What’s the best part of visiting Portugal in the off-season? Well, when we did a tour of the famous Douro Valley, we had nearly the entire area to ourselves. This well-known wine countryside is usually packed during the summer, so it was nice to not be bombarded with tourists as we visited the various vineyards. It’s located in the North of Portugal and makes for a nice wine-tasting trip from Porto.
My family spent the day with Joao of Portugal Premium Tours*, who picked us up from our Airbnb and took us around the valley in a fancy car. What’s nice about having a private tour guide is that you can customize your day as you go, stop for lunch whenever you feel hungry, and pause to snap a picture along the side of the road, like this one:
Our first stop was to visit one of the largest port wine companies, Sandeman, at their Quinta do Seixo location (“quinta” means a “country villa” or “farm”). The view from the wine tasting room at the top of the hill was pretty incredible (see the first image of this post). We tried a few types of port wine, which my brother and dad enjoyed- but my mom and I not so much :p The white port tasted the best to me, though I still couldn’t take more than a few sips.
Afterwards, we stopped by a smaller vineyard, Quinta do Tedo, to tour the winery and learn more about how port wine is made. The couple who owned this particular winery was a French man who married a woman from San Francisco. They have a vineyard in Napa Valley in addition to their estate in Portugal. It was cool to see a large painting of the Golden Gate Bridge hanging in one of the wine rooms.
Our tour guide Joao was surprised to hear that the four of us Lims live in three different cities (and I in another country). He shared, “I notice that the Americans I’ve met all want to leave their hometown and move to a different city or state, which is very different from my culture. Here in the smaller towns of Portugal, it’s very common for you to grow up, get married, and live in the same house that has been in your family for generations. We don’t stray very far from home.”
Growing up, I always had the intention of moving far away for college (though I didn’t get accepted to my “dream school” which was at that time Brown.) I suppose there was always a part of me that yearned to establish my independence and experience something different from California’s Bay Area. Well, look where I ended up now :p
To end the tour, we also enjoyed a nice one-hour boat tour along the Douro River. This was one of the highlights of the day because we were the only boat on the water, which made it so peaceful and relaxing. My brother particularly enjoyed the pup who joined us on the journey. (The Lims are big dog lovers, as you can tell.)
Overall, I would recommend Douro Valley on a nice sunny day and especially if you’re a fan of port wine. It’s always nice to visit the countryside after being in the city.
*Thank you Portugal Premium Tours for sponsoring this post!