24 jam (well port, really) packed hours in the Douro Valley; I touched down in Porto mid-morning and made my way through the stunning stepped hills of the Douro Valley and in just over an hour I had arrived at my home for the evening: the Six Senses Douro Valley.
The grounds and gardens of Six Senses Douro Valley alone are a reason to head to this stunning riverside property, not to mention the charming 19th century Manor itself. The traditional exterior is a stark contrast to the contemporary, light and airy rooms where every mod-con is at your fingertips. The hotel has recently been refurbished by Six Senses and they have seamlessly managed to blend local charm with hyper-luxury and creature comforts. Upon check-in I was told the key card was not only a card for my room but it also enabled me to help myself to a glass of local wine in what I can only describe as a highly refined 24 hour wine vending machine (lucky me!). I was staying in a Quinta River Room which I must say is well worth the extra money compared to the lead-in room categories; I could lie on my deeply comfortable bed and look straight out over the Douro River. Some rooms also come with a private terrace where you can enjoy breakfast or a pre-dinner drink.
For such a peaceful setting the number of activities is endless; the hotel runs a programme of complimentary activities and experiences from forest meditation to Pilates, vineyard hill hikes and even a spot of tree climbing for the more adventurous. I really felt like this hotel was offering way more than your average rural retreat; I could be as busy as I wanted to be, safe in the knowledge that I wasn't going to have a huge bill upon check-out. But if you want to do nothing at all, Six Senses Douro Valley also has you covered with its fabulous spa. Indulge in a grape-tastic treatment or relax with some yoga or pilates. While the these were all very tempting, I was here to sample some port and have a go at making some myself using the oldest of techniques… feet stomping. I was taken to a quaint local port house and promptly told if I wanted port I would have to earn it. Into the vat of grapes I waded and I can't say it was a pleasant experience but the end rewards were well worth it. If you are a connoisseur or simply curious about where the best ports come from then Quinta do Bomfim, which produces Dow's, Warres and Cockburns is a mere half an hour drive away and well worth a visit and tasting.
Once the busy day was over I headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a sumptuous local meal including the obligatory (and completely delicious) ham, alongside some small creative dishes that the chef had put together. I couldn't come to Portugal and not try their Pastel de Nata for pudding and, bold statement alert, I think it was the best I've ever had.
One Final Experience
The next day I headed the short distance to the river where I boarded a local boat and cruised down the river for a few hours taking in the immense local landscape and catching some rays, even in October temperatures are lovely and allow for some mild tanning.
Once back at the hotel I reluctantly packed my bags and was already thinking about the next time I could return to this amazing place, when I would have more than 24 hours to savour the treats that Portugal has to offer.