Top Ten Reasons To Cruise The Douro River

Published: 29th November 2011
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The Douro River offers relaxed river cruising through Spain and Portugal, with a unique glimpse into river life. Read on and I'll give you my top ten tips for getting the most out of your Douro river cruise.

Tip 1: Bring Your Camera
The Douro River runs through Portugal and drops through five huge dams over the main cruising channel. These dramatic locks are perfect for smaller craft meaning you can enjoy the view unobstructed.

Many river cruises travel at night, but a trip on the Douro Spirit allows you to absorb the rolling riverside scenery for the whole trip. The river flows through the hillsides of the Douro Valley with their spectacular terraced vineyards, making for some great daytime sightseeing so bring your camera.

Tip 2: Bring Your Walking Shoes
Many Douro cruises are boarded at Vila de Gaia in Porto, the source of the regions famous port wine. Unsurprisingly the Douro Valley area offers many tours of the cellars and vineyards around the town. Once you've had a glass or two, the entire city centre of Porto is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site and full of interesting architecture, making it a fascinating place to explore as you start your cruise.

Tip 3: Admire the Engineering
One of the distinctive features of the Douro is the series of massive locks you pass through. These 5 locks are all quite deep and loom overhead when you're lowered to the bottom. The largest of the five is the deep lock in Barragem de Carrapatelo, dropping a full 35 metres, so you can admire the parking skills of the captain whilst you're at it!

Tip 4: Visit the famous Mateus Palace
From Peso da Regua you can reach the famous Mateus Palace, near the centre of the Vila Real region. You've probably seen an image of the palace featured on the labels of the well-known Mateus Rose wine. The palace buildings are typical of the ornate baroque Portuguese style and are stuffed full of interesting exhibits. Take a stroll around the lovely gardens whilst you're there.

Tip 5: Bring a Book
The Douro River stretches out through 200 kilometres through Portugal, and there are few major towns once you have left Porto, the main ones being Peso da Régua and Pinhão. As a result Douro river cruises are somewhat more leisurely than other rivers throughout Europe, making them perfect for lazy afternoons watching the river cruise past with your nose in a book.

Tip 6: Visit the Alpendurada e Matos
Most Douro cruises will include a number of shore excursions. From Bitetos it's a short bus ride to the majestic former monastery of Alpendurada e Matos, situated high above the river, which offers fantastic views across the surrounding hills.

Tip 7: Tour Salamanca
The ancient city of Salamanca boasts the oldest university in Spain, and day excursions can usually be made from the stopping point Vega de Terron on your Douro cruise to the city. Salamanca dates back to Roman times and you can still see the Roman-built bridge across the Tormes River today.

Tip 8: Try the Port
The stop off port of Pinhão is right in the middle of the Port Wine country. Take the short hop to the Quinta do Seixo vineyard, where you watch first-hand the process of port production before moving on to organised wine tasting sessions.

Tip 9: Explore the Cathedrals
Salamanca also boast not one but two huge cathedrals in one, the Romanesque era Old Cathedral and the Gothic New Cathedral. Famous for the Plaza Mayor, generally said to be the most magnificent town square in Spain, Salamanca also features many attractive buildings in the old University district.

Tip 10: Get ready to chill
Expect your Douro cruise to be a leisurely affair, sailing by day and relaxing at night. There are many enjoyable evening excursions to be had making it the perfect destination to while away a week. The best time of year to cruise is generally in the late spring, as you are virtually guaranteed great weather with more moderate daytime temperatures, missing the scorching summer heat.

And when you’re ready to experience the relaxing douro spirit for yourself, I’d like to invite you visit:

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