For any oenophiles out there, you can’t possibly visit Porto, Portugal without taking a Douro Valley day trip from Porto. The Douro Wine Region is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world!
Explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its production of port wine, awe-inspiring landscapes, and terraced vineyards. Between the various scenic lookout points, views of rolling hills and vineyards, a river cruise, (and of course – the wine!) a Douro River Valley day trip and Douro wine tour are well worth leaving the city for or as an addition to your road trip Douro Valley itinerary.
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A brief history of the Douro Valley
Grapevines have been growing in the Douro Valley since ancient times. The Romans would make wine on the banks of the Douro during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula.
Much later, following the formation of the Kingdom of Portugal, England and Poland signed the Treaty of Windsor. This treaty formed a convenient bond between the two nations, enabling a strong trading coalition.
Douro Valley’s emergence as one of the world’s most distinguished wine regions can be traced back to the Treaty of Windsor. It was then that Portugal became an important exporter of wine. However, it was not until the mid-17th century that the Douro Valley became the source of what we know today as Port.
Douro Valley Climate & Terroir
In the isolated, rolling hills and valleys that encompass the Douro, the English found the proper area from which to export wine.
Due to its location relative to the mountains, the winds from the Atlantic Ocean were blocked. This means an arid climate and intense temperatures during the summer months.
The area is an incredible example of nature and man coming together to create something extraordinary.
The river carved the gorged valleys out of land and Man converted the mountains into soil and walls, and planted the vines.
With knowledge and experience transferred to each subsequent generation, eventually Man learned to incline the terraces in order to expose the vines to the rays of the sun, giving the grapes the warmth that the wine requires.
This congruence of nature and Man created something truly remarkable. This unique environment facilitated the production of hearty, potent libations – everything the English market wanted in a wine.
Exporting from the Douro Valley
It was near-to-impossible to transport the wine overland, so the merchants had to transport it to the coast by special boats on the River Douro.
Eventually, many of the English merchants began to establish their businesses in Porto, which was only a few miles from the mouth of the river.
Many still remain to this day in Vila Nova de Gaia, which sits opposite the old town of Porto across the river.
It only made logical sense to call this wine ‘Vinho de Porto,’ or wine of Porto. The English then shortened the name to ‘Port’ or ‘Port Wine.’
Planning a day trip from Porto to Douro Valley
How far is Douro Valley from Porto?
As a Douro Valley day trip from Porto, the Douro Valley is approximately an hour and a half drive inland.
I’d fully recommend hiring a driver or taking part on a river cruise or guided Douro valley tour from Porto. You don’t want to have a rental car and a belly full of wine trying to make your way back to the city, trust me!
On the other hand, if you’re planning on a multi-day or weekend getaway, a road trip from Porto to the Douro Valley is an epic way to experience the Portuguese countryside firsthand as the drive from Porto to Douro Valley is very straightforward.
We opted for a tour, which included transportation, wine tasting, lunch, and a tour of Quinta da Roêda vineyard. This was about 90 euro per person and our group was seven people in total.
To be honest, I’ve always shied away from organized tours. Still, there are some excursions while traveling where tours simply make the most sense, both logistically and economically so we could all drink, enjoy the wine and port of the region and not have to worry about the logistics or cost of returning to Porto.
Most day tours to the Douro Valley from Porto include vineyard tours, wine tasting tour and a river cruise similar to the one we did. Here are a few Douro Valley day trip from Porto tour options to consider from Get Your Guide:
- This Douro Valley day tour is the highest rated of the Douro valley tours from Porto on Get Your Guide and includes tasting, a boat tour and lunch for just £75
Another Douro Valley day trip that’s well reviewed! This one is similar, including touring the Douro Valley with a tour and tasting at 2 vineyards and a tour of Pinhão, the same as I did.
A Douro Valley full day tour from Porto with over 1000 positive reviews and this tour includes 6 tastings, a boat cruise, vineyard tour, olive oil tasting and lunch
If you’re looking for a private tour of Douro valley from Porto, check out this option for a full day of breathtaking landscapes, plenty of wine tasting, a traditional Portugeuse lunch and a Rio Douro boat trip for the perfect Porto day trip to Douro Valley.
Our day trip from Porto to Douro Valley - What will you do on a Douro Valley day tour
The drive was scenic to say the least, meandering through the Portuguese countryside with some of the most epic viewpoints. The only disadvantage to taking a guided tour was the inability to stop at a moment’s notice for some photos!
Douro Valley wine tours: Quinta da Roêda & vineyard tour
Upon arriving to Quinta da Roêda, the June sun had emerged in full force.
The Quinta was very hot and very dusty, so dress appropriately. I’d just bought some pants that were a tiny bit too long, and I regretted my outfit choice with every step.
The tastings are held in the visitors’ centre, which is located in Roêda’s old stables.
These were beautifully restored in the traditional Douro Valley style. Quinta da Roêda produces Croft port wines, as well as their own extra virgin olive oil (also sampled, of course).
Our guide brought us on a walking tour through the property, stopping at points of interest along the way. At each point, our guide told us some local history and anecdotes.
The tour was nice, but nothing compares to taking in the breathtaking panoramas and the stunning landscapes across the Douro River.
If you’re lucky enough to go on a Douro Valley day trip from Porto during the harvest, you can also take part in the unique experience of stomping the grapes. This is one of the experiences unique to Douro Valley wine tours and is done in the ‘lagares,’ the granite tanks in which the wine is made.
The harvest takes place in September – this was something I was not able to experience having visited in June.
As a friend preemptively advised, however, be prepared for sticky feet! Grapes need very high sugar levels so as to create alcohol, and in the case of Port, sweetness.
