Heading upriver from Peso da Régua, terraced vineyards blanket every hillside, with whitewashed quintas perched high above the Douro. This dramatic landscape is the jaw-dropping by-product of over 2000 years of winemaking. While villages are small and architectural monuments few and far between, it’s worth the trip simply for the panoramic ride itself (by car, train or boat). Its allure has clearly not gone unnoticed. In 2001 Unesco designated the entire Alto Douro wine-growing region a World Heritage Site.
Further east towards Spain, the soil is drier, with the sculpted landscape giving way to more rugged terrain. But despite the aridity – and the blisteringly hot summers – the land around Vila Nova de Foz Côa produces fine grapes and excellent olives and nuts.
Most recently, the construction of the Foz-Tua dam just metres from the Alto Douro has sparked controversy among Portuguese environmental groups and the region's wine producers. Regardless, the construction is in its final stages.