The offer of cruises in the Douro is vast and diversified, with options for different tastes, wallets, and schedules. This is an excellent way to get to know the region of Alto Douro Vinhateiro, classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and distinguished by the magnificent landscapes in which the river blends with the terraced vineyards.
Porto, Peso da Régua, Pinhão, Pocinho or Barca d'Alva are some of the localities that serve as a starting point and arrival for vessels of various genres that make these tours much appreciated. All About Portugal presents you with the best cruises you can take along the portentous Douro River, so you can choose the ones that please you the most. In some, you will have the opportunity to enjoy breakfast and lunch aboard the boats while taking in the idyllic scenery. You should also know that, due to the closure of the dams for maintenance and weather conditions, most of these cruises do not take place throughout the year, but between the months of April or May, and October.
Get to know the Six Bridges of Porto aboard a typical boat
One of the busiest Douro cruises is the Six Bridges Cruise. Leaving Ribeira, in Porto, or from the Pier of Vila Nova de Gaia, this is a very appreciated tour and a very pleasant way to know the six bridges that unite the two cities. There are several companies to carry out this route that offers a magnificent landscape, takes 50 minutes, and is made aboard the Rabelos, typical boats of the Douro River that once carried the famous Port Wine from the Douro Valley to the cellars. The six bridges that connect Porto and Gaia are the Dom Luís, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, the Arrábida, Dona Maria Pia, São João, Freixo and the Infante. Take the love of your life, family or friends and contemplate together the beautiful panoramic views of Porto, Gaia or the Monastery of Serra do Pilar. This cruise is held daily throughout the year, and, at an additional cost, there is the possibility to include a visit with tasting in the Cellars of delicious Port Wine.
Be dazzled by the descent from Régua to Porto
An experience that allows you to enjoy a different perspective is to take the cruise that travels from Peso da Régua to Porto, in what is known as the descent trip. Régua is one of the main cruise destinations in the Douro and is a land of great natural beauty that still has a high commercial importance in the transport of wine. This tour departs in the morning from Régua and allows you to perfectly contemplate the calm waters of the river snaking through the valley where it blends with the terraced vineyards. Lunch is served on board and the magnificent scenery you will encounter will not leave you indifferent. The ship then descends the Carrapatelo, which has the sharpest slope with 35 metres, and the Crestuma-Lever Dams. After arriving in Porto, passengers return by train to Régua, on a trip that also offers spectacular views, if the time of year allows and the sun is still up. If you are in Porto and want to make this cruise, do not worry, because there are some companies that ensure the transport by train or bus to Régua. It is also possible to make the reverse cruise or, if you prefer, to come and go from Porto to Régua always by boat, although this option is divided over two days.
Sail from Porto to Pinhão and visit a wine farm
Another of the most sought-after cruises is what takes passengers from Porto to Pinhão, a beautiful village in the municipality of Alijó located on the right bank of the river, and fertile in history. The departure for this beautiful route takes place at the beginning of the morning and can be done both at the Estiva Pier, in Ribeira, and at Vila Nova de Gaia. It includes very pleasant experiences, like having breakfast and lunch on board, while enjoying the enviable surroundings that you will encounter. Along the way, full of beautiful landscapes, the ships pass through three dams, which they have to "climb", and where you can take the opportunity to watch the apparent ease with which the boat passes to a different height, contrary to the direction of the waters. After arriving at Pinhão, around 5 p.m., participants are taken to visit a farm in the region where they can taste and buy wines and other products. The return to Porto is by tour bus. The cruise can also be carried out by Rabelo boat, a slightly cheaper and equally interesting option.
The Régua-Pinhão cruise is short, but offers great sensations
Suitable for those who do not want or cannot spend much time on a boat, this small cruise, lasting about two hours, leaves amazed those who participate in it, since it allows you to fully appreciate the beautiful landscape surrounding the climb of the Douro, from Régua to Pinhão. Despite being one of the simplest routes that take place in the Douro, this cruise allows you to enjoy the typical Douro landscapes and one of the most famous sections of the Douro River. The starting point on this journey through the Douro valleys is usually done in the afternoon at the Régua Pier, and the trip to Pinhão includes the ascent of the Bagaúste Dam, which has a 27-metre unevenness. Arriving in Pinhão, take the opportunity to explore a little this small village and the local businesses full of history. The return to Régua is not, as a rule, included in the value of the ticket, but the time at which the cruises are usually held is compatible with the departure of train passengers from the emblematic Pinhão Station, where the famous tiles that depict life in the Douro stand out. At an additional cost, there are companies that carry out the ascent and descent of this cruise, with lunch served on board.
