Paddle the Historic Douro River By Day and Enjoy Classic Vineyard Estates By Night
Our adventure begins in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city and cultural capital of the beguiling North. Scenic Porto sits amid granite cliffs at the mouth of the Douro River and has long been a cosmopolitan trading center. Porto is rich in architectural gems from Roman, Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassic and Renaissance eras. Late this afternoon we take a tasting tour at one of the port wine lodges across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia, the perfect start to a magical week! Then, we’ll gather for a welcome dinner in a traditional restaurant at the Ribeira Pier, followed by a Port wine nightcap.
Casa de Santa Cruz, Felgar
Today we travel 100 miles up the Douro Valley, one of Europe’s oldest wine-making regions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Paralleling the riverbanks via a small local train to Pocinho, we disembark and continue to the village of Felgar, where we spend a leisurely afternoon and evening at Casa de Santa Cruz. This historic farmstead on the main village square has been beautifully restored by our hosts, Anna and Jorge. Before sunset we’ll take a hike down to the banks of the upper Rio Sabor, learning about life in this bucolic and traditional region as we go.
Casa de Santa Cruz
We greet the morning with anticipation: it’s time to meet the river! After breakfast we drive to the put-in at Lagoaca, then paddle approximately four hours to Congida. This is the international section of the river, with Portugal on one side and Spain on the other. This section of the river and 335 square miles of the rugged surrounding terrain is part of the International Douro Natural Park, created to protect the scenic landscape and a host of wildlife species including kingfishers, herons, eagles, ospreys, wild boar and one of the last packs of wolves in this region, which lives a few miles inland from the river. Along our way, we’ll stop along the river’s edge for a picnic lunch. When we return to Casa de Santa Cruz, there’s time for a swim before Anna or Jorge give us a tour of the historic house, sharing their passion for restoration and their commitment to this sleepy village.
Vilariça – Quinta do Barracão da Vilariça
A beautiful paddle is in store today from Barca D’Alva to Barragem do Pocinho, about 4-5 hours, stopping en route for a picnic lunch. Time permitting, we’ll venture in late afternoon to the stunning new Museum of Art and Archaeology, towering high above the river. The
Quinta do Barracão da Vilariça
Today we take a break from our paddling to soak up more of the rich history and old world culture of the Coa Valley. Our day starts with an extended walking tour of the Quinta do Barracão da Vilariça as the morning sun lights up the vineyards and the shepherds watch over their flocks. We’re then off by van and foot for a guided tour of Paleolithic drawings, designated a World Heritage Site in 1998 by UNESCO, followed by lunch on the veranda of Ervamoira – Ramos Pinto, another pivotal quinta and museum in the Valley. Our afternoon is seasonally (and client) adjusted with options including almond harvesting, relaxing on the veranda or by the pool, and visits to learn the arts of making cheese and olive oil. Our friends Maria and Rui have 400 year old olive trees on their farm (believed to be the oldest in the Valley) and their olive oil simply can’t be beat! Our special time with them ends with another fabulous dinner.
Bairro do Casal
In the morning we’re back on river for about 3 hours, guiding our kayaks from the mouth of the Rio Sabor, a tributary of the Douro, to Numão for another delightful lunch. After lunch, we’ll visit The Museo da Casa Grande, a wonderfully baroque building built among ancient foundations and packed with artifacts from the Stone Age right through to the 18th century. Time and interest permitting, we’ll also visit the Freixo de Numao Castle, perched in a boulder field on the brink of a gorge. We then drive to our home for the night, Bairro do Casal, tucked not far from the river in Murça do Douro. Here, the vineyards are interspersed by mountains of granite, chestnut forests, olive and almond trees, and even fields of wheat. Our day is capped with a BBQ dinner with the locals in the village and if we can keep our eyes open (or our feet moving), some Portuguese music!
Casal de Loívos, Pinhão
Today is a fabulous day of paddling, including the Valeira Gorge, a narrow granite canyon that the Douro courses through. We can expect to paddle about 4 hours. We enjoy a very special lunch and tour at Quinta dos Malvedos, high above the river in Tua, before continuing with a spectacular drive up and over the hill to Casal de Loívos, an 18th-century manor house set high above the wine-producing heart of the Douro Valley. The BBC gave this country hotel the accolade of having one of the six best views in the world – we heartily concur as we survey the panorama below, with the winding blue ribbon of river wending its way between steep, vine- covered slopes and rows of rolling mountains dotted with the red tile roofs of centuries-old farmhouses. Before a sumptuous dinner (weather permitting outside on the terrace) we’ll enjoy a tour of this historic house.
Our sojourn on the river comes to an end with one of our favorite paddles, from Tua to scenic Pinhão, about 3 hours. We are in the very center of the Douro demarcated Port wine region, with neat rows of grapevines terracing down the schist mountainsides, and stately white stucco quintas dotting the hills high above the riverbanks. After lunch at a riverside cafe, we drive back to historic Porto for a festive farewell dinner, reveling in the memories we’ve made on the famous River of Wine.
Breakfast at the hotel before transferring to the airport for your departing flight.