The Douro River passes through Spain and Portugal and might be an overlooked choice for a European river cruise, but it is an appealing place for tourists as it makes its way through one of the world’s oldest wine regions and passes by four World Heritage sites.
Making its way through the upper Iberian Peninsula from Bilbao, Spain to the Atlantic Ocean at Porto, Portugal’s northern city, a Douro river cruise has so much to see. Take a look below at some of the highlights you will expect to see on a Douro river cruise.
The old town at Porto is UNESCO listed and offers amazing views across the river to the port-wine houses. Unmissable sights in Porto are the baroque Clérigos Church Tower, the tallest structure in Portugal in 1763, and the tile-covered churches Ildefonso and Carmo.
Vila Nova de Gaia:
On the opposite side of the Douro River to Porto is Vila Nova de Gaia. You can explore the riverfront along the promenade and try one of the many gourmet restaurants. There are lots of old port houses to explore, the maze of terracotta warehouses is one of the best attractions to see.
The area around the Douro is the third oldest wine region in the world, and at the heart is Pinhão. There are homages dotted around the small town to the Douro River which works as the towns lifeblood. A mandatory stop on the river cruise, you will love seeing the hand-painted tiles on buildings, the valley views and more.
Miranda do Douro:
Known in Portugal as the Museum City, the extreme weather that occurs at this northern corner of the country has deterred settlers so the Romanesque and pre-Renaissance religious buildings remain intact. Don’t miss seeing the Convent of the Trinity, now the village library.
Quintas, Douro Valley:
There are lots of quintas, small holding estates that you will see along the course of the Douro. The majority are involved with the wine trade and are great places where you can sample the fantastic wines from the region.
As you cross the border into Spain, Salamanca will be your next stop. A trip away from the river will bring you to this Golden City. The name has been given due to the sandstone the buildings are made from. The Old City area was declared a UNESCO sight in 1988 and has some diverse cultural legacies you can explore, a highlight being the cathedral.
The most sought-after food specialities of the Castile and Léon province can be found here. If you want to sample some delicious food on your river cruise, this stop is unmissable, with veal and game dishes on the menu, along with meaty stews as well as learning about wine-making techniques of the region at the museum.
San Esteban de Gormaz:
In the least populated province of Spain, Soria, is the village of San Esteban de Gormaz. Known for the cave dwellings, the houses were built into the yellow tinged mountains of the dry region. Though their construction began thousands of years ago, but people have turned the buildings into liveable places.
Photo by: Paulo Gomes