Cruising Along Douro River in Portugal

The Douro River, (or Duero in Spanish), is around 900 km long from the source in the mountains of Northern Spain to its mouth at Porto. 210 km of the river runs through Portugal and drops through five massive dams making this part of the river the main cruising channel. These dramatic locks limit the size of the ships that can cruise the navigable length, keeping the river nicely quiet so you can enjoy the view better!

May is one of the best times of year to cruise, as you get great weather and daytime temperatures around 24-28° without the scorching summer heat of Portugal. The river flows strongly through the hillsides of the Douro Valley with their spectacular terraced vineyards, making for some great daytime sightseeing. Many river cruises travel at night, but a trip on the Douro allows you to take in the ever changing river and countryside scenery for the whole trip. Ships are commonly joined at Vila de Gaia in Porto, the Douro Valley region famous for the port wine, which offers tours of the many cellars in the town. Much of the port in the world starts its journey from Vila de Gaia. The entire city centre of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage site and full of interesting architecture, making it a fascinating starting point to your cruise.

One of the distinctive features of the Douro is the massing locks you pass through. The locks are all quite deep and can appear quite scary when the ship is at the lower level with the walls towering above you. The deepest lock in Barragem de Carrapatelo has a lift of 35 metres, requiring some neat navigating by the captain! There are few major towns along the Douro river stretch in Portugal once the ship has left Porto. In fact the only towns of any size are Peso da Régua and Pinhão. Most cruises will include a number of shore excursions. From Bitetos it's a short bus ride to the majestic former monastery of Alpendurada e Matos, situated high above the river. From Peso da Regua you can reach the famous Mateus Palace, near the centre of Vila Real. You might have seen the palace featured on the labels of the well-known Mateus Rose wine. The palace buildings are typical of Portuguese style baroque with many interesting exhibits with lovely gardens.

Pinhão is the midst of the Port Wine country and a short hop to the Quinta do Seixo, a Sandeman vineyard, where you can see first-hand the process of port production and enjoy sampling some of the produce!. Every Douro cruise offers day excursions from Vega de Terron to the Spanish university city of Salamanca. This city dates to Roman times and the Roman-built bridge across the Tormes River still exists. The huge cathedral dominates the skyline; it is in fact two cathedrals, the Romanesque Old Cathedral and the Gothic New Cathedral. The Plaza Mayor is generally agreed to be the most magnificent main square in Spain and there are many attractive buildings belonging to the University, the oldest in Spain.

Expect your Douro cruise to be a leisurely affair, sailing by day and relaxing at night. There are many enjoyable excursions to be had making it a great destination to spend a week getting away from it all.


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