By Darren Griffiths

Quick Guide to the Douro Valley & Pinhao

25th February 2023

Last updated on May 26th, 2023 at 06:12 pm

A few hours east of Porto, along the Douro River, is Pinhao, The centre of Portugal’s Douro Valley and the home of port wine. Don’t miss this guide to the best things to do in Pinahao and in the Douro Valley, including when to go and where to stay.

Why we wanted to visit the lovely town of Pinhão

Before visiting Portugal, we’d only ever drank Port while spending Christmases at Shelley’s family home. It’s one of her family’s Christmas traditions but brands are very limited in UK supermarkets.

Grape picker in one of the many vineyards, Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
A grape picker in one of the many vineyards

We love its deep sweetness and rich aroma so were keen to taste more of the wine-like alcoholic drink. There’s no better place in the world to do this than Portugal’s beautiful Douro Valley.

Port Wine has been produced along the Douro River for 2000 years, making it one of the oldest wine regions in the world!

But the Douro Valley has more than just the perfect climate and soil for cultivating grapes. The region is mountainous and the vineyards are planted on terraces which creates a very striking landscape.

It brought back memories of terraced rice paddies in Bali and the rolling tea plantations in India.

We’ve not visited many of the world’s wine regions. However, our shortlist includes the alluring Hunter Valley in Australia and the Andes backdropped Mendoza region in Argentina.

We can honestly say the Douro Valley trumps both of those in terms of its natural beauty.

When to go to the Douro Valley

The endless rows of terraced grape vines are nothing more than dark stumps during the winter but come April, the leaves gradually transform the hills until they’re covered with bright green stripes.

Freshly picked grapes ready for pressing. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Freshly picked grapes ready for pressing

By harvest time in September, the green begins to fade and warm golds and coppers start to take over. We visited the Douro Valley during harvest season.

The colours aren’t so impressive as earlier in the warmest and greenest summer months but the vineyards hang heavy with juicy ripe grapes ready for picking.

The area was full of grape production activity. From grape pickers up in the terraces to boats on the Douro River and trucks on the road overflowing with the plump ready-to-eat fruit. 

If you want a hands-on experience of the harvest, September is the time of year to come. You can pick your own grapes and even crush them the traditional way, by foot.

Things to do in the Douro Valley

There are some great tours to do that show you the best of what the Douro Valley has to offer, including wine tasting, winemaking, vineyard tours, and river cruises.

Click here to see all Douro Valley tours or below is a selection of the most popular:

Getting to the Douro Valley Along the Douro River

To get to the Douro Valley, follow the Douro River eastwards from Porto, Portugal’s up and coming second city. Getting there is half the fun as can be done by boat, road or train.

Douro Valley view from our room. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Douro Valley view from our room

Organised day trips from Porto commonly offer a boat trip out to the Douro Valley and then a train ride to return. Or vice versa.

Any mode of transport is rewarding as the road and train line hugs the mountainside on the edge of the Douro River.

This offers fantastic window scenes of the colourful patchwork landscape. We took the train from Porto’s beautiful São Bento train station. 

The journey was stunning once the train left Porto’s urban surroundings and found the Douro River. Make sure to sit on the right side of the carriage from Porto and left side when returning.

Stay in Pinhao

You can visit the region on a day trip from Porto or from towns along the train line in Northern Portugal, but to really appreciate the area we recommend staying a few nights. 

Pinhao train station. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Pinhão’s historical train station

Deciding on a train journey gave us the option to visit any of the Douro River station towns as far as Pocinho.

After a bit of research, we chose to spend a few nights in Pinhao which had the added bonus of being able to explore the beautiful train station.

Pinhao is a great little base town to explore the vineyards and everything else the Douro Valley has to offer as a series of day trips.

Pinhao is quiet, relaxed and not too touristy. Well not in September anyway. The sleepy town has a small selection of coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants and shops.

So there’s plenty of places to browse, drink and eat when you’re not sampling the area’s finest Port Wine. It really is a ‘wine town,’ as there are several wineries within the town itself so you don’t have to go far!

Pinhao train station. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Pinhão train station

We loved how Pinhao takes the siesta tradition very seriously.

The town almost fully shuts down for a few hours in the afternoon, leaving clueless travellers like us wandering the streets while trying to find somewhere open to eat.

Thankfully there’s a relaxing promenade by the Douro River where we killed some time until the siesta was over.

Getting Around the Douro Valley & Pinhao

Aside from the popular tours up and down the Douro River to the Valley, there are other ways to explore the area.

 River path in Pinhao. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
River path in Pinhao


Hiring a car is the best way to get around the Douro Valley. It gives you the freedom to visit any of the region’s wineries and lookout points.

There are several themed routes, such as the olive oil route and the Cisterian route. You can follow these mapped routes or mix and match the highlights to suit yourselves.

Then there’s the N222 between Pinhao and Regua, voted the World’s Best Drive in 2015!


If you’re staying at one of the quintas (wine estates) in the area, they’ll most likely have bikes for rent. ]

They’ll be able to suggest suitable routes or include a bike tour as part of their package.

Otherwise, you can easily find a tour company in Pinhao which caters to cyclists with or without their own bikes.

Me on the riverside in Pinhao. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Me on the riverside in Pinhao


There are plenty of walking trails within the Douro Valley, many of which are planned and marked out by the local councils, others provided by the wine estates themselves.

Ask at the local tourist information office for route leaflets.

Our Pinhao Guesthouse Recommendation

You can check all the best Pinhao accommodation options here, but we booked a stunner of a guest house situated about 10 minutes by taxi up the mountain from Pinhao.

Enjoying local port wine and traditional Portuguese tarts from our room. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Enjoying local port wine and traditional Portuguese tarts from our room

We don’t always recommend our choice of accommodation but we cannot write this post without mentioning Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros.

The stately Manor House perched on the mountainside is absolutely charming. The main house and other guest buildings offer some of the best vistas in the region.

It’s worth paying extra for a room with a balcony view. We were very lucky to get a free room upgrade!

Shelley enjoying the view from our room. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Shelley enjoying the view from our room

Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros oozes calm and comfort with peaceful seating areas scattered all over the large landscaped garden.

You can take your complimentary bottle of port wine to the pool or jacuzzi. Both of which overlook the never ending rolling mountains. There’s even a sauna inside a giant wine barrel!

Guesthouse pool. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Guesthouse pool

The highlight for us was the amazing evening meals cooked in the main house open kitchen. Each night they serve a delicious three-course set meal with three accompanying ports and wines.

All guests eat at the same time so it’s a great opportunity to talk with other travellers. If you still need even more wine or any other drinks for that matter, then you can help yourself to the unlimited self-serve bar.

Guesthouse jacuzzi. Our guide to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Guesthouse jacuzzi!

Everything you drink at the bar is managed by an honesty system tab which you pay for when checking out.

Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros in Pinhao really did make our Douro Valley experience special. Together with the area’s fantastic port wine and astounding Douro River views, it has to be on everyone’s list of places to visit in Portugal.