Discover one of Europe’s most pristine destinations, Portugal. Begin with two fascinating days and nights exploring the capital city of Lisbon, then proceed to Porto at the mouth of the Douro River to embark your cruise ship. The river takes you on a winding easterly course between steeply terraced vineyards, stopping at ports of call largely unchanged for centuries with charming town squares, colorful castles, baroque mansions and historic monasteries. At the Spanish border you’ll indulge in a scenic ride into Spain to visit the medieval city of Salamanca before your leisurely voyage back to Porto. See unspoiled vistas and sample Portuguese specialties. If you have never visited Portugal, you are in for a treat; or, see a dramatic new side of this beautiful country on the Douro River.
Day 1 - Lisbon
Welcome to Lisbon; we will meet you at the airport and transfer you to the superior first-class Hotel Tivoli Lisboa (or similar) in the heart of Lisbon. Relax this afternoon and evening or explore the city a bit on your own.
Day 2 - Lisbon
After breakfast, embark on a half-day tour of Lisbon. Begin at Belém with a tour of the Jerónimos Monastery, one of the most prominent examples of Portuguese late Gothic Manueline style of architecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Tower of Belém that you also explore. Then take a walking tour through the narrow streets of the Alfama District, where you learn about Lisbon’s long, multicultural history. (B)
Day 3 - Porto
Have breakfast, then check out of your hotel and take a scenic ride to Porto. Stop for lunch in Coimbra, birthplace of six Portuguese kings and home to one of Europe’s oldest universities. Upon arrival in Porto, proceed to the dock at Vila Nova de Gaia to board your ship. Then, after boarding, you can relax and get settled in your stateroom before a welcome cocktail and dinner is served. (B, L, D)
Day 4 - Porto
After breakfast, take a city tour of Porto, a charming riverside community whose historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admire its graceful bridges, baroque cathedrals and romantic 16th- through 19th-century buildings nestled together on narrow cobblestone streets.
This afternoon you have time to explore Porto on your own, or take an optional excursion to Guimarães and its medieval quarter. Perhaps experience an evening of culinary delights as you indulge in traditional fare paired with wine at Porto’s famed Graham’s 1890 Lodge and sample a selection of their award-winning ports. Sample wines that have been in the making for generations at the historic Quinta da Aveleda estate, or soar over the historic “City of Bridges” on a thrilling helicopter sightseeing tour.
Enjoy your evening at leisure in Porto, where your ship remains docked overnight. (B, L, D)
Day 5 - Régua
This morning we sail along the Douro, arriving at Régua in early afternoon. Disembark for an excursion to Vila Real, site of the extraordinary Mateus Palace (the building depicted on the Mateus Rosé wine labels). This stunning baroque palace was the home of the last count of Vila Real; its pinnacled facade, grand stairway, richly appointed interiors and priceless objects on display will astonish you, as will the palace’s enchanting formal gardens featuring cedar-lined walkways, exquisite sculpted hedges and statuary and serene bodies of water. As you depart, catch glimpses of the town’s ornamental carvings and tiled walls. Visit one of the area’s iconic port wine–making institutions. See its vineyard and tour the facility to learn how these unique Portuguese products are crafted, then sample the libation in their tasting room. Rejoin your ship in Pinhão for dinner. (B, L, D)
Day 6 - Barca d’Alva
This morning, we sail east along the Douro. See dramatic, sheer rock formations, picturesque terraced vineyards, and graceful bridges and trestles along the way; you also pass through two of the river’s locks at the Valeira and Pocinho Dams. We arrive at Barca d’Alva, not far from the Spanish border, in mid-afternoon.
This afternoon, enjoy a tour to Castelo Rodrigo. Located approximately 2,200 feet above sea level and surrounded by almond trees, Castelo Rodrigo is one of Portugal’s 12 historic parishes; its streets are narrow and steep, and its houses still present 16th-century facades and the distinctively Portuguese Manueline-style windows. Here you see Sinagoga Street, a remembrance of the Jewish community established by refugees from the Spanish Inquisition; you can visit the local church as well. As we ride back to our ship, we will stop along the way to admire panoramic views. (B, L, D)
Day 7 - Salamanca
Today you have a full-day excursion to Salamanca, Spain. This ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a living museum that takes visitors back to the Middle Ages; yet it is also a cosmopolitan and multicultural city with a large population of international students. Take a ride through the Iberian countryside to Salamanca, then spend some time exploring the shops and cafés of the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) on your own. Your afternoon guided city tour takes you to the Gothic House of Shells, the 13th-century Salamanca University and the New Cathedral, built from 1513 through 1733. The Old Cathedral still exists and can be visited during free time. Rejoin your ship in Vega de Terrón. (B, D)
Day 8 - Pinhão
This morning, we sail west along the Douro passing some of the area’s quintas (vineyards), where you may catch glimpses of vintners tending their vines.
After breakfast, disembark for a scenic drive up to the little village of Favaios, and make your way to one of the last traditional bakeries in the Douro River Valley. Discover how bread was made in the old days and how it tasted with a sample fresh from the oven. Visit the local museum for a wine-and-bread repast, and explore a typical Portuguese village not yet discovered by the masses. Then continue for lunch at Quinta da Avessada, a rustic centuries-old winery in the heart of the Douro Wine District (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and sample some local varieties of port, such as moscatel. Rejoin your ship in Pinhão and set sail to Régua, where you remain docked overnight. (B, L, D)
Day 9 - Régua
After breakfast, disembark for a visit to Lamego, a small town known for its baroque Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies, dating back to the 14th century and still used by pilgrims today. Visit the shrine, decorated with exquisite tilework in the Moorish manner, and descend the grand baroque staircase. You also see the town’s Gothic cathedral and the ruins of 12th-century Lamego Castle, with its unusual vaulted cistern. Return to your ship for lunch and scenic afternoon sailing along the Douro, back toward Porto. After arriving in port, enjoy a festive farewell dinner; we are docked overnight, so feel free to take an evening stroll or join the activities in the Lounge. (B, L, D)
Day 10 - Porto
After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for your return flight.* Or, extend your time in the region with a 2-night extension to Braga, Portugal and Santiago de Compostela, Spain. (B)
* Ground transfers are included with Viking Air purchase.