Winelover Trip through Portugal: Douro and Serra da Estrela Part I

Dear readers! I am glad to take you on an amazing journey to wonderful Portugal. So far, I had heard about this country mainly through stories about surfing and beautiful beaches. However, thanks to my recent trip, I have seen a very different side of this country, which inspired me and opened up a world that I had not expected. Not only did the culinary specialties surprise me, but also the cultural highlights around the city of Porto, Douro valley and Serra da Estrela.


From Porto to the historic villages of Belmonte, Linhares da Beira and Sortelha

Porto has definitely enchanted me with its romantic charm. The colorful facades, partly decorated with tiles, remind me of actual postcard motives. From here, our journey took off through the summer landscape of Portugal, heading towards the backcountry along the river Douro.


Only when we arrive on the terrace of  the restaurant “Porto Cruz” and overlook the hustle and bustle on the Douro river, I begin to realize that I have left everything from back home behind me – including bad weather!


In “Calem” port wine cellar, we receive a first match of the famous Port wine. Here, we learn more about the differences in the storage and fermentation of this world-famous wine …


... sowie auch der Geschmack ;)

… including, of course, our first official wine tasting! 😉


Check out Elena’s post about “her love affair of a kind”, talking about the beauty and charm of the city of Porto! I will now, however, take you on a journey into the hinterland of Porto. As part of the project “Douro & Estrela“, I was invited to explore the beautiful area between Porto and the Spanish border in the west of Portugal together with a group of international wine and tourism experts.

The first stop takes us to picturesque Belmonte southeast of Porto, where we get to spend the night in a former convent.


Beautiful streets in Belmonte, near Porto.


In such aged walls, I feel completely at ease. The former chapel of the “Convento de Belmonte” was converted into a living room for the hotel guests. Great, isn’t it?


The Convento de Belmonte lures us with ancient walls, combined with modern elements. Recently restored with a sweeping terrace offering views over the valley, the former convent makes for a truly romantic accommodation.


Imagine sitting on this terrace in the warm evening sun together. We overlook snow-capped Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain in Portugal. The local musicians play some classic music tunes … It is a beautiful evening to celebrate the beginning of our trip! For dinner, we have our first go at sampling the local delicacies: Chourizo, cheese, wine and of course “Bacalao” (cod), the national dish of the Portuguese.

„There is one way to prepare „bacalao“ for each day of the year“.

“There is one way to prepare ‘Bacalao’ for each day of the year”, or so they say here in Portugal.


Tasting chorizo and rosé - the first delights of the local cuisine!

Tasting chorizo and rosé wines – the first delights of the local cuisine!


The next day, we are off to explore pretty Belmonte. The small town has a lot to offer. There are five museums around here, out of which we visited two: the Jewish and the “Museu de Descubrimientos” – the Explorers’ Museum. Portuguese people are proud of their nautic skills and heritage, with the likes of Magellan, Vasco da Gama and other explorers still very present.

The Jewish community in Belmonte is one of great importance in Portugal. For centuries, Jews have lived here and held their customs in secret. They pretended to be Catholic in order to survive. In the Jewish Museum, you can learn more about the history and fate of this people here in Portugal.


I wander through the “Amazon” in the “Museu de Descubrimientos” – a place to feel, touch and marvel – a fantastic museum where you actually learn by playing!


Afterwards, we head east to visit the “Granite City” Sortelha. Apart from Belmonte, it is the second of the so-called “Aldeias Historicas” (“historic villages”) that we visit. The “Aldeias Historicas” are twelve villages in Portugal which have taken special care to preserve their medieval town center. Sortelha is still very reminiscent of times gone by. The small picturesque village forms a ring around the old castle, which gives it a pretty look.

You feel as if you enter another era as soon as one has passed through the gate. Today, Sortelha has only five permanent residents, but visitors come regularly to see the lovely village and maybe spend a night here.


Die Orangen leuchten so schön am Baum! Man möchte sich beinahe eine aus dem fremden Garten stibitzen!

The oranges glow so beautifully on the tree! One would almost like to steal one from the garden!


Colourful patches in a city of granite. They are evidence of residents in the village – even if there are not many left.


After nibbling sweet cherries from the trees in Sortelha, we move on to have lunch in “Thermas do Cro“. Here, wonderful delicacies and wines from the region are served to us.

“Thermas do Cro” are a modern health center near Sabugal.


Tuna – potato salad with egg. Yummy! Simple but excellent food!


This blackberry jam has made its way to Austria. Gorgeous! …


... aber es gibt auch Pikantes!

… But there is also something savory!


Absolutely love this fine spicy sheep milk cheese ☺


About the cheese: Our journey now takes us on to the farm “4Quintas“. Here, I am learning more about my favorite cheese: from the lamb to the finished product, we learn all there is to know about sheep farming & cheese production in the backcountry of Portugal!

Granted – the picture could look more skillful. But to keep something as fluffy as this on the arm has overwhelmed me a little! Oh I would have loved to take it home ☺


Cheese maturing – the storage gives them the right flavour.


After our visit to the sheep farm, our trip takes us a little further west into the village of Linhares da Beira, another beautiful “Aldeia Historica”. Here, we also get to stay in a historic accommodation venue. The hotel Inatel promises to be a luxurious country accommodation, majestically overlooking the surrounding countryside.

View from the hotel Inatel in Linhares da Beira over the expanse of Portugal.


Very elegant – Hotel Inatel in Linhares da Beira.


The evening sun shining on parts of the hotel; castle of Linhares da Beira in the background.


This is how a Portuguese sunset looks like through a castle gate. Beautiful, right?


Freshly picked organic strawberries in the fancy restaurant Cova da Loba!


You would not believe what a fancy restaurant I found here in the old town of Linhares da Beira. Incredibly creatively designed! Are you wondering what I show you on the photo? It is the actual bathroom!


Both the fine wine selection …


… as well as the food leave nothing to be desired! I love my trip here.


The food at the Cova da Loba is the crowning glory of the first part of our food & winelover trip around northern & Central Portugal. Gorgeous! Our journey then takes us on to the district of Almeida, an area that I am going to talk about more in my next travel article.


Disclaimer: We have been invited by “Douro e Estrela” to join their trip through Douro and Serra da Estrela in Portugal. All opinions are my own.

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