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Itinerary & Activities

Itinerary Map
(click for larger version)
Itinerary map of Portugal, Spain & the Douro River Valley 2018

Day 1: Lisbon

Arrive at Lisbon Portela Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the hotel.

Day 2: Lisbon

Everything old is new again in the Portuguese capital, which is undergoing a remarkable rebirth of late. Get to know this hilly metropolis with a city tour that shows you all the top sights and treats you to an iconic, locally-made pastry with an intriguing tale all its own.   Vibrant, colorful and picturesque, Lisbon will continually surprise you. Glorious historic architecture reflects the wealth brought in during the “Age of Discovery,” when the Portuguese owned the seas, but it is also a modern center of finance and international trade.Featured Excursions:Lisbon city tourWhen you gaze out at the Tagus River, tile-roofed houses climbing the hills behind you, you are looking at the port where Portugal’s empire began. Here the kings of the newly independent nation launched an age of exploration—and then poured the profits of their new trade routes and colonies into their capital. Do you see the square tower rising from the water? Belém (the name comes from Bethlehem) Tower, built in the 16th century to guard the port, has housed cannons, prisoners and royalty over the centuries; its ornamented façade might strike you as unusual for a fortress, but that is typical of Lisbon—even fortresses have beautiful ornamentation. Another landmark nearby, the 20th-century Monument to the Discoveries, commemorates these voyagers and their founding patron, Prince Henry the Navigator. Leave the riverfront to embark on your own voyage of discovery: Head inland a short distance to the Hieronymites Monastery, which will have you reaching for your camera. A masterpiece of Manueline architecture—the Portuguese late-Gothic style is named for King Manuel I—erected during the 16th century and decorated with sculptures and elaborate scrollwork, Hieronymites Monastery is another shining example of Portugal’s golden era. Not all landmarks are architectural, however. Take a break and enjoy one of the city’s iconic pastries, the cream custard tart known as pasteis de nata, at Pasteis de Belém, which has been baking these yummy treats since 1837, before experiencing the rest of your panoramic motorcoach tour. It will include the Rossio—the busiest square in Lisbon—and the Alfama district, the Old Town neighborhood that survived the devastating 1755 earthquake. Note: Please note that we do not visit the cloisters at Hieronymites Monastery. Your local guide will make suggestions for lunch. You can choose to remain downtown and explore on your own or return to the hotel. Shuttles are available to take you to and from the hotel this afternoon, which is yours to spend as you please.

Day 3: Lisbon

Experience your own “Age of Discovery” with a full day to explore Lisbon however you wish.   Lisbon is yours to explore today. Get out and see the city on your own. Ride the famous iron elevator from the Baixa district up to the Bairro Alto, the cultural and bohemian heart of Lisbon, and catch a fantastic view of the city from the vantage point of São Pedro de Alcantara Belvedere. Once you reach Bairro Alto, head for São Roque, whose plain façade hides a magnificent baroque interior. The city hosts remarkable museums and excellent shopping. Your options at Centro Comercial Colombo, the biggest mall in the Iberian Peninsula, are seemingly limitless. Or try a flea market, perhaps the Campo de Santa Clara, if you prefer to hunt for unique treasures. Natives of Lisbon boast that they have the best food in the world; the many cafés and taverns tempt you to verify that claim.

Day 4: Lisbon, Coimbra, Transfer to Porto (Embark)

