2019 #DouroValley | Way to Pinhão
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
The Douro is one of the major rivers in Portugal and Spain. The Douro vinhateiro (winegrowing), an area of the #Dourovalley in Portugal long devoted to vineyards, has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This is one of the most beautiful places ever.
The winegrowing region in Douro valley is split to three parts: Baixa Corgo (left part, closest to Porto city), Cima Corgo (central part) and Douro Superior (right part, close to Spanish border). My destination was Pinhão, which is exactly the heart of the valley, where the most famous producers of Port wineries are located.
To reach Douro valley from Porto city two best options can be used - by train or by car. I chose the second one as it was more convenient for my particular trip (I had to visit many wineries located in different parts, stayed at night in Pinhão, travelling with my all luggage packed, etc.). Actually there is a comfortable highway built in the region (btw I used it next day on the way back from #Pinhão to Porto to save time to catch up my train to Lisbon) but for my way up I intentionally chose N222 which is one of the most beautiful roads in the world.
N222 is a very narrow old road, which is mainly used by local citizens of the small villages all around the mountains and the valley. It goes from Porto to Pinhão all way along the river Douro, sometimes getting up high in the mountains and down straight to the riverside. The road opens stunning views on the valley, the whole way driving itself is an amazing and fully enjoyable part of the trip.
Teeny tiny villages, lemon and orange trees, mountains, riverside. Enjoy it all going along this road, the nature is incredibly beautiful.
The way itself takes 3h, which is two times longer than a highway (yes that sounds quite long, but definitely worth it). So it should be strongly taken into consideration while planning the trip - e.g. I was late to my first appointment to the winery in Pinhão as I started from Porto half an hour later than it was planned, but luckily I managed to move my visit to next day.
Once passing over three main regional mountains (almost all time foggy and quite cool there) which protect #Dourovalley from Atlantic ocean winds and rains, you step up on the sunny and warm territory. In the heart of the valley the climate is strongly continental, it's hot in the day time, cold in the evening, low humidity, more sunshine.
Clouds are just in some meters above, seems you just can stretch your arm to reach them out.
#AltoDouro sign let you know that you’re entering into one of the most well known winegrowing region in the world.
And there begins an incredible picture of terrace vineyards around you, which is the most expensive way to grow the grapes...
...the most beautiful though.
The region around Pinhão and São João da Pesqueira is considered to be the center of Port wine, with its quintas (wineries) that extend along the steep slopes of the river valleys.
Nowadays many of these #quintas are owned by multinational wine companies.
Traditionally, the wine was taken downriver in flat-bottom boats called rabelos, to be stored in barrels in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. In the 1960s and 1970s, dams with locks were built along the river, allowing river traffic from the upper regions in Spain and along the border. Nowadays Port wine is transported to Vila Nova de Gaia in tanker trucks. Fifteen dams have been built on the Douro to regulate the water flow, generate hydroelectric power, and allow navigation through locks. The one I passed is near Peso da Régua town.
The road from Peso da Régua to Pinhão goes in the bottom part along the river. Entering Pinhão is by nice bridge crossing Douro.
The village itself is so charming, small and cozy (around 400 habitants only) that you immediately fall in love with it.
It has wonderful views to Douro river...
...and to the slopes from walking riverside part in the center of the village.
On the quay there are some small cruise companies offering 1h or 2h boat tours by the river.
As I had my appointments booked with different wineries for whole two days staying in the zone and unfortunately I hadn't caught up a boat trip. But I definitely enjoyed a lot investigating surroundings of this small authentic place browsing around by car. Surely will come back here.