Travels In Portugal (Part 3): The Douro

A third installment of our cycling trip in Portugal. To read Part 2: The Beiras click here. To start from the beginning of the trip click here.

The Douro valley: The Birthplace of Port

The Douro river stretches across northern-central Portugal, with its source in Spain, ending in the city of Porto and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The area is steeped in history, producing wine since before the 13th century. The region is the oldest regulated wine region in the world, with boundaries and controls set up by the Marque de Pompal in the mid 1700’s. During the 17th and 18th centuries wine production increased dramatically in the region due to England outlawing French wine and looking to Portugal to satisfy their needs. Unfortunately the wines didn’t survive the trip to England and needed to be “fortified” with brandy thus, Port wine was born.

http://www.scribblemaps.com
The red line indicates our train travel

We began our Douro travel at the eastern Portugal end of the river in Vila Nova de Foz Coa. Steeply terraced hillsides (more hill climbing!), vineyards and olive groves greeted us as we rode into this town. Even almond trees grew next to the road providing easy access for tasting!

We had read and been told by numerous sources that the most scenic parts of the valley were between Pocinho and Pinhao and the best way to see this was by train.  After a relaxing day in Vila Nova de Foz Coa drinking espresso and tasting the local honey and walnuts we cruised the 6km downhill to Pocinho.

Enjoying the view of the Douro

The regional train from Pocinho to Pinhao took us along the river’s shoreline for just over an hour, twisting and curving its way through the valley. Views of the terraced hillsides and old stately Quintas (vineyard estates) entertained us for the ride.

The Portuguese regional trains have a separate car for bicycles and allow them as long as the train has room. We were eager to try this out as dismantling and packaging up the bikes would not be required. Good thing our train car wasn’t full!. The only difference we noticed on the regional trains was more room in the entrance way which still meant having to move the bikes around each time someone entered or exited the car.

Tight fit!

Upon entering Pinhao we quickly realized this is where all the people were! The streets along the riverfront bustled with tourists wielding cameras, hotel owners shouting out to new arrivals and vineyard workers hopping in and out of pick-up trucks laden with purple grapes. Quite a shock for us coming from the sleepy towns of the Beiras.

At the end of the day a steady stream of these trucks passed under our hotel room balcony

It was harvest time in the Douro and everyone seemed to be out to enjoy the feast.

An azulejos at the Pinhao train station depicting harvest time in the Douro

We jumped on our bikes, braving the pick-ups zipping back and forth on the N222, and cycled a short 8km to Quinta do Panascal for a lesson and tasting on Port. We spent the afternoon wandering through the narrow terraces of the vineyard (wide enough only for people and work animals)  plugged into an audiotour.

Quinta do Panascal

Walking amongst the grapes we learnt the history of the prestigious Foneseca Guimaraens Port and about the harsh winters, hot dry summers and long stretching roots that all contribute to these delicious wines. And the tasting of 3 unique Ports (Foneseca Tawny our favourite!) accompanied by local goat cheese was the perfect ending to the tour.

Delicious!

The next morning we were up early to beat the heat and humidity of the valley. Along with the harvest trucks filled with workers, we headed east along the Douro river winding our way towards Peso Da Regua where we turned north into the region of Tras-os-Montes.

Cycling out of Pinhao in the early morning light.

Bridges of Peso da Regua

Particulars:

Accommodation

  • Vila Nova de Foz Coa: Pousade de Juventude (Youth Hostel)
  • Pinhao: Hotel Douro

Money

  • Hostel-Private Room/Breakfast incl.: 32 euros/night
  • Hotel Douro-Breakfast incl./free welcome glass of Port: 50 euros/night
  • Train Pocinho-Pinhao: 4.50 euros/person
  • Wine Tour & Tasting: 9 euros total for 2 people
  • Groceries: approx. 27 euros /day

Maps

  • Michelin Spain & Portugal Atlas 1:400000
  • iPad: Google maps
  • GPS: Portugal Openstreet Map

Resources

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About rambleoutyonder

A duo inspired to live life to the fullest.
This entry was posted in Bike-touring, Portugal and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Travels In Portugal (Part 3): The Douro

  1. Many thanks for your visit to Panascal and for sharing this! Obrigada.

  2. Pingback: Travels In Portugal (Part 4): Tras-Os-Montes & Parque Nacional Da Peneda-Geres | rambleoutyonder

  3. Pingback: Travels In Portugal (Part 5): The Atlantic Coast | rambleoutyonder

  4. Hi There! Love your blog! Thanks for taking the time to write it and share it! We are doing a similar cycle tour like yours around the Douro. I would like to know if it was easy to travel by train from Pinhao – Pocinho? We will be there on a Saturday (I think you did it the other way round though). We are still planning our route but are a bit wary about the train travel by bikes. Any tips/advice?