En route to Porto, you’ll stop in Coimbra, home to an ancient university and a lavish baroque library considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Admire the lingering traces of the town’s Moorish and Roman past after sitting down to a traditional Portuguese lunch.   You’ll check out of your Lisbon hotel and board a motorcoach, heading north through Portugal’s picturesque countryside toward Porto—but you’ll stop in Coimbra, Portugal’s first capital, before you reach the port city at the mouth of the Douro.Featured Excursions:Coimbra tour with Joanina Library visit and family-style lunchDrive through scenic cork forests and verdant fields en route to Coimbra, Portugal’s third-largest city and the birthplace of six of the country’s kings—and home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, the University of Coimbra, whose historic buildings crowd the hill above the Mondego River. A one-time royal palace, the university enjoyed the kings’ patronage for centuries, and one king, João V, endowed it with a lavish baroque jewel of a library, the Joanina. Housing more than 300,000 books, including some from the 12th century, it is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. As a visitor, you and your small group will be admitted into rooms with exquisitely carved and lacquered shelving, splendid ceiling frescoes and ornately gilded coats of arms. These library rooms are simply astonishing. After seeing a little of the town itself, which boasts Moorish and Roman architectural remnants, you’ll stop at a local family-run restaurant for a traditional Portuguese lunch, starting with Portugal’s iconic soup, caldo verde. Then you’ll continue straight into the heart of Porto, where you will board your ship. Unpack, check out the ship’s amenities and prepare to take in some scenic delights as you cruise away from Porto. Five famous bridges link Porto to Vila Nova da Gaia, including the graceful iron arches of Dom Luis I, and you’ll sail under all of them as you enter the mouth of the Douro and drift past Porto on your way to some of the loveliest scenery Portugal has to offer.

Day 5: Porto, Cruising the Douro River, Entre-os-Rios

There’s much more to Portugal’s second city than its eponymous fortified wine—historic architecture, cutting-edge design, fabulous food and wine, and a hip, laid-back vibe. Discover its many charms with your choice of distinctively different tours today.   Portugal’s second city (after Lisbon), Porto gave its name to the nation’s most famous export, Port wine, and to the nation itself. The city is a fascinating combination of historic buildings and cutting-edge architecture, tradition and vivacious modernity. You must choose between two distinctive—and distinctively Portuguese—ways to explore Porto.Featured Excursions:Porto city tourOf course it is the longtime hub of the Port wine trade, but Porto is also much more. Colorful multistory townhouses sheathe the hills that climb precipitously from the Douro estuary, medieval alleys snake through UNESCO-designated neighborhoods enclosed by 14th-century walls—which were erected on Roman foundations—and baroque church towers crown the hilltops. The Clérigos Tower is an unmistakable landmark, visible from almost anywhere in the Old Town—in fact, at one time sailors used it as a guide to navigate their way through the estuary. Get a feel for this vibrant town, which is simultaneously profoundly urban and moodily romantic, with a panoramic tour. Take in the UNESCO-designated, 19th-century Stock Exchange Palace, seeing its famous Moorish Revival–style Arab Room, before visiting Porto’s austere hilltop cathedral and the bustling pedestrian shopping street, Santa Catarina.Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Porto walking tourClimb 249 steps to the top of Clérigos Tower for the best view in Porto. You’ll see the city roofs cascade down the hill below you, and at the bottom, the estuary with its ports and bridges spread out beyond. A view of another kind, no less spectacular, awaits you at Livraria Lello, perhaps the most beautiful bookstore in the world. Its narrow façade gives little hint of the art nouveau artistry inside: Swirling carved wood shelving lines the walls, while red-carpeted stairways sweep up through the two-story shop, all crowned by a massive stained-glass skylight. You’ll explore another magnificent interior at São Bento railway station. A lovely example of French Beaux-Arts architecture, the station is perhaps best known for its spectacular tile panels depicting scenes from the history of Portugal. A serene walk brings you to the Church of Saint Francis, the city’s finest example of Gothic architecture and a fitting finale for a walking tour of Porto. Inside you’ll find a dazzling gilded baroque altarpiece, polychrome figures and ornate chapels built by the city’s wealthy families.Your ship sets sail after your tour, cruising up the Douro toward Entre-os-Rios.

