“The Douro Valley could as easily be called the enchanted valley, such is the beauty and magic that its landscapes offer. Departing from Porto, where the river flows into the sea and where the Douro wines (table wines and Port wine), produced on its hillsides, also end up, there are various ways to get to know this cultural landscape, listed as a [UNESCO] World Heritage Site: by road, by train, on a cruise boat and even by helicopter.” – www.visitportugal.com
“For centuries Portugal’s Douro Valley, the world’s first officially designated wine region, has drawn people for not only its port but also for the postcard-pretty landscapes — steep terraced vineyards carved into mountains along the Douro River and whitewashed quintas [wine estates] atop granite bluffs…While the traditional way of touring the Douro has been on day trips from Porto, there are now several ways to fully experience the valley. Douro Azul offers yacht trips with vineyard stops, Helitours goes via air, and Viking River Cruises’ third Douro River ship, Osfrid, launches in March.” — Anja Mutić, Travel+Leisure Magazine
A small group of us chartered a small yacht for the five hour cruise up the river (and through two locks at two of the five dams on the Douro River in Portugal). Our destination was a quinta where we had a tasting and luncheon overlooking the vineyards in the Douro Valley.
“Fifteen dams have been built on the Douro to regulate the water flow, generate hydroelectric power, and allow navigation through locks. Beginning at the headwaters, the first five dams are in Spain…the next five downstream are along the Portuguese-Spanish border…The Douro’s last five dams are in Portugal, and allow for navigation: Pocinho, Valeria, Regua, Carrapatelo and Crestuma-Lever Dams. Vessels with a maximum length of 83 metres (272 ft) and width of 11.4 metres (37 ft) can pass through the five locks. The highest lock, at Carrapatelo Dam, has a maximum lift of 35 metres (115 ft). The waters of Pocinho lake reach 125 metres (410 ft) above sea level.” – Wikipedia
From the yacht, we were met by a van that drove us up to Quinta da Pacheca in the town of Lamego where, after a brief tour, we enjoyed a late afternoon traditional luncheon of Portuguese cuisine prepared in a contemporary approach by Chef Carlos Pires, using Douro typical ingredients.