The Douro Cruises are one of the best ways to enjoy the region. Every day several boats sail on the Douro with tourists of all nationalities.
In this route we navigate the Douro upstream from Porto to Peso da Régua located in the heart of the Douro Wine Region. It will be a journey of 7 hours with lunch on board, which will take us through two dams: Crestuma-Lever and Carrapatelo.
Along the way you can see the terraced vineyards on the banks of the river, farms and beautiful scenery as the river meanders through the middle of the increasingly steep slopes. Arriving at Régua return is made by train or bus.
Here's the detailed route...
Duration: 7 horas
Lunch on board
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The ship departs early at 8:00 am from Gaia quay. If you are staying in Porto there are several alternatives to get to Gaia quay. In our case we went through the Arrábida bridge, and went to Gaia traveling the narrow road that winds along the river from the mouth to the quay.
Once arrived we park near the quay. Along the quay we found several boats and search for Millennium Douro. We found it next to a crowd of tourists. We wait our turn and into the boat. This boat belongs to the operator Douro Azul and has a capacity for 250 people. It has several floors, terraces on the upper floors and a restaurant downstairs.
We entered and went to our place near a window, through which we see the beautiful city of Porto lit by morning light. The river, the tower of the Clérigos, and the Cathedral in the background. It is a very nice landscape and we await with some impatience to start the travel upstream.
After a few minutes, as all the passengers come aboard, we begin our journey upriver. Quickly we went out to the deck to enjoy a better view. We passed under the bridge D. Luís I and continue our journey.
In this yet urban landscape we pass by several bridges connecting Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. We continue watching the riverside and pass near the Pousada do Porto (Palace of Freixo) a restored Baroque building dating from the eighteenth century. Gradually we leave the Porto city behind.
Upstream and gradually we get into the countryside, where the margins are covered with vegetation and several homes are watching from the still, little steep riverside.
After some time the boat starts to reduce speed, we get the first dam: Crestuma-Lever. Built in 1985 this dam was the last of the Douro dams to be built. The 5 dams in Portuguese territory allowed the creation of the navigation channel of the Douro since 1990 that allows navigation on the river from Porto to Barca d'Alva.
When looking at the dam a question arises: how can the boat pass through? In the distance, on the right, we seethe floodgate which on a first observation seems to be too small for a boat this size... Meanwhile another vessel approaches and we realized the reason for the slowdown, our ship was waiting for other boats to make the ascent.
The floodgates are beginning to open very slowly, causing a stir on board because everyone wants to see this experience. The boat enters the sluice, with pinpoint accuracy. Once all the boats come in, the gate closes behind us and starts to climb. Passengers are all out here taking pictures, making comments, we feel an excitement on board. The climb is done quickly and in a moment we are "up here" and then proceeded our trip.
As we move up the river the landscape starts to transform, from an urban area to the countryside, with abundant vegetation. The boat continues upriver choosing the best route through the waters of the Douro.
After some time we arrived at a well known curve of the river, where the river beach of Lomba, a very pleasant place.
Lomba Fluvial Beach
In this part of the river the scenery is very beautiful, and the river becomes temporarily more busy with some yachts and jet skis.
On the right image, the Church of Pedorido
One of the many Quintas in the Douro riverside.
After a few kilometers we reached the Carapatelo dam. The height of this dam is huge unlike Crestuma-Lever. This one is 35 meters high and its sluice the biggest of the Douro and one of the largest in the world.
As the boat approaches, the gap imposes respect, and again stirring on board increases.
Cameras in hand, and everyone walks onto the deck to better appreciate this unique experience.
The boat enters the lock and 35 meters high side walls makes us feel small before a project of this magnitude. Again other boats are accompanying us on the climb.
The foodgates close echoing inside the sluice, briefly drowning out the flow of water that the higher floodgates cannot hold completely. The ship begins the ascent what takes only a few minutes.
On deck we see the upper bridge close quickly, where several people are curious and watch this event and take pictures. The boat approaches so much that we can touch the upper bridge with a raised arm.
Finally, we go to the final stage of the route to Peso da Régua.
We are approaching the heart of the Douro Wine Region, considered by UNESCO in 2001 a World Heritage site.
We pass near Pala, where we observe the church of Santo António of Ribadouro and the railroad bridge (picture below).
Then we pass by Porto Manso, the Hotel Porto Antigo and the Bridge of Mosteirô. The bridge is so low that we "almost" can touch it...
A few miles upriver is Caldas de Aregos known by its Termas (hot springs).
Caldas de Aregos
Then, near Ermida railway station we watch a train in the Douro line.
After the Ermida Bridge and Porto de Rei, the river becomes narrower. The navigation here requires more care, and the ship goes upriver through the narrow riverbed.
We can not help thinking how it would be to navigate the river many years ago, when only the Rabelo boats that could sail here. The Douro was a river where navigation was dangerous, full of bottlenecks and currents, and the greatest of all the Cachão da Valeira for many years the limit of navigation of the Douro. This obstacle was removed only in 1791 after several years many pounds of dynamite.
Shortly after the river turn wider agan and the landscape is now dominated by vineyards on the slopes on the riverside. We are in the heart of the Douro Wine Region!
Arrving at Peso da Régua, we can see the 3 bridges. The boat docks, we left it and find several people selling souvenirs and buy some traditional sweets of Régua.
The route back to the Porto city will be started, and it is made by train or bus. On this trip we make the return trip by bus. However is available you should always opt for the train because you can admire beautiful landscapes along the river Douro.
Arrived at Porto, we have a feeling of a day well spent. Yet we have the desire to turn back, doing another cruise, or traveling the region by car, driving through the roads along the Douro river. It is something that we will soon do...
Roteiro do Douro