Day 6: Cruising the Douro River, Régua, Pinhão

Today is all about wine, which has been cultivated in the Douro River Valley since ancient Roman times. Get a crash course on the history of Port during your visit to the Douro Museum, then treat yourself to a tasting of fruity Moscatels and a hearty, rustic-style lunch at a family-owned wine estate.   Delve into Portugal’s wine-growing history today by visiting the informative Douro Museum and the Quinta da Avessada wine estate for lunch.Featured Excursions:Douro MuseumThe Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine-growing district in Europe. Why? What makes Port the wine it is? Learn about the region’s unique geology and winemaking history—Romans planted vines in this region 2,000 years ago—at the Douro Museum. Exhibits laid out in buildings that were once home to Port winemaker Real Companhia Velha let you see how the process of making Port evolved over the centuries: You’ll find the tools of the trade and even a rabelo (a boat that carried wine from the vineyards to Porto) on display. An interactive map shows where the quintas are and how the region developed; and by sniffing vials of concentrated fragrance, you can learn to identify the many aromas that a good Port exhibits. It’s fun and informative—plus you can sample some Port.Quinta da Avessada wine estate visit with lunchTravel up winding roads with spectacular views—and breath-stealing drop-offs—to the hilltop winery Quinta da Avessada. Built a century ago, this quinta produces delicious Moscatels, a wine that is very popular in Portugal; in fact, it’s so popular that most of it is consumed within the country—only about 10 percent of it is exported. Luis Barros, who was determined to revive both his family vineyard and his village when he took over the management of Quinta de Avessada a few years ago, is eager to welcome visitors and help them learn how the sweet, floral Muscat grapes are grown in this region’s extreme climate. Barros’s entire family is involved in this enterprise, as you will discover over a traditional country lunch on the premises. Several family members play in the band that will entertain you during your meal. It’s a fun, lively afternoon —plus you get to taste Moscatels in the beautifully restored winery cellar.

Day 7: Pinhão, Cruising the Douro River, Vega de Terrón

Feel the centuries fall away as your ship winds its way through the pristine, dramatic, UNESCO-protected landscapes of the Douro River Valley. Head ashore for a choice of excursions, a tasting at a prestigious port wine estate or a vineyard hike with a wine tasting at a local quinta.   As you cruise along the river today, take note of the little chapels you see along the banks. Though the river is slow and calm now that it has been tamed by dams, it was once extremely hazardous. These tiny chapels mark spots where entire rabelo boat crews perished attempting to get their cargo of Port wine to Porto.Featured Excursions:Quinta do Seixo guided tour with tastingAs you journey through the hills to Quinta do Seixo, a prestigious Port wine estate, you will see a unique landscape that has been shaped by wine growers for two millennia. The stone terraces curving around the steep slopes hold soil that is largely the creation of human intervention: People have laboriously broken up the native silver schist stone over the centuries and turned it into usable sandy earth; it’s called “anthroposoil.” The process of producing Port wine is a fascinating blend of tradition and modernity; the steepness of the slopes requires that grape vines be tended almost entirely by hand, but the wine itself is made using ultramodern techniques. You’ll tour the state-of-the-art facility and sample some exceptional Ports in a tasting room whose wall of windows looks out over spectacular views of the Douro Valley.Vineyard hike and tasting at a local quintaGet out and enjoy the fresh air on an invigorating hike through lush vineyards, accompanied by a local guide. Later, relax over a glass of wine at a local quinta.

