One day excursion to the Douro Valley
Are you visiting Porto and would you like to explore the Douro Valley? With a guided tour, you get picked up at your accommodation, you are served a delicious local lunch, you visit a winery and of course you can drink as much porto as you’d like along the way. Online there are quite a few interesting tours:
The most beautiful natural area of Portugal
If you love nature and also like to enjoy a nice glass of wine at the same time, then this is a destination that you shouldn’t skip.
The steep flanks of this area are dotted with thousands of vines that have been planted stepwise above each other. The winding twigs cling to the vines and over time a delicious sweet grape matures here that is perfect for producing the delicious Douro wines.
Just above all these wine terraces you get some of the most beautiful views of Europe. The valley stretches as far as the eye can see, and is split in two by the immeasurable Douro river. To make this idyllic picture even more perfect, you can also occasionally spot a beautiful Rabelo boat that sails along with the current.
You can easily spend a few days in this region. The tranquility, the beautiful nature, the delicious food and the mouth-watering wines made this one of my favorite spots in Europe.
From Porto to the Douro valley: my route through the Douro region
I myself explored the Douro region with a rental car. I booked my small car through RentCars for only five euros for one day. If you prefer to rent a car with an all-in insurance, I suggest you check the rentals from Sunnycars. One day costs approximately €35, one week will set you back about €150.
If you prefer to have everything arranged for you, a day trip (or multiple day excursion) is also possible from Porto. This costs about €90 per person. You are picked up at your accommodation. Your lunch, transport and entrance to a winery (with tastings, of course!) is included. Don’t forget that the police is enforcing strict blood alcohol limits and that you can drink as much as you like while on a guided tour.
The reason why I drove myself is because all the tours were already sold out a few days in advance. If you therefore wish to book a tour… Do so in advance!
With my steel steed I went down and up along the turning and twisting roads of the Douro valley.
The entire area stretches out over several hundred kilometers and although actually everything is very beautiful, there are still some attractions that you can and should not skip! I mapped out a route that is perfect to do in one day (provided you leave early enough!).
Mesão Frio and the St. Anthony’s Viewpoint
At eight o’clock in the morning I picked up my rental car (€5 with RentCars.com) and raced from Porto to the Douro valley with my rental car. With my GPS, I firstly navigated to ‘Mesão Frio’, the area where the Douro river actually begins.
The closer you get to this tiny village, the clearer it becomes that you ended up in this magnificent area. The nature around you is starting to become very beautiful and you also have to start slowing down a bit because of all the sudden turns and twists.
From Mesão Frio I drove up to the ‘St. Anthony’s viewpoint’. One of the most famous viewpoints over the Douro valley, but if I am honest I found some other vistas on my route to this location even more beautiful than the actual viewpoint.
St. Leonardo de Galafura uitzichtpunt
I descended again and drove along Peso da Régua towards St. Leonardo de Galafura. Don’t miss this beautiful ‘miradouro’ (viewpoint). From this mountain you get a phenomenal vista on both sides of the Douro. Depending on what time it is, you can now have lunch or go to one of the Quintas.
Visiting a quinta
I myself went to Quinta do Panascal, because I had heard so many good things about it. The view from this beautiful villa, the interesting audio guide and the delicious tasting convinced me of this fact as well! But of course there are many more Quintas to discover.
During a day tour from Porto you also visit such a winery. The advantage of a guided tour, however, is that you can truly enjoy the delicious porto now. Drunk driving is obviously not allowed in Portugal…
Pinhão and the Loivos Miradouro
Once I had drunk the delicious porto to the last drop, I went on to Pinhão. This is probably the most famous village in the Douro valley. I therefore recommend not to pass it too quickly. The beautiful bridge and the incredible station are definitely worth a bit of your time
From Pinhão you are also really close to the Loivos Miradouro (Double Viewpoint De Loivos). I think this was one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the Douro region and I therefore recommend not to skip it.
If you have some time left, you can also visit the Miradouro de São Salvador. This panorama is very impressive, but it’s an hour’s drive from Pinhão and that might be a little too long to cram in a one day trip from Porto to the Douro valley.
Extra: a boat trip on the Douro river
From Pinhão it’s also possible to board one of the typical boats and explore more of the Douro. Don’t forget that such a sailing trip takes one or two hours. For €20 (you can also book online) you can enjoy beautiful river views and you get a nice glass of port on board. This is the good life!
