Being a UAE resident for past 23 years I had “next door” access to a vast number of top luxury hotels with the most magnificent spas and facilities. I have also been privileged to travel quite extensively for work and leisure, and indeed very lucky to stay at amazing properties around the world.
Relocating to Portugal, a country with stunning scenery and the most friendly people, however has still proven challenging given how unsuccessful I was in finding and matching the same level of quality and service.
That was until I went to Six Senses Douro Valley. Being a self-admitted foodie and a SPA junkie, I have resisted the urge to sing praises after my initial trip to Six Sense in March 2020, thinking that this must be just a result of missing that part of my life so much that “after a trip in a desert even a rain puddle looks good to drink from” Well, I can happily confirm after three trips, during various seasons, March (just a two of us), July (bringing a couple of Portuguese friends with us) and finally October 2020 (bringing family from Monaco), - I am in love!
It is truly remarkable! In addition to its being a stunning property located in one of the most beautiful parts of Portugal, it offers superb facilities, dining experiences and most importantly an outstanding customer service.
I’m not going to talk about beautifully designed (with great functionality!) rooms overlooking the river and the vineyards – you can visit the website for pictures or follow them on Instagram but I do want to give few tips:
- Location: do explore! From organic garden to river and vineyards walks, kayaking, hiking trails and hidden scenery spots. Stunning!
- Dining: it is the best organic breakfast I’ve had EVER. I usually stick to internment fasting and do not eat till lunch time. Not here 😊 Try organic homemade kombuchas or water kefir with many other healthy options to follow, or treat yourself to organic avocado and egg toast with the crispiest bacon. In fact you can have it all, as the friendly staff keeps bringing food to your table while you enjoy the scenery.
- Personal dining experience: do try Open Kitchen Fire Menu. If you get lucky, the Executive Chef Marc will personally take you through a culinary extravaganza. We had an absolute blast watching him and his team cook in front of us. We were initially worried that a six course menu would be too much and asked Marc to cut it to four courses. We ended up asking for more and had nine courses with Marc “throwing” us surprise treats that were irresistible – watermelon carpaccio, homemade miso soup, Iberian pork roast, flat crispy pizza (OMG!!) and so much more… it was also very educational as he explained every dish, ingredients used and the method of cooking. We also got a lesson on fermentation as they do their own, and I was given a present, - live Scoby to take home and make my own kombucha! Highly recommended!
- Cocktails & Wine: needless to say they have a superb selection of wines but their mixologists are very skillful in cocktail creations. You can enjoy it while watching a sunset on a terrace, by the live fire, overlooking the river.
- SPA: as I said, I am a self-admitted spa junkie so no trip goes without me taking advantage of the SPA facilities and its services. Panoramic Sauna is a must – it is overlooking Japanese stone pool and gardens, simply amazing. If you can’t stand the heat, than InfraRed Sauna is a way to go. Detoxing and relaxing. Best Deep Tissue massage – ask for John Sanchez. He is incredibly skilled (to name the few - holistic approach to wellness / Chinese medicine / Accupuncture / Tui Na Treatments). Best lymphdrainage massage & Lifting Facial and Hot Stone Massage - Emanuela Da Silva. After an hour I looked like I slept full 8 hours and had a good face lift 😊😊
- DOG FRIENDLY. It is extremely difficult to find pet-friendly places, restaurants or hotels, in Portugal. Some claim to be pet-friendly but in reality you have to lock your pet in the room and can’t take it anywhere. NOT HERE! They even have their own dog – Aqua, a very friendly companion to walk through the hills with. Our well-behaved little Malshi, Sleepy, loved it! A part from having her own bottle of water by the doggy bowl and a treat, we were able to take her everywhere with us. She was welcomed and showered with attention from the staff, most were showing us the pictures of their own dogs adding a very personal touch to the interaction and overall experience.
- And last but not least, in fact – the most important – PEOPLE. Every single member of staff was accommodating beyond their job description, making sure out needs were met, if not exceeded, every time. No request was forgotten, unanswered or unfulfilled. Everything done with the smile and warmth, making a deep emotional impact. There is absolutely no question that we will be back!
Six senses Douro Valley is without doubt the best hotel in Portugal and one of the most exceptional hotel around the world.
We stayed for 3 nights, (September 2019 before Covid-19), during grape harvest and we also enjoyed the Wine and Music Valley festival which was a great celebration, where you can feel the soul of this amazing wine region.
This is one of the oldest wine regions and it’s no surprise wine plays such a big role here.
Six senses is located in a vineyard with spectacular surroundings and breathtaking views of the Douro River and the hillside terraced vineyards.
