You will find here an enchanted place, filled with breathtaking natural landscapes, that interact with the men´s capacity to transform this rough land, into one of the most divine nectars in the world: Port wine. On 1756 Douro was created and nowadays is ranked as first demarcated wine region in the world; last but not the least in 2001 would also be considered a World Heritage Site.
The beautiful riverside setting overlooked by vast vineyards that are carved in terraces on the slopes of the steep hills, offers a landscape that soothes the senses and allows you to contemplate one of the most picturesque and scenic views in Europe.
But this region is famous for other things besides the wine that is made nowhere else in the world. Signs of prehistoric men are seen in the ancient cave paintings in Vila Nova de Foz Coa. Elsewhere, medieval castles, convents, and Romanesque little churches dot the landscape. History, too, is evoked by the manor houses, such as the Baroque mansion Casa de Mateus, near Vila Real, or in the great 17th century sanctuaries, such as Nossa Senhora dos Remedios in Lamego, which plays such an important role in people’s devotions.
Enogastronomy in Douro
When it comes to wine, the Douro Valley doesn’t need much of an introduction. After all, it is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, particularly famous for the unique Port wine, as well as a number of other world-awarded reds. This is the only place in all the world where real Port wine can be made and what better than to have a chilled glass of a 20 year old tawny or one of those spectacular Vintage Ports overlooking the beautiful vineyards whence they come from? We rest our case.
However, the Portuguese Gastronomy still remains a mystery to most food lovers although it is one of the best countries to eat in Europe.
Back in the day, and still in rural areas across the Douro Valley, families raised their own cattle and grew their own food. In Portugal it is common that people still make their own bread, olive oil, and grown fresh vegetables. Likewise the restaurants in Douro. The Douro cuisine is less about appearance and much more about taste. Using local ingredients, fresh produce, these Portuguese dishes are home cooking at its finest. Rustic, real and full of flavor.
A wine lover’s paradise, it is a delight to taste your way through the different types of Port wines or enjoy the bold, robust still wines, but the region also abounds with other delicious produce like almonds, chestnuts, cherries, wild mushrooms and regional products like olive oil, honey, sausages, smoked and cured meats (enchidos) of all kinds. The Dourense gastronomy matches that of its wines: big, hearty meals that are mainly meat-based and game, but in true Portuguese fashion, plenty of fish can also be found in these parts.
With its breathtaking views, world-class wines, and feel good comfort food, this part of Portugal is sure to win you over.
Heritage in Douro
As in any other part of Portugal, history is found behind every single Douro Valley detail. From the grapes produced by old and static vines, with their ancient and concentrated aromas to estates with families that have dedicated their lives to the production of Port, everything is surrounded by stories and history.
That is the case of a religious center like Lamego, a monumental city, where the first members of the Portuguese kingdom settled. With a delimited cultural and religious heritage, this city is filled with churches, chapels and monuments of the medieval age. Its ex-Libris is the Sanctuary of Nosso Senhora dos Remédios and Staircase, built in the 18th century and place of passage to the Santiago´s pilgrims. A monument to the wine history of the world is also Pinhão. This beautiful town sitting by the river with its blue-tiled train station and iron tied-arch bridge, is a epicenter for the wine production and some of the Douro’s most well-known quintas (wine estates).
Continuing to the mountains of the northeast Portugal, there is a tributary of the River Douro with a universally recognized name: it is the Côa, known due to the ancient rock art scattered along the last stretch of the river. The schist outcrops in the valley have been converted into art canvases over the millennia, holding thousands of engraved motifs that are the legacy of our ancestors’ creative instinct. As an immense open-air gallery, the Côa Valley features more than a thousand outcrops with rock art, identified in over 80 different sites, predominantly from the Upper Paleolithic, some 25,000 years ago.
Nature in Douro
The Douro Valley could as easily be called the enchanted valley, such is the beauty and magic that its landscapes offer.
Boundaries were determined for the Douro Valley’s vineyards in 1756, making it the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. Grape harvest and wine production goes back 2,000 years, however, and the support of the people led to the vineyards’ recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Terraced vineyards climbing up and down the rolling hillsides on each side of the curvy river are responsible for the region’s unique breathtaking landscape. Portugal is a country brimming with natural beauty but the Douro Valley is considered one of the country’s ‘crowned jewels’.