Oenophiles rejoice: a lofty hilltop perch in Portugal’s celebrated wine region, boutique hotel Six Senses Douro Valley happily reconciles healthy living devotees with their inner hedonists. Stays at this striking terracotta-hued 19th-century manor are all about wellbeing: luxuriate in river-view rooms, climb ancient trees in the grounds’ nature trails, feast on organic produce from the kitchen’s own gardens and surrender to the ministrations of the spa’s skilled therapists.
Get this when you book through us:
Your choice of a 30-minute foot massage for two or a body scrub for two
Noon, but if the room is available late check-out until 6pm can be arranged for 50 per cent of the day rate. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £419.51 (€489), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates do not usually include the buffet breakfast (from €30 a person until 1 November, 2019, when it will rise to €35).
Rustle up your own body scrubs, hair masks and lip balms at the Alchemy Bar. Run once a week, the free hour-long workshops use seasonal organic ingredients from the garden; it’s essential to book ahead.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, yoga and Pilates pavilion, lounge, wine library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, tea and coffee-making facilities, Six Senses and Organic Pharmacy toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Dressed with oak floors, glass-walled bathrooms and tactile wool throws, rooms here are light-filled and unabashedly contemporary. Quinta Duplex Suites have bath tubs with wow-worthy views of the Douro River. On the fourth and fifth floors, Quinta Panorama Suites have sweeping views of the river and vineyards from enormous windows.
Down a flight of steps from the restaurant’s terrace, the outdoor unheated saltwater pool is a cobalt blue number framed by neat rows of sunloungers and serene views of the surrounding hills. A small poolside bar serves light lunch snacks and tipples. Equipped with water jets, the hotel’s indoor heated spa pool is open to all adult guests; it gets plenty of light through magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows.
Inspired by natural elements (water, stone and wood), the award-winning Six Senses spa is a blissful retreat with a sauna, herbal bath, laconium and steam room. Book one of 10 treatment rooms for indulgent massages, facials and ayurvedic treatments using luxurious Organic Pharmacy products and potent local ingedients such as grape pulp, citrus fruit and schist stones. Pampering programmes over several days offer nutritional advice and relaxing experiences tailored to each guest.
The surrounding woods call for walking meditation or tension-busting runs: bring a pair of trainers and comfortable leggings to try out aerial yoga among the trees.
The hotel is well adapted for disabled users thanks to large lifts, ramps to public areas and spacious rooms, one of which has a specially equipped bathroom for wheelchair users.
Pets can stay for free and will be treated to their own bed, food and bowl. They won't be allowed in the restaurant, the spa or the wine library. Just let the hotel know when booking. See more pet-friendly hotels in Douro Valley.
Welcome. Children under 12 can stay in their parents' room on a day-bed or baby cot for free, on request. Babysitting is available for €20 an hour. Kids under five dine for free on the children's menu.
Treading carefully is at the heart of Six Senses’ ethos and this Portuguese outpost is no exception: much of the kitchen’s produce is grown organically on site, toiletries are packed in recycled paper and great care was taken to use eco-friendly materials during the resort’s refurbishment. The hotel is involved with local communities and donates 50 per cent of its water-bottle sales to local charities.
A terrace table at the top of the steps commands the best views of the pool and gardens. Book the chef’s table to watch the maestro at work.
Relaxed linen and a sweep of red lipstick.
Helmed by chef Nuno Ferraz, restaurant Vale de Abrãao is a contemporary dining space sprawling across an open kitchen, a dining room and a sun-kissed terrace. The menu celebrates the region’s produce and the day’s harvest from the organic gardens: sample chilled peach gazpacho, sea-fresh mullet on a bed of lentils and a scrumptious Portuguese take on apple pie. Inside, the open cooking station has a wood-fired oven and Josper grill for culinary theatrics; outside, courtyard tables are arranged around a trickling fountain, with serene views of the surrounding vineyards.
All polished concrete, low-slung sofas and large communal tables, Quinta Bar & Lounge is a sociable spot for afternoon tea or a pre-dinner game of pool. The fruity, zesty cocktail menu changes according to what’s ripe in the garden. The Wine Library features a high-class take on the vending machine: a card from reception lets guests pick their own mini bottle from an extensive selection of Douro Valley wines, all of which go down a treat with a tempting little something from the tapas menu.
The kitchen is open until 10pm.
Burgers, sandwiches, moreish tapas and lavish platters of cheese and charcuterie can be brought to your room.
A 10-minute drive away, Régua station serves Combois de Portugal trains to Lamego and Vila Real.
A car can be handy for exploring the valley’s vineyards and history-steeped villages. From Porto airport, follow the A4 and IP4 towards Vila Real. Take the Armamar/Valdigem exit and turn left towards the Varosa river. Cross the bridge and turn right onto National Road 222; the resort is another six kilometers away on the right side of the road and has free valet parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Embrace Six Senses’ holistic approach to wellbeing: everything here, from the cleansing drinks at reception to the outdoor meditation pod, has been designed to help guests unwind and reconnect with nature. Kickstart a new fitness regime with a Pilates class and make the most of the resort’s forest trails, try aerial yoga or book one of the yogic programmes promising detoxification and enhanced sleep. Tree climbing in the grounds’ tranquil forest is a delight – and there are experts to help with that too, should you get a bit wobbly after the first branch. Beyond the resort, the enchanting Douro Valley awaits. Take a day trip to Régua for a river cruise and port tastings or amble around picturesque Lamego before climbing up hundreds of zigzagging stairs to its intricate hilltop sanctuary. Staff will happily arrange a visit to neighbouring estate Quinta do Mourão, where the cool, dark cellars protect 100-year-old ports.
