The Best Things to See and Do in the Douro Valley, Portugal

The Parque Natural do Douro Internacional sits on the border between Spain and Portugal
The Parque Natural do Douro Internacional sits on the border between Spain and Portugal | © Josep Curto / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Judy Cogan
7 July 2021

This lush region of northern Portugal is packed with natural beauty. From hiking in the Douro International Natural Park to leisurely boat trips, the area caters to all tastes. Here’s our pick of the ones you won’t want to miss.

Take in the views from O Carrascalinho Lookout

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Walking on the granitic high plateau above the Douro river cliffs that make the border with Spain. Lagoaca, Douro Internacional Nature Park, Tras os M
© Mauricio Abreu / Alamy Stock Photo

Make the half-hour drive south of Mogadouro, through the village of Fornos, to this remote yet spectacular viewpoint overlooking the Douro river in the Douro International Natural Park. The Douro is the highest-flow river of the Iberian Peninsula and it runs for 897km (557mi) from the Spanish town of Duruelo de la Sierra to Porto, Portugal’s second city. Remember to look up over the valley to spot eagles circling overhead.

Connect with nature A Congida Beach

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See one beach and you’ve seen them all, right? Wrong! It’s not often you stumble across a river beach and especially not one surrounded by the lush nature of the Douro International Natural Park. Congida Beach sits as an outcrop on the large reservoir formed by the Saucelle Dam, not far from the Spanish border. There’s a floating swimming pool, a jetty to sunbathe on and plenty of fish and birds to spot as you cool off in the water.

Kayak the Douro River

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Portugal Douro Valley, a canoe carrying two people heads up the Douro River Valley near the port wine town of Pinhao, Portugal
© Michael Brooks / Alamy Stock Photo

A few years ago English teacher Jack Atkinson teamed up with Rui Calado, who has paddled the entire Portuguese coastline as well as 120 rivers worldwide, to create sustainable Douro Kayak Expeditions. Choose from 10 days (Itinerary I, taking in three Unesco World Heritage Sites), and six days (Itinerary II, including stops at Porto and Foz Coa). This is the only tour that travels the whole 209km (130mi) of the Douro right across Portugal. Groups are limited to 12.

Go deeper into wine at the Museu do Douro

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Museu do Douro, Regua, Portugal
© Jose Pedro Fernandes / Alamy Stock Photo

Visit this regional museum to capture the true history, culture and identity of the Douro wine region, now a World Heritage Site. The permanent Memory of the Wine Region exhibition tracks the tradition of the grape harvest and there are regular cultural events and lectures inside the manor house, once headquarters of the General Company of Agriculture of the High Douro wines. There’s a restaurant, library and a wine bar overlooking the River Douro.

Cruise the Douro River by boat

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Elevated view of Porto, Portugal and the River Duoro with passenger ships, a popular tourists destination
© Sylvain Didier / Alamy Stock Photo

The great thing about a boat cruise is your day is taken care of for you. All you have to do is enjoy the best of the Douro River and the landscapes that edge it from the deck. You will spend a full day on the river tasting port wine and olive oil at estates along the way, enjoying a delicious locally sourced lunch and a spin on a traditional wooden rabelo boat. Trips can range anywhere from an hour-long jaunt to a two-day journey with you returning by train.

Sample local wines at Quinta do Pôpa

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The story of Quinta de Pôpa began with the dream of Francisco Ferreira (known as Pôpa) that was realised by his son Zeca when he bought Quinta do Vidiedo vineyard in Adorigo, Tabuaço. Zeca changed the name as a tribute to his father. Visit this beautiful spot to enjoy wine tastings, cellar tours and grape treading. Three wines are created here using traditional techniques including Curtimenta, an unusual white made with skin contact. They’ve even designed suitcase-friendly wooden boxes so you can take some home.

Quinta do Panascal

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Portugal, Douro Valley, classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, Valenca do Douro,
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

This vineyard and visitor centre is owned by Fonseca Port, one of the region’s most prominent wine producers. There is a vineyard walk accompanied by a self-guided audio-tour available in nine languages. In the visitors’ room, three Fonseca wines are available to test. During the harvesting season, guests can watch grape treading in the traditional granite tanks, a sight worth seeing if you’re interested in the wine-making process.

Visit the Parque Natural do Douro Internacional

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A stone house near Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo. , Parque Natural do Douro Internacional. Portugal
© Mauricio Abreu / Alamy Stock Photo

One of Portugal’s 13 natural parks, this area spans several municipalities and a long stretch of the Douro River. The “international” part of the name comes from the fact that it functions as the border between Portugal and Spain. Driving through the park is allowed, and certainly worth doing, but seeing parts of the park by foot is a better way to experience the region’s flora and fauna. A rich variety of animal species live here, as well as more than 170 different species of bird.

Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa

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Digital panel inside of the Coa Museum showing the paleolithic engraving of a horse "Cavalo da Rocha 14" in Canada do Inferno
© Cro Magnon / Alamy Stock Photo

The River Côa is a tributary that runs into the River Douro. For thousands of years, the rock formations lining the river banks have been engraved by creative humans. Dating back 25,000 years, this gallery provides us with records of ancient humans all the way up to figures carved by local children a few decades ago. The group of engravings can be viewed as part of organised visits, but these must be booked in advance.

Climb to see the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios

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Lamego Portugal stairs, a woman climbs the 686 steps of the Baroque stairway leading to the church of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios in Lamego, Portugal
© Michael Brooks / Alamy Stock Photo

In the town of Lamego, there is a staircase with 686 steps. Up this hill, and these steps, is a shrine for the worship of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. The church looks lofty in its seat at the top of the hill, adding to its grandeur. The highlight of the climb is the Pelican fountain on the first landing, but the shrine itself is also worth the climb.

Museu de Lamego

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View of the local museum in Lamego, Portugal
© Pavel Dudek / Alamy Stock Photo

Housed in a 1700s palace, this is possibly Portugal’s best museum, besides those in the main cities. It features many pieces of art and tapestry, including five panels that were previously part of the altar of Lamego cathedral. It’s an eclectic collection, featuring gold crafts, vehicles and sculpture alongside the art.

Niall McGrade contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on July 7, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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