THE BEST WINE TOURS FROM PORTO
The Douro River Valley, home to phenomenal microclimates ideally suited to the production of some of the world’s best wines, has gained notoriety in recent years among even the casual wine drinker, but Portuguese wine is certainly not a new phenomenon.
The Iberian Peninsula is home to several rivers that flow into the Atlantic, and the Douro River is chief among them. Porto is the point where the river and sea meet, and it’s the starting point for your epic Portuguese driving adventure where you’ll experience some of the best wine in Portugal.
On this Porto wine tour, you’ll head north along the coast before turning inland to discover some of the world’s most exciting wineries. You’ll taste Port (the sweet wine that originally put this region on the map), among other classic and local varietals, and you’ll drive some of the most breathtaking countrysides in the world.
1. PORTO WINE TOURS
Arrive in Portugal and pick up your Porto car rental at Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport, a well-appointed transportation hub that welcomes international travelers to Porto. The first few days of your Portugal wine tour are open, allowing you to recover from jet lag, explore the fantastic port city of Porto, dine on world-famous Portuguese seafood, and take day trips up the famous Douro River to visit some of the most influential wineries in the region.
The Douro Valley region devoted to vineyards is called The Douro Vinhateiro, and it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Alto Douro Wine Region. UNESCO acknowledges that the region has produced wine for more than 2,000 years, and has emerged as the most famous location in the world for Port wine. The tradition and culture of winemaking have led the Alto Douro region to emerge today as a place with a physical and cultural beauty that is unparalleled. There’s nothing else like it on earth.
We recommend that you spend at least one of the first days of your trip on the road without a specific destination in mind, driving east from the sea, following the N-108 along the northern bank of the Douro River. It’s a narrow, twisting, and thrilling drive which carves its way through some of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Europe. Drive the N108 to Regua if you’re looking for a shorter drive, or continue on the N-222 to Pinhao (if you are up for a long drive and an overnight). You’ll return to Porto with a deep appreciation for the history of vine cultivation by careful rural Portuguese farmers. Pause at restaurants and try Douro Valley wine at wineries along the way which pique your curiosity. There’s something to be said for the sense of discovery that comes with a day or two of uncharted exploration!
POPULAR PORTO RENTAL CAR LOCATIONS
• Porto Francisco de Sa Carneiro Airport Car Rental
• Porto Campanha Rail Station Car Rental
• Porto Sao Bento Rail Station Car Rental
NEXT STOP: 44 MINUTES
2. VIANA DO CASTELO
After your initial days in Porto and driving the N-108, hop into your Porto car rental and head north along the A28, which offers sweeping coastal views of the Atlantic. It’s about an hour’s drive to Viana do Castelo, a stunning coastal city gracing the mouth of the Lima River. A city which is known as a key trading port, Viana do Castelo is an excellent city to explore on foot once you arrive. The city has an eclectic mix of architecture, and exploring on foot is a terrific way to work up an appetite for a hearty seafood lunch overlooking the Atlantic.
Recommended stops on your walking tour of Viana do Castelo are the Santuario de Santa Luzia (a stunning cathedral), and the Museu do Traje and/or the Navio Gil Eannes – two fascinating museums which speak to the history of the region and city. For lunch try Tasquinha da Linda for amazing seafood, or Confeitaria Natario – a charming little café. After lunch, we recommend driving east to Solar de Merufe, where excellent wineries await you!
NEXT STOP: 25 MINUTES
3. SOLAR DE MERUFE
After lunch in Viana does Castelo, it’s a short 25-minute drive along the Limia River to Solar de Merufe a historic "Quinta" of the Vinho Verde region, where you should enjoy a tasting and wine tour at Solar do Louredo, and Sobrinho does Arcipreste. If you’re interested in additional tours, follow the Limia river inland where you’ll find Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima, Quinta Ameeal-Sociedade Agricola Sa, and Quinta dos Abrigueros, all before reaching Ponte de Barca. The riverbanks are replete with excellent dining establishments, wineries, and lodgings. You can book a hotel in Solar de Merufe in advance, or leave things a bit more open-ended and see where you end up after a fun day in Northern Portugal.
NEXT STOP: 59 MINUTES
After ending your day in or near Solar de Merufe, Portugal, it’s time to return to your Portugal car rental and head south on the E1 from Ponte de Lima, winding through stunning rural vistas to Guimaraes, Portugal.
Guimaraes offers a tremendous amount to travelers, and in our view, it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Portugal. The historic town center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, earning this status in 2001 for being “an exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town.”
Foodies will be interested in the fact that Guimaraes has emerged as a pie-haven of sorts. Guimaraes had its start as a feminine monastery, which had a strong influence on the regional gastronomy. Tortas de Guimaraes and Toucinho do Ceu (translated as bacon from heaven) are good examples of regional dishes you simply have to indulge in. Carnivores should order a meat cake which is a locally made specialty bread served with meats of your choice (typically pork).
Points of interest we recommend exploring here are the Nossa Senhora da Consolacao e Dos Santos Passos Church (a mouthful), and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza (an impressive castle). You could easily spend a full day exploring (and eating in) Guimaraes, Portugal, but if you want to end the day with some wine tastings, head east toward Cabeceiras de Basto, the next stop on your Porto Wine Tour.
NEXT STOP: 1 HOUR
5. CABECEIRAS DE BASTO
From Guimaraes, it’s no more than 40 minutes to Cabeceiras de Basto by car, but the trip may take longer if you pause along the way to tour the numerous wineries which are sprinkled along the A7.
Five wineries worth your consideration are:
• Vinhos Norte (unique varietals)
• Casa Senhorial do Reguengo-Agricultura & Turismo (best reviewed)
• Casa da Tojeira-Vinhos Verdes (low cost)
• Casa Santa Eulalia (beautiful location)
• Casa do Valle-Sociedade Agricola (rural location, stunning!)
The Braga district of Portugal is especially beautiful, and if you’re looking for a point of interest to explore beyond the wineries mentioned above, Saint Michael’s Monastery is a beautiful historic structure well worth your time.
NEXT STOP: 1 HOUR & 52 MINUTES
6. PENALVA DO CASTELO
After spending the night at Cabeceiras de Basto in Braga district, rise early and eat a hearty breakfast before heading south on the A24 for a beautiful 2-hour drive along the A24 to Penalva do Castelo. This route will take you through Vila Real, across the Douro River, and through Lamego to your destination. After a few days of hearty eating and excellent wine, the opportunity to experience rural Portugal on this comfortable drive is a welcome part of the trip.
We recommend treating yourself to a stay in an upscale hotel in this destination, as 5-star accommodations can generally be had for under $200 USD and 4-star offerings run below $100 USD per night. Parador and Parador de Tui are two excellent hotels in the area. Parador Casa da Insua is a fabulous, top-rated option for those looking for a historic, well-appointed and out-of-the-way hotel. The grounds are beautiful, and the wine & dining is even better.
NEXT STOP BACK TO PORTO: 1 HOUR & 36 MINUTES
7. RETURN TO PORTO
After your refreshing stay in Parador, it’s time to head north and return to Porto. The route you take is up to you – if you’d like to explore areas you haven’t yet seen we recommend following the A25 west to Albergaria –a-Velha, where you can turn north on the A29. Alternatively, you can return north on the A24 and then follow the Duoro River back to Porto by the sea. Each drive offers something unique and beautiful, so choose your favorite route and enjoy the ride in your Portugal rental car.