Travel blog on one-of-a-kind travel experiences

Six Senses Douro Valley – the luxury hideaway

0

Six Senses is a prestigious Asian hotel and spa operator. With the wellness-sounding name and a reputation for sustainability that precedes it, I had read in 2015 about the opening of their first hotel in Europe. That bit of news stuck in the back of mind, until recently when we flew to the Azores with a stopover in Porto, in northern Portugal. Finally, I could check out that “little” hideaway; it would just take a quick side trip to the Douro Valley…

The name Six Senses alone holds a promise. It is one of Asian ease and belongs to the prestigious hotel and spa operator based out of Bangkok. Their award winning eco-conscious luxury resorts are typically located off the beaten path in natural surroundings.

But is that even possible in northern Portugal? In a grand country estate of historic proportions? A quinta that served as a private manor with vinyard and garden and all the bells and whistles? And which then burned to the ground?

Jump directly to the hotel photos here.

Getting to the Douro Valley

When we landed in late June at the Porto airport, the sky was all gray overcast. And the breeze was just a tad on the cool side. And doesn’t that look like fog hanging in the air?

After what had been a delayed flight, my mood now came to resemble the weather. Glumly, I took possession of our obligatory rental car, turned on its heater, and with Katja burned rubber toward the interior, into the Douro Valley.

The Valley is known as one of the world’s most prominent wine growing regions and was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

As the sky gradually brightened so did my mood. We switched from the heater to the A/C and suddenly it felt like 10 degrees warmer!

Already I was anticipating a few Portuguese tapas and a glass of delectable Douro wine. Or do they indeed welcome you here with port?

The Douro Valley is the world’s oldest known wine growing region! We cruised through the Valley surrounded by wineries, and soon left any tourist hoopla in the rear view mirror.

Just before we got to the village of Peso da Regua, with Katja navigating, I jammed on the brakes and made two sharp right turns in quick succession.

And there, before our astonished eyes, spread over 20 acres in an idyllic landscape beckoned the Luxury Hotel Six Senses Douro Valley. 

Our curiosity was definitely kindled now!

Six Senses Douro Valley's cobblestone drive leads through vineyards

The hotel’s cobblestone drive leads through vineyards

The Six Senses Douro Valley ensconced amid vineyards

The Six Senses Douro Valley ensconced amid vineyards

Six Senses Douro Valley country estate

A country estate entwined in grapevines

Entrance to the Six Senses Douro Valley

Into the barn door-like hotel entrance…

Six Senses Douro Valley airlock

… through an “airlock”…

Six Senses Douro Valley terrace view

… into a different world

Six Senses Douro Valley lounger

A better way to sit and view the Douro Valley

Six Senses Douro Valley welcome snack

Welcome snack and port wine await in our room. That’s the spirit!

The Douro Valley’s most beautiful quinta

Skip the story and go direcly to more photos.

First, a little history…

In the late 19th century, Laura Pereira Leitão and her spouse Alfredo Passanha acquired the quinta called Vale de Abraão and moved in, making it their principal residence.

The Jewish name goes back to Abraão Farah. In 1464, he leased from one João Lourenço de Seara the wine-growing estate on a picturesque bend in the Douro River not far from the village of Lamego. Laura Pereira Leitão, was a descendant of João Lourenço de Seara.

Ever since the estate was known as the Vale de Abraão.

However, in the late 19th century moving into a quinta full time as Laura and her husband did was unheard of. Quintas in those days were merely country homes for short term stays by the elites who typically preferred life in their urban refuges.

Apparently, by making Vale de Abraão their principal residence, the couple couldn’t have cared less.

It did call for large-scale renovations and additions. They had a mighty tower built and the chapel moved into the main house. The grounds were turned into a park, with gardens, ponds, romantic paths and vista points and plantings of exotic trees.

That is how they turned the Vale de Abraão into the poshest, most beautiful quinta in the entire Douro Valley.

Six Senses Douro Valley quinta with pool, greenery and tower

The quinta with pool, greenery and the “new” tower

From family home…

When Laura and Alfredo died childless, their nephew Serpa Pimentel took over. He came from a wealthy family that was close to King Carlos I. of Portugal.

Under his direction, the Vale de Abraão once again underwent extensive renovations, this time inspired by the royal summer residence in Sintra.

The Serpa Pimental family lived there blissfully until the early 1990s.

That is, until one day a fire raged through the place. Almost all of the stately home burned down to the foundations.

What a sad sight, what a catastrophe!

The family moved away, leaving behind only rubble and ashes.

