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Text and photos by Rita Blanco
Winner of the Great Wine Capitals Best Wine Tourism Award in the Wine Tourism Service category, EcoTours Portugal is a company that organises a series of experiences across various regions of Portugal.
This company runs some programmes to the Douro Valley that can last up to 3 days, enabling you to enjoy this region with many possibilities, including visits to wineries, historical monuments, Douro River cruise, wine tastings and a taste the delicious local cuisine.
I went on the one-day Douro Cruise experience, and got to see a few different sites in that region:
Arriving in Douro Valley:
The programme begins at the beautiful São Bento Railway Station and its beautiful tile panels, from where the train departed towards the wine region.
The trip lasts less than 2 hours, and in the last 40 minutes of the trip we were surprised by the small and bucolic train stations and the Douro River flowing right by our window.
At Régua station, Paulo, our driver/guide is already waiting for us to drive us along the A-road 222, considered the most beautiful road in the world, where we enjoy the landscape between the river and the quintas (wineries/estates).
The scenery turns into the best welcome to that wine-growing region which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the Pinhão region, the programme starts with a rabelo boat trip, which is the typical boat that transported Port wine, from the Douro Valley to the city of VN de Gaia, where the wines are stored and aged until it's time to leave Porto and be shipped worldwide. In this journey of approximately 50 minutes we have the opportunity to take in the views of the valley from another perspective.
Then Paulo takes us to the Casal de Loivos viewpoint where once again the landscape is amazing. It was time for us to start tasting the wine that is produced in this lovely setting.
So, we go to a region I didn't know. The village of Favaios, where Muscat wine is produced, which is also similar to liqueur but whose production differs from Port wine.
At Quinta da Avessada, a typical regional lunch is served overlooking the vineyards, paired with the best wines produced there.
The surprises keep on coming:
Quinta da Avessada award us with a visit to the interactive Wine Cellar (Enoteca), housed in a centuries-old warehouse, in a recreational and special environment, where Paulo goes on to explain the whole process of producing the Muscat wine.
Featuring several tastings, it was time for us to learn even more about the various types of wines produced in the Douro Valley region.
Still in Favaios, on the paths among vineyards and schist stones (typical of the region), we arrived at the Bread and Muscat Museum (Museu do Pão e do Moscatel), ending with a visit to one of the several artisan bakeries that still exist in Favaios.
The trip back to Porto was done by van, lasting approximately one and a half hours.
This is so much more than a mere tour it’s a whole different experience in Douro.