Down the Hills of Douro

Every year, the city hall of Porto organizes a promotional tour of the Douro River Valley aboard the historical train and we were lucky to get a slot. Of course, there are regular trips for this touristic train from June to October but for a fee (35 euros – which isn’t too expensive compared to similar European historic tours). The journey takes the lucky passengers to the towns of Regua, Tua, and Pinhao which produce most of the grapes used to make traditional port wine now enjoyed all throughout the world as a strong, sweet, dessert wine.

The train tracks follow the contours of the Douro riverside so everyone is treated to astounding views of vineyard terraces sloping down the riverbanks with occasional bucolic village houses resting on some of the steps. If the rickety train isn’t enough to take you down memory lane, musicians dressed in traditional Portuguese costumes playing folk Portuguese music will give an added color to your experience. Then, a trolley of port wine samples and sweets will hand in the goodies with warm hospitality the Portuguese are known for.

The trip promises some of the most romantic views you will ever get to see. This valley can also be accessed by a far more expensive boat cruise but the day tour with the historic train is not too shabby to enjoy the verdant hills of Douro especially if you are only in for a day tour. They also said that at some time in October, some groups organize grape picking tours and hiking through the vineyards which by this time are expected to trade their usual lush green hues to a more luscious yellow/orange. And that is something I really look forward to when I go back. After witnessing where the grapes are from, you will find yourself in the lovely city of Porto, the wine’s namesake, whose cellars in riverside Vila Nova de Gaia are waiting for you to try the finest, most original port wine in the entire world.

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