LifestyleMy Adventure Hiking through the Douro Valley

My Adventure Hiking through the Douro Valley

My adventure hiking through the Douro Valley in Portugal started with a spur-of-the-moment decision to veer off our European backpacking plan and explore a hidden gem beyond the classic bustling cities. My journey began in Porto, Portugal—a city that embraces you with its old-world charm and laid-back vibes. Nestled along the Douro River, Porto is a picturesque small town renowned for its port wines, historic streets, beautiful tiled buildings, and incredible bridges. However, the town that my travel partner and I went to was Peso da Régua, where you can find authenticity like no other. My experience tasting wines here was something I will always remember. 

Getting to Peso da Régua

The next chapter of this adventure unfolded as we hopped on a train bound for Peso da Régua. With our hiking poles in hand, boots tied tight, and small backpacks filled with water jugs we took our seats.  The journey was nothing short of magical. Picture gliding along the Douro, surrounded by a river as wide as a large lake, vibrant vineyards, and rolling hills—all visible from the comfort of your seat on an old train that looked like it was made 100 years ago. It chugged along offering panoramic views. The river mirrored the sky. An hour and a half went by and we still wanted more.

Stepping off the train felt like stepping into another world. The views of the valley were stunning and the people were quite friendly. With no concrete plan, we secured last-minute reservations at small local wineries, adding an extra layer of excitement to our impromptu escape. But first, food. 

Breakfast of Champions

Upon arriving, we needed breakfast. When we got there at 9 a.m., most things were closed. However, we did find an open, low-key restaurant called Nacional. Its vibe was honestly kind of dull, but the food we had turned out to be an incredible surprise. This unpretentious spot served us an omelet that could turn your whole morning around. I’m not sure what they did to those eggs, but it was the best omelet that I have ever had.  So I decided to give it a shoutout here because if you ever go to Peso de Regua, this is a can’t-miss stop! 

The Vineyards

Heading to the vineyards after our life-changing omelets was the best part of the adventure. With our bellies full we started the hour-long trek to our first stop: Gueda Vineyards. Hiking to Gueda was an exhausting journey. The hike was 3 miles straight up a steep mountain. Even though there are taxis that can take you up to the vineyards, we wanted to be immersed in the scenery and get active. We took the road less traveled.

Gueda Vineyards

When we finally arrived at Gueda we were greeted by the two owners; a brother and sister who run the business, are the winemakers, and also run a B&B onsite called Casa do Romazal. We were impressed, to say the least.

The Tasting 

For $35 we got the premium tasting package with an audio file that led us through the vineyard and gave us information on its history. Wandering through the vines, accompanied by an audio guide was informative. However, it was the personal touch and the delightful wine pairings that truly elevated the experience. We sat in a room with 8 other travelers, 6 glasses of wine in front of us, and a delicious cheese board to elevate the experience. The wines were delicious and vibrant. These included their blended 2017 White Reserva, a tawny port, white port, the Tinto 2019 Reserva, the 2020 Branco, and my personal favorite, the 2017 Tinto Grande. They also included a bonus tasting of two olive oils they make. So good!

Quinta de Vallado

Venturing off the mapped routes, we hiked through the valley about a mile to Quinta do Vallado, which is one of the top 100 wineries in the world. It is an establishment with deep roots in the Douro wine scene and a sleek vibe that captivates dating back to the 1800s. The journey on foot allowed us to see old ruins and beautiful scenery. We immersed ourselves in the experience. While hiking with a buzz is not something I would normally recommend, in this case, it worked out well for us. 

The Tasting 

While we didn’t make formal tasting reservations here, we were still able to try a bunch of wines. A 40-year port tasting of molasses and licorice. A young Alvarinho with racy acidity. A red with the depth of Mariana’s trench. Their tasting room overlooked the Douro and had a wall covered in their history. In the bottle shop, they even had a port wine that was one of their very first vintages from 1826. Overall the experience was great. 

Nevertheless, Quinta do Vallado is where my adventure hiking through the Douro Valley ended. After 6 miles and 5 glasses of wine, we opted for a cab ride to our next stop. 

Quinta Casa Amarela

Among all of the wineries we visited in the Douro, and all the wine shops in Porto too, Quinta Casa Amarela was the showstopper. It left an indelible mark upon my soul.  The wine maker, authentic and grounded, provided a private tour and a tasting session that felt like spending time with an old friend. He took us through the vineyard, which was humble in comparison to the ones we had just come from. We saw where they stomp the grapes, where the barrels were filled, and walked through his whole winemaking process. Listening to him talk about wine was the highlight for us. he made it seem as if it were living, breathing. The respect and love he had for his craft was present in the wines he gave us to taste, along with homemade snacks he served. 

After talking with him for over 3 hours, we learned that he only makes around 300 cases of wine each year, and never sells them to mass producers. The other thing is, most of his bottles are only around $30-40 USD and the taste is better than the most highly rated wines I’ve tried that typically go for $100-200 a bottle. We ended up buying as many bottles as our backpacks could hold, including his favorite from 2014.  If we had more room, or if we weren’t two broke 20-something year olds, we would’ve bought his entire collection. 

Immersed in his storytelling and wines, we realized that time flew by and that we might miss our train back to Porto. He offered to give us a ride back into town and we accepted, jumping in his old pickup truck. On the train ride back we looked at each other as if to say “Did that really just happen?” 

Final Thoughts

The Douro Valley is the perfect place for anyone seeking authentic wines, hearty food, and outdoorsy adventures, minus any pretense. My adventure hiking through the Douro Valley in Portugal ended up not just being a detour, but the highlight of my trip. It was the kind of adventure that stays with you long after you’ve come home. For those seeking adventure and knowledge from earnest hands, the Douro Valley awaits.

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