Day 8: Vega de Terrón (Salamanca), Barca d’Alva

What adventures await you in Spain today? You can visit the historic university town of Salamanca—the “Golden City”—famous for its sand-colored buildings and abundance of churches, or immerse yourself in the region’s spectacular natural beauty, with a small boat cruise in a national park.   The ship docks near the Spanish border today; you may head across the country to Salamanca or explore a fascinating natural reserve aboard a small boat.Featured Excursions:Full-day Salamanca tourLeave Portugal for a day in Spain, which, naturally, comes complete with a performance of that most Spanish of all dances, the passionate and stylized flamenco. It’s just one of the highlights of your excursion to Salamanca, the university town where Columbus sought advice before sailing west in search of a new route to the Indies. Called the Golden City for its tawny sandstone buildings, Salamanca boasts a dozen beautiful and historic churches, including two cathedrals: the new one, built in the early 16th century, and the Old Cathedral, which dates to the 12th century and can only be entered from the New Cathedral. Walk with your guide through Plaza Mayor, lined with wonderful baroque buildings, to the university, which was founded by Alfonso IX in 1218. The ornate plateresque façade is stunning, and the interior rooms you see are equally beautiful. Salamanca’s food hall is one of Spain’s best, as you will discover when you sample chorizos, cheese, olive oil and ham with your guide’s assistance. You have time to browse through the shops on Rua Mayor and enjoy a tapas lunch (your guide can recommend some great places to dine).International Douro Natural Park scenic cruiseYour ship cannot navigate the Douro beyond Vega de Terrón but you still have a chance to take in the spectacular scenery of the International Douro Natural Park, a protected area that lies on both sides of the river. Board a small boat to float through steep canyons the river has carved into the granite over the centuries. A mecca for birdwatchers, the banks host a variety of eagles, vultures, falcons, kites, warblers, storks, thrushes and shrikes, including some endangered eagle species that nest along the river. As you drift along, you’ll notice that the Spanish side of the river (the Douro marks the boundary between the two countries) is almost barren; that’s because it is blasted by the afternoon sun in summer, while the Portuguese side gets more shade and is therefore more lush. You can step off the boat and onto the shore upriver for a short, scenic hike through this extraordinary landscape. You’ll rejoin the boat in Barca d’Alva, and, if the weather is fair, the enticing aromas of traditional barbecue will greet you, inviting you to enjoy this quintessential Portuguese cuisine on deck.

Day 9: Barca d’Alva (Castelo Rodrigo), Pocinho, Cruising the Douro River, Régua

Go medieval today at Castelo Rodrigo, both the name of a hilltop castle as well as the village that surrounds it. The view from the top is incredible and the village is a charming place to ramble, relax and replenish. If you wish, you can also lace up your hiking boots and unleash your inner Indiana Jones with an up-close gander at some pre-historic carvings.   Enjoy breathtaking scenery this morning as your ship cruises the upper Douro River Valley, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, both because of its beauty and its remarkable history.   Although the river is considered one of the most pristine waterways in all of Europe, people have inhabited this region for 30,000 years. You may opt to visit Portugal’s first archaeological park, Foz Côa, or explore the comparatively “modern” Castelo Rodrigo, a medieval castle standing at the heart of a still-lively village, today.Featured Excursions:Castelo RodrigoRide through wonderfully scenic countryside—the area is noted for its honey, which derives its flavor from the fields of wild lavender and the almond groves you’ll pass—to Castelo Rodrigo, the name of both a castle and the village that surrounds it. The castle ruins loom high atop Marofa Mountain, telling the tale of border strife and Portugal’s struggle for independence in a single structure. Construction on the citadel began in 1209 under the auspices of the king of Leon, but it became part of Portugal within a century—though its local lords sided with Spanish rulers from time to time over the next four centuries. That’s why the palace adjoining the castle stands in ruins: Outraged citizens destroyed it after its lord sided with Castile. Take in the amazing view from the ancient stone walls, then step down through the tiny cobbled lanes of the village, passing the old pillory, the Manueline church and the town’s market square.  It’s not all history, of course. You’ll also get to indulge in a wine tasting and sample delicious local treats—such as honey, almonds, olive oil and cheeses—and a restored teahouse invites you to relax over a cup of tea or a cool drink.Archaeological Park of the Côa ValleyReady for an expedition worthy of Indiana Jones? Today’s your chance. In the 1990s, scouting for a proposed dam project on the Côa River revealed an astonishing collection of prehistoric carvings, among them horses, deer and aurochs that span eons. The oldest images etched into the schist walls around the river date to approximately 22,000 to 20,000 BC, with younger carvings ranging from the Epipaleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze ages to the 17th century—images that represent human interaction with the natural world for more than 30,000 years. Your visit starts at the Côa Museum, where you can see both reproduction and original rock art and learn about the amazing area. Then you can go out with your knowledgeable guide into the valley to see these sites for yourself. It will be an illuminating adventure. Note: Exploring these sites will require sturdy hiking footwear and considerable physical fitness: You’ll take a four-wheel drive down dirt roads and hike into rocky and hard-to-access locations. Later in the day, your ship will drift down the Douro toward Porto, where it will dock for the last two days of your Portuguese adventure.