A converted railway warehouse in Régua, Castas e Pratosis an atmospheric spot for a taste of the region’s best wines. Take your pick from the 700 vintages on the wine list, with a nibble or two from the tapas menu of updated classics. Hidden away in the heart of the vineyards, Conceitus is an elegant fine dining space on the Quinta Nova estate. Roast kid is the chef’s specialty here, but you’ll need to round up eight fellow foodies to try the cabritada menu. Housed in an 18th-century manor, Quinta da Pacheca’s dining room is bright and airy – make a pit stop there after a tour of the estate and a taste of its aromatic wines.
We were happy enough as we set off to the Douro Valley, but I can’t say we were prepared for what we found. Although Mr Smith and I had heard about the fabulous vistas and ‘researched’ its wonderful wines, we were somehow still expecting the Portugal we knew so well – the Peri Peri saucey, sun-sea-sandy lands of the Algarve – only with less of the sun-sea-sand bits, and more wine.
As we were travelling with the little Miss Smith (aged one) in tow we were already steeling ourselves to have to resist much of the available temptation on the latter front, but still, we were happy enough.
In our minds we were simply escaping for a few relaxing days Somewhere Other, somewhere greener than London, together. The fact that this specific Somewhere Other was to be the first and very highly acclaimed Six Senses resort in Europe of course was a definite plus, of course, but we weren’t expecting to have our minds blown.
We were just a few kilometers from the airport when our minds were duly blown. In the late afternoon light, as we ventured further and further along the valley, with its winding roads, epic bridges, and hundreds upon hundreds of terraced vineyards: we were shocked. This place is jaw-droppingly stunning. More Bali than Balaia; pictures can’t do it justice. ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us about this place?’ we wondered out loud. We were already planning to come back and we hadn’t even arrived yet.
The Six Senses resort covers 20 acres of dreamy grounds all centering on a romantic terracotta coloured 19th-century building overlooking its own vegetable gardens, forests, terraces, and of course the valley itself, in all its Unesco-heritage-listed splendour. Wide-eyed from the journey, we were met with warm smiles, cold drinks and straw hats, and shown through the chic contemporary interior to our quinta.
The renovation of the buildings by New York-based Clodagh Design is an exercise in elegance. Huge picture windows and a colour palette of greys, white and soft browns are both calming and uplifting: they make you sashay a little taller and breathe out a little further.
Our room was a generously proportioned Deluxe River, and though some of the rooms in this category come with a private terrace, ours didn’t. Nevermind, the huge windows were enormous… we would cope.
The absence of a bath could have been a problem, especially for Little Miss Smith, but once we persuaded her into the rainforest shower it was clear it wasn’t going to be – unless you count the difficulty of getting her to leave it. Though we could relate, the lure of the Wine Library proved too strong for such sleepy-miniature-person resistance and she was eventually huddled in a big towel and pyjama-ified. (Some reviews will tell you that the Six Senses is not a place for children or babies, but our experience was just the opposite. Environments as serene, relaxed and fresh as this one bring out the loveliest behavior in little people, and on proper five-star form, Miss Smith was asleep in a twinkle.)
And so to dinner. Let’s start with the wine shall we? Because we did, after all. While we wouldn’t class ourselves as connoisseurs (and certainly not when here, surrounded by one of the world’s highest concentration of vino-techies per square mile) the fabulous selection on tap and by the glass in the wine library is pure joy.
We took most of our meals during our stay on the terrace and, for a cooler option in the daytime, in the bar. It was just too inviting to contemplate swapping its magic for any of the indoor or fine dining options, though if we’d been able to stay longer we would have tried everything with gusto. Breakfast was particularly noteworthy with a rainbow of fruit, every type of pastry, bread and cooked options as well as freshly made waffles, omelettes and pancakes too. A spread like nowhere else, we could have stayed there all day.
Just as the Wine Library had lured us from the shower, the pool would provide the incentive to leave the breakfast buffet. Dropping off, infinity style, into the valley beyond, it was the ideal way to cool in the 40-degree heatwave. In cooler weather, it would be the spa holding the same magnetic attraction.
The 10 treatment rooms (all overlooking the valley), four steam rooms, well-equipped gym, yoga studio (aerial yoga: one way to cure a hangover?) and another vast (this time heated) pool-with-a-view all occupy the lower floors of the hotel. The Terroir, too, is the spa restaurant which serves colourful, healthful dishes made predominantly from vegetables and herbs grown on site.
There are meditation spots throughout the forests, visiting gurus and healers, and much, much more – who knew that wellness and wine would be such perfect partners? It would be near impossible to leave this place with a tense muscle in your body.
Happiness, we’re taught, is a simple scene, a simple dream. It’s a seat on the terrace watching the sun go down with a glass of wine. This is the scene that has launched a thousand holidays, sold a million homes, and signifies perfect bliss in the 21st century.
Well, no matter how it’s been badly reappropriated by estate agents and lifestyle gurus and marketers of everything all over, here’s the truth: there are terraces and there are Terraces in this world. There are wines, and then there are Wines. There’s only one sun that we know of, but watching it go down over the Douro Valley at the Six Senses? That’s the scene.