Now this is very subjective, as I have my tastes and you have yours. With that said, I do believe that I can share with you my very pleasurable experiences (outside of the realm of wine and food), especially for one passionate about the out of doors, culture and history and, ultimately, discovering. If I had 4 days to visit the Douro Valley here are some places that would be part of my itinerary…..
Museu do Douro – located 15 minutes away in Regua, the commercial hub of the Douro Valley, this museums does a great job in educating the visitor about the Douro and port crafting, along with having excellent exhibits of individual artists. Not to miss are the video of the seasons in the vineyard and the gift shop, that in addition to offering a vast selection of Douro port, wine and olive oil, has an extensive selection of made-in-Portugal products, books and posters that are uniquely Portuguese in packaging and in content. http://www.museudodouro.pt
Visiting the Foz Côa Archaeological Park – a good 2- hour drive from the quinta, via picturesque and windy roads going towards Spain, Foz Côa is a UNESCO world heritage site and the river Coa valley holds 30 paleolithic rock art sites dating to 25000 years ago. Book in advance for a guided tour and travel back in time. Amazing to think that these outdoor rock gravings remain so unspoiled, considering the harsh elements of nature.
Lamego – to the south of Regua, this ancient episcopal (!) city, with remarkable Baroque architecture, is charming with its many public gardens, and ease to walk around and to visit, all catered to the human dimension. A highlight is to climb the 600 granite steps leading to the pilgrimage church of Nossa Sehora dos Remédios, set in a forested park, stopping at various levels to take it all in!
Palacio do Mateus – to the north of the quinta close to Vila Real, stands 18th c Mateus (home to the rosé wine exported throughout the world), considered a sublime example of Baroque architecture. Enjoy the tour of the palace, and be reminded of Portugal’s world dominance centuries ago with furnishings, documents, ceramics, maps and overall grandeur. Not to miss is the gardens, with the minutely sculptured hedges, perennial beds, shallow granite pools and the remarkable 12 m high x 10 m wide x 35 m long cypress tree tunnel, that will inspire you to walk through numerous times. Perhaps you will be lucky and be there when it is being pruned, a true feat, or when an evening summer concert is taking place and Mateus’ ambiance becomes truly seductive.
This is a start for what the visitor can enjoy while staying at our quinta or in the area, combined with the dolce vita of fare niente that makes any holiday so special. The region is attractive because it is less known and less contrived, and as Frank Bruni in a New York Times travel article, so perfectly puts it, in the Douro region “you can discover this country on your own (and) fashion it for yourself”.