Visiting the Douro Wine Valley in Northern Portugal

We inch up the serpentine bends, pulling the car precariously close to the side of the narrow road closer to the river, as an SUV returning from the mountain, hurtles down in haste.

Below us lies a latticework of vines growing in schist rock terraces, arranged at pleasing angles.

As if splitting the mountain interface, the mighty Douro river carves its way, flowing between Portugal and Spain.

The river has witnessed the efforts of man and vine for more than 2000 years; in 1991 the Alto Douro was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the long tradition of Port production and the resultant development in infrastructure in the area.

Related read: A Guide to Porto Street Art

Douro wine region
Douro wine region

Visiting the Douro wine valley

The Douro wine valley is as spectacular as they say, but even in the heat of summer, there are very few tourists. There are a number of rural houses across the river, some with a noble edge, and they cast ethereal shadows in the flat green waters. The terrain is unique and I feel a growing curiosity about the history and people who live and work here. 

While the grapes for some incredibly good table wines, of which we have had the pleasure over three months of living in Portugal to sample, are grown here in the Douro, the region is most famous for excellent Ports or fortified wines.

In picturesque Oporto which lies at the basin of the Douro, you will see prominent signs advertising the names of Port wine cellars. Port is stored in these cool cellars, but in order to get there, trucks must traverse the precarious journey down. We are told that it isn’t uncommon during harvest season for more than one collision or for a truck to tragically take a tumble over the side.

In the old days, barrels of pressed grapes were transported by rabelo along the unpredictable Douro.

The Douro wine estates

At various estates or quintas, you may still find rudimentary chapels built in the old style – these were houses of worship where the stewards of those small vessels would come to pray for safe passage.

At Quinta do Crasto, we are taken up to admire the views of the valley from the pool area before our tasting commences and the eye is tricked into believing the pool flows into the Douro river. 

It is here that we are reminded what we have been told before, that as popular as Port is, it isn’t so with the Portuguese. Rather, it’s an English custom that seems to live on; naturally much of the port produced is for export. The Douro developed the first appellation system, a wine classification to distinguish the three regions in which the grapes are grown. This was developed 200 years before the French system!

Later on at Quinta do Nova, we both agree that this could be the very spot for a renewal of wedding vows, except we both know we have family who wouldn’t commit to scaling the hills to get here. Lunch is an elaborate affair paired with the estate’s wines, under the shaded pergola.

After a day of exploring, Douro wine tasting (the driver must opt for sensibility, the roads aren’t worth the risk), and taking in views we head back to the beautiful CS Vintage House Hotel for a nap and a shower before dinner at Rui Paula’s DOC, a sleek and modern restaurant with an excellent reputation, on the water’s edge.

And tomorrow? We’ll blissfully do it all again!

Douro wine and port
Douro wine and port

Types of Port in Douro

Broadly, Port may be characterised into two types, wood and bottled aged. Wood-aged Ports include Ruby, Tawny and White. Glass-aged include Vintage and Crusted Ports. 

Port can be successfully paired with cheese, chocolate and cakes too.

How to Take a Day Trip to Yosemite Valley

After a family trip to Lake Tahoe, I had an open weekend and managed to convince my family that we needed to take a day trip to Yosemite Valley.

I knew I wanted to have a full day in Yosemite and not just plan to drive through.  This was smart.  You really do need to plan to spend a full day to take advantage of what is there.  

Imagine Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon… it’s one of those type of places. You’re essentially 3-4 hours from civilization in any direction. The good news is, there are options. 

We stayed at the West Entrance to the park at Yosemite Riverside Inn. It met our needs, and even included breakfast.  We were most happy with the distance to the park and being able to wake up and begin our journey into the park. The first sight of Yosemite valley was incredible. 

Day Trip to Yosemite Valley
Day Trip to Yosemite Valley

A day trip to Yosemite Valley 

We started off with seeing Half Dome Yosemite Valley in the distance… My first view of it. Inspiring! 

Personally it only took this one view, to know that I had found what I was looking for. Yosemite was a natural wonder. This was an ancient canyon with God’s fingerprints on it. This place has serious earth history and a magical valley that would attract earths inhabitants all over it.

This special valley would awe and inspire and enchant anyone who sets their eyes on it. In many ways simply traveling through this valley can bring one closer to God, because it makes man feel small. In so many ways the pride of man can be stilled by standing on one of these rocks. 

El Capitan – What a Serious Megalith.  

While I didn’t really take the opportunity to climb these mega stones carved out of the valley, I did spend hours driving around them and went on a couple of easy hikes up to the falls, and one to a lake (read about more hikes in Yosemite National Park). I spent most of the day in the valley with a bunch of other people I was trying to ignore.

