The Douro Valley Taking its name from the river, which flows from the Spanish border to Oporto, the Douro Valley, is one of the oldest of the historic European wine regions, renowned for its beauty, as well as its famous Douro port. The Douro Valley is the only place in the world that can legally produce port, thanks to the Marquês de Pombal, who demarcated the region in 1756. Although best known for its port, the past 20 years have also seen the increase in popularity for the Douro’s very palatable red and white table wines.
Driving through the Douro Valley, visitors will enjoy wonderful river views, valleys and gorges, pretty villages, and a spectacular panorama of terraces covered in vines. Classed as a World Heritage Site in 2001, the Douro wine region was included on the UNESCO list for its 2000-year-old cultivation of grapevines, which has produced a landscape of outstanding beauty. It’s a great choice for memorable wine-tasting holidays in Portugal.
Many of the wine-producing estates (‘Quintas’) offer tastings and tours. Out of the three villas we feature here, two produce their own wine, and the owners of all three villas are happy to arrange vineyard visits and wine tours for guests. As well as winery visits and tastings, other popular activities in the region include boat rides on the Douro River, feasting on traditional cuisine in an array of wonderful restaurants, and visiting the Douro Museum at the riverside town of Peso da Régua. One of the most popular and picturesque towns to visit in the Douro Valley is Pinhão, home to one of our villas, featured below.
Top villas to rent in the Douro ValleyVilla Pinhão(4 bedrooms; 8 guests).Located just 1 km from the pretty town of Pinhão, the villa benefits from wonderful views over olive trees and vineyard terraces, which slope down to the River Douro. Pinhão is also known for its river marina, and railway station, the latter with its walls decorated in lovely azulejo tiles. Guests will also enjoy the floodlit infinity swimming pool with spectacular views over the valley, and the villa also has an indoor jacuzzi. For stays of at least one week, the owner is offering a complimentary “local gastronomy” meal, a visit and tasting at one of the port producing Quintas, and also a two-hour Rabelo boat ride on the Douro. A buffet-style breakfast each morning is also included, and a concierge is on hand to arrange bookings (restaurants, tours, etc.) locally.
Vista Douro (6-12 bedrooms; 12-18 guests)Set on a high plateau, this large historic villa on a wine estate benefits from outstanding views over the Douro River. Dating from the 17th century, the villa retains its original charm and character, while adding modern comforts and is ideal for a relaxing holiday for a large family, or a group of friends. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and terraces, there is also a swimming pool with a wonderful vineyard and river views. Moreover, the property also has a gym, a snooker table, and a traditional wine cellar – the latter can also be used for a special celebratory dinner. A buffet breakfast is included for guests. The Quinta produces its own table wines, which guests are welcome to taste during their stay, and a concierge can arrange bookings for restaurants and tours.
Villa Rio Torto (5 bedrooms; 10 -12 guests).This villa is situated on an organic vineyard estate right at the heart of the Douro World Heritage Site. From its position on a high plateau on the banks of the Rio Torto (a tributary south of the Douro River), the property offers sensational views of the hills and vine-covered terraces. As a wine-producing estate, the owners here include a guided tour of the winery, as well as a tasting. The estate also produces olive oil for guests to enjoy during their stay, as well as fruit trees, with delicious seasonal fresh fruit. There is a swimming pool which can be heated on request. On arrival, guests will find a welcome hamper, and a meal to heat up and serve.
AlentejoSituated between the Algarve to the south, and Lisbon a one hour’s drive to the north, the Alentejo is renowned for its relaxed lifestyle, beautiful long white sand beaches, its olive groves, and cork forests, whitewashed villages, ancient Moorish castles, its cuisine – and its wine. Archaeological finds confirm the Romans, who occupied the country for more than 700 years, from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century AD, helped cultivate the local vineyards and influenced the Alentejo lifestyle which remains to this day – and the region offers some of the best wine-tasting tours in Portugal.
A ‘must visit’ is the historic walled city of Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its Templo Romano, with ancient marble columns, lit up at night. Évora is also home to the Alentejo Wine Route Tasting Room, where visitors can travel virtually through the history of wine in the region. Also, for more tips about exploring local wineries, Wine Tourism in Portugal features their top 10 recommendations to visit, and another website worth investigating for wine tours is Wine Tourism.
As well as long sandy beaches, the Alentejo is also known for its natural parks, hiking trails, and wildlife reserves. Dolphins can be seen at the Sado Reservoir near Troia, and further down the coast, the long beaches are great for surfing and enjoying long walks. Most of our villas are near the coast at Comporta, and the beaches and all have been sympathetically built in terms of architecture and sustainability (so no high-rise buildings). Moreover, organic vegetables and fruit are produced locally, and the Alentejo is also known for its excellent choice of restaurants.
Top villas to rent in Comporta and AlentejoDunas da Praia (5 bedrooms; 6- 9 guests).This villa sits in a peaceful location just a 10-minute walk from Praia do Pego beach. Set on raised sand dunes, within a private condominium, the property features flowering shrubs, indigenous grasses, shady trees, and decked pathways. There is a private swimming pool, and several bicycles and yoga mats available for use by guests. It is a particularly good choice for an out-of-high season stay with a cosy ambience, and heating available on request. The owners also offer a discounted rate for smaller groups.
