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Portugal and the Douro

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4.1 stars(28 reviews)
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Small Group

A rail and cruise tour through the Douro Valley

You are viewing the 2022 itinerary. Select your departure year
20222023
14 days From £3,395 per person

2022 Tour code: POG22

About the tour

Flowing from northern Spain to the ocean in Porto, the Douro River carves our route through a rolling landscape of vineyards. Discover its ever-changing scenery and gastronomic delights before we continue to vibrant Lisbon, with its Moorish influences, Fado music and charming streets.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London and Biarritz or Bayonne

We take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris, continuing to Biarritz or Bayonne for the night.

Includes
  • Dinner
  • Eurostar Meal
Day 2 – Salamanca

Travelling by rail and coach, we make our way to Salamanca for two nights. After checking into our hotel, we dine at a traditional restaurant in the city's bustling main square, Plaza Mayor.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 - Discovering Salamanca

Today includes a guided tour of Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage site known as the 'Golden City' due to the honey-coloured glow emanating from its sandstone buildings. We see the city's two wonderful cathedrals - the 12th-century Old Cathedral and the New Cathedral dating back to the 16th century - as well as the lavish city hall and the mighty Monterrey Palace. In addition to these are the historic colleges of the famous university and the unusual Casa de las Conchas, with its studded medieval façade housing an extensive public library.

Includes
  • Day 3 - Breakfast
Day 4 - Douro cruise and Peso da Régua

We travel by coach to Barca d'Alva in Portugal. Here, we board a boat for a cruise along the 'Golden River' through the heart of the Port-producing Douro Valley. Terraced hillsides surround the riverbanks, with vineyards plunging from the hilltops to the very edge of the water as we pass isolated Port 'quintas' - wine growing estates that produce the region's high-quality fortified wines. As we enjoy lunch on board, we admire the undulating landscape of sleepy towns and villages, gliding past delightful almond orchards and through dramatic gorges, eventually arriving in Peso da Régua, a town that boasts a peaceful spot beneath the Serra do Maoro Mountains. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel for two nights.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5 – The Douro Valley by train

We travel by train to Pinhão, a small town located at the confluence of the Douro and Pinhão rivers that's the epicentre of this Port-making region. We enjoy a Port tasting on arrival, followed by some free time to explore. We return to Peso da Régua for a relaxed afternoon, during which you could visit the town's celebrated Douro Museum, which includes exhibits relating to the history of Port production in the area. Later, we dine in a beautiful local Port wine estate a short distance from Peso da Régua, in the idyllic Portuguese countryside. The excellent Quinta da Casa Amarela is set in beautiful surroundings with terrific views of the Douro.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 – Porto

We take the train to Porto, a city once at the edge of the known world, for two nights. Exploring the winding streets with our guide, we admire the city's superb architecture, historical townhouses and regal churches before crossing the famous iron bridge. We continue to the district of Foz, at the mouth of the Douro, where we see the impressive villas that dot the hills here and pay a visit to the magnificent cathedral at the peak of the Penaventosa Hill, looking out across the rest of the city from our panoramic perch. We also see the Palacio da Bolsa, a beautiful 19th-century palace.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 - Guimarães

We head to Guimarães today, the first capital of Portugal whose attractive, narrow streets have UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to the city's fantastically well-preserved buildings, which date as far back as the 10th century. The jewel in Guimarães' crown is the imposing medieval fortress that watches over the city. We enjoy a tour through the colourful streets and lively squares before visiting the castle and its gardens as well as Bom Jesus do Monte, known for its grand, ceramic-tiled staircase. Our evening is spent back in Porto at the famous Taylors Port wine cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia, where we enjoy a tasting followed by dinner.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8 - At Leisure in Porto

Today you are free in Porto. You could head to the ancient Ribeira district or immerse yourself in the local flavour further by sampling Bacalhau, traditional Portuguese codfish.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 9 – Vintage tram tour of Lisbon

We catch the train to Lisbon for a two-night stay, enjoying a tour of Portugal's capital by vintage tram and coach on arrival. We see the neighbourhood of Alfama, one of the oldest parts of Lisbon, and Barrio Alto - a quirky maze of cobbled streets, bohemian boutiques and traditional bars. We pause at a café along the way for a local specialty - Portuguese custard tart, checking into our hotel for the next two nights afterwards.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 10 - Sintra and a Fado evening

You have free time in the old Moorish city of Sintra, which has been the summer residence of Portuguese royalty for more than 600 years. Today, Sintra is popular with visitors thanks to its colourful buildings and picturesque location below the Sierra de Sintra. The city's most recognisable landmark is the Palacio Nacional, with its huge, white twin chimneys that rise above the large palace kitchen and are for miles around. Back in Lisbon, we transfer to a local restaurant for an authentic Fado evening. A traditional form of Portuguese music whose birthplace is said to be in Lisbon during the early 19th century, Fado music is known for its mournful melodies and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of giving one's life over to fate. We enjoy multiple courses of authentic food accompanied by the expressive and melancholic sound of acoustic guitars and mandolins.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11 - To Madrid

Following a relaxed start to our day, we travel by coach to the Spanish town of Merida. Here, we join the rail service to Madrid for dinner and an overnight stay.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 12 – Sightseeing in Madrid

We set out on a guided city tour of Madrid, during which we stop to admire the magnificent Palacio Real, or Royal Palace, and Plaza Mayor, the city's 17th-century public square, considered to be one of the most impressive piazzas in Europe. With free time for lunch, you could enjoy some local tapas before we make the journey to San Sebastian via Pamplona.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 13 – San Sebastián

One of the most beautiful and charming Basque resorts, San Sebastián sits within the fashionable La Concha Bay, home to deep, calm waters and a stunning beach area. Regarded as the culinary capital of Spain, the city is also celebrated across the continent for its pintxos, the Basque equivalent of tapas, and, after a walk along the seafront or through the beautiful old quarter, you might like immerse yourself in local life, stopping off at different eateries for a small plate or two and a drink before moving on - a tradition known as 'txikiteo'

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 14 – London

Saying goodbye to Spain, we transfer to the station for the train to Paris. From here, we join the Eurostar to London St Pancras.

