Most river cruises along Portugal’s celebrated River of Gold, the Douro include a stop at Bitetos – a picturesque village which dates all the way back to Roman times and which is nestled in the scenic Douro Valley. Bitetos is the closest river cruise port to the coast on a Douro itinerary apart from Porto, where many river cruises begin and a number of itineraries visit both places in the same day, owing to the fact that they often both begin and end in Porto, giving you more opportunity to explore the town.
There’s no doubt that Bitetos offers an authentic slice of modern Portuguese village life, but a stroll through its streets will soon reveal its rich Roman and medieval heritage. The village still boasts Roman ruins which date back to its earliest days of occupation, while there are a number of medieval alleys and lanes which offer a fascinating glimpse into a distant period of its history.
The main architectural and cultural attraction in the village however, is undoubtedly the Monastery of Alpendurada, a beautiful Benedictine place of worship which dates all the way back to the 11th century and which today is a world away from its austere beginnings, functioning as a luxury hotel offering spectacular Douro views. Modernisation has been undertaken thoughtfully however and many of its older features remain, including the monks’ cells and a medieval kitchen, used nowadays to host themed banquets. Aside from the monastery, there are a number of baroque churches to explore, if architecture is an interest to you but even if not, it’s enough to take a leisurely stroll and soak up the atmosphere to which they contribute.
The area around Bitetos is famous for its wineries, which attract many visitors who arrive to sample some of the fine local vintages and find out more about how they are made, so if you find yourself with a little more time in the village, a trip to one of these would be both enjoyable and informative, especially if you’re a particular wine fan.
Like Porto, Bitetos offers plenty of opportunity to sample the local port wine, so it’s the perfect place to take a load off and relax if you’re a fan of the drink.