Coming to the Douro, results in becoming its ambassador. When you go there, everything impresses you, be it for its grandeur, its beauty or its ancestry.
The Douro wine region is in fact the living image of hundreds of years of hard work taken from the hands of the endless generations who lived there. Making their daily farming in the vineyards, building terraces, harvesting and preparing the grapes to make that beautiful velvety liquid, sweet, dense, white or red, sometimes golden, the varieties are so many and so good that it would take a lifetime to taste them all.
But anyone who thinks that these are simple vineyards is mistaken, because in their simplicity they carry the soul of people who were willing to turn them into open-air wonders. The Douro Valley in all its area, 250 thousand hectares, is a garden in constant transformation in this sea of mountains that accompany the majestic Douro River from the border with Spain.
Here the terraces are made of schist walls, which abound in the landscape, each mountain is a staircase of terraces, on each terrace a garden of vines, ornamented with olive, arbutus and chestnut trees.
But none of these terraces would be here without the people of this land. At each turn of the river there appears another small village full of personality and calmness, sunny and full of fruit trees. Here live people who despite having a life of hard work, don’t have a hardened soul.
They have a kindness that is needed in many parts of the world, always ready to raise their hands when we pass by or giving a simple “Good morning” without even knowing us. It is from this humility and beauty that this beautiful painting called Douro is made. And anyone who thinks that the landscape is only the beautiful mountains and terraces is mistaken, because without the people this beautiful picture would not exist.
As such and in order to be able to contemplate some of the best views of the Douro Valley, we have made our knowledge a text where you can find the 5 viewpoints of the Douro.
São Leonardo da Galafura
This is one of the magical places of the “Douro”.
Hidden in a small park on the top of a mountain we find the wonderful viewpoint of “São Leonardo da Galafura”. Source of inspiration for legends and writers, this is a place where we feel the “excess of nature” in all directions.
Upon arrival we are presented with a beautiful park, with granite tables, cork trees, urbutus trees and even cedars. As we walk upwards to the small chapel that was built there, the trees, as if guarding a surprise, go on “blinding” our view until the right moment.
The moment when we pass by the small chapel and, like an open window on a sunny morning, when our eyes were still blinded by the brightness of green and vibrant yellow, we were faced with a view of kilometers and kilometers of extension. We finally arrived, for the pleasure of our gaze, at the “São Leonardo da Galafura” viewpoint.
From its 640 meters of altitude, it is one of the highest points of this part of the “Douro” region, as indicated by the geodesic landmark present there.
Weather permitting, the view runs from the “Marão” mountain massif on our west to the most inland parts of the valley to east. This is one of the places that really gives us the idea of how imposing this wine area is and, believe it or not, we will only be contemplating a tiny part of its power.
Such a power served as inspiration for a candidate to the Nobel Prize for Literature, “Miguel Torga”, who often used this site to get inspired and write, as such he wrote a poem that stands on the back wall of the Chapel, describing this site as a “geological poem” of absolute beauty.
Welcome to the “São Leonardo da Galafura” viewpoint, where the view flows through the mountains that flow into the ever faithful “Douro” River.
São Salvador do Mundo
This is one of the most ancestral sites in the “Douro” Valley, and its occupation dates back more than 2000 thousand years before Christ, more specifically in the Final Neolithic.
These occupations are due to the fact that this site has a strategic position with the observation of a vast territory, with access to essential resources with the “Douro” River that flows at the bottom of the mountain, as well as its fishing resources, serving as an argument for nomadic people to settle.
The prehistoric peoples were followed by the Romans, here on the southeastern side of the hill traces of “Tegulae” were found, a type of tile made of clay very characteristic of Roman constructions, although there are no traces of buildings dating from that period, we believe that they existed in abundance, having probably been dismantled by later peoples for the construction of other structures.
In addition to the tiles, bronze coins minted with the face of Emperor Constantine (352 BC – 354 BC) were also found, as well as two Latin inscriptions dating from the same time, one in the main chapel and the other next to the “Fraga do Diabo” that passes by.
Running until more recent times, it was in the 16th century that this beautiful hill took on the forms it now supports, by order of the religiosity so experienced in Portugal, a cluster of chapels were built there, which are an embodiment of the ordeal of Jesus Christ at the time of the passage on the “Via Dolorosa” in Jerusalem, on the way to the crucifixion.
Inside the small chapels there are sculptures representing the Passion of Christ, being celebrated here one of the best known pilgrimages in the region, that of “São Salvador”.
As we can see, it is much more than a simple viewpoint, as it is intimately connected with the history and beliefs of the people who passed through it, giving us today a glimpse of the landscapes that many eyes have traveled for millennia.
