I’ve seen the popularity of Portugal skyrocket in recent years, which I think is so well-deserved. Still, people haven’t quite caught on to the Douro Valley. It’s a rustic slice of heaven where real life is happening all around you: a local leading his donkey who gives you a sweet smile; a one-man port producer who shows you the stone basins where his friends and family will stomp grapes come fall.
The riding is so amazingly varied: misty forests, cobblestone villages, bike paths, roads beside the Douro River, even a lunarlike stretch outside Ardãos. Personally, my favorite ride is a seven-kilometer descent into Pinhão—you can see forever from the mountaintops, then you wind your way through vineyards and end right on the banks of the Douro.
After a week of hills, I always appreciate a little luxury. Each hotel in Douro blew me away, but the Six Senses Douro Valley offers an acute focus on wine, their grounds are beyond gorgeous, and the breakfast is so good. Their exceptional spa treatments were the perfect way to cap off the trip.