The dramatic scenery, amazing food and fabulous wines of Portugal make for an alluring holiday, but when you experience the UNESCO-designated Douro Valley on a luxury river cruise, it becomes even more memorable. Here are a few of the highlights.
At the point where the Douro River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, the city of Porto has grown up and flourished as a port city for thousands of years – in fact, it is recognised as one of Europe’s oldest centres. Wander the medieval streets of its Ribeira (riverside) quarter, explore the tranquil Parque de Serralves sculpture park and be sure to sample the freshly-caught seafood: fresh, charcoal-grilled sardines are a great place to start.
Grapes have been grown in the Douro Valley for more than 2,000 years, so the local producers really know what they’re doing. A cruise holiday comes complete with shore excursions that will give you the chance to visit the picturesque quintas that line its slopes, meet the winemakers, sample their wares and find out what makes the region’s wine unique. In the upper reaches of the Douro, try a fruity muscatel, and when in Porto, spend time deciphering the nuances of tawny, ruby and white port.
Castelo Rodrigo is a mediaeval hilltop castle which shares its name with the village that surrounds it. You can admire the incredible views from the top or simply ramble through the charming village streets, taking time to enjoy a coffee and a pastry along the way. When you’re in Porto, it’s an easy day trip to the city of Guimarães, which is often referred to as the birthplace of Portugal. Here you’ll find a charming mix of mediaeval buildings, narrow cobbled streets and open plazas filled with cafes.
People have inhabited the upper Douro River Valley for more than 30,000 years, and despite its reputation as one of the most pristine waterways in Europe, its earlier residents have left behind plenty of evidence of their time here. When work on the construction of a dam in the Côa Valley led to the discovery of thousands of Palaeolithic rock carvings, Portugal’s first archaeological park, Foz Côa, was born. Carvings representing horses, oxen, goats, aurochs, deer and armed hunters have all been found, but the scenery of the Côa Valley itself is reason enough to enjoy your time here.
From the point where the Douro River reaches the Spanish border, you can take a day trip to the stunning Spanish town of Salamanca. Nicknamed La Dorada or ‘the Golden One’ for its beautiful sandstone buildings, this ancient university town is well worth the journey. Be sure to allow time to sit in the Plaza Mayor with a glass of local wine – it’s said to by many to be the most beautiful plaza in Europe.
If you want to experience the best of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, culture, art and history on a journey that blends captivating cities, picturesque villages and idyllic landscapes, a cruise on the River Douro is a great choice – take a look at some hot offers here and ask your personal travel manager for details.