Soon now the snow and persistent rains of winter will be just a memory. Spring in the Douro is an enchanting season. With the longer days and warmer temperatures, nature`s pulse once again begins to beat faster and the hills on either side of the great River Douro become a patchwork of colour. This is one of the best times of the year to visit the region, before the crowds and great heat of summer.
A stroll through the vineyards
Famed for its world-class wines, which each year claim an increasing number of prizes, the Douro Valley is not only planted with vineyards. The steep hillsides are also covered with olive, orange, cherry and almond groves. From late February on the almond trees take on a mantle of white or pink blossom and at their feet a many-coloured carpet of wild flowers is laid among the vines.
As the weeks go by, and the temperatures continue to rise, the first shoots begin to appear on the vine plants, soon followed by tender, light green leaves. Then, in late May, it is the turn of the cherry orchards to offer their harvest of deep purple cherries.
This is a marvellous time of the year to stroll through the vineyards. The hills are alive with the colours of spring.
A leisurely boat trip up the River Douro
One of the most soothing experiences imaginable is to take a small private boat up the River Douro. Beginning your journey in the small pleasure port at Pinhao, you head up river in the direction of Spain. On either side steep banks of terraced vineyards rise towards the blue sky crowned by stately wine mansions. From time to time, the little train that runs along the bank of the river chugs slowly past, calling out cheerfully as it goes.
The most experienced boat captains will know of secluded creeks where you can land and enjoy a picnic with a bottle of wine. On the return journey, you will be filled with a wonderful sensation of peace and contentment.
Lunch with a view over the River Douro
One of the Douro Valley`s most enterprising wine estates has recently added a tempting restaurant to its panoply of attractions. Already renowned for its acclaimed table wines and a comfortable boutique hotel, Quinta de la Rosa has opened a restaurant with an awe-inspiring view over the River Douro. Called Cozinha da Clara after the present owner`s grandmother, it has quickly established a place for itself among the region`s top tables thanks to the talents of the chef Pedro Cardoso who creates contemporary interpretations of classic Portuguese cooking, paired, of course, with Quinta de la Rosa wines.