The heart of the famous winemaking region in the north of Portugal is well worth a day of exploration. It is a UNESCO World Heritage sight full of gorgeous landscapes.
Peso da Régua
The western boundary of the World Heritage site is not exceptional in and of itself, but its Museo do Douro ♥♥ is underrated and deserves a look. It is excellent, well laid out, offering tons of information about the region and the local winemaking traditions, and has many nice exhibits with text in English and Portuguese. Port-wine tasting (one glass) is included in the ticket price.
From Peso da Régua to Pinhao
The drive along the river on N222 is highly recommended. ♥♥♥ It is less than 30 kilometers long, with plenty of lookouts and wineries to visit along the way. Make sure you pace yourself: the tasting portions at every winery are very generous.
A few kilometers from Régua, river locks make for a curious diversion if a river cruise ship happens by at that point.
Quinta do Tedo
The grounds are pretty, the tasting room is nice, and there are several tasting options. What puts this one on top is the bistro where you can have tapas on a terrace overlooking one of those gorgeous landscapes. Shrimps in garlic sauce, beef loin, tuna in orange sauce were all excellent. Reservations for the bistro are recommended. ♥♥
Quinta do Panascal (Fonseca)
This winery sits a bit off the main road and gets much less traffic apparently (we were the only visitors in mid-April). Self-guided, audio-enabled tour through the vineyard is the differentiation – you can take it at your own pace. (We did not go for tours at any other wineries because they are given at specific times and we had no interest in following a specific schedule for the day.) The walk should last about 30 minutes covering total distance of less than a couple of kilometers. The recorded delivery is a bit dry and slightly tinted by the brand advertizing, but it offers plenty of interesting information. Tasting of 3 wines is included in the price of the tour. ♥♥
Quinta do Seixo (Sandeman)
Although the entrance is right on N222, the winery sits so high above the main road that it will take good 5 minutes to drive up to it. Such height means breathtaking sweeping views. In the modern, sleek tasting room there are tons of different options on the menu. The views win the day. ♥♥♥
Quinta das Carvalhas
This winery is located across the bridge from Pinhao town center. Its Old World tasting lounge is very atmospheric. There is a movie running on TV showing different aspects of wine industry in Douro. Several tasting options on the menu are slightly more expensive than elsewhere, but it is a very relaxing experience (we were there all by ourselves in mid-April). ♥♥♥
This pretty village is not part of the Douro region, but can be easily visited on the way back to Porto. It is centered on an old bridge ♥♥ that runs practically into the eponymous main church of São Gonçalo. Coming at the end of the day may mean being too late to see the church interior. The village has several other picturesque corners, well worth a short stop.