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 a huge portion of river Douro.
The Belvedere is at 493 m high (1617 feet) at the top of a long slope.
At the top, you can see both river bank’s completely filled with vineyards.
Port wine and table Douro wine are produced here.
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.
Is there something else besides 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.
In addition to the olive trees, the almond trees stand 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 is a greater abundance of almond trees in Portugal.
The Douro train line.
This is an overwhelming location.
From this high point, 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 the train and sometimes it seems like a caterpillar being swallowed by the landscape.
In fact, the train is going into some tunnels existing along the railway.
When the train passes, it always causes for joy and excitement.
I love to imagine what the people inside the train 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.
Porto São Bento, Pinhão and Pocinho are the train stations where you can see wonderful hand-painted tiles.
If you want to know more about the train ride please access here.
About the walks.
You can find many different kinds of walks.
Some of them are quite easy, on paved surfaces, with wide-open views, as you can see in one or another photo here.
But the walks to the highest points are not easy, especially if you lack training but with some patience and walking slowly you will overcome the strong inclination of the trails.
In the end, at the top of the hill, you will finally get the reward for the effort by looking to these wide landscapes.
I prefer to walk during the first hours of the day.
It’s usually quite pleasant with a cold breeze and even some fog on the water.
The river water condenses in the air, leaving a very slight mist. It gives a mystical ambiance to the Sunrise complementing this idyllic setting.
This is gold for photography lovers.
I can also say that this is a paradise for landscape photography with all sorts of angles.
During summer months is very hot.
As the day progresses it starts to get warm reaching 40º C (104ºF) or higher during the summer.
However, early Spring or during the Fall one can have very nice weather.
When walking down towards the river, we will notice an increase in temperature, especially at a half hillside.
We understand why these grapes ripen so early in the season 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.
What kinds of wine can we get here?
Port wine and table wine from the Douro region.
In another post, I will detail a bit more matters concerned with the port wine, the wine production, and the harvesting.
What about 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.
The train stations of Pinhão and Pocinho are the most impressive, hand-painted tiles wise.
When to visit the Douro Valley?
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 one 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 grapes harvesting is probably the most important time of the year and all around you can see people carrying baskets of grapes in a huge frenzy.
What else to do in the Douro Valley?
This is a wine region so wine tastings are to be expected.
If you are at Pinhão, the heart of the Douro Valley, you can try one of the many farms with wine tastings.
Is also a good opportunity to earn more about Port wine and its differences versus still wines.
Suggestion: you can try Quinta do Bomfim for a wine cellar visit.
Enjoying one of the several upscale lodgings is an experience that worth the cost.
A suggestion: Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo
In a landscape dominated by the River, the hike could not finish better than with an excellent ride on a Rabelo boat.
The Rabelo boat is the wooden typical boat of the Douro River that was once used to transport the barrels of wine to Vila Nova de Gaia, in front of Porto.
From Vila Nova de Gaia, the wine was then shipped to 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.
Suggestion: Magnífico Douro Wooden Rabelo Boats for a boat ride.
Check our tour to the Dour Valley here.