Douro River Cruises – The River of Gold
Whoever comes to Porto can’t go back home without hearing about Douro River or at least experiencing one of the amazing Douro Cruises, available in several places along the giant vineyards in Oporto, Régua, Pinhão or Barca d’Alva.
The Douro river, meaning “the River of Gold”, is one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, and the journey upriver is one of the most scenic routes on the continent. Passing one of the world’s oldest wine regions, the Douro river rises in Spain and holds much appeal for tourists during its journey across the north of Portugal. Every day several boats travel through this river showing the visitors an unequalled beautiful and peaceful perspective, where people can escape from the city bustle. Douro Cruises are one of the main tourist attractions of the region and the truth is, as you go up the river, the views are increasingly beautiful and it is definitely worth a visit! After several cruises we have done, we choose Pinhão as our favorite starting point and we are going to tell you everything about our boat experience from this small town that lies at the heart of Douro’s wine region.
The tiny village of Pinhão is located in the north of Portugal, 1h30 away from Porto by car. The trip by train takes a bit longer but, we highly recommend you to use this public transportation if you truly want to enjoy the landscapes this river has to offer you. You’ll be mesmerized and incredibly thankful! On the other hand, if you have vertigo problems, choose the car since the train goes up really close to the river and not everyone can handle that proximity.
Choosing the right Cruise
As soon as you arrive at the docks you’ll be surprised by the huge variety of cruises available in Pinhão, but don’t go with the majority if you really want to relax and enjoy the nature. Big boats can be cheaper but will make you feel tired due to the enormous quantity of people travelling with you and the lack of space and privacy. We chose Anima Durius not only because we wanted to get away from the crowd but also because they offer the possibility of visiting their fantastic wine farm and cellars.
3 types of boats
There’re 3 types of boats available for your trip: Stella Maris, Caota and Baco and you can choose between an afternoon trip or a fantastic experience of dinner and spend the night aboard to make your experience even more unique and get to know the river to the fullest. As we appreciate a big dose of Romance our choice fell on Coata, an elegant sailing boat whose wood interior provides a cozy atmosphere. Can you imagine a sunset cruise with the possibility of dining and sleeping aboard? Simply amazing!
Renting a boat is a really nice option for those who prefer a bit more of privacy and have the knowledge to navigate a sailing boat. If you prefer a programme with skipper you have 6 different tours available and Paulo Mesquita, the owner, will be in charge of navigation and safety on board, leaving you with free time to enjoy the ride and all the beauties of the Douro river. As we went down the river we embraced pure moments of pleasure, in contact with nature, where we could contemplate the amazing vineyards from the calm and sheltered waters of Douro.
This River cruise comprises so many small discoveries, small pleasures and such a generous amount of time sailing on a riverboat that you’ll be lulled into a relaxing rhythm that’s far away from frantic sightseeing and over-scheduled days. There’s a probability of 99% that you’ll be dreaming of that Douro magic long after you get home. In one word, our private tour was just magnificent.
PORTUGAL, SPAIN & THE DOURO
11 DAYS FROM LISBON TO PORTO
An extraordinary journey designed for culturally curious travelers.Your journey starts in Lisbon, the city that launched some of the world’s most renowned explorers. Following the Douro River through Portugal and into Spain, you’ll cruise past steeply terraced hillsides, quaint villages and acres of ripe vineyards. Dine on traditional fare in majestic Coimbra, the birthplace of six Portuguese kings; enjoy private tastings of Port; and explore Porto’s historic Ribeira district, home to iconic rabelo boats, cutting-edge cuisine and a thriving art scene.
UNESCO Douro Valley
Wind your way through the dramatic landscapes of the UNESCO-designated Douro Valley, heading ashore to visit charming quintas and meet the winemakers who operate them. In Salamanca, Spain, you’ll see the city’s famous university. Return to Portugal with a visit to the fortified village of Castelo Rodrigo and historic Guimarães. There’s no better way to discover Europe’s best-kept secret than this scenic and all-inclusive river cruise.
