The epic tale of Douro Valley

by posted in NEWS

Escape back in time to our 19th-century manor Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal. Located in a beautiful traditional wine estate, our records date back to 1464. Every stone has a story to tell.

When visiting Six Senses Douro Valley, you can learn more about the family that used to live here.

The early years

It all started when João Lourenço de Seara (a valet to King Afonso V) leased a vineyard to Abraão Farah, in picturesque spot where the Douro River gently bends in an “s” shaped curve. It took the name Vale de Abraão. At the end of 19th century, Laura Pereira Leitão, a descendant of João Lourenço de Seara, and her husband, Alfredo Passanha, settled at Quinta Vale de Abraão.

In those days, country estate (quinta) owners rarely lived in their villas all the time, but as this was the couple’s permanent residence, major renovations were undertaken. A tower was built and the chapel moved inside the house. Gardens and lakes were designed, exotic trees were planted in the woods, and paths and follies were constructed to enhance the beauty of the property. Vale de Abraão became the most fashionable and beautifully-appointed quinta in the Douro Valley.

Unusual for the Douro, this property was blessed with plenty of water, so a small water dam and an energy generator were installed. The house was the first to be electrified in the valley, and was wired with bells in most rooms and even had central heating, unheard of at the time. The original energy generator is currently on display at the Museu da Electricidade in Lisbon.

During this time, the park was extended with the planting of additional forest, paths, a secret tunnel, staircases and niches with viewpoints. An ingenious irrigation system was also added, allowing a waterfall, fountains and ponds to be built. A Portuguese writer described the house at this time as “more of a Palace than a house, with the sky as the ceiling and the River Douro that flows at its feet as a companion …”

The 1990s

Vale de Abraão was renovated taking inspiration from Sintra, the aristocratic summer resort where the Royal Family used to go in August to escape the high temperatures of Lisbon. The descendants of the Seara family lived a happy life in Vale de Abraão until the early 1990s. Following a fire and a decade of neglect, the estate was sold to a Portuguese developer who turned it into a 57-room hotel and spa called Aquapura in 2007.

Vale de Abraão has always attracted the attention of prominent Portuguese artists, poets and writers.

Agustina Bessa Luis, a famous contemporary writer and Manoel de Oliveira, Portuguese film director, collaborated to make a film based on the novel named Vale de Abraão, in 1993.

The film won several international prizes including a CICAE – (Confédération Internationale des Cinémas D’art Et D’essai), Cannes (1993); critical prize of São Paulo (1993); and the Golden Jaguar, Cancun, México (1993).

Today

The property opened under the Six Senses brand in 2015 after an extensive refurbishment thanks to New York-based Clodagh Design, enhancing the glamor with eco-friendly materials blending nature with Portuguese traditional design. In 2017, Six Senses Douro Valley was recognized as the resort with the Best Achievement in Design in Virtuoso’s 11th annual “Best of the Best” Awards.

Today, due to popular demand, the design teams at Six Senses Douro Valley have added ten new rooms within the beautiful heritage buildings. They follow the pattern and charm of the existing rooms and suites, with rest-inducing lighting and spacious dove gray Portuguese limestone bathrooms.

As part of the groundbreaking Sleep With Six Senses standard, guest room essentials include enormous cloud-comfy beds, handmade mattresses made from organic lamb’s wool, temperature regulating pillows and duvets and organic linens. There’s a mini bar stocked with your personalized selections and some local offerings, with temperatures regulated to keep your wines at the right temperature.

Serenity is all around with authentic materials gathered from Douro Valley, comfortable seating and, in some of the rooms, wooden bridges leading to secret gardens. Spend a few moments of meditation, a few hours of peaceful reading or lose track of time altogether. All rooms on the ground floor have generous outside areas, with cozy chairs and private hot tubs adding an extra flair.

For more information or reservations, please call +351 254 660 600 or email reservations-dourovalley@sixsenses.com.