Douro, Porto & Salamanca 2020 Riviera Travel River Cruise
One of Europe’s best kept secrets in one of its most undiscovered corners, explore the sleepy villages and medieval towns unchanged for centuries, amongst the breathtaking rolling hills and terraced vineyard slopes of the stunning Douro Valley.
Commencing in the Roman city of Porto, the home of Port wine, Portugal’s once wild river Douro has been tamed by locks into resembling a series of finger lakes, adding greatly to the valley's ambience. Leaving behind the Atlantic influenced greenery of the coast you are soon immersed in a Mediterranean land of olives, vines, and picturesque, medieval hilltop villages. Your destination is the higher reaches of the valley from where you visit Salamanca - home of one of Europe’s oldest universities, two of its finest cathedrals, Spain’s finest city square and even the Inquisition!
You will adore the away-from-it-all experience and visit some of Iberia’s most beautiful medieval towns, monasteries and vineyards, and feel you have been away for months!
Fly to Lisbon or Porto, and transfer to your five-star cruise ship in Porto. From the moment you board, the welcoming crew are at your service. In no time you’ll be settled into your luxurious, thoughtfully furnished accommodation and familiarising yourself with all the first-class aspects of this floating boutique hotel.
Strategically sited overlooking the Douro as it empties into the Atlantic, Portugal’s second largest city was originally a Roman town, but its wealth is derived from its knowledge of the sea routes to India, with fortunes made from trading spices, silks and other fine goods. This morning Riviera's guided tour of this interesting city unveils some of its major and more surprising sights. You’ll experience the tangled lanes of the medieval quarter, the splendid Praça da Ribeira square with its characteristic tiled townhouses and fine views to the wine lodges across the river.
You return to the ship and there’s an air of expectancy on board as during your first delicious lunch, you’ll slip Riviera's moorings and begin a stately passage upstream. The Douro is one of Europe’s most captivating rivers and you can enjoy a leisurely afternoon up on deck or watching the glorious scenery drifting by from the comfort of your own cabin. Tonight, as you enter the restaurant for the Welcome Dinner, feel free to choose your table. All are expertly set with four or more seats and have excellent views through the large panoramic windows. Later, you will see a celebratory vintage port wine opened in the traditional way.
The Douro was once a precariously wild river, rendering navigation extremely tricky for the traditional flat bottomed boats which often foundered. Today the river has been tamed by a series of locks and you navigate several of them; always intensely fascinating, the resultant almost loch-like river topography really enhances the valley’s charm. Cruising into evermore rural territory towards the Spanish border, the river here is at its most peaceful, a perfect time to take a refreshing dip in the pool, or catch up on some reading perhaps with a cool pre-lunch glass of local vinho verde white wine. It’s worth mentioning Portuguese wine is really outstanding but as the production is not huge, the higher quality wines tend to be consumed locally, so if you are a wine aficionado, experiment a little – you are in for a real treat! You are now on the River Duero, as you have crossed into Spain, however the northern bank remains in Portugal! This afternoon visit Castelo Rodrigo, a delightful 12th century walled village tucked away in the peaceful border hills, whose church was a resting place on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela – indeed it is said that St Francis himself stayed here. Perched on a hill, the views are simply stupendous - stretching across almost deserted ochre-coloured hillsides. This evening enjoy a delicious, typically Portuguese barbecue, served on the sundeck (weather permitting) as the unmistakable sound of crickets and scents from the surrounding hillsides pervade the warm evening air.
Today visit historic Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, acknowledged by many Spaniards as one of the country’s most beautiful cities and once seen it really is difficult to disagree. Renowned for the gorgeous rose-coloured hue emanating from almost universal use of local sandstone for its construction, the city appears to glow. Perched on a small hill on a bend in the serene River Tormes, it is a picture of tranquillity but, founded by the Romans, who built the still used 400 yard long bridge, Salamanca was repeatedly fought over by Hannibal, the Moors then the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon. Salamanca is dominated by its two cathedrals and Spain’s oldest university founded in 1215, which for four centuries was one of the civilised world’s most important seats of study. The Spanish Inquisition’s records are still kept here, and as early as the sixteenth century it boasted some twelve thousand students. You can see beautifully preserved lecture halls with their vaulted ceilings and you can imagine Christopher Columbus addressing the most learned men of the day or legal experts constructing the international laws originating here. Over lunch you enjoy a traditional flamenco show, then explore as you wish. Whilst the buildings themselves dominate the skyline, their internal decoration is just as exceptional. Visit the two cathedrals – the more recent dates from the 16th century! Salamanca is a wonderful place to just wander through: tiny streets, medieval squares, traditional shops, gardens and marketplaces all add to its atmosphere. The main square, the Plaza Mayor, is widely acknowledged as Spain’s finest and the hub of Salamantine life, with plenty of cafés and places to sit and watch the locals go by whilst absorbing the lovely atmosphere.