    • Hi! Thanks so much for checking out our blog!
      We loved cycling in Portugal-such a beautiful country!! And the Douro valley is amazing!
      We did take the train from Pocinho to Pinhao-I believe it was about 1 1/2hr train ride. I highly recommended taking the train. The road you would follow on bike takes you out of the valley whereas the train keeps you right down along the river with great views of the terraced hillsides and vineyards. The train does have a separate car for bikes but the only difference we noticed in that car was the extra space at the entrance. There was no specific area for bikes. Luckily our car was empty so we were able to leave the bikes right at the entrance-only having to move them when someone walked through the car. Not ideal but it worked and it was nice not having to package the bikes. It would have been much harder if there had been more people in our car. What month will you be there? We were travelling in September which was quite quiet. Are you taking your bikes on trains elsewhere in the country? We found it was difficult but doable. Bikes must be packaged and they are brought on the train like luggage-which means moving them around constantly when the doors open and close. Once Portugal’s trains become more bike friendly I think it will be one of the best countries to tour by bike!
      Please let me know if you have any other questions. Another great resource is http://pedalportugal.wordpress.com/
      Happy Travels!
      Jenn

  5. HI Jenn!
    Thanks for your reply! I have indeed already “met” Huw from Pedalportugal – he has been a tremendous help in organising our trip so far.

    We will be there in July and we will take the Pinhao – Pocinho train on a Saturday morning (We will be 4 people).

    Yes we will need to take a few trains in order to move around:
    Tomar – Coimbra
    Coimbra – Santa Comba Dao
    Agueda – Aveiro
    Aveiro – Fafe
    Pinhao – Pocinho

    Also – you have a pic where you have your bikes in plastic bags. Did you make the shoulder strap yourself? (We were thinking of sewing a sheet together to create the same idea.) Where did you put those plastic bags whilst on the bike? Did they take up a lot of space?

    • Hello!
      Sorry it has taken me so long to reply! The shoulder straps we used for our plastic bags were bought from an outdoor store-just thick webbing (that you would use to replace a strap on a duffel bag). Then we put simple large plastic clips on them so we could cinch them tight. It worked okay-for the few times we had to carry our bike packaged to the train or off the train-I’m not sure it would have helped up for a long carrying trip. I think a sewn sheet would work fine as long as you don’t have to carry too far 🙂
      The plastic bags were folded up tight and carried on our back racks-secured with bungy cords so they didn’t really take up too much space.
      Have a great time in that wonderful country-I’ll be curious to know if Portugal has made their train system a little easier for cycle tourists-regardless it will be a great time!

  6. belangerval says:

    Hi! Wonderful blog and photos, thanks for sharing! I would like to know your impressions on cycling the N-222 along the Douro from Pinhao to Peso da Regua. Would you take your mom there (provided she’s a seasonned cyclist!) or is the traffic scary? Do drivers show courtesy with cyclists? Your feedback would be much apreciated,thanks!

    • Hello!
      Thank you for checking out our blog. Regarding the N-222 from Pinhao to Peso da Regua-I do remember it being a beautiful ride along the valley and river (I had to double check my journal!). We were there in September so the traffic was busy as it was harvest season for the grapes. We left Pinhao early in the morning in hopes of avoiding some of the traffic. I think we avoided the tourists and their cars but we were passed by many trucks full of workers heading to the vineyards. I don’t remember it being too bad though-and the views and riding more than made up for any traffic! I think the ride took us about 2 hrs (with a couple snack stops) and in my journal I describe it as easy! I do remember in general Portuguese drivers were quite courteous with cyclists. I think it is a well traveled cycle route along the Duoro so they may be more used to seeing cyclists there.Peso da Regua is a busy city-I’m not sure where your route is from there? We headed north out of the city to Vila Real-steep climbing! through many switchbacks! but the views were incredible.

      You also have a wonderful blog! My french is rusty these days but I did pick up on some mentions of cycling in Quebec? We are moving to Ottawa this winter and would love to do lots of bike touring in Quebec (we’ve heard all about the Routes Vertes). Do you have any suggestions for a good cycle tour to start us off there next summer or fall? We were thinking the Gaspe region? Preferably low traffic and not too steep of hills! (we pull our dog now behind in a trailer :). I will read more of your blog in the coming months-a good and interesting way for me to brush up on my french!

      Happy Travels!!
      Jenn

  7. belangerval says:

    Hi Jenn! Thank you so much for a detailed report. I’m glad to hear it’s not too bad. I was actually driving by a few weeks ago and I was worried as cars and trucks were zipping by so fast… I’m bringing a group there in a couple of weeks and want to make sure they’ll be safe. We’re actually veering South after 16 km from Pinhao, so we’re not exactly going all the way to Peso. I think they’ll be just fine. About Québec… so much to say! Route Verte is a long-distance circuit that crosses most of the province. Great to discover a bit of everything we have. Two of my favorites areas for cycle-touring here are Cantons-de-l’Est (also referred to as Eastern Townships), and Gaspésie. In both you will find very hilly stretches and some flatter ground, so it’s good to plan with a tool like Openrunner or Ride with GPS to get an idea of the elevation change on the routes you’re planning. Quiet roads and villages you will find, it’s cycling paradise. Quite a lot of campgrounds too, especially in Gaspesie. In Cantons-de-l’Est you will find more B&B’s than you can imagine. If you need more info let me know!

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