Our room, Quinta Panorama,was amazing with a spacious bedroom, a separate huge living area with floor-to-ceiling windows, a walk in closet and a huge fantastic bathroom with double sink, separate bathtub and walk in shower.
You feel like you can dive into the Douro River from the windows.
The are so many activities you can do here: tree climbing,kayaking,canyoning, mountain biking,yoga,picnics,cooking classes, tile painting,unfortunately 3 days were not enough to do everything we wanted to.
We enjoyed wonderful walks down to the riverbanks and through the vineyard terraces.
The gardens were also amazing to walk through and the hikes around the property was fantastic.
Six Senses houses the country’s best hotel spa, which is exceptional and offers an enormous range of luxury treatments .
It has also an excellent fitness room, indoor pool,saunas,treatment rooms, also with amazing views.
We had dinner at the restaurant for 2 nights and the food was absolutely delicious with local traditional Portuguese cuisine and the pairing wines were to die for.
The breakfast was phenomenal with a wide range of fresh juices, pastries, salads and a special charcuterie room with an incredible selection of local cheese and meats.
One of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.
The pools are great, both indoor and outdoor.
We spent much of the day at the stunning pool area. It really is in a idyllic location and you can enjoy the fantastic views of the river and the hillside vineyards, while relaxing.
The GEM arranged for us a private full day sailing boat charter.
No trip in this wine region is complete without take a boat tour on the Douro River. Take time, sit back relax and enjoy the scenery,the views,the history, the hillside vineyards,the picturesque Quintas.
All these accompanied with excellent local wine and food on board and a knowledgable staff, especially the owner.
During this tour we visited 2 famous, Quintas near Pinhao and we had great wine tastings.
This is a unique and memorable experience, highly recommended, it’s not to miss.
The staff was excellent,very friendly, helpful and went above and beyond to make sure we had a enjoyable stay.
If you are looking for an extraordinary, special, luxury, relaxing, peaceful resort,with delicious food, amazing spa, calm atmosphere, gorgeous pools, great wine tastings and spectacular views, then this is the perfect place.
Thank you for an incredible experience
We stayed for two days at the Six Senses Douro Valley. September was a nice month to go as the weather was still warm and sunny without being too hot. We really enjoyed our stay in the beautiful historical property offering incredible views on the river, the vineyards and the gardens. The hôtel really did a great job in preserving and highlighting the Portuguese heritage of the building and furniture while giving it all the comfort and modernity one needs!
We particularly enjoyed the delicious breakfasts on the terrace facing the swimming pool, the great spa facilities and treatments, and of course their selection of wine that we got to try during a wine tasting session. As with the other Six Senses, the hôtel provides a weekly activity programme to make you stay even more fabulous: paddle tennis, pilates session, mountain biking, and many more!
A perfect place for a romantic weekend!
My husband and I nearly cancelled our 5-day visit to Six Senses Douro Valley after the UK added Portugal to its list of countries requiring 14 days of quarantine on return to the UK. But having spent a sad summer of cancelled holiday plans and feeling oppressed by the endless bad news we decided to go ahead. If you too are considering whether to take the plunge and go, we can say if you are looking for a way to recharge after the long Covid-dominated months this resort is an ideal option.
It was our first visit, and from the moment we arrived down a long, winding lane, past rows of bright green vines heavy with ripening purple grapes, we felt a delightful sense of calm. Here life is lived in close harmony with the natural surroundings, which we found comforting and positive. The hotel is nestled in an idyllic valley overlooking the beautiful Douro River. It’s in the heart of Portugal’s wine country and the hills are terraced into rows of grapevines, punctuated by ancient olive trees. There are lots of scenic walks, through the woods or in the hills or around the river. The hotel has a thriving organic garden as well, which adds to the sense of being close to the earth.
The hotel itself is in a lovely old manor house, with an aristocratic aura. The fountains, gardens, loggias, terraces and spacious reception rooms all radiate ease and comfort. Six Senses has done everything to make a visit as safe and pleasant as possible. It’s spotlessly clean, and all staff wear masks, but you can feel the smiles beneath. In the dining and bar areas, the tables are arranged to provide proper social distancing, and the fellow guests all were considerate as well, wearing masks in the common areas.
Our room was large and light and came with such amenities as hand sanitiser, and masks, along with a customised mini bar, coffee and tea making bar. Small touches make a big difference: for instance, instead of the usual powdered milk or little containers of ‘creamer’ we had fresh milk in a cute bottle left in the fridge. The glass water bottles are refilled often, and it was great to see no plastic. The hotel makes a real effort to be sustainable and environmentally conscious. The bed was huge and supremely cosy, with sparkling white linens and fluffy down duvet. It would have been easy to loll all day but there is a lot to tempt you to get up and explore.
