One of the most beautiful parts of Southern Europe is the Douro Valley in the north of Portugal. Visitors driving through this dramatically scenic part of the Iberian Peninsula are treated to jaw-dropping vistas at every turn, with the added pleasure of being able to park up and enjoy a hearty meal in the many old towns and villages dotted across the landscape.
Established in 1954, Auto Europe currently offers over 24,000 convenient pick-up points in more than 180 popular destinations around the world, including the glorious north of Portugal. To enjoy the delightful Douro Valley to the full, it’s best to collect your car hire in Porto before heading east out of the city into the part of Portugal’s hinterland known as “Port wine country”.
Driving through the Douro Valley in Portugal
Wine has been produced here by traditional landholders for over 2,000 years, and since the 1700s its main product – Port wine – has become world-famous for its unique and very enduring quality. Today, the age-old tradition of local viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding natural beauty that’s wholly reflective of the region’s technological, social and economic evolution.
With a car hire in Porto you’ll have the whole Douro Valley at your disposal, with regular opportunities to stop and stay for the night at some of the many small wine estates in the region to taste port and other Douro wines whilst enjoying the warm hospitality of your hosts.
By starting and finishing your tour in the Atlantic city of Porto, which is itself largely synonymous with wine-making, you can pass through the Douro Valley at your own pace and savour the sights and spectacular scenery in the company of your best friends and closest family members.
Porto is a must-see city with a plethora of attractions to suit all tastes, ranging from Clérigos Tower with its fine city views to the centuries-old port wine lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia. Porto’s old quarter, likewise, is without doubt one of Europe’s most astonishing cityscapes set in a prime riverside location.
A particular favourite for road-trippers exploring the area by car is the peaceful town of Pinhão that nestles idyllically along the north bank of the River Douro, 125 kilometres east of Porto. Another important port production centre, it lies in the heart of an enchanting region of spectacular natural beauty that hasn’t changed much over the centuries.
One of most popular stopover points in the Douro Valley is the charming provincial town of Lamego, an ancient episcopal centre with an inviting main square laid out as a public garden and surrounded by bars, cafés and many well-preserved 17th century buildings. After Lamego, we suggest taking the road due north to Vila Real, a typically enchanting town situated on the northern side of the Douro. Of all the manor-houses worth visiting in its environs, there’s none better than Casa de Mateus, home to one of Portugal’s most iconic wines – the world-famous Mateus Rosé.
Then from Vila Real it’s a straight route back to Porto on the A4 motorway or, if you have time, you can follow the old country road that runs parallel to the River Douro which takes longer but is well worth the extra mileage for all the fine vistas you’ll encounter along the way.