Walking along the river Douro – Portugal
The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and walking along the river Douro is a unique experience.
From the belvedere of São Salvador do Mundo (Saint Savior of the World) we can see the huge portion of river Douro.
The belvedere is at 493 m high, at the top of a long slope completely filled with vineyards from where port wine and table Douro wine are produced.
Looking around, the river dominates the landscape. Is like a long snake on its way to the ocean.
Almost all we can see from here are steep shores with vineyards. In the few little spaces that man is not be able to extract wine from the land, proud olive trees will be found whose fruit will produce one of the best Portuguese olive oils, the Douro Valley olive oil.
This is an overwhelming location, a high point from where a huge number of other summits can be spotted, there are countless mountains around here, spread as far as the human eye can reach.
Down the steep slope, very close to the river, the train slips through the railways, it looks like a toy. It’s hard to distinguish it and sometimes it seems like a caterpillar being swallowed by the landscape, is in fact the train going into some tunnels existing along the railway.
The walks to the highest points are not easy, especially if you lack of training but with some patience and walking slowly you will overcome the strong inclination of the trails and finally get the reward for the effort by looking to these wide landscapes.
I prefer to walk during the first hours of day. It’s usually quite pleasant with a cold breeze and even some fog because the river water condenses in the air leaving a very slight mist which gives a mystical ambiance to the Sunrise complementing this idyllic setting.
This is gold for photography lovers.
As the day progresses it starts to get warm reaching 40º C or often higher during the summer.
Going down towards the river, we will notice an increase of temperature, especially at half hillside and we understand why these grapes ripen so early and we understand how life can be so hard around here for those who are harvesting vines.
A large part of these grapes are harvested by hand and, during harvesting season, there are numerous teams of people hired from everywhere to participate in the harvest. In other post I will detail a bit more matters concerned with the port wine, the wine production and the harvesting.
Continuing to descend and already very close to the river banks is time to take another trail. Here the air is fresher, tempered by river moisture.
The trail goes quite close and along the railway line of the infrequent train and, when it passes, it’s always cause for joy and excitement and I imagine what the people inside will think about the group of walkers who apparently are in the middle of nowhere.
The train stations are perfect locations for brief stops to eat a snack and we can also admire the hand painted tiles. There is a long tradition of hand painted tiles in Portugal and we can find impressive tile works in these train stations.
In addition to the olive trees the almond trees stands out in number and, the closer we get to Pocinho, the almond trees become more numerous. Is in the Algarve and Trás-os-Montes regions where there are greater abundance of almond trees in Portugal.
When to come here?
Between April and the end of May and between mid-September to late October the Douro Valley is just perfect to visit and to walk around. Anyway, there is no time better than the other, there are different seasons and with very different scenarios, although this is my favorite months.
Visiting the Douro Valley in September/October you will see the end of the harvesting season. The vines have dark red leaves and the scenario is an impressive spectacle of shades of red and one can take amazing photographs.
The harvesting is probably the most important time of the year and all around there are people carrying baskets of grapes in a huge frenzy.
What else to do?
In a landscape dominated by the River, the hike could not finish better than with an excellent ride on a Rabelo boat, the wooden typical boat of the Douro River that was once used to transport the barrels of wine to Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto) from where the port was then taken for the rest of the world.
The river waters are usually calm and the Rabelo boat, with its wide hull, is a very stable and comfortable vessel, sailing toward the mouth, to the West.
Ahead of us the sunset, is the end of a fabulous day, a treasure to save.
Where to stay?
A suggestion: Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo