Barca D’alva, Portugal

The last Portuguese village along the Douro, BARCA D’ALVA is less than 2km from the Spanish border. Surrounded by mountains, and on a placid bend in the Rio Douro, it’s a curious spot – on one hand, there’s a long-abandoned railway line and a row of elderly cottages; on the other, there’s a sparkling quayside with huge pontoons to accommodate the large Douro cruisers which disgorge passengers for a souvenir hunt. A few cafés, restaurants and shops soak up any passing trade, but in the end it’s the drive here, from north or south, that really warrants the trip, through beautifully sculpted Douro terraces of olives and vines, with sweeping views across the hills and river gorge. As there’s no road along the Douro River in its latter stages after Pocinho, you have to approach via Foz Côa and Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo (in Beira Alta) or Torre de Moncorvo and Freixo de Espada à Cinta (in Trás-os-Montes).