Biking through the lovely rolling hills of Napa Valley, California? Hiking or biking the beautifully sun splashed landscapes among vineyards in Tuscany, Italy? These seem to be on many peoples wine tasting wish lists. But for a truly unique adventure in a slice of Old World Europe that you won’t find anywhere else, you may want to consider paddling Portugal’s River of Wine. A guided kayaking tour along the Douro River through the same named valley offers an incredible, hidden gem of an opportunity to glide through northern Portugal’s historic Port wine district and beyond.
What can you expect? Starting in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city and cultural capital of the beguiling North, the city sits amid granite cliffs at the mouth of the Douro River and has long been a cosmopolitan trading center. Porto is rich in architectural gems from Roman, Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassic and Renaissance eras. Stay a night and begin your visit with a tasting tour at one of the port wine lodges across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia before heading into the Douro Valley the next day.
Travelling 100 miles up the Douro Valley, one of Europe’s oldest winemaking regions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, parallel the riverbanks via a small local train to Pocinho, where you can disembark and continue to the village of Felgar as a starting point for your kayaking adventure. The calm, glassy waters of the Douro River offers plenty of opportuntiy to soak up the landscapes of rugged mountains terraced with ancient vineyards. Tranquil days on the river are followed by festive evenings at centuries-old quintas, the wine estates of the Douro Valley. Within these hospitable mansions and farmhouses you can share warm personal connections with your hosts, enjoying an inside encounter with contemporary rural life in Portugal.
This includes the Casa de Casal de Loivos, for example, located atop a high hill with incredible views over the Douro River and valley below. This classic manor house, which was built in 1658 and has been in the Pereira de Sampayo family since 1733, offers one of the most scenic settings in Portugal, unanimously considered the best view over the Douro Valley. While there indulge on the mouthwatering local wine and cuisine.
Continuing on by kayak, the sights, sounds, smells of this wine tasting adventure offer a truly unique experience. Peaceful days paddling the river include picnic lunches, paleolithic rock art sites and organic wine, cheese and sheep farms with magnificent territorial views. This is truly one of the lesser-traveled corners of authentic Old World Europe that few travelers are privileged to visit, where you can still revel in sunshine, nature, history and hospitality – and of course amazing traditional food and wine.
Join Natural Habitat Adventures if you’d like to savor the best in traditional European ambiance and cuisine on a Dionysian paddling odyssey through romantic Portuguese wine country. And be sure to consider departures in the fall, as they coincide with the harvest when ripe grapes are hand-picked from centuries-old terraced vineyards!