Vintage Port 39
You are invited to join us on a unique holiday to the stunning Douro Valley Port wine area of northern Portugal, the world’s first demarcated wine region (for the production of Port), and to the historic city of Porto itself. Following the Douro upstream, we discover a world of steeply terraced vineyards producing fine wines and ports.
The only way to see this beautiful region is by rail and river (there are few roads in the valley itself). The first half of our tour is based on the river right in the centre of this stunning region and includes several scenic rail trips as well as two half-day river cruises.
We honestly believe that you will not better this holiday for enjoyment and scenery. It is also our longest running tour now in its 18th year.
Tour Manager: David
Thursday 7th September Our flight leaves Gatwick at 14.10. Direct flights also available from Stansted and Manchester and overland travel from St Pancras via the Eurostar. We will be met at Porto airport by David, your tour manager, and luxury coach which will take us direct to the 4-star Hotel Regua Douro for our overnight stay. This is our base for the next 5 nights and is on the banks of the Douro (75 minutes from airport). Depending on which flight you arrive on you also have the option to make the journey by rail. Free evening for dinner (David will indicate suitable restaurants) and to settle in.
Friday 8th September (B) Following a short welcome meeting, we take the train west to the lovely country station of Livração. From here we transfer by road to the pretty riverside town of Amarante, one of the gems of northern Portugal. Here rows of 17th-century mansions with their brightly painted balconies line the narrow streets. There will be time to visit the Monastery and other sites during our walk through the town. After lunch we join our coach for the short journey to the vineyards at Quinta da Aveleda, one of the region’s top Vinho Verde estates with its fine gardens. Our coach will drop us back at Penafiel station for our rail journey back to Regua, arriving early evening. (10.45 – 19.00).
Saturday 9th September (B,D) Morning is free to explore Regua. Alternatively join us on an optional visit to Lamego, an attractive town with Renaissance and baroque mansions overlooked by two hills. On one of the hills are the ruins of a 12th century castle, on the other is the monumental baroque Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. A marvellous granite staircase decorated with tiles, allegorical fountains, small chapels, and statues leads to a baroque church with views over the town. In the afternoon we join a restored vintage train, formed of five wooden bodied carriages dating from the 1920s – this train is normally hauled by a vintage steam locomotive. We travel up the river through breath-taking scenery of terrace vineyards and olive trees, to the riverside station at Tua (about a 90 minute run). En-route we stop for water at the picturesque riverside town of Pinhão. Use the time here to see the famous tiled pictures, dating from 1938,that decorate the station. Many of the most famous names in port production have quintas (port lodges) close to the railway station which is decorated with dazzling tile panels depicting scenes from bygone days of port production. On board we are treated to traditional singing and served local delicacies and port wine. After a break we return on the steam hauled special to Regua. (14.30 – 18.00). In the evening we visit the wonderful Quinta da Casa Amarela vineyard for a guided tour and our Welcome Dinner.
Sunday 10th September (B,L) In the morning we catch the regional train east along the river to the railway’s terminus at Pocinho. This is a superb scenic journey with stunning views and we might catch sight of the rare Black Kite still manages to survive in this remote area of Europe. At Pocinho we join our river cruise and travelling down river passing through three of the dams built in the 1970’s to tame this once wild river. One of the locks we pass through is 32 metres deep and is an unforgettable experience. This is a stunning valley of steep terraced vineyards and dramatic rock cliffs. A full three course lunch with wine is served on board and included in your tour price. (09.00 – 17.15)
Monday 11th September (B) Today we visit the fascinating little town of Mirandela, with its Roman Bridge and beautifully kept historic centre. There is the option to ride on the last remaining section of Douro narrow gauge line running 17Km from Cachão through Mirandela to Carvalhais. After time for lunch and free exploration we make the journey to Casa de Mateus, famous for appearing on the labels of Mateus rosé wine, to see the splendid manor house and gardens. (09:30 – 18:30)
Tuesday 12th September (B,L) Late morning we join our river cruise down the river through the picturesque port wine area of steep terraced vineyards which stretch right down to the water’s edge. A full 3-course lunch with drinks is served on board before we pass through the famous Carrapatelo dam. At 35 metres deep, this is one of the deepest navigable dams in the world; an experience not to be missed. We continue down river and pass through the smaller Crestuma Dam. We are now in an area of woodlands, small vineyards and river beaches. Late afternoon we arrive in the fine city of Porto and get to see this ancient city from the river with its famous bridges, including the Maria Pia railway bridge (now closed) and the iconic 2 level Dom Luis I bridge. (11.00 – 18.30).
Wednesday 13th September (B) Today is free for your own exploration of Porto. A trip on the vintage trams or a visit to one of the port wine lodges is recommended. Alternatively join our rail trip to visit the fabulous narrow gauge lines which hang on to survival in the Vouga region, south of Porto. We head south to Aveiro to join the metre gauge line through unspoilt villages to the railway museum at Macinhata and lunch in Sernada do Vouga. We travel north to Espinho where we return to Porto São Bento on a suburban service. (09:00 – 18:30). Anyone returning to the UK overland by rail will leave tonight on the Sud-Express sleeper train.
Thursday 14th September (B) We use the surface metro/tramway back to the airport for return flights to the UK.
OPTION MINHO ADD-ON
Thursday 14th September (B) This morning we have a short walk through the fascinating medieval quarter of the city to Batalha where we join a vintage tram for a trip through the old city to the tramway museum. After time to visit the museum we join another vintage tram along the waterfront finally arriving at Infante. From there we walk through the Ribeira district and over the iconic Dom Luis I bridge to visit one of the riverside port lodges complete with port tasting (9.15 – 13.00). Free afternoon.
Friday 15th September (B) Our first stop this morning is Nine where we have a rare opportunity to visit the normally closed railway museum before we continue to the town of Barcelos with a chance to experience its famous weekly outdoor market, the biggest in Portugal. After time for lunch, we transfer by road to Portugal’s most spectacular religious sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, complete with a funicular railway dating back to 1882. We return to Porto by rail early evening. (08:15 – 18:30)
Saturday 16th September (B) Today join our rail trip to visit the fascinating Lousado railway museum and the important UNESCO city of Guimarães. We have a pleasant 75-minute journey along the Vizela River. At Guimarães a local guide will lead us on a walking tour of this well-preserved medieval town famed as the birthplace of the nation. There will be an optional visit to the superbly preserved 10th-century castle and the palace of Paço dos Duques. After lunch you will have free time to explore the town on your own. (09.45 – 17.00). Anyone returning to the UK overland by rail will leave tonight on the Sud-Express sleeper train.
Sunday 17th September (B) Our coach returns us to Porto Airport for our flights back to the UK.
All days are very leisurely. The approx. start and end times are shown at the end of each day’s itinerary e.g. (10.45 – 18.45). A generally easy tour with short walks from the hotels to the railway or metro stations. However on a couple of days there are guided walking tours though these move at an easy pace. Some stations in Portugal still have low platforms. Eating out in Portugal is very cheap. Allow £15 a day for meals for those days where a meal is not included.
Overland travel via Eurostar: Leaving London St Pancras at 09.17 (Tuesday) take the Eurostar to Paris. Forward from Paris at 14.45 to Irun. Here join the Sud-Express sleeper train which will take you through to the Portuguese city of Coimbra. Connecting inter-city train onward to Porto. The return journey works in reverse with arrival back into London is on the next evening.