After many years of neglect, a Portuguese investor acquired the property and built on it an elegant hotel with 57 guest rooms and a spa that he called “Aquapura” when it was completed in 2003.

In 2014, a Portuguese private equity fund, Explorer Investments, bought the property. They invited Six Senses Hotels Resorts and Spas to operate it, making Vale de Abrãao the first Six Senses resort outside Asia.

After another round of renovations, the big day came in July 2015 when the Six Senses Douro Valley welcomed its first guests.

…back to the future

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it came to be an outstanding labor of love for the new owners.

Six Senses managed, with the help of the Fundo Revitalizar Norte and New York-based Clodagh Design, to revive the erstwhile family residence in that same long-ago spirit yet give it new life today as a modern Six Senses resort.


They achieved a vacation residence with a harmonious symbiosis of the charm of days gone by with a natural, contemporary-puristic design. You practically feel like you’re living in the Serpa Pimentel home!

Stylish Six Senses wine bar and lounge

Stylish wine bar and lounge

The Six Senses Wine Library

The Wine Library with built-in lighting

Wine library Six Senses

The jewel-like Wine Library with interactive wine cabinets

Six Senses Douro Valley table setting in the restaurant

Table setting in the restaurant

Stylishly appointed Six Senses Douro Valley restaurant

Stylishly appointed restaurant

Quinta Bar Six Senses

Mirrored Quinta Bar and lounge

Quinta Bar Six Senses Douro Valley

The Quinta Bar’s comfortable lounge with modern painting

In the pleasure garden with pool

As a genuinely good hideaway, the hotel is self-sufficient, that is, if you don’t want to leave the hotel grounds, you don’t need to. But there is still plenty to experience.

Besides the vineyards, also surrounding the house on 20 acres is an extensive garden and forest. The woods are so big in fact that I’m handed a map when I ask for directions through it ;-)

You start down paths winding through the trees, past all sort of overgrown pavilions and a waterfall, then along the Douro River to the shed where you can book sports activities like table tennis and mini-tennis, before finishing up past the pool back in the garden restaurant.

Six Senses hanging garden pod in the woods

Hanging garden pod in the woods

Six Senses Douro Valley Garden Pod

Katja in a garden pod

Six Senses four-poster daybed

Four-poster daybed overlooking the Douro

Six Senses Douro Valley

Katja ready to make herself right at home

Six Senses Douro Valley terrace lounge

The terrace lounge

Six Senses Douro Valley pool with sunbathing lawn

Pool with sunbathing lawn

Walter Schärer and Katja at Six Senses Douro Valley

Walter and Katja happy by the pool

straw hats

Borrowed straw hats help ward off the blazing sun

Evening in the restaurant…

Savvy guests will make their way shortly before sundown to the bar for a well-mannered aperitif. The Sommelier will recommend a white wine from the area. Take his advice; you won’t go wrong ;-)

Another time you could change to the patio in the inner courtyard of the restaurant for the amuse-bouche they serve there, with freshly-baked bread from the hotel’s wood burning ovens and other creations from the kitchen.

The Portuguese chef whenever possible uses local products, vegetables, and herbs from the hotel’s organic garden.

To accompany them, the Sommelier recommends a dry white. He decants a Dalva. It makes me a confirmed fan of Douro wine!

Six Senses Douro Valley restaurant patio

Restaurant patio in the courtyard. Shortly before sunset…

Six Senses table setting on the patio

Table setting on the patio

Dinner: terrine as hors d'oeuvre

Terrine as hors d’oeuvre

Dinner: Fine fish on saffron foam

Fine fish on saffron foam

Dinner: Tuna on a blue plate

Or tuna in its blue element

Dinner: Crema Catalana for dessert

Crema Catalana for dessert

Pralines with the coffee

And pralines with the coffee

Six Senses Douro Valley quinta at the blue hour

The quinta at the blue hour

Six Senses lounger

And so, to all a good night!

Although we dined maybe too well, we nonetheless sank into our king size bed feeling light as feathers and drifted into the sleep of the just.

Why “just”, you ask? Because… hm, let me check…

…because every day we have managed to walk over 10,000 paces.

… and to breakfast the next day

Be that as it may, the next morning we waste no time rolling out of our super-comfortable bed, knowing very well that a legendary breakfast buffet awaits. And it really is a beauty!

The buffet is laid out in splendid fashion and the smells from it are pure seduction. And if that’s not enough, in a wine cabinet next door, there is a line up of more tapas made with cold cuts and cheese.