After another superb lunch on board, cruise into the small town of Peso da Régua, from where you visit the grounds of the splendid Mateus Palace. Anyone familiar with Mateus Rosé and its characteristic ‘squashed’ bottle will recognise the palace from the label. Whatever your opinion of the wine, it is an impressive 18th-century Baroque edifice, mirrored in its stunning pond, surrounded by landscaped French gardens.
This evening take the short drive to the 126-acre Quinta da Pacheca for dinner. Enjoying dramatic views over the Douro, it dates back to the 18th century and is simply one of the most beautiful and distinguished properties in the region. It is also notable as being the first quinta – in 1738 – to bottle wine under the name of its owner, the aristocrat Mariana Pacheco Pereira. You have time to wander through part of the estate before sampling a selection of its finest wines at dinner.
This morning after breakfast take a short drive to historic Lamego, home of Portugal’s sparkling wine, Raposeira, and one of the first places to be reclaimed from the Moors in the 12th century. Situated atop the hill overlooking this lovely town is the ancient Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies church, its stairways adorned with attractive azulejos, the country’s characteristic painted ceramic tiles. Later we enjoy a little indulgence as we visit one of the region’s best port quintas, or estate-vineyards, to learn how the legendary fortified wine is produced. This experience culminates in a much-anticipated tasting of the delicious final product.
This evening is the Captain’s Dinner, a truly memorable experience featuring exquisite regional specialities, followed by a colourful performance of traditional Portuguese folk music by a local cultural group.
Porto is of course synonymous with wonderful port wine and all the famous port producers are here, such as Cálem, Sandeman and Ferreira, so a visit here would not be complete without a tour of one of them. You’ll learn about this fortified wine’s fascinating history and its close British connections. Port is made from grapes still pressed in the traditional way – by feet – then lovingly matured, sometimes for decades, before you can enjoy its subtle flavours. Of course, you’ll get the chance to sample various port styles at the end of our visit.
This evening, enjoy a final dinner on board expertly served by our restaurant staff under the supervision of the maître d’. Afterwards, perhaps settle into the lounge to chat into the evening and reflect on the splendours of the remarkable River Douro – over a glass of port, of course.
After a final breakfast you will be transferred to the airport at the appropriate time, refreshed and revitalised, with memories of one of the most unspoilt corners of Europe to savour for a long time to come.
- Return flights from the UK - regional airports are available but may carry a supplement
- 7 Nights on board MS Douro Elegance or MS Douro Splendour
- All Meals on board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day.
- Full Day excursion to Salamanca with walking tour, lunch and flamenco show, guided tour of Porto with wine tasting, dinner at a typical Portuguese quinta & visits to Castelo Rodrigo, Mateus Palace gardens & Lamego.
- 5 Star service from English-speaking crew & knowledgeable local guides
- Complimentary WIFI on board
- All Port charges, airport taxes & overseas transfers
- Services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and tour manager
Extend Your Cruise
Extend your stay, pre or post cruise, with this great value cruise extension! Simply give our award winning team a call for full details on 0800 810 8220
- 3 nights Lisbon stay at a centrally located hotel with breakfast from £449pp. Departing from April - October 2020
- Guided tour of Lisbon with its magnificent squares, Baixa and Moorish quarters, cathedral and castle
- Visit to the spectacular historic town of Sintra and its Royal Palace, summer residence of the Portuguese monarchy
- Visit the astounding Monastery of Jeronimos with its outstanding 16th-century stonework
- See the holy shrine of Fatima, famous for its apparitions and one of Catholicism’s most renowned pilgrimage sites
- Tour Coimbra University, founded in 1290, one of Europe’s oldest seats of learning and a UNESCO World Heritage site
Dining Drinks Package
- You can now purchase a dining drinks package, at a cost of £109 per person.
- Draught beer; non-alcoholic beer; soft drinks; juices; red, white and rose house wines; and wine recommendations from the menu are included with lunch & dinner.
- The drinks package must be purchased prior to departure. Ask the team for more information