Culture

Vintage Port 40

6 to 13/16 September
Portugal

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 19th year.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David, who lives in Portugal. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

Highlights
  • No fly option available
  • Stunning scenery
  • World’s first demarcated wine region
  • British port wine estates
  • Two river trips
  • Vintage steam hauled train ride
Itinerary

Thursday 6th September (D) 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, who will take us to the railway station in central Porto using the modern metro system, from where we catch our train to Regua, and have our first experience of this spectacular line.  We stay in the 4-star Hotel Regua Douro, our base for the next 5 nights on the banks of the Douro. Dinner in a local restaurant.

Friday 7th September (B,L) Following a short welcome meeting, we have another chance to see the Douro from the train as we head back west to Paredes. Our coach will be waiting to take us the short distance to the vineyards at Quinta da Aveleda, one of the region’s top Vinho Verde estates with its fine gardens. After a guided walk through their gardens, we enjoy our Welcome Lunch in the Quinta. 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. We return to Regua by train from Livração station, arriving early evening.

Saturday 8th 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, port tasting and dinner.

Sunday 9th 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 which still manages to survive in this remote area of Europe. At Pocinho we join our river cruise and sailing down river we pass through three of the dams built in the 1970s and 1980s 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.

Monday 10th September (B) The Tua metre gauge line used to run from Tua station up to Mirandela, and previously all the way to Bragança. Sadly, it closed a few years ago and a dam was constructed at the southern end of the river as part of a huge hydro-electric project, with the line submerged as far as Brunheda. However, we can once again enjoy some of the beautiful Tua Valley scenery, but this time from the comfort of a cruise boat as we sail along this newly created lake. There are plans to run a special train between the charming town of Mirandela and Brunheda station.

Tuesday 11th 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 enter this ancient city in the best way possible – on the river, sailing under its famous bridges, including the Maria Pia railway bridge (now closed) and the iconic 2 level Dom Luis I bridge.

Wednesday 12th September (B,D) This morning 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. Free afternoon. Dinner in the excellent Abadia restaurant.

Thursday 13th September (B) We use the surface metro/tramway to return to the airport for flights to the UK.

Optional Minho add-on

Thursday 13th September (B) Today we head north by rail into the green Minho region. Our first stop is the railway museum at Lousado, dedicated to the metre gauge lines that existed throughout northern Portugal. From there we continue north to the important city of Viana do Castelo. We will explore the historic centre, lined with Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque mansions, and on to the fort, guarding the mouth of the River Lima. A free afternoon to enjoy lunch in one of the many excellent restaurants here. There is also a funicular to whisk you up to the Santa Luzia church with splendid views of the city and coast. Return to Porto at the end of the afternoon.

Friday 14th September (B) We begin our day with a trip by rail to Braga where we ride on the Bom Jesus water-powered funicular. This afternoon our guide will lead us on a walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Guimarães. Return to Porto by train at the end of the day.

Saturday 15th September (B) Today we head south to the Vouga narrow gauge rail line. After being stored in Regua for many years, the metre-gauge Vintage Train has been brought back into service on the Vouga Line, and today we will take a step back in time to travel on the original rolling stock along this scenic, but often forgotten, line. For so long threatened with closure, it managed to hang on, and is now having a renaissance due to the presence of this train. A visit to Macinhata museum is included.

Sunday 16th September (B) We use the surface metro/tramway to return to the airport for return flights to the UK.

This trip does have a bit of walking, including some hills and steps and two guided walking tours. To enjoy it to the full, you should be comfortable walking 800 – 1,000 metres at a leisurely pace. We will transfer to and from the airport on the light-rail system.

Place(s) available
Holiday prices per person
  • Full 8 day holiday including flight from UK: £1,399
  • Full 10 day holiday overland from St Pancras: £1,799
  • Own travel to and from Porto: £1,199

Options

  • Single room supplement for main tour: £290
  • Minho add-on in twin/double: £420
  • Minho add-on in single: £580

Deposit

  • £100 (balance of deposit due by 01/01/2018)
Price includes
  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted.
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Flights
  • Direct flights from Gatwick, Stansted, Liverpool and Manchester. Flights from Bristol are also available but outward on Weds and back on Friday.