Culture

Vintage Port 41

5 to 12/15 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 20th year.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David. 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
  • Stunning scenery
  • World’s first demarcated wine region
  • British port wine estates
  • Two river trips
  • Two vintage train rides
Itinerary

Day 1 Thursday 5 September (D) Our flight leaves Gatwick at 13:00. Direct flights also available from Stansted and Manchester and overland travel from St. Pancras via 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 Régua and have our first experience of this spectacular line. Late afternoon arrivals may need to transfer to Régua by road.  We stay in the 4-star Hotel Régua Douro, our base for the next 5 nights on the banks of the Douro. Dinner in a local restaurant. Option to arrive a day earlier and catch the vintage train from Porto to Regua (see below)

Day 2 Friday 6 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 where 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 Régua by train from Livração station, arriving early evening.

Day 3 Saturday 7 September (B,D) Morning free to explore Régua. Alternatively join us on an optional visit to Lamego, an attractive town with renaissance and baroque mansions overlooked by two hills, one with the ruins of a 12th century castle and the other 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 and normally hauled by a vintage steam locomotive. We travel up the river through breath-taking scenery of terraced vineyards and olive trees, to the riverside station at Tua. En-route we stop for water at the picturesque riverside town of Pinhão. 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, dating from 1938, 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 Régua. (14.30 – 18.00).  In the evening we visit the wonderful Quinta da Casa Amarela vineyard for a guided tour, port tasting and dinner. 

Day 4 Sunday 8 September (B,L) This 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.

Day 5 Monday 9 September (B,D) 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 17 km 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. Dinner in a local restaurant in Régua.

Day 6 Tuesday 10 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.

Day 7 Wednesday 11 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 Dom Luis I bridge to visit one of the riverside port lodges complete with port tasting. Free afternoon. Dinner in the excellent Abadia restaurant.

Day 8 Thursday 12 September (B) Return to the airport for flights to the UK.

Optional Minho add-on

Day 8 Thursday 12 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.

Day 9 Friday 13 September (B) We catch a suburban train 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.

Day 10 Saturday 14 September (B) Today we head south to the Vouga narrow gauge rail line. After being stored in Régua 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. 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.

Day 11 Sunday 15 September (B) We return to the airport for return flights to the UK.

Pre-tour Vintage Train add-on

Wednesday 4 September Arrive at Porto Airport and transfer to your airport hotel. On Thursday, catch the “Miradouro” train from Porto São Bento to Mosteirô for an early arrival at your hotel where you will be able to enjoy the facilities ahead of the arrival of the main group later in the day. The Miradouro train is formed of refurbished 1940s Schindler carriages, hauled by an English Electric class 1400 diesel locomotive. Rest of the day is free.

This trip does have a bit of walking, including some hills and steps and a guided walking tour. To enjoy it to the full, you should be comfortable walking 800 – 1,000 metres at a leisurely pace.

Hotels

Hotel Régua Douro, Régua (5 nights)
Quality Inn, Batalha, Porto (2 nights or 5 nights)

Outward Flights

EZ1989 06.45 Manchester to Oporto
FR8343 09.25 Stansted to Oporto
EZ6147 10.15 Bristol to Oporto
TP331 13.00 Gatwick to Oporto
TP353 14.45 London City to Oporto
KLM 06.15 Birmingham to Oporto (via Amsterdam)

Overland Travel

07.55 St.Pancras to Paris
12.48 Paris to Hendaye
18.35 Hendaye to Coimbra (Sleeper)
05.21 Coimbra to Porto

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • Full 8-day holiday including flight from Gatwick, Stansted or Liverpool: £1,395
  • Full 10-day holiday overland from St Pancras: £1,795
  • Own travel to and from Porto: £1,195

Options

  • Single room Supplement: £260
  • Manchester flight supplement: Confirmed at time of booking
  • Pre-tour day and trip on Miradouro vintage train: £85 (twin/double), £120 (single)
  • 4-day Minho add-on in twin/double room: £350
  • 4-day Minho add-on in single room: £470

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Travelling by land: £1,000
  • Own travel: £300

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 from arrival in Porto
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