Being considered a blessed place, legends were also created here, such as the one that tells us that if a young girl goes to “São Salvador do Mundo” and succeeds in tying a broom with her left hand, without it unfolding, it will be lucky to have a wedding within a year.
It is these stories recorded over time that give these places their true meaning, which warm our hearts and eyes.
Miradouro de Casal de Loivos
This viewpoint will take us to one of the warmest places in the “Douro” region, where in the torrid summer temperatures are regularly felt above 35º Celsius.
We speak of the “Pinhão” village, a small village located in “Cima Corgo” region, one of the 3 sub-regions of the “Douro”.
With a privileged location due to the large river bend where it is located, it is a mandatory stop for cruises that for 9 months of the year travel the “Douro” River above and below, delighting the lucky ones who go there.
In order to better see the landscape and agricultural wealth of this region, we will have to climb the hill behind the village, until we reach the beautiful village of “Casal de Loivos”. Here it is thought that in distant times there was a fortified nucleus, which in 1260 received the “Carta Foral”, a Royal document that officializes the creation and administration of a population nucleus, by “D. Sancho I”, second king of Portugal.
Since then, this village has been like a balcony overlooking the “Douro” and owns one of its fantastic viewpoints, the “Casal de Loivos” viewpoint.
Upon arrival we are presented with the meandering of the river between the mountains, the vibrant green of the vines that meet in all directions. Is without a doubt a feast for the senses, from the aromas, to the calm sounds of the region, all in perfect harmony of existence, created by nature and ornamented by man. Sit, breathe and contemplate!
Miradouro da Senhora de Lourdes
On the right bank of the “Douro” River, a few kilometers after the village of “Pinhão”, we find the village of “Nagozelo do Douro”.
A small community that is hidden among the valleys. Here, the people did not always live off wine, as in the past the land was not very fertile for planting vines and those that were planted with beared few fruits.
However, in the absence of the wealth brought by wine and before “São João da Pesqueira”, became a wine-growing area, the inhabitants made olive oil their livelihood. This practice that is still important today due to the presence of immense olive groves with centuries-old olive trees. , even with the countless vineyards now existing there.
It is also known that this village was a shelter for ancient Jewish communities, who fled the great urban and more developed centers, to areas such as the “Nagozelo”, hidden in the confines of Portugal where the powerful and merciless hand from the church did not bother them so easily.
As this many other villages in the region it has Jewish influence, despite the fact that the traces of their presence have faded with the conversion of many to Christianity.
It is now time to take a look at the “Miradouro da Senhora de Lourdes”. Located about 355 meters above sea level, to get there you have to cross the whole village and follow the dirt path to the top of the hill, reaching the top we will have the beautiful Chapel of “Senhora de Lourdes” with simple features, but no less beautiful.
From the top, and already in the viewpoint, the scenery is unimaginably beautiful, on the very steep north side, you will have a view of the “Douro” River, on the southside with softer slopes will be witness to the immensity of the region’s vineyards.
This beautiful place was born out of multiculturalism!
Miradouro de São João das Arribas
This viewpoint will make us get involved in the innermost areas of the “Douro” Valley, more specifically, in the “Douro Internacional” sub-region, where the essential “Parque Natural do Douro Internacional” is located.
The creation of the park is justified by the countless species of fauna and flora in the region, such as the griffin, the black stork or even the horned viper. Regarding the flora, it is also possible to find the willow, the poplar and the alders that we can notice in the edges of the river.
It is in the midst of this immense nature that we found the “Lugar de Aldeia Nova”, located in the municipality of “Miranda do Douro”, where the “Castro de São João das Arribas” is close. An old fortified settlement dating from the Iron Age that begin around 1200 BC, which once used this high, rugged location as a defensive position for its lands.
The “Castro” itself is composed of two lines of wall and a turret, which due to disuse and lack of maintenance for hundreds of years is partially destroyed. However, it is a visit that will make us travel through time and understand a little better how the ancient communities were organized, the traces found in these ruins have mostly traces of Romanization, such as the epigraphs written in Latin, which makes us believe that during the Romanization of the Iberian Peninsula this “Castro” was also taken over and reinforced by the Romans.
Not far from the “Castro”, is the emblematic “São João das Arribas” viewpoint, which due to its 646 meters altitude boasts an incredible view over the “Douro” River and its “arribas”, escarpments originated by water erosion, here the river it is relatively narrower forming a gorge with rather abrupt and sinuous contours.
Come and see with your own eyes what generations without end could behold, without any doubt that you will not leave indifferent to such beauty and history!
These are 5 of the most wonderful viewpoints in the Douro Wine Region, but believe us, there is much more to discover. Stay connected and explore with us this beautiful region that wine, blood and sweat made its wealth.