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Best time to visit Douro Valley

Useful criteria to decide the best time to visit Douro Valley - information about the advantages and disadvantages of visiting on each month.

Sara Riobom

February 17, 2020

Wine tour in Douro Valley

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Have you decided where to stay in Douro? If not, read my article about the Best Hotels in Douro Valley.

Over the years I have written countless articles about Douro Valley and in most of them I talk superficially about the best time to visit Douro Valley. So now it is the moment to step up the game and dedicate an entire article to this topic! Ready?

Useful criteria to decide the best time to visit Douro Valley:

As an engineer I am compelled to establish criteria to decide on the best time to visit Douro Valley. For each criteria I am giving a score of 5 points, and then I will rate each month of the year according to the four criteria. Therefore, the maximum rating that each month can get is 20 points.


I don’t know if you are as sensitive to weather as I am, but for me this is a very important criteria to decide on the best time to visit Douro Valley.
When it comes to this wine region, we always say that its weather consists of “9 months of Winter, 3 months of Hell”. What does it mean? That you can expect low temperatures during the winter months and horribly high temperatures during the summer months, and sometimes during autumn as well.  
Down below is a graphic with the weather in Peso da Régua, the main city of the first sub region in Douro Valley, for 2019. The axis are in Portuguese so this is the translation:

  • Upper Red Line: Maximum temperature in Celsius. As you can see, during the Summer months, the temperatures easily reach 38ºC (100ºF). It is horrible.
  • Middle Red Line: It represents the average temperature. It is usually between 8ºC (47ºF) and 25ºC (77ºF), which is pretty nice.
  • Lower Red Line: Minimum temperature in Celsius. Sometimes in January it goes below 0ºC (32ºF).
  • Pale Blue Line: Relative Humidity (%).
  • Blue Bars on the graphic below: average rainfall in mm. It is only in November and December that it starts to rain in Régua.
graphic average temperatures and rainfall regua portugal
© Meteoblue

We can also analyse the same graphic for Pinhão, the main village in the second sub region of Douro Valley, Cima Corgo.

graphic average temperatures and rainfall pinhao portugal
© Meteoblue

There isn’t such a dramatic difference except that it gets considerably colder during the winter months (observe the lower red line). Moreover, the difference between Summer and Winter temperatures is more dramatic which is only natural ,because you are moving east, further away from the Atlantic Ocean, and hence reaching a continental weather.
The conclusion? You definitely have to consider weather when deciding on the best time to visit Douro Valley. If you are sensitive to heat waves like I am, you should avoid the summer months, and if you decide to come during winter, you need to bring proper clothes.


If you are on a tight budget this is definitely a criteria to consider. In general, to visit Douro Valley is an expensive endeavor, but there are clear fluctuations on the prices throughout the year.
The thing is that both hotels and tour providers go nuts during the low season (usually it lasts from mid January to the end of February / March) so they lower their prices a lot. Hotels sometimes make discounts of up to 30%, and tour providers make discounts of between 15 – 20%. These discounts can also be found from mid November to mid December.
Then it comes the middle or normal season from April to August.
The most expensive season is, naturally, the harvest season, which usually takes place during September and October (sometimes it starts on the last weeks of August, sometimes it extends to October). 


Most people think that the harvest season is the best time to visit Douro Valley for obvious reasons, but this has some disadvantages as well: a) it is the most expensive time of the year and b) everyone is OVERWHELMED with work. This includes the winemakers, the farm workers but also hotels and tour providers. So you need to be extra careful and book everything in advance.


It seems a bit strange to say that harvest is a criteria but honestly, it is! The harvest season is the culmination of a year of effort and hopes. It seems like the vineyards and the estates come to live, with dozens and dozens of workers buzzing around, and the smell of fresh grapes in the machines is simply amazing. So 5 points for the harvest!

Given the criteria, let’s evaluate each month to decide on the best time to visit Douro Valley.

Don’t bother to go all crazy regarding my evaluation: it is a personal evaluation and therefore subjective, that is for sure, but it is based on my experience of four years of taking hundreds of clients on private tours to Douro Valley.


douro valley during winter
Me and some friends at Douro Valley on winter. There is something magical about the naked vines during this period.

Weather: 0 | Price: 5 | Availability: 5 | Harvest: 0  => TOTAL: 10 points

January is such a peculiar month to visit Douro Valley because there is no one around except for the very first week. However, I personally like to visit Douro during January because the winemakers actually have time to be with you. Moreover, it is way cheaper than during the rest of the year as the best hotels in Douro Valley and tour providers make massive discounts.
The only bad thing is that, depending on the weather conditions, you might not be able to enjoy a Douro river cruise or to even set your foot outside (if it is raining). However, don’t go all dramatic on this: if you can’t be outside, then you have an amazing excuse to sip Port wine by the fireplace or go for a massage.