Day To Day Itinerary
Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.
DAY 1: Arrive Lisbon Airport
Arrive at Lisbon Portela Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a representative and transferred to the hotel.
DAY 2: Visit Lisbon – The Portuguese capital
Everything old is new again in the Portuguese capital, which is undergoing a remarkable rebirth of late. Get to know this hilly metropolis with a city tour that shows you all the top sights and treats you to an iconic, locally-made pastry with an intriguing tale all its own. Vibrant, colorful and picturesque, Lisbon will continually surprise you. Glorious historic architecture reflects the wealth brought in during the “Age of Discovery,” when the Portuguese owned the seas, but it is also a modern center of finance and international trade.
Featured Excursion: Lisbon city tour
When you gaze out at the Tagus River, tile-roofed houses climbing the hills behind you, you are looking at the port where Portugal’s empire began. Here the kings of the newly independent nation launched an age of exploration—and then poured the profits of their new trade routes and colonies into their capital.
Do you see the square tower rising from the water? Belém (the name comes from Bethlehem) Tower, built in the 16th century to guard the port, has housed cannons, prisoners and royalty over the centuries; its ornamented façade might strike you as unusual for a fortress, but that is typical of Lisbon—even fortresses have beautiful ornamentation.
Another landmark nearby, the 20th-century Monument to the Discoveries, commemorates these voyagers and their founding patron, Prince Henry the Navigator. Leave the riverfront to embark on your own voyage of discovery: Head inland a short distance to the Jerónimos Monastery, which will have you reaching for your camera. A masterpiece of Manueline architecture—the Portuguese late-Gothic style is named for King Manuel I—erected during the 16th century and decorated with sculptures and elaborate scrollwork, Jerónimos Monastery is another shining example of Portugal’s golden era.
Note: Please note that we do not visit the cloisters at Jerónimos Monastery.
Not all landmarks are architectural, however. Take a break and enjoy one of the city’s iconic pastries, the cream custard tart known as pasteis de nata, at Pasteis de Belém, which has been baking these yummy treats since 1837, before experiencing the rest of your panoramic motorcoach tour through the Rossio—the busiest square in Lisbon.
Your local guide will make suggestions for lunch. You can choose to remain downtown and explore on your own or return to the hotel. Shuttles are available to take you to and from the hotel this afternoon, which is yours to spend as you please.
DAY 3: Lisbon Explore Full day trip
Experience your own “Age of Discovery” with a full day to explore Lisbon however you wish. Get out and see the city on your own. Ride the famous iron elevator from the Baixa district up to the Bairro Alto, the cultural and bohemian heart of Lisbon, and catch a fantastic view of the city from the vantage point of São Pedro de Alcantara Belvedere.
Once you reach Bairro Alto, head for São Roque, whose plain façade hides a magnificent baroque interior. The city hosts remarkable museums and excellent shopping. Your options at Centro Commercial Colombo, the biggest mall in the Iberian Peninsula, are seemingly limitless. Or try a flea market, perhaps the Campo de Santa Clara, if you prefer to hunt for unique treasures. Natives of Lisbon boast that they have the best food in the world; the many cafés and taverns tempt you to verify that claim.
DAY 4: Lisbon, Coimbra, Transfer to Porto (Embark)
You’ll check out of your Lisbon hotel and board a motorcoach, heading north through Portugal’s picturesque countryside toward Porto. En route to Porto, you’ll stop in Coimbra, home to an ancient university and a lavish baroque library considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Admire the lingering traces of the town’s Moorish and Roman past after sitting down to a traditional Portuguese lunch. After lunch, continue on to the port city at the mouth of the Douro.
Featured Excursion: Coimbra tour with Joanina Library visit and family-style lunch
Drive through scenic cork forests and verdant fields en route to Coimbra, Portugal’s third-largest city and the birthplace of six of the country’s kings. You’ll stop at a local family-run restaurant for a traditional Portuguese lunch, starting with Portugal’s iconic soup, caldo verde. Later, see a little of the town itself, which boasts Moorish and Roman architectural remnants and is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, the University of Coimbra, whose historic buildings crowd the hill above the Mondego River.
