Main pool at the Six Senses Douro Valley, Samodães, Portugal

Six Senses Douro Valley
Samodães, Portugal


In our years of writing about hotels, Six Senses has been a bit of a white whale. The brand is held in the highest regard, cited as soon as the subject of luxury travel comes up. We’ve heard about it, and been asked about it, but personally never managed to stay in one (although our colleagues have stayed in several!). They told us of the outstanding beauty of the locations and architecture, the world-class amenities and service, and the immersive luxury of its wellness programs. So to say our first stay came loaded with expectations would be a huge understatement. Well, we won’t keep you in suspense; Six Senses Douro Valley delivered.

Surrounded by the breathtaking natural landscape of Portugal’s Duoro Valley, the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, this was the group’s first foray into Europe. A ninety-minute drive from Porto, it overlooks the Duoro River as it cuts a looping swathe through the ancient valley and the symmetrically terraced vineyards that corrugate the hills. The air smells sweet and fresh and laced with luxury.

The 19th-century manor house exists in harmony with its surroundings, ensconced among the vineyards and orchards. As we round a corner, it appears like a glimpse of a more refined past. Rooms are spacious with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views. Oak floors and earthy tones are cosy and blend in well with the environment. A level up, there are rooftop suites with private pools and secret gardens. Larger groups can hire suites in the recently renovated wine lodge, where they can share a lounge with a fireplace, private pool, and gazebo.

It rained throughout our stay, which gave us a welcome excuse to spend the entire time at the hotel, rather than exploring the surrounding area by mountain bike or taking the kayaks out on the river. We were instead spoiled for indoor activities. There was wine, of course. An informative tasting gave us a broad scope of the local offerings which were excellent and complex. We also used a very fancy interactive vending machine to put together our own tasting.

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While you’re Out There
Take a short ride into the nearby historic town of Lamego, where Alfonso was crowned the first king of Portugal in 1139. You can see the whole town in about three hours. You’ll get a workout into the bargain, as the town has many steep hills. Bonus points if you climb all 686 steps of the baroque stairway to the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios church. Lamego is only an eighteen-minute drive away and well worth it to see such a traditional and distinctly Portuguese town.

The spa forms the centrepiece of any of the brand’s hotels and the one at Six Senses Douro Valley is predictably vast and spectacular. A variety of saunas, hot and cold pools and underwater massage jets are arranged in a circuit format so that you can simply follow the route to experience a holistic treatment. Beyond this, the ten treatment rooms overlook the gardens and the treatments blend Ayurvedic philosophy with modern physiotherapy, using natural products sourced from the garden. If you wish, you can go a step further and blend your own lotions and scrubs at the Alchemy Bar. While you’re at it, you can also learn about pickling or creating your own infusion at the Earth Bar. Ultra high-tech skin screening is available to create tailored regimes for looking your best. A well-equipped gym in warm wood tones overlooks the pool and pilates and yoga are on offer in the pavilion.

The cuisine is largely a wholesome, organic garden-to-table menu. A spectacular meat and cheese buffet in the open kitchen breakfast room starts the day off well. In the summer months, an outdoor barbecue is on offer with the best of local meats and fish. We enjoyed a locally sourced, seasonal tasting menu in the sumptuous dining room from chef Nuno Matos.

Beyond the incredible setting and amenities, Six Senses Douro Valley has a truly welcoming personality. Many hotels profess to be a home away from home, but this one succeeds on all fronts. Staff are largely locals and extremely sweet and friendly. A weekly wine and cocktail evening with the senior management serves to break the ice nicely. A couple of resident dogs trot freely through the hotel, stopping patiently for strokes before rushing off like staff on an errand, or flopping down on a couch in the bar for a rest, a passing waiter stopping to gently cover them with a blanket. This, to us, really felt like a home.

Photography courtesy of Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas

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