Today we have a difficult question at hand, what will be the best time of the year to visit the Douro Valley?
Well, the answer to this question depends entirely on the tastes of everyone who wants to go there. We are all different and as a rule we are attracted to the sensations we most like to feel.
The “Douro” Valley is quite diverse due to its enormous size, here you will have the most varied sensations depending on the time of the year in which we find ourselves.
The practice of viticulture is an endless cycle, there is always something to do in the vineyards and when farmers have a short break in caring for them, they deal with other aspects of the crop, such as olive trees, urbutus trees and even other types of plantations such as potatoes, tomatoes, garlic.
The “Douro” has its own microclimate, as its mountain ranges, more specifically the “Marão” mountain, serves as a barrier to the oceanic climate, giving way to the continental climate, with drier, hotter summers and very cold and somewhat rainy winters, these are the fundamental reasons for the quality of the wine produced there.
We can then conclude that the “Douro” Valley has several activities throughout the year, which allows us to visit it and always have a different experience.
As such, to better understand which will be the best for you, here we leave our perspective of what you will find depending on the time of year.
Spring is that magical time of the year when the life cycle has yet another start.
The Spring still shy in the Douro Valley when the owners of these landscapes, the vines, after having been hibernating all winter, start to show their grace.
In their branches, stripped by the very low temperatures that were felt, small green shoots finally begin to be seen, still of a very youthful green. The first flowers and clovers also appear on the ground, filling in the blanks between rows of vines.
This is how colors start to come alive in this painting that will change from shades of brown, to bright colors with different types of greens, yellows, pinks and whites, which gradually surround the landscape in all directions.
With spring progressing at a good pace, fruit trees start to blossom. Like cherry trees with their beautiful pink flowers that gradually invade the landscape or the no less beautiful Almond trees that abound in these areas and cover some parts of the region with idyllic white robes.
The aromas are of an indescribable freshness, like that of the abundant orange trees in the riverside areas, aromas brought by the fresh and pleasant breeze that is still felt, a panoply of sensations.
At this time of year, work in the vineyards is intensified with the preparation of the next harvest, it is common to prune the vines, where the plants are perfected and the dead branches are removed, so that the plant gains strength and creates new branches, green and ready to produce.
The weather in spring is somewhat irregular, with days of immense sun and others of fog and rain, but even with less favorable conditions, it will undoubtedly be a memorable trip.
There is a very caricatural regional expression from the “Douro” Valley that says “here we have 9 months of winter and 3 of hell”, which characterizes in a superficial way, but nevertheless accurate, the climate experienced in these lands.
As you should have realized by now, “the 3 of Hell”, it is the 3 hot summer months that are felt in the “Douro” Valley.
This time of year, which coincides with the months of greatest tourist influx in the country, are consequently the months of greatest activity in the region. The roads are taken by the curious who come to discover the wonders of this place. And on the river cruises that for 9 months will make the river their home. They will all find a sea of mountains in the form of a stairway in an experience of a lifetime.
The “Rabelo” Boats, which once made long trips to “Gaia” with the precious liquid that we call wine to rest there and when ready sent to the most diverse parts of the world, today just wander through the waters of the valley having received another purpose to their function, they are almost like floating viewpoints.
Summer is synonymous with sunny hikes through the vineyards, where we can see grape berries already gaining color, picnics in idyllic viewpoints that abound in any part of the region or even wine tasting sitting quietly in one of the many existing wineries, the vast majority old and full of stories. After all, the Douro Demarcated Wine Region, the first of its kind worldwide, is 264 years old.
If spring painted the vines, summer came to paint the grapes, which take on different colors depending on the variety. It is at this point that the vines pass from vulnerable children to strong adolescents, ready to make the most of the richness of the soil and the hands taught by the time of the farmers who love them so much.
They now require more care, as we are already in the final race for the harvest, there is no room for errors, the quality control is of impressive professionalism.
At this time of year, due to the intense heat, it is necessary to use sun protection and have generous amounts of water with you. Temperatures in the peak of summer will rarely be below 30º C and regularly above 35º C, for heat lovers it will be a paradise , but we recommend prudence so that you can make the most of summer in this memorable region.
