Portugal river cruises involve a voyage along the country’s celebrated River of Gold, the Douro, which originates in Spain and makes its way westwards across Portugal before ending its journey in the Atlantic Ocean at the country’s historic second city Porto, where Douro river cruises typically begin. Following this picturesque waterway towards its place of origin, cruises along the Douro call at a number of picturesque towns which offer a fascinating look at Portuguese history and culture. Though Portugal’s capital Lisbon lies many miles further south from the Douro, it’s often part of river cruise packages here, with many Douro holidays beginning with a stay in the city before transferring to Porto.
Portugal’s coastal capital is one of Europe’s most celebrated, so it’s good to know that Douro cruises offer you the chance to explore it. A city tour reveals such iconic landmarks as the 16th century Belem Tower and the beautiful Saint Roch Church. If you’re in the mood for a spot of retail therapy, Chiado is the city’s fashionable shopping district, while Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is an excellent observation point from which to take it all in.
Porto’s perhaps most famous for giving port wine its name and it will come as no surprise that visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s port cellars are a popular tourist draw. There’s much more to experience in the city and one attraction you won’t fail to miss is Porto’s biggest landmark, the Ponte D Luis I Bridge which offers fantastic views, as does Clerigos Tower. Zona Ribeirinha is the city’s historic wharf area and is a great place in which to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
Regua acts as the port of call for the historic town of Lamego, which is home to a key pilgrimage site in the form of the 14th-century Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies, which features some beautiful decoration of Moorish and Baroque influence. The shrine isn’t the town’s only historic attraction as you can also explore its splendid Gothic cathedral and 12th-century castle. Some river cruise lines also offer excursions from the town to Quinta do Seixo, one of the area’s key vineyards for producing port wine.
The section of your journey as you approach Barca d’Alva is one of the most scenic of your Douro river cruise, as you’ll pass both sweeping vineyards and natural rock formations before traversing two of the Douro’s locks. Your stop here will likely involve a trip to the lofty Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, a historic parish which dates back to the 16th century and offers a wealth of charming streets and buildings to experience.
Portugal travel tips
The currency of Portugal is the Euro. Portuguese is the national language, though there are some strong regional variations. If you know a little Spanish, however, you may find it useful as you near the border. A Douro cruise offers a distinctly Mediterranean feel, so remember to pack accordingly.