Douro Valley is one of the most stunningly beautiful places in Portugal. It’s a trip that you should definitely take, both for the incredible scenery and the wine! Though there are many guided tours available, planning your own trip from Porto to Douro Valley by car might be just as exciting! This is just what we did and we’d like to let you in on some tips, in case you want to set off in your own little journey to Douro Valley.
Getting from Porto to Douro Valley by car
Our very first question when planning our trip was which destination to set on Google maps. We decided on Pinhao, which we strongly recommend. It’s one of the most popular places in Douro Valley and it’s a starting point to all the activities you will want to do during the trip: boat cruise on Douro river, and food and wine tastings at the local wine-growing estates, called Quintas.
The drive is spectacular. A winding road, through the mountains, often following the Douro River. Left and right: grape wines and Quintas. If you go in September-October, the colors will be even more vivid and autumnal.
Wine tastings in Douro Valley are mostly happening in Quintas. These are wine-growing estates and you’ll see them along the way, as you get closer to Pinhao. To visit some of them, you’ll need to book a tour in advance, while others are more flexible. You can go in just for a wine tasting, or you can opt for a variety of experiences they may offer: for example, culinary experiences, picnics outside, tours where you get insights about their winemaking process, over-night stays etc.
Wine tastings and delicious meals are also offered by a few shops and restaurants in Pinhao, which deliver very good experiences as well.
Choosing the best Quinta
If you love wine, Douro Valley is the place for you. Choosing a particular place to go for wine tasting and possibly a bite to eat can be quite challenging, given all the possibilities.
When we did our research we had two things to consider: we wanted food and good wine obviously and we wanted to visit a place that is not too expensive, so we could do a tour as well. So, we decided on Quinta do Jalloto, which has proven to be a wonderful experience.
Quinta do Jalloto
Quinta do Jalloto is a smaller, family-owned vineyard, located in the most beautiful place in Douro Valley. You can see what the view was in the photo below:
We didn’t book a tour beforehand, we decided to just go there and see if they can fit us in, and we’re so glad we went! Not only were they so welcoming and offered us a tour of the place, but their products were also very delicious and enjoying them with that view beats everything.
The price of the guided tour was 8 EUR/person and included in the price were three glasses of wine (white, rose and red), and a tasting of their extra-virgin olive oil and honey, all products locally-made on their estate. Other than that, we decided to order a cheese and meat platter and two more wine glasses, since everything was so delicious.
Another great place to have a glass of wine and something to eat is Ó-Por-Co, a lovely tiny restaurant in Pinhao. The prices are reasonable, the staff is welcoming and it’s very close to Pinhao train station and the point of departure for boat cruises.
Cruise on Douro River
Finally, what you shouldn’t miss in Douro valley is a little cruise on the Douro River. Once you get to Pinhao, you’ll have many possibilities to choose from. The most popular are short cruises of one hour (10 EUR) or 2 hours (20 EUR).
If you’re there on a cloudy day, consider planning your cruise when there’s a bit of sunshine. Douro Valley lights up beautifully, and it will make a great difference.
Other ways to get from Porto to Douro Valley
Not a keen driver? You can do all the activities above anyway! Hop on the train from Porto to Pinhao and you’re there, in the heart of Douro Valley.
The only challenge could be getting to Quinta do Jalloto and your options would be either hiking there (it may take a bit of time, but it’s doable) or taking a taxi. Otherwise, there are many Quintas closer to Pinhao, waiting for you. Just make sure to do some research on the prices and to book a tour in advance, if necessary.
Traveling with a trailer or camper van?
So are we! In Douro Valley, we parked our trailer in Sao Joao da Pesqueira, at Campismo Mata do Cabo. It’s a tiny, basic camping site, with a stunning view of the mountains. And we paid only 9 EUR/night for 2 people, electricity included.
If you’re driving an RV, you can easily get to Pinhao from this camping. It’s about 20km away, and it is possible to park your RV here.
Ready to go from Porto to Douro Valley by car?
We hope to have inspired you to set off on an amazing trip to this wine wonderland. Make sure to plan your wine tastings mindfully, if you’re the driver. And if you’re planning a grand tour of all the Quintas you can find, we suggest staying the night at one of them. Many offer accommodation options, and we heard some great reviews.