In September 2021, following a quick but delicious and productive 24 hours in Porto, I was off on a 2 hour train ride from Porto to Douro Valley, specifically the city of Peso de Regua, which is one of the biggest and main gateways to the valley. The 2 hour journey flies by as it is a very scenic and wonderful journey, half of which goes along the banks of the River Douro.
Douro Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, and is actually the oldest DOC in the world, older than any DOC in France. It not only produces barrel upon barrels of Port wine, but lots of both white and red wines, lots of which are local varietals. The best part? The port and wines here are so affordable and are a huge bang for buck compared to other nearby European wine regions. Having now been, to me it is one of the prettiest wine regions in the world, its hard to beat the undulating terraced hills jetting out of the gracefully curving Douro River below.
Other than to have lots of wine and port and learn all about the Douro Valley, the main purpose of this trip was to stay at the Six Senses Douro Valley, the sustainable wellness luxury chain’s first hotel in Europe. There are many hotel options in the region. Many are boutique ones housed inside Quintas / Wineries. But few match the level of luxury, service and wide range of activities and amenities on offer at Six Senses.
Who Is It For?
Its really for everyone. I believe families, solo travelers, couples, friends, people in search of a wellness getaway, people in search of a luxurious getaway/base in the Douro Valley wine region, those with deep enough pockets or those who want to splurge on a memorable and unique stay (a stay here in peak seasons is not cheap, while more affordable in low and shoulder seasons, it is still often one of the most expensive properties in all of Portugal). If you love food, wine but also enjoy the outdoors, culture, history and wellness/exercise, this hotel is perfect for you. Or if you are just into some or one of the above listed items, this hotel can still be for you. It really welcomes all and has all the amenities and activities and range of rooms to suit each need.
- Convenient location. It is a short 10 minute drive from the Peso de Regua train station, and a 2 hour drive from Porto Airport. No complimentary shuttles or transfer, but the hotel can happily arrange for you.
- Service. The staff, lead my GM Andre who you can meet at the GM’s happy hours, here are all great. So friendly, warm, personable yet professional and they really do try to get to know you. Not at all pretentious. Despite a couple of minor hiccups during my stay, everyone handled the situations professionally and promptly. I was very impressed. Questions or concerned were met with smiles and “no problem.” Personally, the teams at the bar, wine library and restaurant were especially fantastic. They are also all passionate about their roles, Douro Valley/Portugal and eager to share the region as well as the various sustainability initiatives from Six Sense with the guests.
- The property itself is beautiful and full of history. The forest walk is so tranquil and unspoiled with plenty of nooks and crannies for you to discover.
- Rooms are great. I had a Vineyard Deluxe and loved my large balcony with oversize sofa and dining area overlooking the vineyards and nearby Quintas. Bedding is so comfortable and there is even a pillow menu or you can participate in their dedicated Sleep Program too!
- Experiences and Activities. As usual, Six Senses has a never-ending selection of experiences and activities. Lots of great things to choose from at this property, complimentary or not. Lots of ways to discover the region and valley as well as the property itself. But if you choose to just relax by the pool and sip wine in the library, perfect as well!
- F&B program. From daily wine tastings to Chef’s table tasting menu experience and ingredients plucked fresh from the organic gardens. The hotel fully embraces its culinary locale to the fullest.
- Spa. Six Senses is known for its Spas around the world, and Douro Valley is no different. The entire wellness zone is massive and has lots of facilities
- It’s all in the details. You’ll notice in the decor and aesthetics, lots of elements of the area are incorporated, including many from the local wine industry.
- The convenient location also means that a lot of the times you wont actually feel all that secluded / away from it all. Some rooms have views of the road that leads to the hotel, the pool and main areas look out to the river but then onwards to the city of Peso de Regua. Very minor concern, but there are a handful of smaller boutiques along the valley that really offer a truly secluded view/ feeling. However, there is very little noise or light pollution from the nearby city and roadways that would affect a stay here.
- Occasionally faulty app on in-room iPad and personal devices can lead to miscommunication or even misorders in room-service. But this may have been a one-off in my situation.
- The 3rd party companies used for transport/tours will be the luck of the draw in terms of guides/drivers you get. I had one tour with a sensational guide and driver, another tour with an overbearing but passionate guide/drive who did not quite get what I was looking for/realize I was on a time crunch.
- Pricetag, it is a bit pricey for Portugal. But in my opinion, well worth every penny spent here.
Would recommend and 100% would return. I really had a fantastic and memorable 3 night stay here. It truly is one of the best places I have stayed at in Europe. Experiences and levels of service rivaling the most luxurious resorts in Asia. In fact, 3 nights was barely enough given the vast array of activities to choose from as well as wanting to build in time to relax!
Experiences Not to Miss
Each week the hotel publishes a schedule of daily scheduled activities. Some are complimentary, others are at an added fee. Most require advance booking to secure your spot. You can of course consult the website or concierge team to arrange for your own tours/activities not listed on the schedule or that you might miss during your time there.
