How to choose a Douro Valley Wine tour guide?
The task of choosing a Douro Valley tour guide that is appropriate for you is no easy task.
In reality the offer is big but the quality is not always the most desirable. What you will find are mostly poorly prepared students looking to earn a few extra money or luxury drivers without any knowledge beyond the basics.
As a rule, companies will propose you a tour departing from Porto and return the same day. You will do about two hours by car to get to the Douro valley and as many to return to Porto. In total you will spend between three to four hours in almost all unattractive route.
Believe me, at the end of the day you will be very tired and have been left with a very partial view of the wealth and importance of this valley.
A typical Douro tour proposal from these companies will be a visit to a vineyard, a lunch and a boat ride, usually 1 hour.
With this program you can find two types of companies operating in the market in well-differentiated segments. One in a middle segment in another in the higher segment. The big difference between the two will be the exclusive or non-exclusive offer.
Douro Valley tour guide for middle segment
The tour will be made in a minibus of 9 seats, led by a student looking to earn some money or a young urban boy/girl who found in this activity a way to escape unemployment.
You will have to share the journey with potentially unknown people that may have nothing in common with you.
See, stop, enjoy. Stay a little longer where you like are luxuries you are not able to have when you share your ride.
Share the lunch with someone is something I do only with my friends. Come to the Douro and share the table with strangers would let me uncomfortable, but people are not all equal.
The aggravating factor is the time you will have to go together with this group. Always count with a 8-12 hour ride.
Do not expect great flexibility on the part of the guides, they will have to convince all your travel companions to make the change to the program that you proposed it.
The advantage of this offer is the price, are usually cheap tours.
They will take you to the easier and more economical places, usually filled with other tourists and will avoid the most restricted and or difficult to reach. It is the ideal offer for those who have little time or limited budgets
Douro Valley tour guide for high segment
The proposal in this segment is somewhat different from the previous.
The guides will show you in magnificent luxury cars with black glasses, dressed in dark suits and wearing shirts and tacky ties that make me always seem emerging from a mafia movie .
With some exceptions they don’t know much about the history of the region, the vineyards and wines. When they are asked about any subject always have a ready answer and do not hesitate to give you the wrong information to not have to tell you that do not know what they are talking about.
They are drivers. They know the places and know how to get there.
Get ready because they will always be in a hurry and will try to return as soon as possible to Porto, especially in a football day .
And you will pay dearly, dearly.
The purpose of these companies is, sell, sell, sell.
It is an acceptable goal and you will do what you want with your money. In your case choosing between these two solutions or come by my own means I would prefer to came by train or renting a car depending on my money.
What you can see and do by train?
Departing from Porto towards Pinhão you can visit in this central location in the Douro a number of wine producers as Quinta do Bonfim, Quinta da Rhoeda, Quinta da Foz, Quinta das Carvalhas and a little further Quinta de La Rosa.
You can make a 1 or 2 hour boat tour and lunch in one of the local restaurants such as Veladouro, LBV 79, Cais da Foz, Sabores do Douro or Oporco Wine & Tapas Bar for a light lunch.
That’s it. Take some pictures of the tiles of Pinhão train station and you could already tell that you know the Douro Valley.
What did you see? Just the basic.
What can you see on rental car?
Same as in the train but you can add a trip to Provesende or the viewpoint of Casal de Loivos. Lunch at DOC, if you have a fat wallet. And a handful of vineyards as Seixo, Panascal, Tedo, Pacheca or Marrocos.
If you are more reckless or like to drive over rough roads you can can try Quinta Nova and Quinta do Crasto, but book them first or you could make the journey for nothing.
Be very careful with the narrow roads, full of curves, and in poor condition here do Douro.
If you are driving you will not be able to taste the wines on the vineyards or in the restaurants because the legal limit will be reached with a small glass.
You will be able to do everything in one day?
You learn anything? You took advantage of the trip in this fantastic winery region?
No. But you will leave from Douro Valley with some pretty pictures to post on facebook or instagram.
How can you exploit properly the Douro Valley
Exit and return to Porto on the same day is not an option. For this let yourself get through Porto and explore more and better the city.
To absorb all the beauty and charm of the Douro you will have to spend at least one day and one night here.
If you want to take full advantage of the Douro Valley and your purpose is to know the people and customs, taste the olive oil and enjoy the wines, of best winery region of Portugal, without fear you will have, obligatorily, look for a local Douro guide.