Portugal Part 9 – Douro Valley Tour

Cruise boat on the Douro River

When we were based in Amarante for a couple of nights, we wanted to tour the nearby Douro Valley. I preferred not to drive so I could sample the port.

Prior to our trip, I found one guide based in Amarante – Joao at Amarante Experiences, so I booked a private day tour for 115 Euros per person, including some stops at viewpoints, a port wine tasting, lunch and transportation. Prior to the tour, Joao was very responsive to communication via email and WhatsApp.

Joao picked us up in his small SUV around 9:45am as scheduled. We first drove across the bridge and past the church in Amarante as he told us a bit more about the town’s history. He was born and raised in Amarante, but prior to Covid, he and his wife also worked aboard cruise ships for Royal Caribbean so they have seen much of the world.

We stopped at some viewpoints on the way down some back roads to the Douro Valley. Joao explained some of the differences in climate between the valley and the other areas nearby.

We stopped near the pedestrian bridge in Regua. Joao told us to go ahead and walk over the bridge and he would meet us on the other side.

View from the bridge

Joao met us with some cookies from a local bakery. He didn’t want us to drink port on an empty stomach, but I guess he hadn’t seen the hotel breakfast buffet. 😊

We then drove over to the Douro River lock and watched one of the river cruise boats enter the lock and rise up to the higher level on its way to Porto.

Next up was a port winery tour and tasting at Sandeman’s. It turns out that the vineyard is now owned by So Grape, a large conglomerate that also owns Total Wine & Liquor, a chain of wine and liquor stores in the US.

We enjoyed the tour, although we were mostly just waiting for the port tasting. We tried three different ports, a white, a ruby, and a tawny.

Tasting time!

We sat outside on their viewpoint area and took some pictures as well.

Following the tour, we drove to Pinhao, a smaller town on the river. We had lunch at a local place. The food was great and we enjoyed some more wine as well. The next item on the tour was a boat ride on the river, but it was very hot, the boat looked a bit cheesy and my wife was about to fall asleep from the port and wine.

We decided instead to go to the last viewpoint at the highest point above the valley and then return to Amarante. Joao graciously refunded the boat ticket price as he doesn’t pre-buy the tickets (unlike many tour guides we’ve had over the years). We drove up to the viewpoint and got a great panoramic picture of the river and valley.

We headed back to Amarante and Joao dropped us off at the hotel. It was a great tour and I recommend using Joao’s company, even if you are based in the Douro Valley.

Up next: Largo do Paco Restaurant Review

If you enjoyed this post (or have questions), let me know in the comments or send me an email at emptynestermiles@gmail.com. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.

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