The Douro River and Valley is one of those places that people who have been tell you that you must visit. And a brief bit of research quickly shows you why, with evocative descriptions such as ‘The River of Gold’, ‘The Enchanted Valley’ and ‘The Ancient Kingdom’ used to depict the sheer beauty and majesty of this historical region, with the river now widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful waterways.
From its source in Spain, this magnificent river traverses the entirety of Portugal, literally from east to west and ending in the Atlantic Ocean at Porto. And as the river winds and flows, framed by the towering and terraced slopes of the valley above, the river ships that sail on her pass through and visit beautiful medieval towns that boast sublime architecture, influenced by earlier visitors to this place, from Romans and pilgrims to nobles, who all left their mark.
So here are our top 5 reasons why we believe you should book a river cruise on the Douro in 2021.
Portugal is Green!
1). Portugal is on the green list
It makes sense that this should come first, with Portugal being one of the handful of travel destinations that you can now visit (as of May 2021), without needing to quarantine on return and with no associated travel insurance issues. This makes the Douro in Portugal the ideal river cruise destination and one that is certainly leading the way in the reopening of European river cruising generally.
2). Famous wines and the birthplace of port
You don’t have to be a connoisseur of fine wines or a viticulture traditionalist to savour the sensory experience of traversing one of the world’s oldest wine regions. The beautiful and totally unique landscapes of the Douro River reflect a truly ancient connection with wine culture, shaped and cut over centuries into strikingly terraced and vine-covered banks.
Of course, you’ll not only get a chance to raise a glass of port wine, or vinho do Porto, but you’ll be doing it in the wine’s namesake and birthplace, Porto. You’ll be able to enjoy an included city tour with a tasting in an authentic wine cellar too. There is also the tranquil city of Pinhão, where we overnight, and you can visit a traditional Quinta (vineyard) with local wines and dinner included.
Everything about the Douro feels immersed in the culture of wine and winemaking. The valley sides housing traditional vineyards that reach right down to the calming, clear waters of the river itself, reflecting lines of grape vines and seasonal colours. You will not only get the chance to taste the wonderful produce of the place, but also reflect in the overwhelming connection with the culture of winemaking over the centuries.
Historical Salamanca in Spain – An included day tour
3). History & Culture
The Douro region does not simply claim to be a historic destination, like other popular cruise locations. The Douro Valley is itself an official UNESCO World Heritage site, being one of the oldest and most distinguished wine regions in the world and due to the human influence on its development. The region has produced wine from its sun-drenched and steeply layered vineyards for over 2,000 years, having been demarcated in 1756, and with its main product of Port wine becoming world famous.
The Douro River winds through the heart of the ancient kingdom of Portugal, with plenty of time spent in Porto, with its beautiful architecture and the embarkation point to be transported back in time and to the Middle Ages, as you wind through and explore the charming cities of the Portuguese hinterland. Our 8-day Porto & Douro Valley cruise will also take you to the port of Vega Terrón Barca d’Alva, where you will experience a full-day and included tour to the golden Spanish city of Salamanca, known locally as a “living museum” and where you can practically touch history in the form of centuries-old buildings. Salamanca is also the oldest university town in Spain.
There is also the chance to visit Guimarães, a city known for its well-preserved medieval buildings and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Regarded as a founding place for the identity of Portugal itself, it has numerous examples of exceptional buildings, such as Guimarães Castle, perched on a hill-top with sweeping city views.
The unique panoramas of The Douro Valley
4). The Kodak moments
It may sound a bit dated in the world of Instagram and camera phones but there is something to be said for snapping away on your camera of choice at the most breath-taking (am I really here?) landscapes. And the Douro has it all, which is why it is often referred to as one of the ‘crown jewels’ of Portugal.
The views in the Douro Valley are truly breath-taking and unlike any other part of Europe, with the layered and lush terraces of the sloping vineyards almost taking on an otherworldly look.
There are few places as naturally beautiful and interesting as the Douro, making it perhaps the most photogenic of all the rivers of Europe, with a unique and intoxicating presence.
Relax in the pool as the Douro Valley passes by
5). A truly tranquil river journey & holiday
The Douro Valley and River are quintessentially ‘off-the-beaten-track’ destinations, meaning they are ideal for savouring the peace and tranquility of the outdoors, as it should be.
As your beautiful river ship winds down through the elegant curves of the river, you’ll watch sleepy medieval hamlets and historical towns slowly pass by. Life on the Douro moves at a slower pace, perhaps why our flagship vessel is called the Douro Serenity. She will offer a true home from home on your trip to the Douro, with spacious cabins and floor-to-ceiling windows, panoramic fronts in the restaurant and bar ensuring unparalleled views of the Douro Valley and even a pool, spa and fitness room.
The Douro River in Portugal is on the green-list and there has never been a better time to visit, and our beautiful river ships are waiting to welcome you onboard.
*** SPECIAL OFFER *** £250 – £500 per person off all the Douro cruises (8 days) in 2021. Book by 31 May 2021