I get lots of enquiries from people who are interested in hiking in the Douro Valley. After all, it’s a stunning part of Portugal with its ever-changing mosaic of terraced vineyards, olive groves and small villages. When the weather is not at its extremes, exploring this region on foot can be a very rewarding experience and it’s among my favourite places in Portugal to go hiking.
Marked hiking trails are not always reliable
Unfortunately, although various local authorities have, in theory, marked out some public hiking trails and even gone so far as to print leaflets and add waymarkers, it’s still all too easy to get lost if you are straying beyond the boundaries of the winery you happen to be staying in or visiting.
The waymarkers for these Percursos Pedestres de Pequena Rota (Short walking trails) are yellow and red painted stripes, usually found on stones, posts, trees and sometimes a wooden sign. Sadly, they are not well-maintained and can easily be removed, moved or destroyed, leaving you lost in a bewildering and hilly landscape. Read more about the practicalities of hiking in Portugal in this article.
Trust the local experts
I’ve tried, and failed, on several occasions to follow such marked walking routes, in the Douro as well as other parts of Portugal, and have come to the conclusion that, at least for now, the best way to have an enjoyable experience is to use a local tour operator.
The combination of their local knowledge and investment in developing interesting and worthwhile trails leads is worth paying for, whether you’re looking for a 1-week self-guided walking holiday in the Douro Valley or a half day hiking tour.
Note: If you just want a half hour or 1 hour stroll through some vineyards, several of the Douro quintas (wine estates) make maps of their trails available to their clients or for a small fee.
More in-depth and potentially rewarding Douro hikes range from a couple of hours on fairly level tracks to multi-day experiences with plenty of climbs and descents – this is such a hilly region that it’s impossible to avoid them on longer walks.
Having already done a village to village Douro walking holiday between Pinhão and Alijó, I was interested in exploring the lesser-known southern side of the Douro River.
When I discovered that a new local tour operator had begun offering guided full or half day walks around Ervedosa do Douro as well as Pinhão and Provosende, I knew I had to check out what they had to offer.
A half day hiking tour of the Douro Valley
As we strolled through the cobbled streets of the village of Ervedosa do Douro, where his wife grew up, António of Douro Walks told me that this is very much a working village, relatively unscathed by tourism, that revolves around wine production.
We called in at his in-laws’ adega, i.e. a garage with small tanks for crushing and fermenting grapes, two small stainless steel vats for maturing the wine and a cluster of 5-litre flagons. I would have to wait until later to taste the fruits of this very local production.
Note: Thanks to Covid, visiting this little adega is no longer possible.
Soon we were out of the village and amid the vineyards, with views across the Douro Valley. Along the route, I learned about different techniques used for growing and maintaining grape vines and many other aspects of the local culture.
After a short while, we rounded a bend to find a spectacular view down to the Douro River Valley.
From here, we snaked our way downhill towards the water, making a stop at the family vegetable plots, filled with all manner of fruit and vegetables that will keep the family fed for months to come and also make up part of the picnic.
Accompanied all the while by stunning views, we eventually reached the river and found a shaded spot to lay out the picnic. As you can see from the photo, this included some delicious wood-oven baked bread, home made jam and wine, figs and almonds from the family land and local smoked meats and cheese.
Truly authentic Portuguese food in a beautiful setting, although António has since informed me that they have recently had to choose a different spot for the picnic because of inconsiderate litterbugs.
From here, it’s an uphill walk back to Ervedosa do Douro (unless you arrange for a boat trip to take you to Pinhão). I was quite relieved to learn that I would not have to climb the hill as I still struggle with inclines, especially after eating. António had arranged things so that we could ‘cheat’ a little and drive back to the starting point although if you have time and energy, you can, of course, walk.
Other authentic Douro wine region experiences
This is just one example of the tours António and his wife Sílvia offer. My impressions are of a genuine, passionate couple who are keen to give visitors an insight into the authentic Douro lifestyle, not just a touristy experience. They have several trails, both north and south of the Douro River, of different duration, level of challenge and focus, that can be adapted as needed.
Other specialist local tour operators have 1-day programmes that include less rustic picnics and winery tours so let me know what you’re most interested in and I’ll connect you with the most appropriate provider.
You can also combine the Douro with Peneda Geres and Viana do Castelo on this Highlights Of Northern Portugal: Self-Guided Walking Holiday.
Note: If you’re not really interested in walking in the Douro and would rather have someone drive you to great wineries, restaurants, villages and viewing spots, read more about this kind of Douro day trip.
Accommodation in Ervedosa do Douro
If you intend to do several walks in this particular area, you may wish to stay overnight in Ervedosa do Douro.
If you’re willing to travel a couple of kilometres outside the village, the gorgeous boutique Quinta da Gricha may suit you better with its river views, infinity pool and garden. See photos and check availability.
Another wonderful option, that’s a bit easier to get to than Gricha and has more rooms, is Quinta do Ventozelo.