tasting tour at Quinta de Pôpa with a private picnic which cost €40 per person. I love the fact that this winery is a small family run business (started in 2003). I loved hearing about the Pôpa family and their heritage. The tour can accommodate up to 8 people. It was fantastic. I was offered a private tour for an extra €35 but declined. When we arrived it was very empty and we were the only ones on the tour. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and I learnt lots about the making of wine/port and the difference between vintage and non vintage. We viewed the winery making area with the metal and terracotta vats and the cork barrels along with the wine cellar. The wine tasting was great and we got to sample 3 reds, 1 white and 1 port. 1 of the reds was vintage.
After the tour you choose your favourite bottle to drink with your picnic lunch. We then were given a picnic basket with our lunch. We selected a lovely spot in the garden area overlooking the river. The picnic food was delicious and such a great range. We scoffed the lot! OMG the views from the gardens were so very beautiful and we even witnessed a steam train pass by in the distance. We then chilled out for a while on a posh sun loungers. The place was really empty and there was only a couple of other people wine tasting so we had the whole gardens to ourselves. Hubby was driving so I took one for the team and consumed a lot of wine. This experience was spectacular and even the toilets were super clean and very posh. I am getting accustomed to toilets with no seats or locks so to find a toilet which was modern and sparkling was a treat, I had to take photos of it (ha ha). We had to wear face masks during the tour and the only thing we could not get to sample was the smelling of the aromas of different cork in the glass jars which was not a huge disappointment. Somehow on this trip hubby and I managed to leave the house in matching ‘palm tree’ outfits. This was not intentional and we only realised half way through the trip. I can assure you that we are not at the stage where we are wearing matching outfits – not just yet! (ha ha). This trip to the Douro Valley was definitely one of my top 3 best day trips of my daughter’s holiday along with Peneda-Gerês National Park and Serra de Estrela. I can’t wait to take my private helicopter and return!