Ignore the crowds, it’s still worth it. There are times of the day when you can get there ahead of the crowds, but still you have to do it anyway… It’s amazing and it does bring one closer to ones creator. 

El Capitan in Yosemite Valley National Park, USA
El Capitan in Yosemite Valley National Park

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls is 2,425 ft.  

The highest waterfall in North America and in the top 10 in the world.

Had I known how amazing this was and how many of the top waterfalls in the world are in this park I would have given it more priority.  When I think of falls in the US, I think of Niagara Falls, but that’s a volume thing. Here you can plan to go when the run off is at it’s highest in the spring and get a real show.

Remember this park reminds man, that he is insignificant. Some people get hurt or worse, trying to prove they can conquer these things.  With over a dozen falls, and hikes to nearly all of them, there are tons of things that people will do.

Things to do on a day trip to Yosemite Valley

While I got a couple of hikes in, I would have liked to have tubed the river, or rode horses… lots of great activities in the park.

  • Horseback riding
  • Rafting
  • Hiking (Falls, Trails, Loops)
  • Rock Climbing
  • Biking
  • Tours
  • Loops Drive
  • Walking 

Check out the organised hikes in Yosemite valley below:

If anything Yosemite reminds us that there are things bigger than us in life. Anytime you want to feel small. Visit the Yosemite Valley and it’s 1000 square miles of National park. While you may feel like you weren’t alone while you were there. You won’t regret it.

Hiking Mohonk in New York’s Hudson Valley

We’re all craving the great outdoors a little bit more than usual lately. Hiking has become the latest big craze, which means that we’re all looking for new routes to explore and mountains to conquer!

If you’re thinking about hiking Mohonk in New York’s Hudson Valley, you’ve come to the right place.

There are 85 miles of winding hiking trails to experience, ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced.

Hiking Mohonk, USA
Mohonk Preserve hiking trail in USA

How to get to the Mohonk Preserve

Start by driving up the NY thruway to Exit 18 – New Paltz, stop for breakfast in this quaint college town, pack a picnic lunch and  head up to the Mohonk Preserve

You can’t miss it… aim for the tower set atop the alabaster cliffs of limestone.

The preserve is a world-renowned Mecca for rock climbers

As you make your way up the winding Route 55, keep your eyes on the road. It is hard to resist the temptation to watch the colorful climbers on their precarious routes. Park at the West Trapps Trailhead Lot, our stepping off point for the Undercliff Carriage Road where our hike begins.

Hiking Mohonk

While hiking Mohonk, you’ll be up-close and personal with the rock rats – Men, women, and children weighted down heavily with a variety of packs, clinking climbing gear strapped to every part of their body, looking more like walking hardware stores than outdoorsmen. Coils of rope swung bandolier style across both shoulders complete the uniform.

However, we are here to hike. As you march further along Undercliff, you will soon lose sight and be out of earshot of the shouting … “On belay!”“Climbing!”“I can’t go any higher” (fearfully), “Bring your left foot up”.

Two miles from your start, you will come to a junction – Left takes you to the heavily travelled Overcliff Road.

The right leads you off to…somewhere.

Stay straight which leads you through the cool valley of Laurel Ledge a canyon that immerses you in a blanket of greenery…mountain laurel and rhododendron. 

The cool damp air embraces and refreshes you. After some smaller cliffs on your left you will come to the road less travelled – the Old Minnewaska Trail.  A gradual climb brings you to a middle level of the ridge. Invisibly above, The Overcliff Road parallels your trek.

The air is decidedly warmer as heat radiates off the rock slabs and the scent of pines float on the wind, like dragon’s breath.  Two miles later, you reach Split Rock, a cleaved limestone that channels the —-creek—-.  It was once used a sluice for a sawmill.

Turn left onto the Red Trail for a short, but steeper uphill hike back to your starting point at the parking lot.
This 5-mile hike is just one of the 70 miles of carriage roads and trails available at the preserve.

Don’t forget to bring your camera when hiking Mohonk!

About the Mohonk Preserve

Hours of Operation:

Open 365 days a year, sunrise to sunset. Hiking is permitted during daylight hours, from 7am to dusk.

Mohonk Hiking trail fees:

April – November
$29 – per adult (ages 13+)
$24 – per child (ages 4 – 12)

COVID Regulations:

At this stage, all hikers MUST purchase their hiking passes online. Your hiking pass includes access to the hiking trails on Mohonk Mountain House property.

Upon arrival, you will have your temperature screened. All day hikers are required to wear masks while hiking Mohonk and hikers are required to physically distance themselves of at least 6 feet from other hikers.