Six Senses has a beautiful spa and an impressive array of treatments. They have created conditions to make it safe for guests to enjoy being pampered. They even invite world-class practitioners to come for limited gigs. An Indian Ayurvedic specialist, Suraj Varma, was here during our stay. There are also fitness and wellbeing courses, some free, some for a charge, that run throughout the day. We enjoyed the outdoor morning yoga and Pilates classes with Lise, who managed to get our stressed city bodies to stretch and unwind.
We went for Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP) on the river, which was exciting and refreshing. Gliding along the river as fish swam nearby, with the sound of the breeze in the trees and the occasional birdsong, was deeply relaxing as well as good fun, even when we fell off. There are wine tours and tastings, and picturesque villages just a short cab ride away.
We spent a delightful afternoon in Lamego, about 15 minutes away, famous for its 18th c Church, the Santuario Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, a renowned pilgrimage site. We climbed up the 700 or so steps to reach the church, enjoying the panoramic views of the town and countryside below. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with mouthwatering local pastries and the traditional savoury Portuguese ‘Bolas’ at Pastelaria da Sé.
But even if you decide not to leave the resort, you’re in very good hands. Starting with the epic breakfasts, which begin with the most delicious freshly baked local breads and pastries, freshly squeezed fruit juices, excellent coffee—and then a choice of cooked dishes ranging from Eggs Benedict to homemade porridge. Everything is brought to the table which makes a wonderful change from the dreaded breakfast buffet.
At lunch, you can dine poolside, on the terrace or in the dining room. We opted for the pool to make the most of the late summer sunshine. The food is all about being local, healthy and fresh—and delicious. The smoked fish and avocado salad was a particular favourite. The Douro Valley wines were a revelation…from crisp pale pink Rosés to mellow ruby Reds there was a range of surprisingly good value options. And of course, there’s the Port, which comes in all sorts of varieties.
Dinner is as elegant or casual as you wish to make it. The candlelit tables are welcoming and the service exceptionally attentive and professional. You never feel rushed. The evening progresses in a stately, luxurious pace as you are treated to one mouthwatering dish after another. Our favourite was the salt-baked seabass, served drizzled with local olive oil and cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden.
After five days of being beautifully looked after, of spending time outdoors walking, swimming, paddle boarding and sunbathing , we felt a serene sense of renewal and joy. It was a far cry from the depleted duo we were upon arrival. The months of Covid induced stress faded away and we felt ourselves again. We are now back in quarantine, but it’s well worth it. The days are passing quickly, and we have our happy memories of a wonderful stay to keep us content.
You may see how many reviews I have on TripAdvisor and how the vast majority of them are „very good“ and „excellent“. This is my worst review for a 5* hotel.
Perhaps our expectations were too high: we had read it was the best hotel in Portugal (a blatant lie) and were really looking forward to our stay. Now reading other reviews I really wonder we stayed at the same hotel.
We stayed there as a couple. I would advise other couples to stay during the school term in Spring or Autumn. The pool area is small, and shared by adults and children. There were well over 10 when we stayed so we did not have the relaxing experience we were hoping for.
In my opinion, to give a really good guest experience they should define their target a little better. Welcoming children is lovely... but if you do, it is a MUST to have a pool area for them to enjoy and to give other guests a quiet and relaxing experience. Either that or advertise as a family hotel, as another couple we met there suggested.
To top it all, we were asked not to use the pool after 12 on our last day (and on the first we had arrived late afternoon). If we wanted to use it we had to pay 120€ (we were told that on our last day, the first day they said it was due to COVID restrictions... I won’t even comment on this). Last month we stayed at a similar hotel (a Relais Chateau in Portimao) also with COVID restrictions and that did not happen.
As other guests have already pointed out, rooms are not well isolated, which is also unnaceptable in such a hotel.
Of course not everything was bad, the à la carte restaurant is good and I loved the fact that they are sustainable and pet-friendly. Some of the staff were genuinely nice such as the park guy and the sommelier.
To sum it up though, I will not come back and wish I had spent my time and money elsewhere. Not good value for money: overpriced food and we got even charged 12€ for two ginger-flavoured water at the spa. Do charge 50€ more per night and give some complimentary gestures. Guests willing to pay for this kind of hotel don’t mind paying a little more, but they do not want to be ripped off at every opportunity. I expected much more. Bitterly dissapointed.
I would have given 5* if I had paid half the price. For what they charge I expected the excellence we got in similar hotels.