Alto Douro

The Alto Douro Wine Region is a cultural landscape shaped by winemaking.

The region has a hot dry micro climate and rocky soil. This results in ideal growing conditions for grapes. There is archaeological evidence for winemaking in the region dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

The region has Portugal's highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC). While the region is associated primarily with Port wine production, the Douro produces just as much table wine (non-fortified wines) as it does fortified wine.

The landscape consists of terraced vineyards on large and small estates, white-walled villages, olive and almond crops, the river Douro.


Visit December 2002, March 2016

In 2002 I had planned to visit the nearby Coa Valley and had already arranged a tour when they informed me that a visit had become impossible because of flooding. So I limited my tour to the North-East of Portugal to the Douro Valley. There's a nauseating road that follows the Douro River. The towns there looked really rundown. And because it was winter there was not much to see of the wine too.

On my second attempt for the Coa Valley (this time succesful), I once again passed the Douro Valley. The areas of these 2 WHS are nearly contiguous. This time I did not take the winding road along the Douro, but the main highway. Numerous signs point to the Douro vineyard landscape.

The landscape is very pretty at times. But it's a pity that you can only speed by. There are hardly any parking spots or lookouts along the way.

Community Reviews

Clyde - August 2014

I visited this WHS in August 2014. The first glimpse and enriching experience was by car after having visited the Coa Valley. There were street signs indicating the area inscribed as a WHS and several winding roads that lead to the terraced vineyards. Plenty of grapes on the vines when I visited. Then I enjoyed the captivating views of the Alto Douro valley from the Douro itself on board a boat tour I booked from Oporto. This is definitely a more relaxing experience but I must say that visiting by car on the whole was my favourite experience of the two. To wrap up I decided to visit Graham's cellars at Vila Nova de Gaia to taste the Alto Douro produce and learn about the history of Port-making. Bliss!

John Booth - April 2010

I found the most relaxing way of visiting the Alto Douro was to take the train from Porto to Pocinho and back. The train runs up the valley with excellent views of the rocky gorges, the vinyards and wineries.

Jose Gomes - June 2005

Portugal is a small country but its landscape changes a lot going from north to the south, changing from green to yellow during the summer. This is due to the large number of rivers in the northern region when compared with the southern one and also due to the amount of water that flows in these rivers. Douro river comes from Spain and since it touches Portugal, in a region that it is the frontier between Spain and Portugal (International Douro park), it passes along the most impressive scenery that I know for a river. However, its rapids disappear due to several dams. Fortunately, most of them permit that boats pass through. The deep valleys are amazing. When the park finishes, two Unesco's World Heritage sites appear. These are the Rockart sites of the Coa valley (an affluent of Douro river) and the Douro Wine Region. These two sites may be visited from (O)Porto, 2nd largest city in Portugal, taking a train or a boat (cruise). Douro Wine Region is the oldest marked wine region and it is the mother region of Port and Douro wines.

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Site Info

Full name: Alto Douro Wine Region

Site History

  • 2001 - Inscribed

    Reasons for inscription
  • 2001 - Advisory Body overruled

    ICOMOS wanted referral because of management plan


The site has 1 locations.

  • Alto Douro


The site has 11 connections.


  • Glazed tiles Estação Ferroviária do Pinhão
  • Railways the construction of the Douro railway line (1873-87) encouraged this expansion (AB ev)
  • Vineyards 



Human Activity


  • Built in the 1st century "Seeds of Vitis vinifera have recently been found at the 3-4 thousand year old Buraco da Pala Chalcolithic archaeological site near Mirandela. However, the more significant relics of viticulture and winemaking that have been uncovered date to the Roman occupation and particularly to the end of the Western Empire (3rd and 4th centuries AD). At the beginning of the Christian era, the Romans redefined all the land-use and restructured the economic activities in the entire valley of the Douro. From the 1st century onwards, they either introduced or promoted cultivation of vines, olive trees and cereals" (AB)

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World Heritage Process