The Douro Valley is a stunning region located in northern Portugal. It is famous for being a dream destination for nature enthusiasts and wine lovers alike, due to its incredible views and breathtaking vineyards.
If you’re considering taking a river cruise in Portugal, the Douro River is an exceptional choice to travel on. Here you can explore some of Portugal and Spain’s most stunning port cities and find views unlike anywhere else in the world.
Cruises along this waterway stretch from Porto, situated on the Atlantic Ocean, all the way east into Spain’s Vega de Terron, near the beautiful city of Salamanca.
So If you’re interested in a river cruise in Portugal’s Douro Valley, here’s everything you need to know before you book!
River Cruise Portugal (Douro Valley): Companies
There’s a great variety of companies to choose between when booking a Portugal river cruise in the Douro Valley. From Avalon to AmaWaterways and Uniworld to Tauck, it can be difficult to know where to start when looking for the perfect cruise for you.
Companies offering this itinerary include:
Many of the cruises on this river are operated by the Portuguese company DouroAzul, which has its own fleet of river ships. That said, the tour company you choose to travel with has great input into the operations, serving their own menus, offering their own unique tours, and some even incorporating their signature ship designs into parts of the DouroAzul fleet.
Not every ship on this river is a DouroAzul one, though, as CroisiEurope, Scenic, Uniworld, and Viking all fully own and operate their own ships in this region.
Be sure to travel with a company that matches well with your desired itinerary and budget. If you need any help, why not speak with one of our trusted river cruise travel agents?
River Cruise Portugal (Douro Valley): Itineraries & Ports
The itineraries offered along this route are quite similar no matter which company you choose to travel with. Most typically consist of 7- to 10-night trips, usually starting with a land tour in Lisbon before passengers board a coach to head to their ship.
The 7-night cruise travels between the gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage city of Porto and either the last little village in Portugal, Barca de Alva, or just over the Spanish border to another tiny village called Vega de Terron. So if you’re looking to end your journey in Spain, be sure to find an itinerary where Vega de Terron is the final stop!
The majority of highlights are included on all cruise lines’ itineraries, so no matter who you choose to travel with, you certainly won’t be missing out.
On the typical itinerary, you can discover incredible destinations such as the city of Salamanca in Spain or beautiful Porto in Portugal. Generally speaking, the week-long itinerary is quite laid back, so it is a great trip for those looking for a relaxing and peaceful cruise. Main destinations include:
The main embarkation port for Douro cruises, this ancient city is one of the most historic in all of Europe. Dating back to the Roman Empire, the old town of Porto is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to famous sights such as Sao Francisco Church and Se Cathedral.
Vila Nova de Gaia
Situated just across the Douro from Porto, this little port city is known for the lovely port houses that decorate its gorgeous mountainside. A great place for tasting port and wine, step into one of the tasting houses and enjoy a delicious sample of some of the world’s best ports.
The cable car station is also located nearby and provides a reasonably priced and scenic trip to the top of the town (it even includes a free glass of port!).
While docked in Pinhao, located in the breathtaking Vila Real district, you will have the opportunity to take excursions to destinations such as Quintana do Seixo to taste port and learn about how it was made. Mateus Palace is also a great place to visit, where you can see some of its famously beautiful gardens.
Depending on the cruise you choose, you may have an overnight stay here, giving you plenty of time to not only explore these destinations but also the beautiful waterfront.
Salamanca is one of the biggest highlights on any Douro cruise. Located northwest of Madrid, it is arguably one of the most scenic cities in Spain. Famous for its Roman influence and historic Old and New cathedrals, there is so much to see and do in this location that you will be absolutely spoiled for choice!
There is plenty to do both onboard and on land on a Douro cruise, with each operator offering their own onboard amenities and entertainment as well as their own excursions through the various destinations.
One of the unique things about a cruise along the Douro is that there is no nighttime navigation. Because of this, ships must cruise only between sunrise and sunset, so be aware that some of your days onboard will be spent traveling. This is a bonus for those who love being out on the water and admiring the views.
River Cruise Portugal (Douro Valley): Costs
Depending on the length of the cruise you choose to take and the operator you go with, the cost for a cruise along the Douro can vary widely.
Costs typically range between $2000 and $8000 per person, but as with any river cruise, this really depends on how long you’ll be spending on the cruise and the level of luxury you’re looking to enjoy while on board.
River Cruise Portugal (Douro Valley): Things to Know Before You Go
Extend Your Vacation
While most cruise lines offer tours to help you explore some of the amazing cities along the Douro, if you’re traveling a long way to visit Portugal and Spain, you might want to consider adding a couple of extra days onto the end of your vacation. This will give you the chance to explore some of the larger cities such as Madrid or Lisbon as well.
Learn a Language
It’s also helpful if you learn a little bit of Spanish or Portuguese before your visit. Since you’ll be visiting small remote towns along the river, you’ll likely be meeting a fair few people who don’t speak English. For this reason, it’s worth memorizing a few words or phrases before you go, and carrying a phrasebook with you.
There’s Quite a Bit of Travel
This rural itinerary offers gorgeous views, but being out of industrial areas certainly has its downfalls. As most of the attractions you’ll be wanting to visit are further away from the river, you’ll have to take a coach for around 45 minutes at each stop. That said, there’s plenty of beautiful scenery and views to admire along the way.
Know the Weather and Pack Accordingly
Before you travel, you’ll want to look at what kind of weather the region will be expecting at the time of year you’re planning to visit and be sure to pack accordingly. While Porto can be cool since it’s right by the Atlantic, the further inland you travel, the warmer it gets.
For this reason, it’s best to pack to dress in layers. Also, be sure to bring a bathing suit with you, as many ships have small swimming pools located on their sun decks!
Have you ever visited the Douro Valley? Let us know in the comments section below! And if you need any assistance planning your trip, as Portugal travel experts, we can help!
Emily is a Freelance travel writer from the UK who believes that the discovery of culture, history, foods, and modern life is the most exciting part of travel. She loves finding great deals and experiencing great travel on a budget.
Emily graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom, with a degree in Asia Pacific Studies.