The Douro river is the beating heart of Portugal’s Port wine region. Terraced vineyards are planted on its steep valley slopes and for centuries it was used to transport barrels from the wineries downstream to the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia for ageing. So there’s no better way to get acquainted with the region than by visiting the river. And there’s no better place to experience the river than Octant Douro.
Built into the hillside terraces of Castelo de Paiva in the lower Douro and stretching right down to the river bank, this hotel is part of Octant Hotels, a collection of eight boutique, design-led properties across Portugal. Conveniently located between the city of Porto and the vertiginous vineyards of the upper Douro, it makes a perfect base for exploring the Douro Valley – which celebrates its 20th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage Site this year.
Bringing the outside in
The stunning scenery is an integral part of the hotel’s design. Constructed from schist stone and glass, it blends into the landscape, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering different vistas from every corner you turn. Take a dip in either of the two outdoor infinity pools and you’ll instantly feel at one with nature.
Each of the 55 luxurious rooms and six suites has stunning river views, many with a private terrace or balcony, including a private pool suite and a panoramic suite to maximise those Instagram-worthy moments. Design in neutral shades contributes to the sense of calm – especially in the hotel’s spa. Here the indoor pool and sauna again benefit from full-length windows so you can soak up the views as you relax or enjoy a bespoke treatment.
Take to the water
If you’d prefer to unwind closer the water – and step back in time – book a boat-trip in Octant I. This carefully restored rabelo boat pays homage to the cargo vessels once used to convey barrels and people along the Douro. Guests can also hire private boats to explore the twists and turns of the 897km river; a morning tour includes a picnic breakfast of fresh local produce on a secluded island.
Hire a kayak to explore the river under your own steam. Electric bikes are also available if you’d prefer to stay on dry land; or put your best foot forward on hiking trails that head up into the mountains surrounding the hotel.
But of course, you’re here for the wines too, so save time to visit local producers. Hotel staff can arrange winery visits and tastings – it takes around an hour-and-a half to drive to the heart of the Douro’s vineyard region along winding roads, but it’s a trip worth making.
Wine and dine
Octant Douro champions both regional wine and food producers on its menus, embracing the concept of localism by sourcing ingredients from nearby organic farms. The hotel’s ‘Producer Week’ series invites different winemakers to visit the hotel to give tutored tastings; while chef Dárcio Henriques prepares an accomplished six course fine-dining menu, pairing their wines with dishes in the elegant Raiva restaurant – an ideal location to savour the sunset as you dine.
Visiting wineries have included Real Companhia Velha, the oldest wine company in Portugal, and iconic Quinta do Noval. On our visit, Ports from fifth-generation family producer Vieira de Sousa took centre stage. Pairings included rosé Port with an eye-catching beetroot and radish carpaccio garnished with edible flowers; and extra dry white Port with zucchini flower stuffed with turbot and shrimp.
In fact the hotel has over 150 Port references on its list, including vintage bottles such Quinta do Noval Nacional 1963, selections from Niepoort and notable single-quinta wines such as Croft’s Quinta da Roeda 2012. Look out for top Douro table wines too: bottles such as icon red Chryseia 2019 from Prats & Symington and Casa Ferreirinha Barca Velha 2011. For more local flavour drop into one of the tastings hosted by the hotel’s sommeliers daily at 5pm in English and Portuguese.
The more casual A Terra Bar & Canteen serves salads, risotto and cheese and meat platters, plus wood-fired pizzas. The peaceful terrace overlooking the Douro is a perfect spot to enjoy a Portonic and go with the flow… But however you spend your time here, you won’t fail to fall in love with this unique Portuguese wine region during your stay.
See the Octant Duoro website for further details.