Ok, still not enough? Go ahead, have Alvaro prepare fresh egg dishes for you in the open show kitchen.

Let’s say, just for example’s sake, that we conduct our classic Eggs Benedict test as we like to do whenever possible.

We take our meal on the patio as the sun also rises:

Six Senses Douro Valley breakfast buffet

The breakfast buffet to end them all

Six Senses Douro Valley freshly-baked bread and pastries for breakfast

Varieties of freshly-baked bread and pastries for breakfast

Six Senses Douro Valley breakfast buffet

Artfully decorated breakfast buffet

Six Senses Douro Valley cheese and cold cuts buffet

Cheese and cold cuts buffet

Six Senses Douro Valley delicate waffles with chocolate cream

Delicate waffles with chocolate cream. Or plain Nutella!

Six Senses Douro Valley's Alvaro prepares fresh egg dishes

Alvaro prepares fresh egg dishes

Six Senses Douro Valley breakfast in paradise...

Breakfast in paradise…

Yummy! Let the day begin!

Excursion to the port wine museum

To digest it all, of course the easiest thing in the world would be to simply take possession of a pool lounge. Or walk a thousand steps in the garden.

Or check out the nearby Peso de Régua port wine museum, where they tell you with attractive, partly interactive exhibits all about how they make port wine in the region and then ship it to Porto.

Also impressively depicted are the 80 grape varieties and port wines.

Entrance to the Douro Museum in Peso da Régua

Entrance to the Douro Museum in Peso da Régua

Stacked port barrels in Douro Museum

Stacked port barrels

Traditional wooden rabelo boat in Douro Museum

Model of a traditional wooden rabelo boat for transporting barrels of port wine

The Sandeman wine estate logo

The Sandeman wine estate

All the famous wine estates like Sandeman are represented in the area. Most of them, including some of the oldest in the world! give guided tours.

Other activities to indulge in: Wine & Dine Douro River cruises, kayaking, cycling, hiking and even painting traditional Portuguese tiles.

You can also explore the prehistoric rock art in the Côa Valley. Lovers of wine instead can have a glass at the hotel’s interactive vinoteque: just wave the room key in front of it and it will proffer open wine by the glass…

Those of you who really want to go all out can book a helicopter that will deposit you for a gourmet lunch in the most beautiful quintas in the area.

Just this once we passed on that…

Anyone interested in knowing how we do this in Switzerland, however, can take advantage of the Rustico Adventure of the Castello del Sole in Ticino!

Six Senses spa

Oh, yes, before I forget: you stay in a Six Senses not just for the quality of the lodgings, but definitely also because of the spa! They are justly famous for them.

Just clad in swim trunks and bath robe, it’s a little difficult to take pictures. Hence, I will confine myself here to simply mentioning the spa’s 24,000 square feet including the inside pool.

If you want to, you can be expertly guided through mixing your own treatment essence.

Also a good idea!

Six Senses Douro Valley alchemy bar in the spa area

Alchemy bar in the spa area

If you’re from Switzerland but can’t wait until you make it to Porto for your wellness stay, we can recommend the Six Senses Spa in the Alpina Gstaad. It’s also quite an experience

About Six Senses Douro Valley Hotel

The hotel offers 120 beds in 51 rooms, nine suites, seven vineyard villas and is open year-round. The generous offerings include an infinity pool, inside pool, sauna landscape and three restaurants.

The standard funishings include a luxurious king size bed, non-allergenic pillows, in-room coffee and tea brewing, a large-screen LCD pay per view TV, air conditioning, hair dryer, minibar, safe and free high speed WLAN throughout the resort.

Six Senses Douro Valley
Quinta Vale de Abraão
Samodães 5100-758 Lamego
Portugal

Tel: +351 254 660 600
Reservations: reservations-dourovalley@sixsenses.com
Website: sixsenses.com

The villages of Lamego and Peso da Régua are about 3 miles away. It is 21 miles to the Vila Real airport and 88 miles to Porto.

The drive from Porto’s airport to the hotel takes about 1 1/2 hours.

 

Many thanks to Marketing & Communications Manager Joana van Zeller for the friendly welcome and telling us all about the hotel.

We enjoyed our stay immensely ;-)

Share.

About Author

Walter Schaerer’s extensive background in the travel industry, passionate enthusiasm for photography and a firm belief that luxury destinations can also be affordable; were some of the main factors that motivated him to create the travel blog travelmemo.com. In his day job Walter is an online marketing manager based out of Zurich, Switzerland.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You're currently offline