In short, this is my route through the Douro valley:
Get your rental car at the airport (From €5 per day with RentCars.com or €35 all-insurance with Sunnycars.com) → Mesão Frio → St. Anthony’s viewpoint → St. Leonardo’s Galafura viewpoint → Quinta do Panascal (winery) → Pinhão → Loivos viewpoint → (possibly: São Salvador do Mundo viewpoint) → Porto airport.
If you would like to explore more of the Douro region, then I recommend staying for an extra day. It may seem like I have not visited much during my route, but I most certainly did! Along the way you will see many beautiful landscapes and believe me: you make a stop regularly to see all that beauty for just a little longer.
I also think it is important that you don’t rush too much here. The landscape is too amazing to just speed through it, so enjoy it to the fullest!
5 Things to do in the Douro valley
You can definitely visit the Douro valley without really looking for sights, because the landscapes are really breathtaking. Yet there are some points of interest or things to do that are really worthwhile to incorporate into your road trip. For me, these are the things you must do in the Douro region:
Visit a port house (Quinta)
Even if you’re not a fan of port, a short visit to one of the many quintas is definitely worth it. These typical port houses are beautifully authentic and the surrounding area is often very impressive.
You can explore such a quinta for about ten euros per person. Either on your own (with an audioguide) or with a guide. During a guided tour from Porto you also spend some time in a quinta and often you also have lunch here.
Along the way you are shown around the vineyard and you’ll learn everything about port. I for example, learned that the better porthouses get a higher classification and therefore can export less (but they can sell at higher prices), but also what kinds of porto there are and how porto is made.
After your visit, you also get a few glasses of porto to try out. Usually, you are offered a glass of vintage port, white port and then another specialty of the house. I am not a heavy drinker, but porto is really yummy!
I didn’t have to think long about taking a bottle home with me. I paid only eight euros, by the way.
I visited Quinta do Panascal and was very satisfied with the tour and the beautiful views, but I also heard good things about, among others, POPA Quinta and Quinta das Carvalhas.
Boat trip on the Douro with a Rabelo boat
Do you want to discover the Douro river in a unique way? Then board one of the typical Rabelo boats. These ships were used to transport the heavy barrels with port to Porto.
Online it’s very easy to book your tickets for these boats in advance with websites such as GetYourGuide. The advantage of this website is, that you can cancel for free up until 24 hours in advance.
You have most options in Pinhão. From here you can’t drive any further with your car, so if you want to see more of the valley, it is not a bad idea to start your short cruise from here.
A return boat trip along the Douro costs twenty euros per person and takes one or two hours. On the way you often get a glass of porto and if you can’t get enough of this delicacy, you can of course also buy an extra drink.
Would you rather spend a full day on the boat? Then you can also arrange a day cruise from Porto.
Visit some beautiful viewpoints
The Douro region is known for the many beautiful roads that go up and down along the steep valley flanks. So it’s only logical that you have a lot of beautiful ‘miradouros’ or viewpoints here.
Along the way it is often very difficult to stop (the streets are too narrow and there are always a few cars) and so you should actually limit your stops to these panoramic viewpoints.
I definitely recommend the ‘St. Anyhony’s viewpoint’ and the ‘Loivos viewpoint’. If you have enough time, you should definitely drive to the São Salvador do Mundo viewpoint as well.
At all three of these ‘miradouros’ you get a beautiful panoramic vista over the entire region. The valley is filled with beautiful terraces on which wine is grown, and in the deep you can see the winding Douro river that forces its way through these amazing landscapes. Take your lunch with you to one of these panoramas to enjoy it even more.
Admire the Azulejos at the train station in Pinhão
The most impressive sights in the Douro valley of course have to do with nature or port, but the small train station of Pinhão is certainly worth a stopover as well.
This building was inlaid with beautiful azulejos: ceramic tiles painted by hand. This is a very typical use in Portugal and occasionally you can find real masterpieces, such as this station.
The outside (also be sure to stand next to the tracks, here it is even more beautiful) of this station is inlaid with white azulejos that are transformed into blue and yellow pieces of art. These paintings show how grape harvesting and making port in this region used to happen. Beautiful and informative!
Drive along the N222: the most beautiful route in the world
If you plan to hire a car to explore the Douro region on yourself, that is already possible from €5 per day. The advantage of a steel steed is of course that you get a lot of freedom and that you can explore one of the most beautiful road trips in the world!
