11 surprising things about the Douro Valley

11 surprising things about the Douro Valley

The Douro is a river, a valley, and a wine growing region. The river itself extending from the interior of Spain to the Atlantic ocean near Porto in Portugal.
Famous for Port wine, river cruises and beautiful terraced vineyards wrapped around the steep curves of the valley, the Douro valley will steal your heart and capture your imagination.

Facts and Figures

Here are a few intriguing facts to know about this magical corner of Portugal before you go:
  1. The Douro River is the third longest on the Iberian peninsula, after the Tagus and the Ebro rivers.
  2. The river is 897 kilometres // 557 miles in length.
  3. The final 22 kilometres // 13 miles are a mesotidal estuary.
  4. The river has 5 locks and 15 dams.
  5. The highest lock is at Carrapatelo, about 35 metres // 115 feet of vertical drop, the tallest in Europe.
  6. For 120kms, the Douro forms the border with Spain and is the longest border in Europe.
  7. The same 120km stretch of the Douro is the edge of the Douro International Natural Park, created to protect the flora and fauna of the Douro valley region.
  8. The Douro river starts in the Sorria province of Spain, flowing from its source near Duruelo de la Sierra across northern-central Spain and Portugal to its outlet at Porto.
  9. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001, the Douro wine growing area known as Alto Douro has been producing wine by traditional landholders in the Alto Douro region for some 2,000 years. Since the 18th century, its main product, port wine, has been world famous for its quality. 
  10. Portugal has over 250 native wine grape varieties with the Douro mostly farming around 13 varieties, including Portugal’s most common local grapes, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Cão and Tinta Barroca.
  11. The Alto Douro made famous worldwide for Port, today sells as much still wine as it does Port. The new wave of top Douro wines has also led to a greater focus on the grape varieties that go into Port wine. Most top Quintas now replant vines with single-variety vineyards and focus on a limited number of varieties, but older, mixed vineyards will still remain in production for many decades to come.

Three reasons why the Douro Valley needs to be on your cycling holiday wishlist:

1 Spectacular Roads of the Douro Valley

With challenging climbs and rewarding descents, this route is a tasty treat for seasoned road cyclists, or take an eBike and cruise up those long winding climbs through the tapestry of vineyards wrapped around the valley’s deep walls and enjoy a sweat free active holiday.
Low traffic and picturesque scenery makes this trip a joy for new cyclists and old hands alike. If you think you know cycling in Portugal you will be pleasantly surprised by the difference in landscape and pace around the Douro river and valley.

A group of cyclists on a quiet road along the river in the Douro valley, Portugal.

2 Excellent Weather in the Douro Valley

Enjoying less rainfall and more sunny days than the rest of the popular coastal holiday spots around Portugal, a trip to the Douro has a high chance of perfect weather in September and October when the rest of Europe is beginning to prepare for Autumn’s rains.
Early May until late October is the best time to visit Douro for ideal weather, making it a flexible destination for visitors from all over the world.
A sunny day overlooking the patterns of the lush, green grape vines of the Douro Valley, Portugal

3 Exceptional Wine and Food

Ride through the curvy valley passing vines after vines, weighed down with grapes, often being passed by trucks heaving with boxes full of the sweet smelling grape harvest in early October.
After many kilometres of catching wafts of the first fermentation of grapes as you pass numerous Quintas along your route, you must end your day with a glass of Douro red wine or a Port, or even a white Port cocktail. Try our Douro Sundowner (recipe below) after a long ride in the magical Douro, you’ve earned it!
Two female cyclists pose overlooking the Douro Valley

The CTTC Douro Sundowner

1 measure White Port - we recommend Ramos Pinto Dry White Port
150ml Tonic water
A sprig of mint
A slice of cucumber or lime
2-3 large ice cubes

Method: In a tumbler add ice, pour over port, place mint and cucumber or lime, then top with tonic and ENJOY!
A clear cocktail in a crystal tumbler with lime and mint
Want to know more? Learn more about experiencing an unforgetable cycling vacation in Portugal's beautiful Douro Valley!
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