Our adventure begins in Porto, Portugal's second-largest city and cultural capital of the beguiling North. Scenic Porto sits amid granite cliffs at the mouth of the Douro River and has long been a cosmopolitan trading center. The compact city is rich in architectural heritage from Roman, Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassic and Renaissance eras. This afternoon, enjoy a private cellar tour and tasting at W. & J. Graham’s 1890 Lodge, across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia—the ideal start to a wine-soaked week ahead! We then gather for an opening dinner at Graham's award-winning restaurant Vinum, with its glass atrium and open-air terrace perched high on the southern bank of the Douro overlooking Porto's medieval landmarks. Featuring the best food of the Tras-os-Montes region, Northern Portugal
Day 2: Pocinho / Felgar—Casa de Santa Cruz
Today we travel by rail 100 miles up the Douro Valley, one of Europe's oldest winemaking areas. UNESCO has recognized the Alto Douro Wine Region as a World Heritage Site, with wine produced here for more than 2,000 years. The Douro Valley, the only place authentic Port wine is made, is the world's first demarcated wine region, established in 1756. This long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty, shaping the social and economic heritage of the region. Paralleling the riverbank on a small local train on the Linha do Douro line, we reach Pocinho, where we disembark and continue to the sleepy village of Felgar and Casa de Santa Cruz. This historic farmstead on the main square has been beautifully restored by our hosts, Ana and Jorge, who share a passion for this place that feels lost in time. Before sunset, we walk to an overlook of the upper Rio Sabor, learning about life in this bucolic region as we go.
Day 3: Douro International Natural Park
We greet the morning with anticipation: It’s time to meet the river! After breakfast, we drive to the put-in on the Douro where we are fitted to our kayaks and receive some helpful instruction from our Expedition Leader. We then plan to paddle approximately 5 hours downstream. This is the international section of our river journey, with Portugal on one bank and Spain on the other. The 335 square miles of rugged surrounding terrain is part of Douro International Natural Park, created to protect the scenery and wildlife including eagles, red kites, Griffon vultures, herons, wild boar, and one of the last packs of wolves in the Tras-os-Montes region, which lives a few miles inland from the river. Natural vegetation covers the banks along this stretch of the river, with juniper, cork oak, holm oak and chestnut trees providing a green veneer for the rocky landscape. Along the way, we stop on the bank for a picnic lunch. When we return to Casa de Santa Cruz, there's time for a swim before our hosts offer a tour of the historic house, sharing their passion for authentic details in its restoration.
Day 4: Vila Nova de Foz Coa—Casa do Rio
A beautiful paddle is in store today. We spend approximately 4 hours on the river, following the slow current from Barca d’Alva to just east of the mouth of the
Day 5: Coa Valley Archaeological Park / Casa do Rio
Take a break from paddling today for an immersion in the layered history and culture of the
Day 6: Freixo de Numao / Murca—Bairro do Casal
We’re back on the river for about 3 hours this morning, guiding our kayaks from the mouth of the Rio Sabor, a tributary of the Douro, to Freixo de Numao. Here, another delightful winery tour and lunch are in store at Quinta Do Carrenho, one of the oldest
Day 7: Casa de Casal de Loivos
Rising early this morning, we reconnect with our kayaks in Ferradosa. Along the way, we pass some of the most magnificent local quintas, including Graham’s Quinta do Vesuvio, built in 1565, and Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas, established in 1820. Launching from a small beach, we paddle about 3 hours through the striking Valera Gorge, a narrow granite canyon carved by the Douro. Our destination is the quaint village of Tua where we enjoy a lunch of freshly caught fish at a traditional riverside restaurant. Then, a spectacular winding drive takes us up and over the hill to Casal de Loivos, an 18th-century manor house set high above the heart of the Douro Valley wine-producing region. The BBC gave it the accolade of one of the six best hotel views in the world, and we avidly concur as we survey the panorama below. The Douro appears as a narrow blue ribbon, wending its way between steep, vine-covered slopes and rows of rolling mountains marked with the red tile roofs of centuries-old farmhouses. Before a sumptuous al fresco dinner on the terrace (weather permitting), we take a guided tour of this historic house.
Day 8: Pinhao / Porto
Our sojourn on the river comes to a close with one of our favorite paddling stretches, from Foz do Tua to scenic Pinhao, a journey of about 3 hours. We are
Day 9: Porto / Depart
A transfer to the airport is included today for your departing flight.
Physical Rating: Moderate to Difficult
Our Portugal kayaking adventure includes five days of flatwater river kayaking at a beginner level. This trip is suitable for those with little to no paddling experience, although you should know in advance that you are physically able to kayak the minimum daily distance, and that you actually enjoy kayaking, before signing on. You must be able to paddle a minimum of 4 hours per day (with breaks) in order to participate. The exact distance we paddle each day will depend on local weather and wind conditions, but participants should expect to paddle for sustained periods of up to two hours at a time. The river is relatively narrow and water is very slow-moving, with little or no current. We will encounter no waves or rapids, though sometimes it can be windy in the river canyons, and we may have to paddle against the wind, which can be more taxing. Please note that during breaks ashore for rest stops and/or a picnic lunch, bathroom facilities may be limited and may entail finding a private, hidden spot in the bushes. Hikes ashore take us through inviting landscapes that frequently include historic sites. Hikes typically last from one to three hours over well-marked easy but hilly terrain, sometimes following a dirt road through the vineyards. You must be able to walk a minimum of one mile to participate in this trip, including the ability to easily navigate stairs.