It takes about one hour / one hour and a half to get from Porto to the Douro valley, but that drive is certainly worth it! According to many people, the most beautiful route in the world runs through the Douro valley. The N222 consists of many winding bends that take you along the Douro river. Along the way, you stay fairly close to the river banks, so don’t forget to occasionally take a side road to get up to a higher area. From there you get the most impressive views!
What’s the best way to visit the Douro valley?
There are different ways to explore the Douro region. If you opt for a day trip from Porto to the Douro, you can rent a car yourself, book a day tour or take the train.
Would you rather stay a little longer in this beautiful area? Then you can arrange a multi-day cruise along the Douro valley.
Rent a car from Porto to the Douro valley
Are you adventurous, or do you prefer to explore the Douro valley at your own pace? Then your best bet is to rent a car. If you think that it might be expensive, think again. It really is dirt cheap to rent a car here (I said it many times, but it really is only €5 per day… Or less – check the screenshot below!).
Driving from Porto to the Douro valley is not difficult at all and I really recommend it to everyone. Sometimes there are some steep parts or less passable roads, but even then they’re quite manageable. The Douro valley receives a lot of tourists, so the road infrastructure is definitely well maintained. During my short road trip, I never encountered any dangerous streets or mud roads, so you can rest assured. If I can do it, you can do it too.
Cost of car rental in this region
From the airport of Porto I rented a car for barely five euros (Holidaycars). On top of that, I paid another five euros for insurance. I think this was the cheapest price that I’ve ever paid to rent a car and so the choice was quickly made to plan my route through the Douro valley on my own.
Five euros is incredibly cheap and I’m not sure if you can always find bargains like these, but €10 to €20 for a one-day rental car is still no money.
If you prefer to be completely insured, I can also recommend Sunnycars. They only offer all-in rental cars but they are often a bit more pricey. They start at about €30-€35 per day.
In addition to these costs, keep in mind that you might have to pay extra on the way.
There are toll costs of about €30 and of course you also have to refuel once you bring back your car (in my case that was about €25).
With a self-planned car ride through the Douro valley, no lunch is included. Count on about €15 for a nice lunch. Finally, you also have to visit one or more port houses. For a guided tour and a (delicious) tasting you pay about €10 per person.
If you drive to the Douro valley by car, you will therefore pay +/- €90. This is a bit more than a guided tour from Porto, so if you’re alone it might be more interesting to book an excursion.
If you’re renting a car with several people, keep in mind that you’ll have to add to the costs of food and visit to the quinta, but all in all this is still the most advantageous (and in my opinion also best way) to visit the Douro valley.
Some tips on car hire:
- Always take insurance. A scratch (or accident, in the worst case) happens faster than you think on these narrow and turning roads. When I wanted to return to Porto, I discovered a scratch on my left door… I must’ve hit something along the way. It cost me three hundred euros, but luckily I was insured and I got that amount back within two weeks. If you book your car online at at RentCars, don’t forget to opt for additional insurance (€5 per day to be partially insured, €11 per day to be fully insured). Of course you can also check out Sunnycars, because they only rent out all-in hire cars.
- Leave early. From the airport, I left at eight o’clock in the morning and that was certainly not too early! From Porto it’s still a one and a half hour drive to the Douro valley, and so you already lose three hours just by going and returning. The landscapes and port houses are so breathtakingly beautiful that you definitely want to spend a few hours there! So leave early enough and return as late as possible.
- Don’t go too fast. This is of course logical, but also take note of the twisting and narrow roads in these region.
- Drive along the N222, but not all the time. The N222 has been declared the most beautiful car route in the world, so you should certainly drive along it. However, this course runs almost all along the water, and if you drive just a little higher up, the landscapes are also (maybe even more) stunning. So I recommend to alternate between the N222 and some higher roads.
- Don’t rent a GPS, just use Google Maps. A GPS is often added by car rental companies for enormous costs. Nowadays everyone has a smartphone, so use it too! Through all kinds of apps (Google Maps, Maps.me, Apple maps, …) you arrive at your destination without any problems. With free data roaming in the EU you have no excuse! And otherwise you still have the option to download maps offline.
- Don’t drink too much! You are in the Douro valley, so it’s logical that you also want to try some porto. Note, however: in Portugal there are high fines on drunk driving! One glass of porto is actually the maximum that you can drink… An easy way to not worry is to book a guided tour from Porto. You can then enjoy the views more since you don’t have to drive yourself anymore, but more importantly: you can drink as much as you like!
