03 May Discover Porto & Douro Valley with Just Explore
GET READY to fall in love with Portugal’s old-world charm, ancient cities and picturesque vineyards in today’s special feature article where we recount Just Explore’s first immersive excursion to two of the most famous wine-producing and wine trade places in Portugal: Porto & the Douro Valley.
A decade since Just Explore was born, and thanks to the inquisitive and adventurous mindset of CEO & Founder, Rosa Lara, we are delighted to announce that Just Explore has expanded into offering tailor-made tours in Portugal.
Rosa and her team pride themselves with providing exclusive, unique and bespoke travel experiences throughout Spain and with this same mindset, we have felt it was time to offer custom luxury trips throughout the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.
So, as with all itineraries offered by Just Explore, Rosa Lara, together with Steve Croasdale, head of Product Development, set out to explore first-hand the wonders of what a trip from Porto to the Douro Valley could offer.
Today we catch up with Rosa and, through the eyes of a luxury travel guide, find out more about the cradle of Port.
Why Porto and the Douro Valley?
As a good friend of mine would say.. Why not?
We actually decided to offer Portugal just before the pandemic hit as we were getting a lot of enquiries for an “Iberian Peninsula Experience,” so a combination of Spain and Portugal made for the perfect itinerary for our travellers, many of which come from North America and Australia.
When it comes to including new destinations, we always take our time and move forwards with care and thought. This is because we handpick and inspect every single activity, site and partner we use. Just before Covid, in February 2020, we explored Lisbon, its surroundings and the Alentejo region and ever since then, we’ve been wanting to do the same with Porto and Douro. However, we have never found the time to escape, until now. Both destinations are in high demand, they have a lot to offer in terms of culture, history, gastronomy and of course wine, making the area a great destination for anyone.
What did you the like the most?
I liked the vibe and the feel of Porto, a romantic city bustling with energy, river walks, history and stunning views. There is always something about cities situated on the bank of rivers that I find particularly charming. It is the same with Paris, Bordeaux, London and of course Sevilla, Cordoba or Toledo in Spain.
And then I LOVE wine, I especially love learning about different wines and of course tasting different wines too, and Porto was totally new for me.
What most surprised you?
How the city has developed in the last 5 years. Porto has made exceptional efforts in recent years to make sure that travellers can enjoy a host of tourist attractions when in the area and choose from a range of really nice hotels to stay in. I was personally delighted with how clean everything was and how safe we felt.
What would be your top tours & experiences when in the area?
In no particular, but I definitely recommend the following:
- Walking tour of the city with a local guide: Experience the true heart of Porto with a passionate local host who will be eager to show the best of their hometown.
- Visit some of the cellars in Gaia: These are port cellars that are actually located across the Douro River on the opposite banks, in the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia to the south of the city. There you can experience an unforgettable and informative tour of some of the oldest Port cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia and finish off with a great selection of Ports.
- Stay in Gaia (on the other side of the river) so you can enjoy the best views of Porto city: Although it is often mistakenly assumed to be a part of Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia or simply Gaia is a city in its own right, located on the south bank of the Douro River facing Porto. It is a great place to go for a walk on the waterfront and visit some of Porto’s famous wineries. Another great thing to do is to take a cruise down the Douro River in one of the “rabelo boats,” small traditional wooden boats that were originally used to transport the barrels of wine across the river and have nowadays become cruise boats for tourists that wish to explore the area on water.
- Spend some time in WOW (the World of Wine… literally an incredible place!!): WOW is a cultural quarter that is located in Vila Nova de Gaia, next to the Douro River. Part museum, part dining, part shopping and part entertainment, encompassing in one space all things typically Portuguese such as food, drinks, art and history.
- Day trip to Douro Valley (only 1.5hrs) to visit a couple of “Quintas” (wineries dotted across the slopes where port wine is produced): Have lunch or picnic overlooking the river and the vineyards and then enjoy a classic boat experience along the Douro. If you have time, we highly recommend spending at least two nights in Douro itself instead of just taking a day trip from Porto. The landscape is breathtaking, an absolute beauty!
Travelling is a colourful experience. It opens horizons, involves feelings, and more often than not, can connect you to the heart and soul of a place.
If immersing yourself in the undiluted magic of Porto and the Douro Valley is on your bucket list, we would be more than happy to prepare a bespoke itinerary especially for you.