Casa Branca (6 bedrooms; guests). Located in the countryside, near Grandola, the villa is just a 30-minute drive from the coast and beaches. Set within a quiet 20-acre private estate, guests here can enjoy a peaceful ambience, an infinity swimming pool, as well as a gym, a beach volley court, bodyboards, and also use of the villa’s bicycles. The rooms are beautifully furnished and decorated with the owner’s art collection. Further amenities here include air conditioning and heated floors in all rooms. A Land Rover Discovery 3, right-hand drive, is available for guests on request.
Comporta Resort Villa (2 bedrooms; 4 guests). This small villa sits among pine forests and sand dunes, within the compound of Comporta’s best luxury hotel. The villa benefits from complete privacy and seclusion, as well as having access to the hotel’s 5-star facilities, and just a short distance from restaurants and beaches. Designed in a charming cabana-style, the villa has a private pool, and three spacious decks, with beautiful views. There is also an indoor/outdoor log fireplace to enjoy in the cooler months. Guests can use the hotel facilities, including three excellent restaurants, a spa with a sauna, a steam room, massage room, and indoor pool. For larger groups, we also feature 3-, 4- and 5-bedroom villas within this beautiful resort.
The AlgarveThe Algarve, with its hot summers and mild, sunny autumn climate, is one of Europe’s most sought-after all-year-round holiday destinations. Add to this, a long coastline of beaches, picturesque fishing villages, a fascinating long history, mountains, rivers, castles, and rivers, as well as superb golf courses and excellent cuisine, the region’s popularity is even more understandable. Moreover, protected by its surrounding mountains, the Algarve region offers the perfect landscape and conditions to produce wine, and more recently, with more investment in the wine industry, Algarve wines have become increasingly popular.
The Algarve is separated from the Alentejo by the Monchique Mountain range, protecting the region from winds from the north and, with its south-facing aspect, it also benefits from warm, dry summers and plenty of sunshine. It has been a demarcated wine region since 1980, with four distinct DOCs (areas with protected designation of origin): Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa, and Tavira. With the majority of vineyards in the western and central areas of the Algarve, you will find good quality wine estates and highly recommended itineraries in the areas around Lagos, and going east to Silves, Portimão, Lagoa, Albufeira, and Loulé. As well as wine tasting in the Algarve, visitors can also enjoy the region’s many other attractions – including beaches, walking and mountain biking trails, golf courses, horse riding, and boat trips.
Most of our villas to rent in the Algarve are within an easy drive of the best wine production areas, with Salema village and beach, less than 30 minutes’ drive from the historic walled coastal town of Lagos. Closer to Portimão, we feature the authentic Portuguese Quinta da Donalda, and near Loulé, we recommend Casa Alto do Cerro, a beautiful villa with large grounds and stunning views. The stunning Villa Hibiscus sits right beside the long (4 km), white sand Galé beach, around 30 minutes drive east of Portimão. Algarve Tips is a good website for finding wine tours in the Algarve to visit near our villas and general Algarve wine information. The villas below are near the vineyards mentioned in Loulé (Casa Alto do Cerro), Silves (Quinta da Donaldo), and Guia (Villa Hibiscus). Guia is also home to Sir Cliff Richard’s vineyard Adega do Cantor.
Casa Alto do Cerro (5 bedrooms, 10-12 guests).This beautiful villa is situated just a few minutes’ drive from the market town of Loulé, and around 20 minutes’ drive from Quinta do Lago and Vilamoura where you can enjoy the beaches, golf courses, markets, cafés, and restaurants. With stunning views and amenities, including a large garden with a heated saltwater swimming pool, there are also plenty of things to enjoy at the actual property. The games room is equipped with a pool table, table football, and an 82″ TV with play station. The property can be rented for a minimum of three nights, except during Christmas and Easter, when it must be rented for a minimum of five nights. A guest cottage behind the main house has a Life Fitness treadmill, a Schwinn spinning bike, a weight bench and free weights, yoga mats, and Pilates equipment. There is also a golf practice net outside the gym and a basketball hoop with two basketballs. The villa has both air conditioning and heating.
Quinta da Donalda(1-5 bedrooms; 2-10 guests). This classic Portuguese Quinta sits within 92 hectares of land and is still a working estate. It offers the perfect base for large families or groups of friends, but out of high season, the two smaller cottages (next to each other) can also be rented separately, for two people, or together for four people – or with the third larger property (a wing of the original Quinta) for up to 10 people. All three properties here have their own fully equipped kitchen and are fitted with fireplaces (logs provided), central heating, and air conditioning for year-round rentals. Within the grounds is a fenced-in swimming pool. The closest beach is just a 10-minute drive away, and it is also a short drive to restaurants and golf courses.
Villa Hibiscus (5 bedrooms; 10 guests). This stunning villa is literally just steps from idyllic Galé Beach, one of the region’s longest stretches of coast, and bordering the Salgados nature reserve. The bars, boutiques, and restaurants of Albufeira and Guia are within easy reach, and the nearby Salgados nature reserve, offers excellent bird watching, walking and biking opportunities, all year round. The light-filled interiors include five beautiful beach-themed bedrooms, as well as a spacious living and dining area, leading out to a furnished shaded terrace. Within the landscaped garden, is the swimming pool and terraces with furnished areas, perfect for relaxing in the sun, or alfresco dining and sundowners, while enjoying the magnificent sunsets.