Sleepily meandering between vineyard-lined banks, the River Douro explores a part of the world blessed with astonishing beauty. Sun-kissed and lush, the Douro Valley offers stunning panoramas for hundreds of miles. For huge stretches of the Douro Valley, life seems to have blissfully stood still for generations, with the land still farmed using traditional methods for wine-producing grapes as well as olives, figs and almonds.
With the exception of Porto, where the Douro empties into the sea, you won’t find bustling cities and towns along the River Douro, with the valley mostly inhabited with quaint, charming villages unspoiled by the passing of time. Small settlements and wineries emerge around gentle curves in the valley, welcoming you to the traditions and the beauty of the region.
The unrushed atmosphere of the Douro Valley has led to a charming and friendly population, excited to share their way of life. A million miles from the hustle and bustle of city life, the small villages and towns across the Douro Valley can be slowly explored, so you can take in the full experience of life in this wonderful region.
The postcard-perfect views combined with the smell of figs and almonds carried in the air, make the Douro Valley a relaxing, yet rewarding, part of the planet to explore and enjoy. It is difficult to select just a handful of highlights in this beautiful region, but we’ve picked out our favourite experiences during a river cruise through the Douro Valley.
Perched on a bend of the River Douro, Pinhao is a charming village surrounded by terraced hills growing some of the world’s finest port-producing grapes. The views around this beautiful village are dominated by the grape-growing hills and vineyards of the region, and Pinhao presents the perfect opportunity to learn a little bit more about the region’s viticulture and most famous export.
Many wineries in the region play host to informative port-tasting sessions, where you’ll discover how the grapes turn into the rich, red wine, and learn how to properly taste a glass of the good stuff.
The awe-inspiring town of Lamego is a striking addition to the Douro Valley, resplendent with Baroque architecture, narrow streets and swooping arches. The entire town has been crafted by master masons, with beautiful flourishes and eye-catching murals dotted throughout. Lamego has been an important part of Portugal’s history, with the beautiful town serving as location for some of the nation’s most important events. Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, enjoyed his 12th-century ascension to the throne in Lamego, and the remains of the Sé church he built are still present to this day.
But the town’s most famous site is the beautiful Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Remédios, an 18th-century shrine which can be accessed via an imposing 686-step Baroque staircase. Perched high above the rest of the town, the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Remédios stares protectively over the citizens of Lamego and all visitors.
The charming village of Pochinho enjoyed a century of activity between 1887 and 1988, during which time it was home to a thriving railway station. In the decades since the railway closed, Pocinho has resumed a slow and relaxed way of life – however, the railways are still close to the hearts of the locals, with museums dedicated to the trains.
Pocinho is recognised as one of the earliest settlements in the Douro Valley, with pre-historic stone carvings found in the area now on show at the nearby Coa Valley Museum. Today, the village remains a popular stop-off for those with a passion for wine thanks to the respected wineries and row-after-row of blossoming vines.
Douro Museum, Peso da Régua
Located in the Peso da Régua municipality is the Douro Museum, celebrating everything which makes this part of the world so unique and so special. Exploring the ancient wine making processes for which the Douro Valley is famous, as well as providing a tour through the region’s history, the museum is a delightful pit stop when exploring the towns and villages of the Douro.
As the oldest regulated wine region, there’s plenty of wine making history to explore in the Douro Museum. Of course the highlight of the museum is the delightful wine bar, serving up some of the region’s best-loved vintages and providing stunning views across the river.
Not technically a part of the Douro Valley, but definitely worth a visit if you’re exploring this part of the world. The ancient Spanish city of Salamanca is affectionately nicknamed the Golden City in recognition of the beautiful sandstone buildings which characterise the settlement. The enigmatic walled city seems to glow in the Spanish sun, and has managed to retain its centuries-old charm and beauty.
A renowned university city, Salamanca is home to the third oldest higher learning institute in the whole of Europe, and the scholarly buildings possess beauty which would even surprise graduates of Oxbridge’s most esteemed colleges. Much of the city’s original architecture has remained intact, so you can take a journey through history as you explore the ancient palaces, churches and squares of beautiful Salamanca.
All Emerald Waterways river cruises atop the Douro give guests the chance to visit Salamanca, so you needn’t miss this incredible Spanish city.
Have you been inspired to explore the beauty of the Douro Valley? At Emerald Waterways, we organise two river cruise itineraries atop the beautiful River Douro. For more information and bookings, visit our dedicated Douro page or call our helpful sales team on 0808 301 4705.