A day trip to the Douro valley from Porto
Would you rather not worry and enjoy the beautiful view all the time? Then an excursion from Porto is the ideal solution.
During a day trip from Porto to the Douro Valley, everything is arranged for you without it ever getting really hasty.
After the pick-up at your hotel, you will be taken to the Douro valley in about one hour and a half.
Along the way you make a regular stop at one of the beautiful vantage points and the driver never goes too fast, so that you can take a lot of photos on the way (or just enjoy the ride).
During your day trip you usually also visit two quintas. At these port houses you can drink as much as you want, because you don’t have to get behind the steering wheel any longer!
A lunch is included with most tours. Some tour operators also provide a (short) boat ride; a great way to see some more of the Douro valley. Pay attention however: sometimes this boat trip is already included in the price, but often you have to pay it yourself (on the spot) (€10 or €20 pp).
Don’t forget that you don’t have to pay petrol and toll on an arranged day trip either. If you travel alone, this option is often much cheaper than renting a car. On the other hand, you obviously have less freedom to discover what you want…
Don’t forget to book a few days in advance, otherwise all tours will be sold out (I was too late to book an excursions, so I had to rent a car.)
A day tour to the Douro valley costs between €80 and €110 per person.
From Porto to the Douro valley by train
A picturesque way to get to the Douro valley is by train. From Porto there is a train leaving for Pinhão every hour. A single ride through the Douro region will take you three hours, so leave on time if you want to enjoy your day.
Along the way you will pass some very beautiful landscapes, but during your train ride you can never get off to enjoy all these vistas for a bit longer… Therefore I wouldn’t really recommend this way of traveling.
Moreover, you always stay on fairly flat areas, so you never really get a nice viewpoint. Once you have arrived in Pinhão, you can also take a boat trip along the Douro valley to make your day a bit more varied.
This is the cheapest way to get to the Douro valley. A single ticket Porto >< Pinhão costs only €10.85 per person.
5x Hotels in the Douro Valley
There is a lot to discover in the Douro Valley. It is therefore not a bad idea to book one or two overnight stays in this region.
Here are five beautiful accommodations to make your stay absolutely great.
Hotel Casa do Tua
If you are looking for a hotel in the Douro valley, a stay in the village of Foz Tua is a great idea. Casa do Tua was furnished just like a home away from home. The rooms are decorated with authentic Portuguese furniture for that real holiday feeling. While relaxing in the beautiful swimming pool, you have an amazing view of the valley and the many stunning vineyards.
Located on the banks of the Douro River, the hotel is surrounded by dazzling landscapes. In addition to swimming, you can also play billiards and darts at Casa do Tua. It is nicely located for pleasant walks along the river and boat trips can also be organized. If you are considering a day trip to Porto, it is about a two-hour drive. An overnight stay at Casa do Tua is available from €45 per night.
Douro Palace Hotel Resort & Spa
Do you want to bathe in luxury in a contemporary environment, then the Douro Palace Hotel Resort & Spa in Baiao might be what you are looking for. It is an extraordinary 4-star hotel with stylish suites and rooms, each with its own balcony. Both in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening you can enjoy refined local dishes in the brilliant house restaurant. As the cherry on top, there is also a magnificent wellness center where you can relax.
The Douro Palace Hotel Resort & Spa is situated in a very quiet location among some beautiful vineyards and quiet forests. If you want to get away, you can visit the neighboring village of Santa Cruz do Douro. For historic attractions such as the Cathedral of Lamego and the Ribeiro Conceição Theater you only have to drive for about fifteen minutes. You can spend the night in a double room at the resort for only €86 for two persons.
Quinta do Vallado
In the north of the Douro valley, in Peso da Ragua, you will find a beautiful country house from the eighteenth century. The authentic quinta was transformed into a tasteful hotel surrounded by a huge vineyard. When the interior was decorated, much attention was given to the design and that is also evident in the rooms that are equipped with quite some technological features. Enjoy the sun in the swimming pool or in the picturesque garden.
Peso da Ragua is known as one of the best places to produce delicious Porto. Quinta do Vallado is therefore a wonderful place for anyone who wants to explore the valley. In addition to the excellent facilities in and around the vineyard, the hotel also organizes other activities such as cooking workshops and river fishing. You pay €120 per night in this excellent accommodation.
