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Douro River, Porto

Porto, Douro Valley & the Algarve: our favourite Portugal routes

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7 June 2018 by Claire Benktander

Portugal’s national holiday, Portugal Day, falls annually on 10 June, commemorating the death of national literary icon Luis de Camoes. It's celebrated not only in its home country, but observed across the world by Portuguese citizens and emigrants. In honour, we’ve chosen our favourite places to stay in Portugal's stunning regions of Porto, the Douro Valley and the Algarve, as well as our recommended routes to help you make the most of this region of rolling hills, riverside palaces and azure waters, alongside exquisite gastronomy and terraced vineyards showcasing world-class wines.

Porto is charm embodied, from hidden gems in mosaic-decorated train stations and ancient cobbled streets to more obvious delights such as São Francisco Church’s dramatic gold and baroque façade. Spend days strolling among the pastel houses and emblematic bridges, and head to the Torre dos Clérigos and boundless roof terrace bars for panoramic vistas of the city below. Then there’s the UNESCO-listed Riberiea district, with its tiny squares, winding laneways and quayside, perfectly enjoyed accompanied with a glass of the region's famous port. 


Porto

One of our favourite hotels here is The Yeatman, surrounded by ancient port houses, with balconied contemporary rooms affording spectacular views of the terracotta-roofed city. Its restaurant is the only one in Porto with two Michelin stars and they also offer wine tasting experiences, hosted in the hotel’s cellars. Or there's Infante Sagres, ideal for the glamorous traveller. The old manor house is resplendent with sweeping staircases, antiques and stain glass windows, alongside opulent rooms, chandeliers and Portuguese artwork. The historic Avenida dos Aliados is just moments away and the restaurant serves up dishes in a charming former bookshop. Finally, the elegance of the historic Pestana Palacio do Freixo offers an oasis on the edge of the river Douro, on a fringed suburb of Porto. Inside, it’s all baroque interiors, a spa, and a palatial dining room serving traditional, gourmet cuisine. 


The Yeatman, Porto

It’s all a gateway to the majestic UNESCO World Heritage-listed Douro River Valley that abounds with natural beauty, its tranquility enhanced due to a narrowness that means it's only navigable with smaller cruise ships. Gustave Eiffel's Dom Luis Bridge is the first delight before giving way to exquisitely terraced hills made up of olive groves and Portugal’s best vineyards. The town of Pinhão on its outskirts is centred in Portugal’s wine region; the best place for port fans who are on the hunt for the perfect vintage.


The Douro river and vineyards

Our favourite places for short visits to the Douro Valley include Douro Palace, where idyllic seclusion sets the scene for terracotta-roofed properties alongside stunning landscaped gardens, a luxury spa and a trio of excellent bars with glorious valley views. Or, there’s the Douro Royal Valley Hotel for more contemporary delights, all modern opulence with spectacular views of the river and forest alongside tasting programmes, panoramic terraces and a superb spa. 


The Douro Royal Valley Hotel, Douro Valley

For true port wine and scenery lovers, travel on to The Wine House Hotel, Quinta de Pacheca, set amongst rolling hills of endless vineyards in an 18th century manor house, where guests are offered an included tasting tour of the vineyards and state-of-the-art wine barrel rooms that take the experience to a whole new immersive level. Or, or there’s The Vintage House in Pinhao, steeped in romance by the river in the charming town of Pinhão. Once an 18th century wine lodge, it’s all antiques, wooden-beamed ceilings and an outdoor pool alongside brilliant restaurants serving the likes of Jamón Ibérico and suckling pig belly. 


The Vintage House, Pinhao, Douro Valley

For those craving beach life, rugged coastline and luxury resorts, the Algarve, just a short flight south from Porto and the Douro Valley, provides it all and more. Here, sandy beaches are lined with sea stack-dotted shores, tiny restaurants pepper cobbled streets and whitewashed fishing villages cling to rippled cliffs above sandy coves. Then there’s Faro’s historic monuments, as well as more well-known delights such as endless golf courses and the famous caves of Ponta de Piedad in Lagos, perfectly explored with paddleboarding and watersports.


Lagos, Algarve

Dona Filipa is one of our favourite Algarve hotels, situated in the high-end resort of Vale do Lobo among sugar-white sand, turquoise waters and pine trees. Here, modern meets traditional in opulent rooms with flairs of traditional Portuguese style, and oversized terraces offer views of the gardens, perfectly-sculpted golf course and ocean. Alternatively, among Vilamoura's marina, sandy beaches, Roman ruins, red cliffs and fishing villages lies Anantara Vilamoura, for true authentic luxury looking over pristine golf course arcs, olive groves and local wineries. Each room has a balcony with a daybed looking over the ocean or pool, and the signature Emo Restaurant offers degustation menus paired with 350 sommelier-curated wines. The Algarve is best explored with our Pousadas of Portugal itinerary, where you’ll discover the famous pousadas of Portugal, from medieval castles to 19th-century palaces as you travel scenic coastal routes and valley-framed roads.

 Anantara Vilamoura, Algarve

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