Includes
  • Breakfast
  • Eurostar Meal

Additional information

Departure times

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.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Hotel PortoBay Marquês

Hotel PortoBay Marquês, Lisbon

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Hotel Régua Douro, Peso da Régua

Hotel Régua Douro, Peso da Régua

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Hotel PortoBay Teatro

Hotel PortoBay Teatro, Porto

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Hotel Catalonia Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

Hotel Catalonia Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

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NH Collection Aranzazu

NH Collection Aranzazu, San Sebastian

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Trains

Eurostar
TGV

Enhance your holiday

Upgrades

Inclusive Luggage Upgrade
Upgrade your overnight cabin
London Hotels
UK rail connections

Reviews

4.1 stars4.1 / 5 · 28 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (9)
  2. 4 stars
    (15)
  3. 3 stars
    (3)
  4. 2 stars
    (1)
  5. 1 star
    (0)

Mrs R Bullen

4 stars

Submitted 7/Jul

Overall very comprehensive, but tiring, with six different hotels of accommodation. Tour manager friendly, and helpful, with a lot to fit in. Glad to have seen the various locations, with the trip on the River Douro the highlight. Good food, overall, and some interesting evening visits to local areas of culture. The wide area of towns and sites were very varied, but being left to your own devices, some of the time, became a little challenging.

Collected by Trustpilot

Catherine Stokes

3 stars

Submitted 6/Jul

The first week was the worst ever we’ve had with Great Rail Journeys. GRJ used a company called First Luggage to transport cases from our home to the 2nd hotel on our itinerary. Our case should have arrived on the Monday night when we arrived in Salamanca and we eventually got it on the Saturday, 6 days after we started the holiday. No-one wanted to take any responsibility to resolve the matter and I spent a good part of the week either emailing or phoning to try and sort it out myself. GRJ have since given us financial compensation for this but we feel that it ruined a holiday that we had waited 2 years to go on. The holiday itself started badly with a 3.5 hour delay on Eurostar which meant that we missed our connection in Paris for Biarritz. I’ve never been on a holiday where so much went wrong, Some of it not GRJ’s fault but it set the tone of the holiday. This was our 5th GRJ holiday and if it had been our first I doubt we would have booked a second.

Collected by Trustpilot

Mr G Young

3 stars

Submitted 1/Jul

This could have been 4 stars but Great Rail have let themselves down with poor communication before and since returning home. Before: the impact (loss of day in Lisbon and a further lost day in San Sebastian) due to detour via Madrid was not fully explained. After: no reply as yet (1/7) to email sent 21/6. In addition there was no explanation why we had to travel 2nd class on way back from Hendaye to Paris Montparnasse - while a partial refund has been received 1st class tickets were available. Also impacting the score was the meal on the last night in San Sebastian which was shocking and did leave a bad "taste" (sorry!). First Luggage experience was "clunky" but okay, although how does it take 2 working days for luggage to go from UK to Spain but 7 working days from Spain to UK? In addition the email to remind us of pickup and the various documents to be attached, etc. was received AFTER we had returned to the UK. Overall we did enjoy the holiday, seeing the various cities and in particular the Douro River cruise and the meals at the vineyard and Taylors in Porto were our highlights.

Collected by Trustpilot

Suzanne Otto

4 stars

Submitted 16/Jun

Fabulous holiday overall. However overshadowed on day 12 and day 13 by unnecessary stopover in Madrid which involved complicated lengthy coach and train journeys which were not in original itinerary and were just too tiring. For example we arrived so late in Madrid that dinner was started at 10pm. An overnight sleeper train would have been much more suitable even if we wouldn't have had a personal bathroom on board. All the hotels were very good apart from the Porto Bay Hotel in Porto. It had recently been refurbished to a not good enough design or standard in our room e.g light fitting fell out and access to toilet was via a wobbly sliding glass panel that was noisy every time! Not good if in a twin room as we were! Staff in all hotels were pleasant and polite. Food was good for us in all hotels. Our tour manager was friendly, helpful and clearly good at her job with plenty of experience too.

Collected by Trustpilot

George Taylor

4 stars

Submitted 16/Jun

This was a wonderful trip, particularly the journey down the Douro. It was a great pity that the overnight sleeper is no longer available. Our trip benefitted from having only 14 participants, much pleasanter than numbers well over 20.

Collected by Trustpilot

mr anthony greenhalgh

5 stars

Submitted 11/Jun

Excellent trip to some very interesting places. Welll organised and very good hotels. Would recommend.

Collected by Trustpilot

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Europe by Rail 2022

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Portugal and the Douro

A rail and cruise tour through the Douro Valley

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