The Douro River flows through Spain and Portugal and is one of the major rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, it’s the third longest river of the Iberian Peninsula, draining a catchment area of 30,539 square miles. It originates in the Sierra de Urbión in Spain, and after flowing through Portugal, it empties into the Atlantic Ocean near the city of Porto. One of our favourite Portuguese destinations.

The Douro is renowned for its scenic beauty, with its steep hillsides covered in vineyards that produce the famous Port wine. The region along the Douro River is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its cultural and historical significance, as well as its unique landscape, and has been since 2001.

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The Douro River – A History

It’s a truly beautiful region and it’s always a firm favourite with nicko guests, but there’s more to it than just stunning natural beauty. The river itself has played an important role in the history and economy of the region for centuries, being used for transportation of goods, including wine, and for hydroelectric power generation. In Roman times, the river was personified as a god, Durius.

The Douro vinhateiro (vine-land) of the Douro Valley in Portugal has long devoted to vineyards and is famed for being the oldest demarcated wine-growing region in the world. This basically means that it is defined by very strict boundaries. Years ago, the wine was taken downriver in flat-bottom boats called rabelos, to be stored in barrels in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. Nowadays port is transported there in tanker trucks. The river was known as ‘The River of Gold’ because of the wine transportations, alongside olives and almonds – it was, essentially, the primary source of the areas wealth.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, dams with locks were built along the river. In all, fifteen dams have been built to regulate the water flow, generate hydroelectric power, and allow navigation through locks.

Beginning at the headwaters, the first five dams are in Spain: Cuerda del Pozo, Los Rábanos, San José, Villalcampo and Castro Dams. The next five downstream are along the Portuguese-Spanish border; the first three are owned and operated by Portugal: Miranda, Picote and Bemposta Dams, while the next two belong to Spain: Aldeadávila and Saucelle Dams.

The Douro’s last five dams are in Portugal, and allow for navigation: Pocinho, Valeira, Régua, Carrapatelo, and Crestuma–Lever dams.

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Douro River – The Cruise!

On our dedicated Douro river cruises, we feature some of the most impressive destinations in the region. Our Iberian Experience itinerary highlights Porto, Barca d’Alva, Pocinho, Pinhão, Régua, and Caldas de Aregos.

On this cruise you will explore the beauty of Porto’s architecture and be transported back to the Middle Ages in the charming cities of the Portuguese hinterland. The Spanish city of Salamanca is a “living museum” where you can practically touch history in the form of centuries-old buildings. You will also be able to take a guided tour through the tranquil city of Pinhão, for dinner at a traditional vineyard, before visiting charming city of Guimarães.

It’s an itinerary that has been expertly hand-crafted to ensure you get the maximum benefits from your time in the region. The ships that will sail you there are also aptly named Douro Queen and Douro Serenity, and they’re designed for sailing this region.

MS Douro Serenity

Purpose built to comfortably navigate the River Douro’s five locks, Ms Douro Serenity’s sleek tinted glass makes for a modern looking ship that’s also a charming place to relax and enjoy the beauty of this spectacular wine-growing region. On-board amenities include a small fitness room, spa and sun deck, with a swimming pool for a refreshing dip and comfortable loungers for relaxation. Those seeking a little shade can take advantage of a covered seating area, ensuring everyone has somewhere al fresco to enjoy the panoramic views of the Douro Valley’s picturesque terraces.

MS Douro Queen – Refurbished in 2022

Taking advantage of the warm Portuguese weather, MS Douro Queen’s sun deck runs the length of the ship, offering a swimming pool for a refreshing dip, comfortable loungers for relaxation, as well as tables and chairs for socialising. Those seeking a little shade will appreciate the covered seating area, ensuring everyone has somewhere comfortable to enjoy the panoramic views of the Douro Valley’s picturesque terraces.

We have numerous departure dates available throughout 2023 and 2024, and all of our sailings are offered on a all-inclusive basis.

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Tempted to experience the Douro for yourself on a river cruise? Why not download or order a free copy of our river cruise brochure.

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