Douro off the beaten track in a wine tasting route
Portugal Green Walks, from Braga, in the North of Portugal, takes tourists on walks that taste like Port wine and portray the history of producing farms.
From the Casal de Loivos viewpoint to Pinhão there are about 6 kilometres along dirt roads, passing through the Port wine plantations that dot the mountain behind Pinhão in the Douro region. Paulo Lopes travels the path with the confidence of someone who has done it over and over again. There is no Portugal Green Walks route that its founder and CEO has not personally travelled to, in order to understand the best routes and how they can be used, in a business that aims to take tourists to the north of the country.
In Douro, business is going well, only limited by the difficulty in finding accommodation in this World Heritage region, which is increasingly expensive and exclusive. But that does not discourage Paulo Lopes, who in the Pilgrimage Way of Saint James alone, one of the company's highlights, already hosted 800 people this year, from all over the world.
Down the vineyards, the first “quinta” (a farm where the harvest of grapes takes place and wine is made) that walkers find in their path is “Jalloto”, a wine, olive oil and honey producer that conquers those who pass through with a scenic balcony of unobstructed views over the Douro valley, Pinhão always in the background. And there begins the wine tasting, which attracts so many tourists to the region. A little further down, “Quinta da Roêda” has a privileged spot to enjoy the landscape, with a small table where you can sit. Never forgetting, of course, to taste the “Croft” offered there, in a hall that is also used for events.
Paulo Lopes's walk, part of the package he sells to tourists in the region, ends at Symington's “Quinta do Bomfim” at lunchtime, with a picnic under the envious looks of the dozens of foreigners holding their glasses. Back to Pinhão, it is time to go back, but not without visiting one of the privileged partners of this Braga company. Portugal Green Walks often works with “Quinta do Seixo”, a Sandeman “quinta”, where it is possible to have a picnic in the vineyards, on a terrace that is a true vantage point facing Douro.
GPS for hikers
Many of the routes are done independently by the tourists, who are provided with a GPS that does not need Internet, and a roadbook that helps to find the right way and to visit all the places that are worth it. The programs, which last up to a week, can be customised according to the hikers' taste. With more or less kilometres a day, the aim is to make Douro landscapes better known to tourists coming from everywhere. During the walk, hikers stay in local hotels or in a rural accommodation, getting to know the best of the region. Portugal Green Walks deals with all the logistics so that people are where they have to be at the right time. Paulo Lopes explained that the best months for the company are May and September, when there are mild temperatures, which allow hiking without major problems.
Germans, Belgians, and tourists from Nordic countries top the raking of customers for the company, but Paulo Lopes has already received people from all over the world. Portuguese and Spanish not so much. Portugal Green Walks is also organising one, two and three days incentives, and receives companies groups for team building or bonding activities.
Paulo Lopes believes that there is still much to do in Portugal to stimulate this segment of walks and bicycles, in which the company is also acting. Often the regions are too unexplored and there are no support infrastructure for businesses and tourists. The founder of Portugal Green Walks now wants to invest in international Douro and Montesinho regions. We will definitely check that out.
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