Go from Pinhão to the Tua River
Another short cruise that is done in the typical Rabelos and gives us the chance to discover a very interesting area. Departure and arrival are made at the Pinhão Pier, with boats sailing through calm waters upstream towards the mouth of the Tua River, a tributary of the Douro. This is a one-hour trip, which adds up to another of equal duration for the reverse route back to Pinhão. Along the way, you can admire the several terraced vineyard farms that reach the river, a breathtaking landscape that can't be seen when you make the trip by road. Along the way, participants are usually contemplated with the offer of a glass of Port Wine, making this trip, which can be made throughout the year, even more pleasant. Some companies offer audio guides that will allow you to know more about some of the most important points that can be observed in this tour, in which tranquillity prevails, so make the best of this traditional and typically regional experience.
Visit the "heart" of the Douro Vinhateiro
Also leaving Régua, this cruise takes passengers to the Ferradosa Pier, inserted in an area where the terraced vineyards predominate, from where you will continue by bus to São João da Pesqueira, the county seat. Also known as the "heart of the Douro Wine Region", it is here that we find the largest classified area of the world heritage that distinguishes this region. Prepare yourself, therefore, to enjoy breathtaking landscapes on this tour, also considered as one of the best Cruises in the Douro and that leads us to one of the region's best-known vineyard villages. The departure from Régua is made early in the morning and, after having breakfast on board, passengers will be able to enjoy the "ascent" of the Dams of Bagaúste and Valeira. Arrival at Ferradosa takes place around 1 p.m., an ideal time to enjoy a regional lunch served in a traditional restaurant. The rest of the afternoon includes visits to the Wine Museum and port wine cellars, but also to the Sanctuary of São Salvador do Mundo and its viewpoint, which allows you to contemplate a magnificent landscape over the vineyards and the Douro. The return to Régua is done by train or bus in the late afternoon.
The Régua-Pocinho Route offers beautiful landscapes
There are two possibilities to carry out this cruise. One is to go by train, or by bus, from Régua to Pocinho, in the municipality of Vila Nova de Foz Côa, and make the reverse route, down the Douro, by boat. The other is to go up the river by boat and return by train. Before or after the cruise, take the opportunity to buy the typical handmade sweets by the ladies who sell them on the streets of Régua. On both routes, passengers are treated to beautiful landscapes, in which the terraced vineyards and river valleys interconnect in an extraordinary way. The splendid views over the Douro Wine Region, and some of its most emblematic estates, are followed by the passage through localities such as Pinhão, Ferradosa or São Xisto. On board of this cruise you will be served lunch, accompanied by a glass of Port Wine. Take the opportunity to photograph or even film the experience of boats going up and down the dams, to later remember or show to family and friends. The cruise usually takes place between April and October, with the departure taking place in the early morning and the return in the late afternoon.
Travel to the Douro navigability limit in Portugal
To finish this itinerary on a high note, let's travel to the river pier of Barca d'Alva. This riverside village in the municipality of Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo is the place that marks the limit of the navigability of the Douro River and where it meets the Águeda River, already on the border with Spain. This is the arrival point of this trip that departs from Régua, on a cruise chosen by those who do not want to miss the opportunity to admire the breathtaking landscapes that characterize this area of the Douro Wine Region. Also one of the most popular in the area, offering incredible views, the journey begins in the early morning with breakfast and lunch to be served on board, always accompanied by a small glass of Port wine. There are companies that also serve an afternoon snack on the boat. Along the route, the cruise goes up three dams: Bagaúste, Valeira and Pocinho. The return trip to Régua is usually made in the late afternoon by train, from the Pocinho Station, or by bus, on a cruise that is usually held between April and mid-October.