Rail Journeys

The Douro: Rail, River and Wine

Tour Date: 13 to 20 June 2024
Location: Portugal

A seven-night, half-board holiday based for six of our seven nights at the Régua Douro Hotel. From our base in Régua, we explore the Douro Valley by rail and by boat, with a trip on a steam train through some of the most beautiful scenery in Portugal, visits to wine cellars to taste their excellent wines, travelling the whole length of the Douro Valley railway line with a visit to a pre-historic rock art location and ending our holiday with a cruise down the River Douro to Porto. Many of the trains on this line are now diesel loco hauled with 1940s Schindler carriages with opening windows, a huge improvement on the previous rolling stock. 

Our hotel has its own pool and restaurant/bar. All our rooms have river views.

Tour Highlights

  • Lunches included most days
  • River cruises
  • Stunning scenery
  • Wine and port tasting
  • Steam train
  • Scenic rail journeys
  • No-fly option

Tour Itinerary

Following a short welcome meeting, we join our coach to head north-east to Bragança, the former terminus of the metre-gauge Tua Line. We begin by heading to the historic centre and the castle, an imposing fortified tower and home to a museum with antique weapons & Portuguese military artifacts. After time to visit and explore the historic centre, we walk to the attractive town centre for lunch in an excellent family-run restaurant. Bragança station still exists, and in 2019 the long-stored rolling stock was put on display in an excellent new museum. We will visit the museum after lunch, before returning to Régua on our coach. Evening free.

Casa de Mateus

This morning our coach takes us to Vila Real and Casa de Mateus, famous as the palace that appears on the labels of Mateus Rosé wine (though Mateus Rosé is not actually made here). The visit includes a guided tour in the palace, as well as time to explore the beautiful gardens. We return to Régua by coach with free time for lunch before the afternoon’s highlight of the tour, the Douro Historic Steam Train. We join a restored steam-hauled vintage train, formed of five wooden bodied carriages dating from the 1920s.  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 Régua. Dinner will be in a well-known local restaurant.

The restored vintage trains which once again form most of the inter-regional trains on the Douro Line
The Douro historic steam train

 

We have the first of our two River Douro cruises, but to begin the day we once again catch the regional train with Schindler carriages east along the river all the way to the railway’s terminus at Pocinho. At Pocinho we join our river cruiser and sailing down the 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 part of the valley with steep terraced vineyards and dramatic rock cliffs and is probably the most stunning stretch of the river. A full three course lunch with wine is served on board.

Tired of sealed air conditioned trains in the UK? On the vintage trains on the Douro you are free to open the large windows, lean out and take photographs of the breath-taking scenery.

We have another chance to see the Douro from the train as we head back west to Penafiel. 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. Look out for the Goat Tower and the Old Wine Lodge. After a guided walk through their beautiful gardens, we are taken to their dining room where we will be served an excellent three-course lunch with the chance to taste some of their popular green wines. From here we transfer by road to the pretty riverside town of Amarante, one of the gems of northern Portugal. 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 after our walk through the town. We return to Régua by train from Livração station, arriving early evening.

The goat tower at Quinta da Aveleda (P.Spracklen)
The lovely riverside town of Amarante (P.Spracklen)

In the morning we catch the regional train east along the river to the railway’s terminus at Pocinho. Until the late 1980s, the main line continued to the Spanish border at Barca d’Alva and at Pocinho the Sabor narrow gauge line branched off. You can still see a steam loco from that line that was abandoned in Pocinho when the line closed. 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. From Pocinho we will make a short road trip to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Park and Museum near the small town of Vila Nova de Foz Côa. As well as visiting the museum, with its spectacular views over the River Douro, we will also visit one of the prehistoric rock art sites, travelling 6 Km through the countryside in an all-terrain vehicle with an easy walk for the last 600 metres. Note: due to capacity restraints at the rock art site, a maximum of 21 people will be able to go to the site itself, with places allocated strictly in order of booking onto the full tour. We end this exciting day with a short trip across the river to Quinta da Pacheca, a local port producer, where we will have a fine dinner and more opportunity to taste their wine and port.

You will never tire of the wonderful views of the river and terraced vineyards. Foz Coa.

One of the highlights of the holiday, we sail down the River Douro to Porto. We pass through two dams, firstly the spectacular Carrapatelo Dam. The lock in this dam will take us down 35 metres, one of the deepest locks in Western Europe and an unforgettable experience. Later we pass through the relatively small Crestuma-Lever Dam, as we start to see more settlements and finally the city of Porto. The approach to Porto is spectacular as we pass under a series of bridges, including the iconic Maria Pia railway bridge and the Dom Luis I two-level bridge. Our coach will have collected our luggage in Régua and will be waiting to take us to our hotel at the airport, ready for our flights home tomorrow. Our farewell lunch, including drinks, will be on board our river cruiser.

The beautiful city of Oporto with one of the Eiffel bridges

We are just a short walk from the airport. If you have later flights, you may wish to catch the modern metro into Porto and explore a little more of this fascinating city.

Vintage tram still run on some routes in the centre of Porto

By its nature, on this trip you need to be able to walk around locations with steep hills, stairs and cobbled streets, keeping up with the main group, and be able to lift your luggage on and off trains. Some Portuguese railway stations still have low platforms. In Porto you will need to be able to walk a few hundred metres from the pier to the coach park.

This tour has some walking, including hills and steps. Some Portuguese railway stations still have low platforms. In Porto you will need to be able to walk a few hundred metres from the pier to the coach park.

Prices & Options

Price (per person)

  • From Gatwick: £1,725
  • From Stansted:  £1,685
  • From Bristol: £1,685
  • From Manchester: £1,685
  • Join in Oporto/Porto: £1,450
  • Rail from St.Pancras (11 nights): £2,225* Flight inclusive bookings made less that 3-months before departure might mean an increase in price.

Options

  • Single use room add:  £280

Deposit

  • £500 with flights or £300 if joining in Porto

Transport & Accommodation

Hotels

  • Hotel Regua Douro, Regua (6 nights) – all our rooms have river view
  • Hotel Park Aeroporto, Porto Airport (1 night)

Flight Options

  • FR8343 09.25 Stansted to Porto (arr.11.50)
  • TP1331 12.00 Gatwick to Porto (arriving 14.20)
  • EZ2097 07:20 Luton to Porto (arr. 09:45)
  • EZ6147 18:10 Bristol to Porto (arr 20:20)
  • FR1175 18:55 Manchester to Porto (arr 21:15) – going out Wednesday
  • FR8514 06:55 Birmingham to Porto (arr. 09:15) – going out Wednesday

This tour has some walking, including hills and steps. Some Portuguese railway stations still have low platforms. In Porto you will need to be able to walk a few hundred metres from the pier to the coach park.

Gallery