The Douro is the 2nd largest river in the Iberian Peninsula. It starts in the North of Spain at 2080 meters of altitude in the province of Soria, in the peaks of the Sierra de Urbião and runs for 850 kilometres until its mouth in Portugal near the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
In Spain it passes near the cities of Soria, Aranda de Duero, Valladolid, Tordesilhas and Zamora.
In the International Douro, where the river marks the border between Portugal and Spain, it runs for 112 kilometres, passing near the town of Miranda do Douro.
It enters Portugal in Barca D’Alva, and runs 213 kilometres to its mouth. It passes near the towns of Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Peso da Régua, and flows into Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
The Douro, more than just a river, has been since ancient times a central artery in the life of the region, being an essential transport channel for the Douro wine and people. But the Douro used to be a dangerous and untamed river where only the Rabelo boats could navigate. Full of currents and shallows required great skill and experience to navigate it. Those were other times, but times have changed. Nowadays, with the construction of several dams along its course, the Douro is a completely navigable and safe river, which has allowed it to be used as a tourist attraction by countless cruises that travel along it daily.
Going upstream we can find several dams, 5 in Portugal, 5 in the international section of the Douro and 5 in Spain.
The Douro dams on Portuguese territory are :
On the international Douro, where the river forms the border with Spain, there are 5 other dams: Saucelle, Aldeadávila, Bemposta, Picote and Miranda. In Spain the Douro has 5 other dams: Castro, Villalcampo, San José, Los Rábanos and Cuerda del Pozo.
The dams allowed the creation of the Douro Navigation Canal, a waterway of about 200 kilometres from Foz to Barca d’Alva where Cruises on the Douro River carry thousands of passengers every year. Dams also allow the production of electricity and the management of the river flow. The Douro River has a large gradient. In the international stretch the average gradient is about 3m per kilometre, so here we find 5 dams in a stretch of 112 kilometres.
The origin of the name “Douro”
There are several theories as to the name of the Douro River. One of them says that the name comes from the name dur which in Celtic means water. Another says it comes from the Latin duris meaning hard, due to the hardness of its contours along the high cliffs of the Douro Cliffs in the international stretch of the river between Barca D’Alva and Miranda do Douro.
It can also mean the wealth it gives to the lands around it, the climate that allows the production of wine, fishing, irrigation of the fields and the means of transport between the villages on its banks since time immemorial.
The Alto Douro wine region was considered by UNESCO on 14th December 2001 as a World Heritage Site in the category of cultural landscape.
Douro River Cruises
Every year, Douro Cruises transport thousands of passengers along the Douro River, from Porto to Régua, Pinhão or Barca d’Alva. They are carried out on various types of boats, from ships, rabelo boats, hotel boats, sailing boats and yachts.