4th Stop in Portugal: Douro Valley
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
I look at this photo taken in the Douro Valley, and I see a beautiful, giant quilt laid out over rolling hills. This area was incredible. Some of the most fantastic views were had here, and some of the most fantastic people were met here.
Now as we mentioned in our Portugal summary, Ash and I aren't huge fans of guided tours. But because we decided against car rental, and the Douro Valley was a must see on our list, we figured this would be the best way to get there. For the first time ever, we decided to check out the experiences that AirBnb offered, and frankly we were pretty amazed at the amount of things they had.
There were a few Douro Valley tours to choose from, but Manuel and Antonio's Taste Authentic Douro tour stood out to us, and luckily they had openings. At first glance, the tour seemed a bit spendy, but we learned that it covered everything: transportation, food, drinks, mini-tours, entry fees, etc. We paid for nothing while we were with them. And we never would have had the incredible experience we did without Manuel and Antonio. If you are looking for a small, intimate tour, please check this out .
Drive to Douro Valley
We met Manuel, Antonio, and the rest of the tour group at a Starbucks next to La Vie mall early in the morning. The group was very small, 14 people, and they came from a handful of different countries: United States, Germany, Australia, Netherlands, and Canada. We split into two groups and boarded the vans for an hour-long ride out east to the Douro Valley. As we drove, the landscape changed. The small rolling mounds of land became large hills patched with valleys and vineyards. The rising sun poured onto the earth, giving warmth to the villages and foliage below.
Overlook in Pinhão: Casal de Loivos Miradouro
We reached the area of Pinhão in just over an hour. The vans carefully wound their way through tight village roads as they climbed one of the giant hills. Although our bodies tensed as we looked over the cliff sides to the river valley below, we had complete trust in our driver, Antonio. We stopped the vans and piled out at the most incredible overlook called Casal de Loivos Miradouro. Manuel offered to take pictures of everyone, so Ash and I were able to capture this moment with the most gorgeous scenery behind us.
I have since found, since writing the summary of our trip, confirmation that this is, in fact, rated one of the best views in the world. Click here for more on that!
Casal de Loivos Miradouro is located at R. Praça de Oliveira 1, 5085-010 Casal de Loivos, Portugal.
After a 15 minute stop at the Pinhão overlook, we piled back into the vans and drove back down the hill to the village we had originally come through. The vans stopped along side the river where a row of Viking boats were anchored, and Manuel and Antonio handed our group off to the boat tour guides. One at a time, we climbed onto the boat and entered into the main cabin where a table full of appetizers awaited us. The engine revved up and the guides started sharing information about the valley vineyards. We listened and learned about the wineries as the boat slowly traveled downstream between the large, green hills of the valley. Delicious drinks of port wine and tonic (our new summer favorite) were offered to us, and we drank them happily while we snacked on the meats and cheeses. The ride lasted about an hour, but we wished it would have gone on for much longer.
We thanked our wonderful guides as we left the boat and met back up with Manuel and Antonio who had the vans ready to go. Our next stop on the agenda was Croft Winery, where Antonio had previously worked, so he was able to give us all the ins-and-outs of this place. He led us up a path to the vineyards and explained the beginning stages of the winery process, but did this quickly as the weather was getting to be unbearably hot. We moved out of the sun and into the smashing house where we climbed up into one of the giant tubs. We sat in a large circle, listening to Antonio talk about the three-hour process of grape smashing- including the part about the last hour where the smashers drink and sing songs while finishing the job. From there, we went back outside, but sat under a shady terrace overlooking the vineyards, and tried a vintage port poured perfectly by Antonio. He and Manuel taught us to swirl the wine, take a sip, and then breath out of our nose to get the perfect flavor. As we were finishing our wine it was announced that a large tour bus was coming, so we packed up quick and got into the vans before the winery was bombarded with tourists.
Croft Winery is located at Quinta da Roêda, 5085-016 Pinhão, Douro Valley, Portugal.
Lunch at Restaurante Tábua D'Aço
Manuel and Antonio took us to Restaurante Tábua D'Aço where we were treated like royalty. The restaurant sat on the side of a steep hill and had gorgeous views of the valley. They had set up a long table on the patio outside that fit all 14 of us around it. We were given four types of wine, and an amazing farm-to-table lunch from a Green Chef. The four course meal included appetizers, salad, a main course, and the most amazing plate of desserts you could imagine. It was at this point of the tour that we were really able to bond with the other travelers. It was really special to see everyone laughing, telling stories, and taking group photos as we ate. We felt very lucky to be among such wonderful people and will look back fondly on the experience here.
Restaurante Tábua D'Aço is located at R Môa, Municipal Swimming Pools Building, 5120-372, Tabuaço, Portugal.
Visit to Barcos
Our last stop of the day was at one of the oldest winery villages in the Douro Valley: Barcos. I asked Antonio if tourists ever stayed in this town, and he said no, but Manuel was friends with some of the villagers so he was welcome to bring small tour groups here. I have seen other postings about people visiting this small village since we were there, so I am sure it is a place that anyone can come to for the day.
I loved the charm of Barcos. The town's population is small and aging, but wonderful. The few residents we met here were incredibly warm and welcoming. We learned about the town's history which included a walk through an amazing 12th/13th century church that is still used, and kept up very nicely, by the townspeople. We were also invited into an old cellar by one of the village residents which housed a very old grape smashing tub, as well as a vintage motor bike that she offered as a prop in our group's photos (her little dog ended up in some of these too!).
The cobbled streets, the architecture, everything was quaint and lovely in Barcos. We ended our time here is a small store where they sold olive oil, wine, and trinkets. Ash and I left the village with a bottle of white wine and a small ceramic mug.
This village can be found at 5120-076 Barcos, Portugal.
Drive to Porto
Tired from a long day, we piled back into the vans. Our ride home was filled with happy conversation with Antonio and the other travelers. Antonio dropped us all off in city center of Porto, and with hugs we said our goodbyes to our friends.
If you have the chance to visit Porto, please take a day to explore the Douro Valley. If you don't have a car, we HIGHLY recommend traveling with Manuel and Antonio's tour group. You will get more than just seeing the beautiful sights; you will spend time with amazing people, drink amazing wine, and eat amazing food. It is 100% worth it.
I do ask that this stays a positive and safe space for readers, so please, no hurtful language or remarks about other's experiences. Thank you.