- If wine and food is your thing, be sure to consider the Full Day Sommelier’s Tour, well worth it and phenomenal. The tour includes visiting 2 Quintas with tastings and winery tours all with a certified local Sommelier. As well as local lunch, sunset champagne from a off-beaten-path viewing deck. And a Douro River Cruise on a traditional Rabelo boat (though not a private one, if you want that, there is a separate Six Senses excursion). If you come in September-October, mainly October, you can participate in stomping the grapes as part of harvest season. Things are done old-fashioned here in Douro!
- Wine Tasting. The wine library hosts a wine tasting every evening. You can also book for more premium wine tastings. Or just have wallet-draining fun with the wine dispenser that’ll accumulate your tab on a card you insert to pour the wine.
- Chef’s Table Dinner , of all the F&B programs on site, this is the absolute must in my opinion. You get to sit at the plating counter in the open kitchen and be in the middle of the action. The culinary team curates a tasting menu from the day’s ingredients and you can choose to have a wine pairing selected by the sommelier team from the wine library. It is delicious, fun, and memorable. The homemade Cauliflower dip and the shrimp/watermelon/tomato dish I had in this meal were some of the best on my entire Porto/Douro trip.
- Summer BBQ, if you are visiting during the summer months, be sure to book a seat at the outdoor BBQ on the terraced garden of the main Quinta of the hotel. Beautiful during sunset and of course great food and wine pairings.
- Cocktails. Yes, you are here for the wine and port, mainly, but the bartending staff at Six Senses Douro Valley mix up some mad cocktails that are very delicious, and many utilize the local ports/wines as well as herbs and spices grown on property. Port negroni made with house brewed vermouth anyone? And join the GM and his team during the GM happy hours he hosts, a great way to get to know the staff and fellow guests.
- If you are here for wellness, there is plenty to choose from. You the spa is not to be missed. I went for a “Personalized Massage” where the therapist first asks a few questions such as focus areas and what you want out of the massage and any stress points…etc. before the treatment. But there are a lot of other spa and wellness packages and occasionally the hotel runs retreats too. You can do a full day spa day. You can sign up for the muli-night sleep program. They even have a full health consultation room to conduct a full body health scan and consultation, and you can reach out and contact your therapist/professional even after you leave the hotel. There is a dry sauna, infrared sauna, steam room, hammam, indoor pool, jacuzzi, relaxation zone and a very high-tech indoor gym, but also a nice smaller outdoor gym overlooking the river.
- If you are an avid outdoorsman, also plenty to choose from. Every few days there is complimentary Kayaking on the river, but you can also sign up for a paid Kayaking adventure. There is also canyoning during certain months of the year. Hiking, bikes to rent (for free), a tennis court, or just run/walk the forest trail on the hotel property. Or perhaps you want to scale one of the trees on property? That’s an option too.
- Join in on the free Organic Garden tour, where the gardener will walk you through the organic garden explaining the various vegetables and herbs being grown and the hotel’s sustainability practices.
- Join in on a free session at the Alchemy Bar in the spa, to concoct your own essential oil and body scrub using ingredients from the gardens. Longer more in depth paid sessions available to book as well.
- Get lost in the Forest Trail and find the various nooks and crannies and some historic ruins along the way. There are also “secret tunnels” and small waterfalls. If you get tired a few resting nests dot the path.
- Pop into the Earth Lab and learn about the community initiatives and sustainability practices of the hotel. This is where a lot of herbs and vegetables are dried or used to make salts and teas for the hotel to use and sell.
- Become best friends with house dog, Aqua, who is friendly and just roams about the property, its really Aqua’s world and we’re living in it.
- Take a half or full day tour to nearby towns to discover regional histories and culture such as Lamego. This is the home of the beautiful Santuario de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, the Sanctuary of our Lady of Remedies and the 658 or so steps to climb up.
- There is also a whole range of kids programming available as well.
As you can see, you wont get bored here at Six Senses Douro Valley. There is more than you could possibly squeeze in your time here. And no one would fault you if all you wanted to do was relax by the indoor or outdoor pool, or lounge about your room or the resting nests and have a glass of wine/port/cocktail. Its got something for everyone. And the teams here do a great job of curating all these activities. The companies the hotel works with for off-site excursions are also all fantastic. Six Senses Douro Valley embodies the Six Senses ethos of sustainable locality. It is luxurious, down to earth, and friendly. A truly wonderful place.
Food and Beverage
Summer BBQ Dinner
Chef’s Table Dinner
I am not including all the pictures of each dish/ wine drank during this dinner, but suffice to say its was mostly all very delicious. 1-2 misses on the food, but otherwise a worthwhile experience.
Wine and Cocktails
Spa and Facilities
Grounds and Forest Trail
Sommelier’s Wine Tour
Visited Quinta do Noval winery and Wine & Soul, both fantastic wineries. Stopped at Toca da Raposa for lunch and had the most incredible regional dish: Cabrito asado con arroz, amazing tender, juicy, fall of the bone baby goat with rice, the outer layer rice was crispy and the inside rice was chewy and moist and perfectly spiced/ seasoned. amazing local regional Douro cuisine.