Most of the vineyards and tours set in the Douro Valley have numerous options in terms of wine tastings. These usually include between three and seven samples, priced accordingly.
The tour we’d arranged came with three tastings – a pink port, a tawny port, and a ruby port.
Each one was delicious, though it truly surprised me that the pink was my favourite.
The staff served some cheese and small snacks to complement the wine.
As we tasted, we learned about the fortification process and the history of Port and the Douro Valley in general.
Learning about fortification
Since the start of Port wine production, it was normal to incorporate a tiny amount of brandy to the wine prior to shipment. This was primarily to preserve it from spoiling.
The producers added the brandy during the fermentation process, inhibiting it before all the essential sugars of the grapes were transformed into alcohol.
This safeguarded the wine from spoiling and increased its ability to age.
It also produced a wine whose sweetness, potency, and abundance of flavor – everything the English market wanted from Portuguese wines. Still, it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that this approach to fortification became an integral part of the process of making Port.
Douro River cruise on our day trip to Douro Valley from Porto
Following the tasting, the group boarded a traditional wine transporting boat.
Throughout the 1700 and 1800’s, the task of transporting the new wines down the river to the ‘lodges’ of the Port shippers in Vila Nova de Gaia fell to the ‘barcos rabelos’.
These extraordinary flat-bottomed river boats have distinctive, long steering oars and broad sails.
They were designed to carry heavy loads of Port casks through the dangerous waters of the fast-moving Douro, before any dams were built that currently make the river much more navigable.
This boat cruise lasted around 1 hour and was a beautiful way to see the landscape.
Finally, we returned to our origin at the Quinta and headed to the nearby village of Pinhão for lunch.
Lunch was included with the tour and included many traditional Portuguese snacks, a choice of two entrees, and – surprise, surprise – more wine!
This time, we didn’t have Port, however. The Douro Valley is also known for its production of standard Portuguese table wines.
The amount we drank throughout the day definitely warranted taking a tour instead of renting a car. I highly advise you not drive yourself if you’re planning on doing Douro Valley wine tasting at all.
Following lunch, it was a privilege to observe the village of Pinhão from different perspectives. You’re able to appreciate that life in the Douro Valley is centered around working in vineyards, olive groves and almond trees.
Other things to do in Douro Valley
There’s quite a bit to see in the region that would likely not be covered in a guided tour.
Why not take a night or two to spend in the Valley and explore? Visit the historic center of Amarante and check out the Tricycle museum.
In Peso da Régua, the Douro Museum will lend an alternate perspective on the region and wine production.
In Pinhão, the railway station is a must-see to appreciate its antique tiles, a homage to the cultivation of vines.
FAQs: Douro Valley day trip from Porto
Is it worth going to Douro Valley from Porto?
Absolutely, a trip to the Douro Valley from Porto is well worth it! The Douro Valley is a stunning region, known for its breathtaking landscapes and world-class vineyards. It's the perfect place for wine lovers and nature enthusiasts alike. The journey there is as much a part of the experience, with stunning views.
So, whether you're keen on tasting some of the finest ports and wines, eager to soak in the natural beauty, or simply looking to escape the city life for a day, the Douro Valley certainly offers a rewarding experience.
How long is the train ride from Porto to Douro Valley?
For those that opt to take the train from Porto to the Douro Valley, it takes around 2hours and 20 minutes by train.
How do I get from Porto to Douro Valley without a car?
Getting from Porto to the Douro Valley without a car is fairly straightforward! You've got a couple of options: by train or by organised tour.
Taking the train provides a scenic and relaxing journey. You can hop on a train from São Bento or Campanhã station in Porto to Peso da Régua or Pinhão, which are nestled right in the heart of the Douro Valley. Keep in mind that the journey takes about 2.5 hours.
If you prefer a structured itinerary, consider booking a day tour. This often includes transportation, meals and even guided tours of the vineyards. Whichever option you choose, getting to the Douro Valley promises an adventure that starts long before you reach your destination.
How long do you need in Douro Valley?
The time you need in the Douro Valley largely depends on your interests and what you want to achieve from your visit. If you're primarily interested in a quick sampling of the stunning landscapes and local wines, a day trip from Porto should suffice. Such trips usually include a visit to a vineyard with wine tastings, a river cruise, and a chance to soak in the idyllic scenes.
If you'd like a more immersive experience—exploring the local culture, hiking the terraced vineyards, visiting multiple wineries, and perhaps even staying overnight in a quintas (wine estate)—then consider spending 2-3 days.
How far is Douro wine region from Porto?
The Douro wine region is approximately 100 kilometres (roughly 62 miles) east of Porto. Depending on your mode of transportation, it can take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours to reach the heart of the wine region from Porto. Whether you choose to travel by car, train, or join an organised tour, you're in for a scenic journey through some of Portugal's most beautiful landscapes.
Is a wine tour from Porto worth it?
100% - if you’re a wine lover then of course this is for you. But even if you’re not a wine connoisseur and just want to try some local wines, see beautiful scenery and enjoy the stunning Portuguese countryside, you will still enjoy this tour!
Summary: Douro Valley day tours from Porto
To sum up, is the Douro River Valley day trip worth it? Absolutely.
Even if you only have a day to spare? Absolutely.
This place is more than worthy of attention (and tourist dollars). If you have time on your trip, Douro Valley Porto day trips are a unique and fun addition to your trip while the wine tours Douro Valley has to offer are some of the best in the world.
Economic and environmental sustainability have become increasingly vital prerogatives. Producers now aim to safeguard the special heritage and environment of the Douro Valley for generations to come.
Come to admire the terraced Douro valley vineyards, rolling hills, and mighty Douro River while sipping a glass of velvety vintage Port; a Douro Valley day trip from Porto is a perfect way to spend a day in Northern Portugal.
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