Sustainable wine tourism is one of the hottest topics of the moment. Wine tourism can be essential for regional development by enhancing business performance, fostering environmental awareness, and elevating community values. On the flip side, it can be trigger negative environmental impacts, generating local resentment.
In this blog post, I share my thoughts on how to explore the renowned vineyards of the Douro Valley with the commitment to eco-friendly practices that make each sip a toast to responsible tourism.
In this article
Travel to the Douro Valley by Train
In the Douro Valley, we are lucky that there is a train connection between Porto and main towns for wine tasting such as Rėgua and Pinhão.
Train runs from the São Bento and the Campanha train stations in Porto several times a day. It is an easy way to reach the heart of the Douro Valley, its most scenic areas and the winemaking villages.
Train takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes to reach Pinhão. While the train ride is longer than a drive, it offers excellent views as the train rides just beside the river and saves you some stress of driving the winding roads and steep hills of the Douro Valley.
When searching for trains just enter Porto São Bento, as your departure station and Pinhão, Peso da Rėgua, Tua or Pocihno as your arrival point. Usually, the train departs São Bento station around 9 am and runs back from Pinhão around 6 pm making a perfect day trip possible.
You can find schedules and current ticket prices as well as book your tickets on the Portuguese railways website.
There are wineries that you can reach on foot if you disembark in Pinhão or by a short taxi ride if you are in Rėgua. You will also find some Douro Valley wine tours and hiking departing from Pinhão and Rėgua such as this private hiking tour from Pinhao or this wine tour departing from Peso da Regua.
Here is my article on how to travel from Porto by train. I have also created a little video for you.
Some of my articles that might be helpful in planning your Douro Valley wine tour:
Travel to the Douro Valley by Boat
The Douro River runs through the core of the winemaking region, extending its path until it reaches Porto, where it ultimately meets the Atlantic Ocean.
As you navigate the Douro by boat, you will witness the vine-covered slopes from a unique point. Marvel at the meticulously laid out terraces and the lush greenery that lines the riverbanks in total tranquility.
While there are multi-day Douro Valley cruises, it is also possible to catch a cruise tour from Porto to the Douro Valley.
For example, one of these tours which run on.a riverboat one way and on a bus on the way back:
Douro Valley by bus and returning by boat, or in the opposite direction
Private cruises to the wine region are also available, however they come with a price.
When planning your boat tour, you may want to check with the organizers whether any winery visits are included in the itinerary.
Many of the Douro river boat companies pledge to maintain sustainable operations.
Travel to the Douro Valley by Electric Car
Electric cars provides the flexibility to explore quaint villages and cultural landmarks at your leisure. Engage with locals, savor traditional cuisine, and immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Douro Valley life, all while minimizing your environmental footprint.
Electric cars are very popular here in Portugal and you can find one for rent easily through Rentalcars.com.
Many wineries and restaurants have charging stations for electric vehicles making it easier for travellers to plan their day. To help you plan your tour, take a look at the list of the charging stations in Peso da Rėgua.
If you are not interested in driving in the Douro Valley, but prefer an environmentally-friendly option check out this Douro Valley tour in a Tesla car.
Choose Walking in the Douro Valley
Douro Valley is beautiful if you explore it by foot.
For example, you can get off in Rėgua and find a trail that will take you around the beautiful vineyards and villages. I like this trail near Samodaes, which has both the flat walk near the river, walking through some hills with great views and passing through the beautiful Six Senses Douro Valley.
July and August may be very hot. Use caution during warmer months and bring water and snacks. During other months of the year, you can expect a comfortable walk, but please check weather conditions in advance and bring a good pair of hiking shoes.
For those looking for a guided tour, one of these options will be perfect.
Join Group Douro Valley Wine Tours
Guided wine tours from Porto to the Douro Valley have gained immense popularity, offering participants the chance to enjoy the company of a small but delightful group.
These group tours commonly utilize 9-seater vans. By opting for a group tour, you do not only share transportation costs but also contribute to environmentally friendly practices and help the planet.
These group tours below got the best reviews from past travellers:
Visit organic wineries in the Douro Valley
Help wineries with organic and natural winemaking stand out.
During your visit, focus on wineries promoting organic and sustainable viticulture and creating natural wines without excessive use of suphites. These production methods are more costly. Let’s give a hand to those who produce healthier wines!
Quinta Vila Rachel. You will need a car to get to this small family-owned winery near Alijó. The owner is very friendly and the family history is impressive. There is also a place to stay at the quinta, which they have completed in 2023.
Here is another Organic Farm Experience in The Douro Valley for you to consider.
Spend a Night in the Douro Valley
Contribute to the local economy by staying at a hotel, vineyard or a bed and breakfast in the Douro Valley.
Today, the valley has to offer accommodation of any kind from 5-star hotels to small family homes. Of course, staying at a Douro Valley winery will be an unforgettable experience.
See some suggestions here:
Taste local cuisine and buy some products to take home.
Game, roast meats, pig trotters and tripe with beans are some of the staples.
Vegetarians can taste the famous cabbage soup (caldo verde) and sweet corn bread (brôa de milho).
Sugared almonds, chestnut cakes, cherries (in late May and June), oranges, olive oil and, of course, wine.
My favourite are smoked sausages from Lamego. You can get them at many local markets (mercearias). Look for moira de Lamego or chouriço de Lamego.
Purchase at the door
Purchase wine at the door. Wineries are happy to sell their wines and ship to your home address.
Taste before you buy and ask winemakers for their recommendations on pairings and aging potential of each bottle.
Thank you for helping to keep our country clean. Come back soon!