River Douro Cruises
The River Douro meets the Atlantic Ocean at Porto, second largest city in Portugal and famous for the port wine trade started by the British in the 17th century. The banks of the Douro in Porto are lined on one side with warehouses bearing the names of famous port wine shippers, and on the other by terraces of ancient houses.
From Porto, our River Douro cruises head into a tranquil landscape with vineyards reaching down to the river - now living up to its name as the River of Gold. The riverside town of Regua is a good setting for an overnight stop, and a base for excursions to Lamego and Vila Real.
Lamego is a market town set amongst vineyards, with an ancient cathedral and a 11th century castle. Its highlight is Nossa Schrum, a church and shrine high above the town reached by flights of steps climbed by centuries of pilgrims. Near Vila Real is Mateus and the beautiful house of the Counts of Vila Real - depicted on labels of Mateus Rose wine.
As the Douro climbs upwards it becomes narrower, with scenic stretch of gorges and crags overlooked by terraces of vines. The river is noted for its deep locks, some of the deepest in Europe. A pleasant stop is at Pinhao, where the railway station has wonderfully decorated tiles showing Douro scenes.
The navigable section of the Douro ends at Barca d'Alva or nearby Vega de Teron. These are bases for a day trip to Salamanca in Spain, a well preserved World Heritage Site of golden stone buildings, cobbled streets and the beautiful Plaza Mayor.