Day 10: Cruising the Douro River, Porto (Guimarães)

Guimarães or Porto? That’s the question of the day today (you really can’t go wrong either way). Guimarães is the town where Portugal was born and its well-preserved architecture and stylish young residents make it a pleasure to visit. Or opt to explore one of Porto’s oldest neighborhoods, picturesque Ribeira, considered the soul of the city.   A tough choice awaits you today: Do you venture off to historic Guimarães, Portugal’s first capital, or do you stay in Porto and explore the Ribeira district on foot?Featured Excursions:Guimarães city tour“Portugal was born here.” So the sign on the city wall proclaims. Guimarães was home to the first king of Portugal, Afonso I, who managed to win his kingdom’s independence in the 12th century from neighboring suzerains. The wonderfully well-preserved Old Town, with its unique architecture (houses here combine granite with half-timbering) and charming little plazas, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; overlooking it is the grand castle that appears on Portugal’s coat of arms. Rove with your guide from the castle toward the beautiful main square, the Largo da Oliveira, and to the splendid Monastery and Church of Our Lady of Oliveira and the 14th-century Gothic Padrão do Salado. But remember that despite these historic beauties, Guimarães has the youngest population of any city in Europe, so the pedestrian area is full of lively and fun cafés and shops.“Soul of Porto” Ribeira district walking discovery tourPrince Henry the Navigator was born in this historic waterfront neighborhood in 1394, and, more than 600 years later, the building is still standing: It became Porto’s first customs house, which seems appropriate, considering that Prince Henry began Portugal’s international trade. Stroll with your local guide through the oldest part of the city—check out some of the Roman ruins excavated here—simply breathing in the atmosphere. It may be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s no museum: People hang their laundry from upper floors of brightly painted houses, dogs mosey down the alleys, cafés nestle under 500-year-old arches, and traditional rabelos flat-keeled sailboats that once carried barrels of Port from the vineyards to the Port cellars) bob at the quay. As lively as it is picturesque, Ribeira is indeed the soul of Porto.In the evening, a special Gala Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 11: Porto (Disembark)

You’ve experienced the best of Portugal, Spain and the pristine Douro River, but now the journey comes to a close and it’s time to disembark the ship. If your cruise/ tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Porto Airport for your flight home. Your Uniworld adventure may be over, but we know you’ll enjoy the memories you’ve made for years to come.


Things to Know

Preparing For Your Trip
  • Make Sure to Bring All of Your Important Documents: Passport, Foreign visa (if applicable), Itinerary, Trip confirmation, Airline ticket, Drivers license, Credit cards, Travel documents.

  • Vaccinations Are Required for Entry to Some Countries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) can provide you their recommendations for vaccinations and other travel health precautions for your trip abroad.

  • Are You Taking Any Prescriptions or Other Medications? Pack enough to last your entire trip, including some extra in case you are unexpectedly delayed.

  • Insurance: Purchase travel insurance to cover yourself against unexpected situations. You never know when something might happen, so always be prepared.
While Traveling
  • Keep an eye on your belongings. Do not leave your belongings unattended in public spaces

  • Always have local cash. Not every place takes credit cards.
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