The jewel of the Douro

By: Alexandra Stilwell

Photos: John Athimaritis

Reputed Asian luxury group Six Senses ventured west around three years ago, in a bid to share its barefoot, down to earth, holistic experiences with the rest of the world. The group’s very first project in Europe is the Six Senses Douro Valley resort, a majestic estate ­located in the famous Port producing Douro ­valley, in the north of Portugal.

With the river flowing at its feet and rolling vine-covered hills as a backdrop, what was ­previously known as Quinta Vale de Abraão, a 19th-century manor house, was superbly renovated and reopened as a five star resort in 2015. With extensive pre-opening experience, and a passion for food, wine and wellness, general manager of the resort, Nick Yarnell says he is “thrilled to be leading the opening team of Six Senses first hotel in Europe”.

Synonymous with a unique style – “authentic, personal and sustainable”, and in harmony with its individual surroundings, the resort ­features a spa, a selection of rooms, suites and villas, restaurants, a wine library, swimming pools and an organic garden, among many other offerings.

The 19-acre estate is located 142kms from Oporto airport. A mix of romantic 19th century architecture combined with a contemporary ­interior, it reflects the already famous Six Senses style. Earth tones and soft greys bring warmth to a simple and modern environment. Details on the walls evoke the local culture with prints of the Douro’s landscape and family photographs of the estate’s previous owners, the Serpa Pimentel family. A welcoming atmosphere of peace and tranquility designed to put guests in the mood for what promises to be a memorable and relaxing stay.

Six Senses Douro Valley includes 57 guest accommodations, which range from Quinta ­Superior, Quinta Deluxe and Quinta River rooms to spacious suites and villas. The comfortable rooms are decorated with local materials in soft, warm colours, while the spacious bathrooms are lined with minimalistic dove grey limestone.

The resort’s magnificent spa features 10 treatment rooms, with superb views onto secret gardens, water features or stunning views of the valley, while an enormous indoor pool helps your troubles float away. And because every ­detail matters, and we are in the wine country, there is even a “nail bar” where you can enjoy a glass of wine during your treatment.

Time seems to stand still in the garden overlooking the river. The large outdoor pool, ­surrounded by a wooden deck invites us to relax in an atmosphere in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape. There is also a yoga pavilion, for a thoroughly holistic experience.

Rest and relaxation may be a great attraction for most guests but the Wine Library is, without a doubt, the resort’s main activity hub. With over 700 wine references, 90% of which are from the Douro and other Portuguese regions, the Wine Library features a tasting room with  a large deli counter and self-service wine dispensers, allowing guests to pair the region’s wines with local delicacies.

Oenophile activities at the resort also ­include wine and dine river cruises, interactive oenology courses, tours of some of the oldest wineries in the world. But there are other ­activities, such as tree climbing, kayaking, ­cycling, hiking and bird watching in the surroun­ding woods, designed to get you back in touch with nature.

As for gastronomy, the menu at restaurant Vale de Abraão – which is lead by head chef Luís Borlido and consulting chef Ljubomir Stanisic – offers a selection of local and regional proposals, with most of the produce used in the dishes coming right from the Douro valley and the surrounding gardens.