Spotlight on: The Douro

The scenery on the Douro is second to none. With mountainous landscapes and lush pastures set along the meandering river, it is a warm-spirited, blue-sky backdrop for a wandering journey: beginning in Spain and ending in Portugal.

Trickling into tranquillity


Douro Valley, Portugal - River cruises

Initially rising in Sierra de Urbion, the Douro awakens from its Spanish siesta to sweep the landscapes across Spain before reaching the border to Portugal. Here, the first village the river reaches is Barca D’Alva – surrounded by cascading hills, it is a sleepy, sun-baked, slow-paced gateway to the rest of the Douro. Best for bird-watching and nature-lovers, Barca D’Alva sports an impressive variety of birds of prey including buzzards, falcons and nesting eagles.

Picturesque Pinhao

Traditional Portuguese tiles on the wall of a building in Pinhao

Eric Paradis /, CC BY 2.0

Swooping along further into northern Portugal, placed delicately on a bend of the river is pretty Pinhao. Surrounded by sumptuous hillsides and nestled in the Douro Valley, Pinhao is a proud destination where even the train station azulejos (hand-painted tiles) depict the town’s link to famous Portuguese wines, with images of the grape harvest dazzling the walls. Across the river is Quinta Do Seixo, where more than 71-acres of vineyards stretch over the landscape. Owned by Sogrape since 1987, there is an educational trip offering panoramic views of the river as you sample some of the regions finest ports and wines.

Douro Valley and beyond

A river cruise ship sailing on the Douro through lush hillsides

Nearing the centre of north Portugal, Peso da Regua is the region’s largest riverside town and major transport junction. A bridge crosses the river into the neighbouring town of Lamego, with these regions partnered to bring the Douro Valley to life. Peso da Regua, commonly referred to as Regua, is enveloped by sloping vineyard terraces leading down to the river. Being the world’s first ever demarcated region for wine production, the views really sing the Douro Valley’s praises.

For those who wish to explore beyond the vines, Lamego’s winding lanes open into a world of ornate discovery. The Lamego Museum includes collections of art and antiques as well as a fully reconstructed chapel, luxuriously dripping with gold. The town’s tree-lined boulevard on the main avenue leads smoothly to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies, where the Baroque mixed with Rococo architecture really shines.

A taste of Porto

Pastel-coloured buildings lining the shores of Porto river cruise port

Flowing through the crevasses and round the corners of the Douro, Porto is finally reached. After almost 900 km of travelling from its Spanish source, the river greets the stunning Ribeira district and courses through Vila Nova de Gaia. Food and drink is celebrated here, and with a splendid platter of regional produce to choose from, you won’t be short of choice.

The 19th century market, Mercado do Bolhao, is laden with cheeses, olives and smoked meats. For a lunchtime snack, the locally-enjoyed francesinha is an open sandwich including linguica (garlic smoked pork sausage), cheese, a fried egg and plenty of sauce. Wash these down with a stroll across the Dom Luis Bridge: a double-decked metal bridge spanning the Douro to reach the Gaia region. Here you can witness the beginnings of port production by visiting the barrel-lined cellars of port lodges and tasting some of the region’s finest bottles.

Discover the Douro

A sweeping bend in the Douro bordered by verdant fields and hillsides

The Douro River bends and bounds across beautiful regions from its origin in the natural parks of northern Spain, to its wine-producing way of life in the hills. The Douro Valley is a dramatic, enchanting landscape and the city of Porto is a colourful masterpiece. Portugal shares its secrets with everyone at the table, so make sure you grab a seat and explore the Douro on our specially-selected river cruises.

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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