Today (January 8, 2020): Review of Six Senses Douro Valley (Portugal).
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Six Senses Douro Valley
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Add canoeing, river cruises and tree climbing to your wine country vacation at Six Senses Douro Valley. The 50-room hotel – which occupies a 19th-century manor house overlooking the UNESCO-designated region – takes a total approach to well-being, including yogic detox programs, citrus-based spa treatments and an alchemy bar for blending body products. The grape is sovereign here, with a wine library for tastings and an extensive cellar. The Vale de Abraão Restaurant with its open kitchen uses produce from the organic garden.
Six Senses Douro Valley features in my top 10 list of the best hotels & resorts in Portugal.
Have you ever stayed at Six Senses Douro Valley? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The property is located in the beautiful Portuguese UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Douro Valley. The river Douro and its principal tributaries, the Varosa, Corgo, Távora, Torto, and Pinhão, form the backbone of this magnificent mountain landscape. Protected from the harsh Atlantic Ocean winds by the Marão and Montemuro mountains, the valley’s gentle slopes have been transformed into terraced vineyards that cover some 24,600 ha. Wine has been produced by traditional landholders in the Douro Valley for some 2,000 years. A world commodity, Port wine – a wine of a quality defined and regulated since 1756 – is produced here.
- Six Senses Douro Valley is housed in a magnificent quinta or wine estate, set on a hillside where the Douro River gently bends in an S-shaped curve. The pink colored mansion, with its striking clock tower, is surrounded by 8 hectares (19 acres) of rolling vineyards and private gardens, with forest paths, secret tunnel, staircases, fountains, and niches with viewpoints. This allows a wide range of outdoor activities in and around the estate and on the river, from walking, tree climbing, to mountain biking, kayaking and water sports. The garden’s highlight is a beautiful 25 m (82 ft) long pool, which directly overlooks the resort grounds and Douro River.
- The estate has an interesting history. In a document from 1464, João Lourenço de Seara (a valet to King Afonso V) leased this vineyard to a Jewish man named Abraão Farah, after which the place became known as Vale de Abraão. In the 19th century, Alfredo Passanha and his wife settled at Vale de Abraão, extended the property, and made it the Douro Valley’s most beautiful quinta. The Passanhas had no children, and so their nephews, Serpa Pimentel, inherited the estate. The descendants of the Serpa Pimentel family lived in Vale de Abraão until the early 1990’s. Following a fire and a decade of neglect, the estate was sold, renovated, and converted into a luxury hotel.
- The hotel’s entry driveway winds down through working vineyards leading to a surprisingly modern arrival pavilion. The latter is accessed by two massive wood doors set in a glass façade banded with slatted metal. The entrance lobby with its half-vaulted ceiling features a massive reception desk in front of a textured art wall, that is bisected by a horizontal niche filled with flickering candles. Above the desk hangs a sweeping chandelier reminiscent of bundles of curling grape vines spatters. The pavilion also features a small glass balcony with panoramic views of the Douro Valley. Upon arrival, all guests are treated to a welcome glass of Port wine.
- The hotel features 60 guest accommodations. During my visit, I stayed in a beautifully appointed Quinta Deluxe Room on the property’s first floor. The room featured a kingsize bed, cozy seating area, and floor-to-ceiling windows leading to a small stone terrace overlooking the woodland. The room’s open plan bathroom was lined with a dove gray Portuguese limestone and was equipped with two sinks, and separate toilet and shower cubicles. The room’s decor blended traditional Portuguese design elements with Six Senses natural style and earthy tones. Room service is ordered via an in-room tablet, which also operates the lighting, blinds and television.
- From the entrance pavilion, a glass elevator takes guest to the heart of the resort, the Wine Library. Flanked by art work and walls lined with wine bottles, this room features an oversized wine tasting table. Leather upholstered sofas arranged around recycled wine crates and shelves filled with books about the region and its wines beckon guests to slow down and unwind. The Wine Library also features a deli counter, a wine shop, and a self-serve wine tasting machine that allows guests to taste wines by the glass simply by waving their room card in front of the machine. The library extends onto a covered terrace with fire pit and an open-air cinema.
- The Wine Library flows into a series of informal lounge spaces with an aged, hand-stenciled plaster ceiling reflecting the history of the building. On the walls, wooden pieces recovered from an old scaffolding structure are covered in a beautiful patina. These scaffolding planks were used while building the Schist rock walls found throughout the Douro Valley and to this day sustain the earth in the vineyard terraces. In one of the lounges, a corrugated concrete fireplace burns logs on cool evenings and in another lounge, a bar offers liquors, craft beers, creative cocktails made from port wine, as well as afternoon tea. The bar also has a pool table and table games scattered around, which are popular among families.
- Six Senses Douro Valley has several restaurants on site, which all serve exquisite farm-to-table cuisine, crafted from the resort’s organic gardens and seasonal local produce. Local wines are at the center of the culinary experience with a team of sommeliers on hands to advise on wine pairing.
- Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the ‘Open Kitchen’ is located next to the Wine Library. The lavish breakfast buffet is particularly impressive and displayed around an open cooking station complete with wood-fired oven and Josper grill where you can watch the chefs in action.
- Next to Open Kitchen is the ‘Dining Room’, which has a huge fireplace at its center, flanked by walls of 18th century blue and white tiles. With an la carte offering, this fine dining venue showcases Portuguese dishes and flavors, such as salted cod, sardines, braised meat and classic Mediterranean salads.
