A rail and cruise tour through the Douro Valley
Flowing from northern Spain to the ocean in Porto, the Douro River carves our route through a rolling landscape of vineyards towards historic Porto. Exploring not only the ever-changing scenery, but also the gastronomic delights along the way, we continue to vibrant Lisbon, with its Moorish influences and charming streets.
We depart St Pancras International by Eurostar to Paris, in Standard Premier Class. In Paris we join the TGV to Biarritz, where we stay overnight. On Day 2 we transfer by coach to San Sebastian, where we board the train to Vallodolid in First Class, before transferring to a regional train for the short journey onwards to Salamanca (Standard Class). Our hotel for the next two nights is the Catalonia Plaza Mayor. This evening we dine in a traditional restaurant on the Plaza Mayor.
This morning we take a guided tour of Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage site, also known as the 'Golden City' because of the glow from its sandstone buildings. During the tour we see the 15th century cathedral, the Plaza Mayor and the unusual Casa de las Conchas.
Today we travel by coach into Portugal to Barca d'Alva. Here we board a cruise boat for a journey through the magnificent Douro Valley, one of the highlights of the holiday. Our cruise on the 'Golden River' takes us through the heart of the Port-producing region of Portugal. Here, terraced hillsides surround the riverbanks, with vineyards plunging from the hilltops to the very edge of the Douro River.
We pass splendid, isolated Port 'quintas' - wine growing estates that produce the region's high-quality fortified wines. As we enjoy lunch on board we pass quietly through the undulating landscape of sleepy towns and villages which appear on the riverbank. We glide past delightful almond orchards and through dramatic gorges, eventually arriving in Peso da Régua, the official centre of Port production in Portugal. The town lies in a peaceful spot beneath the Serra do Maoro Mountains and was traditionally the place where barrels of Port were loaded onto wooden cargo ships to be transported along the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia. On arrival in Peso da Régua we transfer to our hotel for two nights, the Hotel Régua Douro.
Today we travel by train to Pinhão, a small town located at the confluence of the Douro and Pinhão rivers which is the epicentre of the port-making region. We enjoy a port tasting in Pinhão, followed by some free time to explore the town at leisure. We return to Peso da Régua for an afternoon at leisure, during which you could visit the celebrated Douro Museum, located in the town, which includes exhibits relating to the history of Port production in the region. Tonight we dine in a beautiful local Port wine estate, a short distance from Peso da Régua. The excellent Quinta da Casa Amarela is set in beautiful surroundings with terrific views of the Douro.
Today we continue by train down the beautiful Douro river valley to Porto, the city which was once the very edge of the known world and a port from where daring explorers risked their lives to discover the New World. On arrival, we enjoy a guided tour of the city, which has a wonderful unspoilt charm. We stay at the Hotel NH Collection Porto Baltha for the next three nights.
This morning we head to Guimarães, the first capital of Portugal, whose attractive, narrow streets have UNESCO World Heritage status. After time to explore, we continue to the vast Bom Jesus do Monte, known for its grand staircase up to the church that climbs a staggering 381 feet (116 metres). We spend this evening at the famous Taylors Port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. We enjoy a tasting of port and dinner at the cellars.
Today you are free to further explore the city of Porto. You could head to the ancient Ribeira (Riverbank) district to explore the narrow winding streets, or visit the charming little Harry Potter bookshop with its beautiful staircase.
Today we take a high-speed train to Lisbon arriving in the afternoon. The rest of the day is free to explore Lisbon, Portugal's vibrant capital. You could perhaps stroll through the streets to Rossio Square or ride the unique public elevators of Santa Justa or Glória to the Barrio Alto. We spend three nights at the PortoBay Marquês Hotel.
Today we take a guided tour of Lisbon, through historic, picturesque neighbourhoods, passing through the steep and narrow streets of Lisbon's traditional quarters. Our tour is held on a privately chartered historic tram complete with all of its furnishings, and offers a true nostalgic journey in to Lisbon's past. We pass beautiful squares and grand architecture as we travel in restored carriages dating from the 1930s and 1940s.
We end the tour in Belem, Lisbon's natural harbour that was regarded as "the historical heart and soul of Portugal". We visit the historic Pasteis de Belem café, where we enjoy coffee and the famous cakes which give the place its name. Continue exploring independently this afternoon - perhaps in Belem take in the Columbus monument and Jeronimo's Monastery.
This morning we take the train to Sintra, the summer residence of many Kings of Portugal. Sintra is a beautiful village surrounded by wooded hills, home to the spectacular and brightly coloured Pena Palace. Your time in Sintra is free to explore at leisure.
We enjoy the day at leisure, before we board an overnight sleeper train to Spain, which takes us from Lisbon to San Sebastián.
On arrival into San Sebastián this morning we check into our hotel, the NH Collection Aranzazu. The rest of the day is free for you to explore. Perhaps stroll along the seafront, or explore the beautiful old quarter with its many wonderful tapas bars. On Day 14 we travel by coach to nearby Bilbao to visit the famous Guggenheim Museum with its impressive art collection. We return to San Sebastián in the afternoon and you have time at leisure before a farewell dinner later tonight.
We transfer across the French border to Hendaye today, where we join the high-speed TGV service to Paris. Here we board the Eurostar service back to London.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Please note: This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 21 verified reviews
Excellent variety of stopovers and interesting places
We thought the tour was excellent with the only downside being the location of the hotels in San Sebastián and Lisbon which were both too far away from the centre of the towns.
A lovely holiday with many highlights to a beautiful country and led by a very well organised and friendly Tour Leader. Unfortunately once again I feel that these tours are designed with couples in mind which makes life difficult for myself as a single traveller. The first part of the tour was fine in terms of my being on my own as most events were attended as a group but toward the end of the holiday there was a lot of free time. As I was the only single person on the tour with 10 couples I found myself wandering around on my own thinking "I've paid a lot of money to wander about alone" and looking for take away services for meals or having a picnic in my hotel room for dinner.
Excellent planning and wonderful manager
Great tour with one caveat (see below). Would also have liked a longer time in Bilbao -felt our time in the Guggenheim was far too short given it’s quite a long coach journey to get there.
It proved to be a super 'holiday' (tour!) with excellent weather, a good group of fellow travellers, a well-thought out itinerary, good hotels and a brilliant tour manager.
The holiday was very varied from the river cruise to visiting local villages and cities. We were very fortunate with the weather as it was lovely & warm. The places we visited were friendly & helpful as were all the local tour guides. The tour manager was brilliant making the holiday very relaxed & fun.
No holiday is that perfect
Small group size of 12 couples - like minded people and generally good group - mixed well. Loved the free time available and not feeling like herded cattle - no name badges of Manager with umbrellas. Trains were all good and Manager made sure we had plenty of time and were not rushed. Great places visited and good local guides with tours at good length.
1. Programme : excellent 2. Hotels: excellent and their position perfect 3. Tours: excellent 4. Food: Generally good but did vary quite a lot 5. Fellow travellers: all good company, friendly and interesting 6. Tour manager: competent, good organiser
A rail and cruise tour through the Douro Valley