After days of meetings in Porto, Portugal, I headed inland to take a few days and decompress at Six Senses – Douro Valley. It was early November, so a beach holiday didn’t make any sense. I arrived close to midnight. Nonetheless, a warm friendly gentleman, Paulo, greeted me and showed me to the lobby, as he assured my car will be safe and all my belongings would be delivered to my room promptly.
I walked into the lobby and immediately relaxed. The warm energy, the exquisite Clodagh décor, and the smiling happy faces….. maybe this place is as special as its reputation.
Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, 330 km (205 miles) north of Lisbon, and sits at the mouth of the Douro River. Following the Douro River inland for a little over an hour by car Six Senses – Douro Valley rests just above the river bank surrounded by vineyards.
The Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine-growing region AND the largest mountainous wine-growing region on the planet… the planet! Six Senses is the only modern five-star hotel in the area.
Escorted to my room, I settled in to have one of the best night’s sleep I had in a long time. I woke up the next morning to find clouds outside my window. This is what a cloudy morning looks like at Six Senses – Douro Valley:
The famous Six Senses Spa integrates treatments with wellness education. I had a great massage and I also received a wellness assessment which included the importance of sleep – not just sleep, but the quality of my sleep and the balance between the different levels. It was measured through a plastic ring device given to me the night before… Who knew?!
With their world-famous spa for treatments, use of amenities (5 different saunas and steam rooms, regular, hot & cold plunge pools, gym, and classes (core workout, pilates, and yoga), I could have easily stayed busy with a packed wellness schedule from morning to night. But Six Senses – Douro Valley has a plethora of other activities offered to guests to embrace the wellness lifestyle.
Hiking (with an optional picnic in the woods) and mountain biking with or without a guide. You can create your own essential oils at the Alchemy Bar. You can make your own ceramic decorations. You can take a tour of their organic garden and learn tips. You can paint tiles, a Portuguese tradition. You can learn how to make healthy snacks. In the summer months, a river cruise with a Six Senses meal on board is popular as well as visiting the centuries old monasteries of the Douro Valley. The unusual and variety of activities also flows to their curated wine experiences. Regardless of season, there’s live music almost every night.
The activities list: https://www.sixsenses.com/en/resorts/douro-valley/experiences
Now, the food & wine. The food & wine at Six Senses – Douro Valley.
The quality of the ingredients. The varietals. The dishes. The presentation. The seamless service.
I’m gluten, sugar and dairy free. Dining anywhere is a careful navigation process. From my very first meal, the staff knew my preferences, my allergens, and would reassure me while ordering a particular dish that it met my personal qualifications. The opposite of what I’m accustomed to while dining anywhere!
Breakfast was always a culinary tour of exquisite fresh baked breads (I had choices for the gluten-free breads!) creative breakfast dishes, pastries, fruits – fresh, fresh, fresh, fresh…….
Fresh kambucha, detox and fruit juices were always on tap. Since my server, Sara, knew I liked green juice, she always greeted me with it, along with her warm smile, at my table every morning.
Breakfast was served in the Vale de Abraão Restaurant, which is the main venue for lunch and dinner. It provides the backdrop for menus inspired by their organic gardens, using nothing but seasonal local produce.
Good food for a good cause. The Kitchen Team coalesces their delicious dishes with the Six Senses values of environmental sustainability, wellness, and local sensitivity with global sensibility. Gut health is key to well-being and fundamental in menu curation. Be local, buy local, eat local is their mantra. By giving priority to the nutritional richness of each ingredient with minimal processing, nutritional values are preserved. Their mission is to demonstrate that healthy whole food-based cooking can and should be delicious fuel for your body!
There’s a second restaurant on the property, the Wine Library, which focuses more on a casual, fun menu with sharing plates – ceviche, tartars, Portuguese home-cooking classics, and petiscos (tapas) paired with the best wines of the region.
On my last day, I decided to take another walk around the property to enjoy its beauty before heading back on the road……. With a clearer mind, a rejuvenated body and a new perspective as a result, I meandered around and found a beautiful natural waterfall. It was on the same path that I had always taken, but I never noticed it. A well-rested and energized mind, body and soul will always see anew.
As I made my way back up to the main house, I walked over to the pool area to say GoodBye to my palm tree.
Standing at 40 meters (132 ft), I never saw a palm tree so tall. It sways over the property with this tranquil energy that I took notice of during the tour on my first day. I understand there are palm trees as tall as 60+ meters (197ft), but to see this one in person is special.
Which made me think…..
This palm tree is truly the emblem of Six Senses – Douro Valley. My experience was as special and rare as this palm tree. From the cuisine proving that healthy can also be exceptionally delicious and elegantly presented to the innovative educational activities which revolve around integrating wellness into your lifestyle, my stay far exceeded my expectations….. and it was all wrapped up on a property dating back to 1464 within the oldest demarcated wine-growing region in the world.
As an avid wellness retreat devotee, I will definitely return when I have more time. One needs at least a full week to fully appreciate and enjoy all the benefits of Six Senses – Douro Valley.