A one-time royal palace, the university enjoyed the kings’ patronage for centuries, and one king, João V, endowed it with a lavish baroque jewel of a library, the Joanina. Housing more than 300,000 books, including some from the 12th century, it is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. As a visitor, you and your small group will be admitted into rooms with exquisitely carved and lacquered shelving, splendid ceiling frescoes and ornately gilded coats of arms. These library rooms are simply astonishing.
Then you’ll continue your journey to the heart of Porto, where you will board your ship. Unpack, check out the ship’s amenities and prepare to take in some scenic delights as you cruise away from Porto. Five famous bridges link Porto to Vila Nova da Gaia, including the graceful iron arches of Dom Luis I, and you’ll sail under all of them as you enter the mouth of the Douro and drift past Porto on your way to some of the loveliest scenery Portugal has to offer.
DAY 5: Porto, Cruising the Douro River, Porto Antigo
There’s much more to Portugal’s second city than its eponymous fortified wine—historic architecture, cutting-edge design, fabulous food and wine, and a hip, laid-back vibe. Discover its many charms with your choice of distinctively different tours today.
Portugal’s second city (after Lisbon), Porto gave its name to the nation’s most famous export, Port wine, and to the nation itself. The city is a fascinating combination of historic buildings and cutting-edge architecture, tradition and vivacious modernity. You must choose between two distinctive—and distinctively Portuguese—ways to explore Porto.
Choice of Panoramic city tour or Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Porto walking tour with local tastings and vintage tram ride.
Your ship sets sail after your tour, cruising up the Douro toward Porto Antigo.
DAY 6: Cruising the Douro River, Régua, Pinhão
As you cruise along the river today, take note of the little chapels you see along the banks. Though the river is slow and calm now that it has been tamed by dams, it was once extremely hazardous. These tiny chapels mark spots where entire rabelo boat crews perished attempting to get their cargo of Port wine to Porto. Today we learn about wine, which has been cultivated in the Douro River Valley since ancient Roman times. Get a crash course on the history of Port during your visit to the Douro Museum.
Scenic wine route to Pinhão Valley
Choice of Douro Museum and Quinta de Avessada wine estate or Scenic sailing lunch onboard
The Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine-growing district in Europe. Why? What makes Port the wine it is? Learn about the region’s unique geology and winemaking history—Romans planted vines in this region 2,000 years ago—at the Douro Museum. Exhibits laid out in buildings that were once home to Port winemaker Real Companhia Velha let you see how the process of making Port evolved over the centuries: You’ll find the tools of the trade and even a rabelo (a boat that carried wine from the vineyards to Porto) on display. An interactive map shows where the quintas are and how the region developed; and by sniffing vials of concentrated fragrance, you can learn to identify the many aromas that a good Port exhibits. It’s fun and informative—plus you can sample some regional Douro wine.
Next, travel up winding roads with spectacular views—and breath-stealing drop-offs—to the hilltop winery Quinta da Avessada. Built a century ago, this quinta produces delicious Moscatels, a wine that is very popular in Portugal; in fact, it’s so popular that most of it is consumed within the country—only about 10 percent of it is exported. Luis Barros, who was determined to revive both his family vineyard and his village when he took over the management of Quinta de Avessada a few years ago, is eager to welcome visitors and help them learn how the sweet, floral Muscat grapes are grown in this region’s extreme climate.
DAY 7: Pinhão, Vega de Terrón
Feel the centuries fall away as your ship winds its way through the pristine, dramatic, UNESCO-protected landscapes of the Douro River Valley. Head ashore for a choice of excursions, a tasting at a prestigious port wine estate or a vineyard hike with a wine tasting at a local quinta.