If you would like to spend most of your vacation with wine tasting in combination with admiring the spectacular views of the Douro valley, then Quinta Nova in Pinhão is the perfect place to stay overnight. You are welcomed by the friendly staff members, so that you immediately feel at home here. After a delicious meal, you can retire to your traditional Portuguese room with modern facilities.
Quinta Nova is not only a luxurious boutique hotel but it is also a vineyard where there is a lot to experience. The estate is so enormous that you can walk or cycle here for hours. After an afternoon of wine tasting, you can rest at the beautiful outdoor swimming pool or have a drink in the restaurant. The property also offers transfers to the train station if you would like to visit nearby towns in the valley. The price for a night in a double room is €196 on average.
Six Senses Douro Valley
Can it all be a bit more? Then this hotel in the Douro valley is one of the best luxury accommodations in Portugal. The rooms are contemporary with neutral colors, all very different but equally beautiful. If a single room is not enough, Six Senses Douro Valley also offers full apartments with two or three bedrooms. After a long day you can freshen up in one of the swimming pools or at the cocktail bar.
A stay in the Douro valley is not complete without a wine tasting. So don’t forget to visit the hotel’s vineyard too. In addition, many other activities are offered by the property. For example, you can take a cruise on the Douro, book a helicopter flight or head out on a mountain bike adventure. The prices for an overnight stay in this sublime hotel start at €287.
3x Hotels in Porto
Porto is the largest city near the Douro Valley. It is therefore the perfect base from which you can discover this region.
Moreover, there is a lot to do in Porto itself.
Below I list three beautiful hotels in Porto. And to make it extra fun, they are all closely located to the Douro river.
Castelo Santa Catarina
There is no better way to visit the Douro valley than with an overnight stay in a real castle. A night in Castelo Santa Catarina costs surprisingly little, because it offers charming rooms that fit everyone’s budget. This beautiful property is surrounded by elegant landscaped gardens and is located right in the center of Porto. There is a private chapel where you can relax.
Despite its location in the middle of the city center, the authentic B&B is still in a remote location with the most important sights within reach. In addition to hiking in the Douro valley, Castelo Santa Catarina is a great base to enjoy one of the musical shows at the Coliseu do Porto theater. If you want to stay in this fantastic hotel, you only pay €40 per night for two people.
Gran Cruz House
This beautifully restored hotel is located in the old center of Porto. The warm, individually decorated suites feature unique artworks. Pick your own bottle in the rich wine cellar and enjoy a sublime view of the Douro river from the private terrace of your room. Be enchanted by the delightful Portuguese cuisine in the gastronomic restaurant at the Gran Cruz House.
From the Gran Cruz House you can make a lot of beautiful walks: through Ribeira, the historic center of Porto, along the sunny beaches in Foz or along the charming Douro river, which eventually also ends in the valley.
Also, make sure to visit the Mercado Ferreira Borges where you can have a nice lunch or dinner. In addition, you will find many popular attractions in the vicinity of the hotel, such as the Palacio da Bolsa and the Torre dos Clérigos. For a night full of comfort and luxury you pay €125 on average.
Palacio do Freixo
If you ask me, the Palacio Freixo is perhaps one of the most luxurious hotels in Porto and thus the best way to explore the Douro Valley. It is beautifully situated on the banks of the river. The accommodation is a phenomenal mix between eighteenth century and contemporary luxury. Admire the authentic frescoes on the ceilings and the infinite Hall of Mirrors as you walk through the hotel. While the common rooms look like a Baroque palace, the private rooms all have a very modern design.
In the Palacio Freixo you can totally relax. Spend some time in the Turkish infinity pool, followed by a pampering spa session and a cocktail on the waterfront of the Douro. Are you completely relaxed already? Then take one of the shuttle buses to the surroundings of the old town where you can visit the Fundação Serralves and Casa da Música. Staying in the modern Palacio Freixo is possible from €180 per night.
Book a trip from Porto to the Douro valley online
Have I convinced you of the beauty of this area, but you don’t want to rent a car yourself? Then book a day tour or a multi-day tour!
During an excursion from Porto to the Douro valley you can enjoy the beautiful landscapes and the delicious wines of this region in peace.
However, be aware that tours are usually sold out (at least) a week in advance. That is why I recommend you to book your day trip as soon as you know that you are going to the Douro valley.
Even if you’re unsure, booking with GetYourGuide gives you the possibility to cancel for free up to 24 hours in advance.
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.