Weather: 0 | Price: 5 | Availability: 5 | Harvest: 0  => TOTAL: 10 points

February is very identical to January; the only difference is that the temperatures are marginally better.
If you are a romantic person, this is the best time to visit Douro Valley as I am sure that both hotels and restaurants will prepare something special for their clients on February 14th for Valentine’s.


Weather: 1 | Price: 5 | Availability: 5 | Harvest: 0  => TOTAL: 11 points

March is an interesting month to visit Douro Valley. It is the beginning of Spring and all its promises. The vineyards slowly start to flourish and temperatures are rising. The grey days seem finally over!
Good news is that usually March is still considered low season, so you might be able to enjoy lower prices everywhere. Hurry up, in April the good prices are gone!


Weather: 2 | Price: 4 | Availability: 4 | Harvest: 0  => TOTAL: 10 points

April! The best month of the year, as I was born on the 24th. 😛
Stupid jokes aside: April is one of the best times to visit Douro Valley because Spring has already settled in, so it is not too cold and not too warm.
There is still a lot of availability of both hotels and tour providers but the prices are not as great as they were during the winter months.
You just have to be careful around Easter because thousands of Spanish tourists come to Portugal and things get booked quickly.


Weather: 4 | Price: 3 | Availability: 2 | Harvest: 0 => TOTAL: 9 points

For some reason that I never quite understood, May is one of the busiest months in Douro Valley, despite the fact that we are still sooo. faaar. awaaay. from the harvest season. So be extremely careful because a) everything gets sold out quickly and b) everything is much more expensive. In my opinion it is not the best time to visit Douro Valley.
The weather is quite nice though and you can safely book an amazing Douro river cruise. There are 2h and 1h boat rides in Douro Valley.

You can simply buy the online ticket for the 2h Douro river cruise or the online ticket for the 1h Douro river cruise, depending on your time availability.
douro river cruise pinhao


Weather: 4 | Price: 2 | Availability: 3 | Harvest: 0 => TOTAL: 9 points

June is actually one of the best times to visit Douro Valley. It is warm, the region is full of people but not overwhelmed by their presence, the prices are high but not outrageously high… it is one of the few months in which all the evaluation criteria are balanced.


Weather: 2 | Price: 2 | Availability: 3 | Harvest: 0 => TOTAL: 7 points

July is always a big gamble because the temperatures might be pleasant or they might be horribly warm. It is already a very busy month so don’t expect any kind of discounts, but it is easier to find tour providers and hotels than during the harvest season.


Weather: 2 | Price: 3 | Availability: 3 | Harvest: 1  => TOTAL: 9 points

August is very similar to July. The only – very – significant difference is that, if you are lucky, you might get to experience the harvest season during the last week of this month. However, there is no way of anticipating when exactly will the harvest take place because it truly depends on the weather conditions on a daily basis. Two days of rain or a week of extreme heat will change the date of the harvest.


harvest season douro valley grapes
I was so happy on this harvest season 2017!

harvest season douro valley
Weather: 4 | Price: 1 | Availability: 1 | Harvest: 5 => TOTAL: 11 points

And the harvest season is upon us so most people believe that the best time to visit Douro Valley is September aaaaaaand… yes, it is a very special period J
There are so many things going on and you get to see the machinery working, which I find phenomenal. Moreover, in many vineyards you can watch the farm workers cutting the grapes and even stomping them with their feet. Some estates even have programs that allow tourists to perform these activities (but personally I am against it).
However, this is the most expensive month to visit Douro Valley and everything is sold out with months – yes, months – in advance.


leaf autumn colors douro valley
If this isn’t magical, then I don’t know what is.

Weather: 5 | Price: 1 | Availability: 2 | Harvest: 3 => TOTAL: 11 points

October is very similar to September except that you may or may not have the harvest season going on. Besides that, prices & availability are pretty much the same.
However, there is one thing that is very particular about October and that is the autumn colors that embellish the vineyards. It doesn’t resemble anything that you have seen before and for that reason, October is the best time to visit Douro Valley for many people.


Weather: 2 | Price: 3 | Availability: 3 | Harvest: 0  => TOTAL: 8 points

I think November is the best time to visit Douro Valley (yes, I just wrote that and I stand by it!).
Yes, the harvest season is long gone now but so are the crowds and the extremely unpleasant heat waves. Be smart and book your trip to Douro Valley after November 15th and you’ll certainly get better price at the hotels.


Weather: 1 | Price: 5 | Availability: 5 | Harvest: 0 => TOTAL: 11 points

And we finally arrive in December! Now it is cold, there are no tourists around, prices are great and, if you travel around Christmas time, you will see the beautiful decorations at the hotels and at the restaurants. Those nights (24 / 25th December and 31st December) are also more expensive than during the rest of the month.

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best time visit douro valley grapes autumn
best time visit douro valley autumn vineyards
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