Choice of Quinta do Seixo guided tour with tasting or Vineyard hike and wine tasting at a local quinta
In the evening, a special Gala Dinner will be prepared for you.
DAY 8: Vega de Terrón (Salamanca), Barca d’Alva
What adventures await you in Spain today? The ship docks near the Spanish border today, where you may head across the country to the historic university town of Salamanca—the “Golden City”—famous for its sand-colored buildings and abundance of churches.
Salamanca – the Golden City and Spain’s oldest university
DAY 9: Barca d’Alva, Pocinho, Cruising the Douro River
A tiny village surrounded by mountains, Barca d’Alva is your base for today’s adventures. Go medieval today at Castelo Rodrigo, both the name of a hilltop castle as well as the village that surrounds it. It has been singled out as one of Portugal’s 12 historic villages for its medieval beauty. The view from the top is incredible and the village is a charming place to ramble, relax and replenish. Or, if you wish, you can also lace up your hiking boots and unleash your inner Indiana Jones with an up-close gander at some prehistoric carvings during a visit to Portugal’s first archaeological park, Foz Côa.
Choice of Castelo Rodrigo or Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley
DAY 10: Cruising the Douro River, Porto (Guimarães)
Guimarães or Porto? That’s the question of the day today (you really can’t go wrong either way). Guimarães is the town where Portugal was born and its well-preserved architecture and stylish young residents make it a pleasure to visit. Or opt to explore one of Porto’s oldest neighborhoods, picturesque Ribeira, considered the soul of the city. A tough choice awaits you today: Do you venture off to historic Guimarães, Portugal’s first capital, or do you stay in Porto and explore the Ribeira district on foot?
Choice of Guimarães city tour or Porto surprise discovery tour
DAY 11: Porto (Disembark)
You’ve experienced the best of Portugal, Spain and the pristine Douro River, but now the journey comes to a close and it’s time to disembark the ship. If your cruise/ tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Porto Airport for your flight home. Your Uniworld adventure may be over, but we know you’ll enjoy the memories you’ve made for years to come.
- All meals onboard, prepared using the finest and freshest ingredients.
- 10 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners.
- Gala Dinner.
- Unlimited beverages onboard, including fine wine, beer, spirits, specialty coffee and tea, soft drinks and mineral water.
- 8 days of excursions, including “Choice Is Yours” options, all fully hosted by English-speaking local experts.
- Guided “Do as the Locals Do” program
- State-of-the-art Quietvox portable audio-headset system on all excursions
- Use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks
- 7-night cruise in a riverview stateroom on the chic Queen Isabel
- 3 nights in Lisbon at the Corinthia Hotel Lisbon (or similar) with breakfast
- Beautifully appointed riverview staterooms and suites with hotel-style beds, draped in fine linens with a choice of pillows
- Free Internet and Wi-Fi access
- 2 countries: Spain and Portugal
- 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites
- Services of an experienced Uniworld Cruise Manager
- All transfers on arrival and departure days
- All gratuities, both onboard and onshore
- Captivating onboard local entertainment
- Cultural enrichment, including a Signature Lecture
QUEEN ISABEL | STATEROOMS
Beautifully appointed riverview suites (323 sq ft – 30 sq m) have full balconies, hotel beds draped in fine linens with choice of pillows, built-in closets, slippers, hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flat-screen television, radio, alarm clock, iPhone/iPod charger and player, Nespresso and tea station, bottled water, and fresh fruit daily.
Bathrooms with L’Occitane en Provence and Hermès bath and body products, plush towels, a choice of bathrobes, and slippers.
Beautifully appointed Riverview Deluxe Balcony staterooms (215 sq ft – 20 sq m) have full balconies, hotel beds draped in fine linens with choice of pillows, built-in closets, hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flat-screen television, radio, alarm clock, iPhone/iPod charger and player, bottled water daily.
Bathrooms with L’Occitane en Provence and Hermès bath and body products, plush towels, a choice of bathrobes, and slippers.