- Located between the hotel’s informal bar and Open Kitchen, the ‘Terrace’ is a beautiful stone paved courtyard, with tables surrounding a granite water fountain, which makes for an idyllic spot for a romantic al fresco dinner by candle light.
- The Wine Library also doubles as a restaurant, serving delicious traditional Portuguese sharing dishes and “Petiscos” to accompany the wonderful wine selection.
- The ‘Pickles’ pool terrace restaurant is only open in the summer season (May to October), when the outdoor pool bar is transformed into a candle lit restaurant on select evenings. It serves local delicacies such as grilled peach and burrata with flatbread or grouper in a court bouillon with lemongrass. In summer, barbecues are also offered on a terrace overlooking the organic garden.
- One floor below the Wine Library is the luxurious Six Senses Spa, which comprises 10 treatment rooms, a heated indoor pool with water jets, a Vitality suite, plus a gym with the latest exercise equipment complemented by professional guidance. The spa offers a selection of locally inspired specialty treatments, some of which are grape based, others using local herbs and fruits, together with an extensive menu of Six Senses signature therapies. There is something for everyone, from multi-day wellness programs to rejuvenation therapies and a selection of activities such as yoga, aerial yoga, Pilates and forest circuit training.
- Six Senses Douro Valley is committed to sustainability, demonstrated by a focus on minimizing its footprint on the environment in the Douro Valley while creating a positive impact on the community. All drinking water served at the resort is filtered, purified and bottled on site. Half of the profits from water sales are donated to a local charity dedicated to youth education. The northern Portugal donkey, a sweet and stubborn animal, is the resort’s mascot. In support of this social responsibility, the estate sells a miniature toy donkey made of pure wool and Portuguese clay, with half of the sales profits donated to a local association which rescues animal.
- The resort is operated by Six Senses, one of my favorite hotel brands in the world. After its launch in 1995 by Soneva CEO Sonu Shivdasani, Six Senses quickly became recognized as the hospitality industry’s pioneer of sustainable practices, demonstrating that eco-responsibility can be successfully wedded to uncompromised luxury. Six Senses resorts & spas are always located in some of the world’s most unique and beautiful places. Whether it be a Six Senses resort on a remote private island or a Six Senses Spa in an exciting urban setting, the touch-points are always decidedly the same. I have previously reviewed the following Six Senses properties:
- Six Senses Douro Valley offers a wide range of (outdoor) activities, from river cruises and stomping the port wine grapes to canyoning, mountain biking and helicopter tours. A must visit is the nearest town, Lamego, which is home to the beautiful 18th-century Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies. The shrine is a painful 686 steps up from the Baroque old town but worth the climb for its stunning tiles alone. Wine buffs should also visit the fascinating Wine Museum in Regua to learn about the region’s history. Above all, be prepared to taste top quality reds, whites and Ports and pay prices that are far below the quality level of what you taste.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Six Senses’ European debut, in Portugal’s Douro Valley, is a stunning property, featuring great rooms, terrific service, an impressive wine cellar, superb restaurants, and a magnificent spa. There is little to say against the resort, but you still need to know the following when considering a stay here:
- The resort – which is set in the heart of Portugal’s UNESCO World Heritage Douro Valley – focuses on wine activities, wellness, and gastronomy. If this is not your thing (but then you wouldn’t be reading this blog), then this resort is probably not for you.
- Not all rooms at Six Senses Douro Valley come with a view (which is one of the prime reasons for staying here) or a balcony. For example, my room (a quinta deluxe) had a balcony, but no view at all (it looked straight into the surrounding tall trees & greenery). Make sure to book the right room category if you want to enjoy the Douro Valley panoramas right from your bed.
- The hotel is very popular and mostly operates at full occupancy, even in low season (as I experienced myself). The numerous activities on site (some on a complimentary basis, some requiring a fee) and the spa appointments are booked up unusually fast. Therefore, I strongly recommend to book your activities and spa treatments prior to arrival.
- Although the resort grounds are exquisite, the property is built on a hillside, so getting to and from the outdoor pool requires at least two flights of stairs, which may be a challenge for those that have problems with walking.
- Remarkably, the resort is very popular with families, which somewhat surprized me during my visit (as I did not expect that to be the case for a property that revolves around wine tasting and Portuguese culture). While this is a good thing of course, it also means that guests looking for relaxation might have to share the pool areas (both indoor & outdoor) with noisy children as the property doesn’t have an adults only corner or tranquility zone.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good – 8,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at Six Senses Douro Valley when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, WiFi, and $100 USD resort credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Six Senses Douro Valley (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: I recommend to book a higher category room or suite (e.g. Quinta panorama suite) to be sure that your accommodation comes with a view.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
In general, the Douro Valley enjoys hot dry summers and mild but unpredictable winters. The weather is suitable for outdoor activities between May through to late September with the true summer months of July and August being very hot. The harvest time is an exciting time for a visit as the autumn colors change the vineyards from crispy green to reds and yellows. The winter months can be unpredictable with an equal amount of bright clear days as gray wet days.
HOW TO GET THERE
Six Senses Douro Valley is a 75-minute scenic drive from International Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro (OPO) in porto and a 4-hour drive from the capital Lisbon. Private airport transfers can be arranged at EUR 200 per car or EUR 250 for a Tesla, for up to three guests, one way; or EUR 275 for a minivan for a maximum of six guests, one way from the nearest airport – Francisco Sá Carneiro in Oporto.