The end of summer and the beginning of autumn mark the end of the wine cycle, the culmination of hard months of work in the vineyards. It is at this time that the frantic harvesting activity begins, and believe me when we tell you that it is frantic, at this time of the year the last effort is made so that the harvests have a happy and high quality ending.
The working people of these lands, work at a great pace due to the characteristic autumn rains are there, which will make the grapes watery and with less sugar. When what you want are sweet, very sweet grapes, because it is the sweetness that gives them the alcoholic degree and the qualities of aroma and flavor.
The summer has passed, but make any mistake if you think that the tourist activity is over, the harvest season is very much in demand by lovers and curious about viticulture.
One of the reasons for being so famous this season is the fact that in the “Douro” many of the places offer a traditional experience of this activity, still using ancient methods such as manual harvesting, which is an imperative rule in the “Douro”.
The location of the vineyards, in narrow terraces, make the vast majority of machines impossible to access for the purpose of harvesting, but not only for this reason, the non-use of machines promotes the sustainability of the vineyards that, being harvested by hand, suffer less stress.
Another of the activities is the grape stomping, yes, to step on the grapes with our own feet inside the huge wine presses, where traditional songs are sung and alluding to the experiences of the land. It is this mixture of “rurality” and tourist activity that makes the “Douro” Valley flourish every year.
With autumn walking at a stride, there is a melancholy in the landscape that will certainly not leave you indifferent, the green leaves give way to browns, reds and oranges of the most diverse tones.
It is perhaps the best part of the country to experience autumn, and very much because of man, because without the terraces and vineyards, there would not be such an explosion of color, the views warm our souls in the cold that is already being felt.
Autumn is also synonymous with dried fruits, such as almonds and chestnuts that are harvested at this time, and that beautiful chestnuts are eaten here, in soup, in a roast or simply roasted with salt.
But it is not just that, another of the typical activities of the region is the harvesting of the olives that takes place right after the harvest, which represents the second most produced product in the region, having high quality standards, as is usual in Portugal.
This is how autumn in the “Douro” is, an announcement of harvests, vibrant colors and unique sensations brought by the traditions that have long lived in this beautiful valley.
Winter transforms the “Douro”.
The cold brings the shedding of leaves stripping the landscape of colors, but in a way it makes us discover the most intimate part of these landscapes, which become nostalgic, almost stopped in time.
It is at this time that agricultural activities decrease and, consequently, the villages become more monotonous and less visited, allowing those who choose winter to go there, a calmer experience, without confusion, privileging the contemplation of the region, let’s say that, with a another look.
In the river, due to the rains and the consequent increase in the flow, the boats stop their activity, granting to the river an indescribable calm.
To those who seek silence, and we know that nowadays it is an asset in scarcity, this is where they can find it, in these endless, grandiose mountains. It makes us wonder how in a place of such a dimension the silence can be even greater than its size, so great that you can feel it all over the body.
The rain, the wind and the cold, let us see a more raw and austere “Douro”, true to its purest essence, but the “Douro” does not stop there. Wine tasting starts to take place in warm spaces and wine due to low temperatures tastes even better, as it warms your soul and heart, as if it were a beautiful tea by the fireplace.
This is also the best time to get to know the small taverns and restaurants in the region, where you will mostly meet the local people, always ready to drink with us or tell us stories, of a not-too-distant past when everything was different, believe me the hours go by and we don’t even notice, the calmness in which we feel.
The gastronomy, with its magnificent roasts and soups and jaw-dropping desserts, is something not to be missed. In fact, these delicacies are more desirable at this time, the cold makes us enjoy and value their flavors even more.
It is this nostalgia and intimacy that the “Douro” carries in itself in winter that makes us let ourselves be involved by it, in the blink of an eye!
Even from the darkened colors of winter, the “Douro” made a picture, this is how beautiful it is!
We could not choose one of the seasons, as we are lovers of all of them, each in its own way, we leave it to you to choose!
And if indecision appears at the moment of choice, we will be happy to help you, because the “Douro” is also part of us!