The beautiful Portugal, along the Douro River with stellar wine and food http://www.offbeattravel.com/douro-valley-portugal.html

Exploring Wine, Culture, and Beauty in the Douro Valley, Portugal

Up in the North of Portugal, along the Douro River and nestled amongst the mountainous valleys of the Vila Real region, you will find one of the most overlooked wine regions in the world, the Duoro Valley. The tranquillity and beauty of the areas' landscape adds to its allure, which almost makes the divine local wine and food an added bonus.

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I do not claim to be an expert on wine, but my dad is Italian and I have spent time living in France so I do know a decent drop when I taste one -- which is what first attracted me to the region. I did not, however, have any idea that an hour's drive East of Porto lies a UNESCO world heritage site which is quintessentially a wine lover's paradise with so much more than a good vintage to offer.

Pinhao

The best way to get to this secluded part of Portugal is to hitch a ride on the train from Porto to Pinhao, while you sit back and enjoy the view from your window of the rolling hills, lush vineyards and winding river as the train speeds along. Pinhao train station itself is well worth the visit as it is decorated lavishly in blue and white ceramic tiles depicting mosaics of life in the Douro Valley dating back to the 1930's. A stroll along the river in Pinhao showcases the serenely beautiful views of the area as well as being the perfect spot to sit and watch the sun sleepily descend behind the valleys. However, perhaps the best vantage point to take in Pinhao's rolling hills, lush vineyards and quaint waterfront houses is by boat on one of the many cruises which glide along the river.

Peso Da Regua

Regua is known as the capital of the area and is an excellent base due to its array of accommodation options, and extensive restaurants and boutique shops that line the main street and spill out to the river front. The town is easily accessible by train and bus from Pinhao or by car if you are bold enough to tackle the winding roads of the Valley. You will also find the Douro Museum at the centre of the town which is a recently built and incredibly informative exhibition showcasing the rich history and culture of the region.
The beautiful Portugal, along the Douro River with stellar wine and food http://www.offbeattravel.com/douro-valley-portugal.html

Across the river, you will spot the infamously large Sandeman sign straddling the cliff-front. The Sandeman Estate, or 'Quinta' as it is known in Portuguese, is one of the most prestigious vineyards in the region and a good base to start your wine and port tasting tour of the Valley. It is worth taking a tour of the Vineyard as it is one of the largest and most respected in the area. From here, the Panascal Vineyard is also close by and if you arrive at lunchtime, I recommend staying for an incredibly delicious meal which is served on their sun-drenched terrace overlooking the sprawling vineyards.

Lamego

Situated in the upper part of the Douro Valley about a 20 minute drive from the Douro River, Lamego is a town rich in Baroque architecture with narrow cobblestone streets which unmask its deep history. The most striking of Lamego's monuments is the pilgrimage Church of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios which sits atop a hill and is only accessible by a 600-step staircase. The assent of the Church culminates the grandeur of the building and it is well worth the walk up to take in the marvelous intricacies of the staircase itself which is adorned with fountains, murals and sculptures. The Museum of Lamego is also an impressive site, not only for its extensive display of Portuguese artwork but its location in an ancient palace.

The Douro Valley is undeniably one of Portugal's best kept secrets. A truly serene place of astounding natural beauty with culinary delicacies which will delight. A place to escape and unwind; to revel in the imbedded history of the wine-making process and spirited culture of the region.

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A 28 year old Australian native hailing from the beautiful South Australia, Maria Fedele is a free-spirited adventurous traveller who loves nothing more than purchasing a one-way ticket and seeing where life takes her. A university graduate with a degree in International Relations and Foreign Politics, Maria takes more than just an interest in cultures, but has often found herself moving countries in order to truly get a feel for how the locals live. From living in Australia to Paris and now London, Maria has also backpacked her way through Europe, volunteered in Nepal and spent days surfing in Morocco. Perpetually in search of sun, surf and sand, she can't help by feel a little restless when she isn't planning her next holiday.



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