Kayak the Historic Douro River by Day & Feast at Classic Vineyard Estates by Night
Day 1: Porto, Portugal
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 gems from the 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 stunning 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 ingredients of the Tras-os-Montes region, Northern Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean, dishes are created for pairing with fine Douro Valley wines.
Day 2: Pocinho / Felgar—Casa de Santa Cruz
Today we journey 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 having been produced here for some 2,000 years. The Douro Valley, the only place authentic Port wine is made, was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation, in 1756. This long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty, shaping the region's social and economic heritage. Paralleling the riverbank on a small local train, we disembark at Pocinho 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, and they give us a tour of the house, sharing their passion for this tiny town that feels lost in time. Before sunset, we take a walk down to the banks of the upper Rio Sabor, learning about life in this bucolic region as we go.
Day 3: Barca d’Alva / Casa do Rio
We greet the morning with anticipation: It’s time to meet the river! After breakfast, we drive to the put-in where we are fitted to our kayaks and get some helpful paddling instruction from our Expedition Leader. We’ll spend approximately 4 hours on the water, paddling from Barca d’Alva to just east of the mouth of the Coa River, a tributary of the Douro. We stop along the way for a picnic lunch. Our paddle ends at the stunning new Casa do Rio, an intimate luxury guest house surrounded by the vineyards of Quinta do Vallado, one of the Douro Valley's premier producers of table wines. Set into a steep hillside with magnificent views over the river, the contemporary inn enjoys total solitude. Relax on the terrace or enjoy a refreshing dip in the infinity pool following an afternoon stroll through the vineyards. And if the luxury accommodations and glorious setting aren't enough, wait until you taste the gourmet dinner that comes out of the Casa’s tiny kitchen!
Day 4: Freixo de Numao / Casa do Rio
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 quintas in the valley, and our hosts, the Verdelho family, offer a warm and gracious welcome. The quinta is now the home of Dona Berta, one of a small group of boutique wineries that have contributed to the Douro’s growing reputation for distinctive white and red table wines. We return this afternoon to Casa do Rio, with time to swim in the spectacular pool that overlooks the silver river below. This evening, savor another outstanding dinner on the terrace.
Day 5: Coa Valley Archaeological Park / Murca—Bairro do Casal
Today we take a break from paddling for an immersion in the rich history and culture of the Coa Valley, which contains one of the world's most important ancient rock art sites. We depart by van for a guided tour of the paleolithic engravings near Vila Nova de Foz Coa, discovered in the late 1980s and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998. The Coa Archaeological Park comprises thousands of engraved drawings of horses, bovines and other animals, and human and abstract figures, dated from 22,000 to 10,000 B.C. Afterward, an indulgent lunch is served on the veranda of Quinta de Ervamoira-Ramos Pinto, a noted wine estate in the valley. Later this afternoon we drive on to Bairro do Casal, tucked into the scenic small village of Murca do Douro. In the surrounding countryside, vineyards are interspersed with granite mountains, chestnut forests, olive and almond orchards, and rippling wheat fields. Capping off a rich day of discovery, enjoy dinner at a fine restaurant high above the shimmering Douro.
Day 6: Freixo de Numao / Ferradosa
Today it’s a short drive back down to the river to return to Freixo de Numao, where we exited our kayaks on Day 4. We’ll paddle about 4 hours total with lunch along the way, past many of the Douro Valley's most historic and magnificent quintas and vineyards. Among them are Quinta do Vesuvio, renowned for its vintage Port, and Quinta de Vargellas, owned by Taylor’s, one of the oldest of the founding Port houses, established in 1692. We paddle through a beautiful granite-lined gorge to reach the beach at Ferradosa, returning by late afternoon to Bairro do Casal. There should be time to relax by the pool, take a sauna or wander around the narrow lanes of Murca before dinner on the veranda, lovingly prepared by our hosts.
Day 7: Ferradosa / Tua
It’s back to the beach this morning for today's paddle—about a 3-hour journey 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 Casa de Casal de Loivos, an 18th-century manor house set high above the heart of the Douro Valley wine-producing region. The BBC gave this village manor house the accolade of one of the six best hotel views in the world, and we heartily concur as we survey the panorama below us. The Douro appears as a narrow blue ribbon, wending its way between steep, vine-covered slopes and rows of rolling mountains dotted with the red tile roofs of centuries-old farmhouses. Before a sumptuous al fresco dinner on the terrace (weather permitting), we enjoy a private tour of this historic house.
Day 8: Tua / Pinhao / Porto
Our sojourn on the river comes to an end with one of our favorite paddling stretches, from Tua to scenic Pinhao, a journey of about 3 hours. We are in the very center of the Douro demarcated Port wine region, with neat rows of grapevines terracing down the schist mountainsides and stately white stucco quintas dotting the hills high above the riverbanks. After lunch at a riverside cafe, there may be time for a walk to see the splendid hand-painted ceramic tile work in the charming little train station in Pinhao, which is decorated with thousands of blue and white early-20th-century azulejos showing pre-dam river and harvest scenes. We drive back to historic Porto for a festive farewell dinner, reveling in the memories we've made on Portugal's famous River of Wine.
Day 9: Porto / Depart
A transfer to the airport is included today for your departing flight.