On either side of the Douro river, and in the side valleys they have been constructing terraces for centuries.
The UNESCO World Heritage List includes several hundred properties with outstanding universal value. They are all part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
Date of Inscription: 2001
Category: Cultural site
UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre’s short description of site no. 1046:
“Wine has been produced by traditional landholders in the Alto Douro region for some 2,000 years. Since the 18th century, its main product, port wine, has been world famous for its quality. This long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty that reflects its technological, social and economic evolution”
I visited this region in 2013. This is an excerpt from my blog entry:
“In Sabrosa we turned onto the N323 south to Pinhão. The next fifteen kilometres were stunningly beautiful and well worth waiting for. Driving high up on these side valleys to the Douro itself we were in the midst of, and had superb views of, wine terraces which have taken centuries to make. There would be a quinta here, and perhaps a hamlet there, but not much of this territory is left for other kinds of activity.
Descending hundreds of metres of hillside to Pinhão we yet again hit the river Douro, for we had since Entre-os-Rios been driving in the mountains north of the river itself. Pinhão is the centre of the best quality port wine. From here the wine used to be transported downstream to Porto in barcos rabelos, flat-bottomed sailing boats, now only on display along the river banks in Porto.
We continued in a westward direction downstream the Douro, past a set of river locks, until we reached the town of Peso da Régua. We were driving on the southern bank, the railway connecting with Porto was on the other side of the river. Most tourist boats out of Porto only go as far upriver as Peso. The Douro region is a World Heritage Site, but the part west of Peso (where most tourists go) is actually outside.”
I will add that the world heritage site of Alto Douro is actually a very narrow strip along the river Douro from just west of Peso da Régua upriver until the Douro meets with Rio Sabor. Some important towns of the Douro region, like Vila Real to the north and Lamego to the south, are outside. They are still well worth a visit, as is other places along this beautiful part of Portugal.