The Douro River – Portugal

A cruise along the beautiful Douro River takes travelers through the heart of the Douro Valley, which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well known for its wine production.

Porto is perhaps most famous for its fortified wine. It was the first wine region to become officially delimited, meaning that it had a specific region that it was allowed to source its grapes from.

Douro, Portugal

Although Porto is the centre of the port trade, the majority of the cellars, if not all, are actually across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. The shipping of Port does go through Porto though, as it is the easiest to access. While 80 varietals are permitted in port, only 29 are recommended and only about five are used in any significant quantity.

Porto is Portugal’s second-largest city, with an urban population of roughly 1.1 million citizens. Built along the hills lining the Douro River, Porto is very much a vertical city; stairs, a panoramic elevator and a funicular run from the city’s low-lying historic areas to its modern upper reaches, the result of which is some stunning photographic opportunities.
Porto is also sometimes referred to as Oporto in English due to a misinterpretation of the town’s traditional Portuguese spelling, o Porto.

When in Porto…
Francesinha, or literally Frenchy, is a popular fast food native to Porto. It is a sandwich layered with several kinds of meats and topped with cheese and a sauce made from beer and spices.

Douro River cruises usually begin and end in Porto, Portugal. Douro River cruise packages range in length from 6 to 15 days. The longer itineraries include land travel along with a cruise and may include cities, such as Lisbon or Madrid. The cruise itself generally lasts for an average of 8 days.

Douro Valley – Photo courtesy of Bruno Rodrigues

One of the highlights of Douro River cruises is the Douro River Valley. This region was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2001. It’s located between the cities of Barqueiros and Mazouco in northeast Portugal near the border of Spain.

Most of the river cruise is spent in Portugal. Ships only travel as far east as Vega de Terron, Spain. While docked in this city, most itineraries include a trip to Salamanca. It’s located about 165 miles southeast of Vega de Terron. Transportation to Salamanca is by motor coach.

Visit the picturesque Lamego, home to one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Portugal, the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies). There are more than 600 steps to ascend to the top – but fortunately, you’d be starting at the top and walking down! It was still a very memorable experience. To think that the pilgrims who visit here actually go up on their knees…

Once at the bottom, you will be rewarded with a tasting of local specialties before heading back to your river cruise, for some spectacular scenic cruising. Going through several narrow locks that you can see right from the comfort of your balcony, but also from on deck, where the immense scale of the locks is apparent.

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