Getting to the trail:

Take the New Paltz exit 18 off of the NYS Thruway. Go 7 miles west (through New Paltz) on Route 299 to the end: make right on Route 44-55.

You can view the Mohonk hiking trail map here.

To prepare for your day of hiking, we recommend that you bring a packed meal, bottled water, rain gear, and headlamp. You can also read our post on the best hiking gear.

Here’s a few more hikes to check out in the US:

Things to see in Death Valley and Furnace Creek

The Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world, let alone the US. Many potential visitors ignore the park due to the misconception that it is simply a lifeless, empty landscape, but there is a lot to explore and things to see in Death Valley.

Where is Death Valley National Park?

Death Valley is a desert valley in Eastern California, in the northern Mojave Desert, bordering the Great Basin Desert. It is approximately 130 miles from Las Vegas which takes about two hours to get to. You’ll find a few tours that do a day trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley.

Things to see in Death Valley
Things to see in Death Valley

Things to see in Death Valley

Here’s a few of the top things to see in Death Valley.

Artist Drive

The rocks within this section of the park have been stained myriad colors by minerals within, creating a view that resembles an artist’s palette.


At 282 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. A boardwalk and signs provide info on the local environment, and a trail leads out onto the salt flats.

Dante’s View

Spectacular view from an overlook just a mile or two away from Badwater, but 4000 feet taller. The road to Dante’s View is a bit long, but the view is worth it. If you are towing a trailer, a parking lot is provided for you to leave your trailer behind before ascending the most difficult part of the road to Dante’s View.

Devil’s Cornfield – Devil’s Golf Course

A bizarre landscape consisting of a vast field of salt crystals. Please admire these carefully! A slight touch can break the crystals, which often take years to re-form.

Echo Canyon 

4WD road just east of Furnace Creek.

Mustard Canyon

A popular hike located just north of Furnace Creek through a brilliantly-colored canyon. The best view is from the very end of the trail, which requires traversing through some narrow canyon walls and over ladders. Star Wars fans may recognize this place as Jawa hideouts from Episode 3.

Mushroom Rock

This oddly shaped rock is located on the road south of Furnace Creek.

Natural Bridge

Travel south from Furnace Creek. Natural Bridge is just east of the main road via a dirt road. This natural bridge in a narrow canyon was created when erosion managed to undercut a section of the stream bed and eventually create a bridge well above the bottom of the canyon.

Salt Creek

Travel north from Furnace Creek. Salt Creek is about two miles west of the main road via an easy dirt road. This place is great. Long ago Death Valley was a lake with fish in it; as the lake dried up and salinity increased the fish evolved to cope. Now they are restricted to a short, salty creek which springs up out of the desert, flows for a few hundred yards, and then disappears back into the sand.

Visitor Center And Museum at Furnace Creek

When visiting Death Valley, start here and you may discover that some sight you hadn’t been interested in turns out to really interest you. Or just figure out which of these many places in Death Valley you should really visit.

Zabriskie Point

Famous viewpoint loved by photographers just east of Furnace Creek. View overlooks interesting weathered canyons. View is a two minute walk from the parking lot.

Day trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley

Death Valley is a popular day trip from Las Vegas.

Small-Group Death Valley National Park Day Trips from Las Vegas

Discover the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at Death Valley National Park, the largest National Park in the U.S., on this guided, full-day excursion from Las Vegas.

Check out these other National Parks in the US

Kangaroo Valley

Kangaroo Valley: Top Sights from this Scenic Getaway


Kangaroo Valley is a 2 hour drive from Sydney, and as the name suggests, provides ample opportunity to see these native animals.

The town is a quaint set of shops nestled in the valley, completely surrounded by mountains.

Often in the mornings you will see the kangaroos amongst the trees before they disappear in to the surrounding bush.

There are many sights to see whilst spending a weekend here:

1. Bushwalks

You can visit Fitzroy Falls, a 20min drive away which is a beautiful bushwalk with waterfalls and local flora and fauna. Easy to medium walks available and starts at the visitor centre.

Walks are also in nearby Morton State Conservation where you see vast views across the valley including the local dam. 6km there and back.

2. Pioneer Village Museum

Great for families and kids entertainment, the museum contains a series of houses, schoolhouse, mill and even a 30,000 year old fossil. It tells the story of the early settlers to the area.

There are bushwalks that commence at the back of this property if you wish to extend your stay at this sight.

3. Hampden Bridge.

Named after the state governor in the days of the early settlers, this is the only wooden structural bridge of its kind, complete with medieval pylons.