The port city of Oporto or Porto, is better known for its fortified wines than its historic port, which marks the end of the 560-mile-long Duoro River. The surrounding Douro Valley not only makes for a perfect vineyard, but the hills are one of the best places in Portugal for hiking.
If you are planning a trip hiking in Portugal’s Douro Valley, then your first stop is likely to be the northern capital of Oporto. The city is an enigma, in that it is both heavily industrialised and yet in other parts sleepy and steeped in history. The historic buildings, such as the cathedral, Romanesque Church of Cedofeita and 15th century houses have caused the city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site, whilst the modern facilities such as the Metro and Dom Luis Iron Bridge, engineered by a disciple of Eiffel, have drawn comparisons with similar structures in America and Japan.
Before embarking on your Portugal hiking and whilst still in Oporto, you must visit the Cais De Gaia’s Wine Cellars. The views from Cais De Gaia are the best in the city and further enhanced by the old fashioned fishing vessels which bob surreptitiously on the water. The Cais De Gaia is where the majority of the world’s Port is brought to age in the many port wine warehouses and although not all of them are open to visitors, Taylors and Cockburn’s both offer free guided tours and tasting sessions. If you take a stroll further uphill, you will find a 19th Century Manor House where yet more port is stored.
The Douro Valley is very picturesque with rows of neatly manicured vineyards leading steeply down to the riverbank. Although many of the vineyards are inaccessible, one of the best ways of visiting the valley is by train where, as the train sleepily winds its way through the valley, you are rewarded with fantastic views of the local landscape. An old steam train runs through the vineyards several times a week, during the summer season. However, there is also the option of a cruise where you can lie back and watch the verdant scenery roll past you. The colour of this scenery changes throughout the year as the vines mature and is at is most beautiful in spring, when the almond trees in the area are also in blossom and the landscape is dotted in pink and white.
The capital of the Douro is not Oporto, as one would expect, but Regua, which is also the headquarters of the Port Wine Institute. The town is backed by the Serra Do Marao Mountains, which provide some of Portugal’s best hiking trails. The town really comes alive at night when the riverfront bustles with a lively selection of bars and restaurants.
The nearby town of Villa Nova Foz Coa should also be visited on your Portugal hiking trip. Villa Nova Foz Coa is famous for its 22,000 year old rock paintings that were discovered during the construction of a nearby dam. As stated earlier,the whole region is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and definitely worth exploring on a Portugal hiking holiday.