Cruise from Porto to Régua
In this route we navigate the Douro upstream from Porto to Peso da Régua located in the heart of the Douro Wine Region. It will be a 7 hour trip with lunch on board, which will take us through two dams: Crestuma-Lever and Carrapatelo.
Along the way you can see the terraced vineyards on the banks of the river, farms and beautiful scenery as the river meanders through the middle of the increasingly steep slopes. Arriving at Régua return is made by train or bus.
See detailed route below.
The ship departs early at 8:00 am from Gaia quay. If you are staying in Porto there are several alternatives to get to Gaia quay. In our case we went through the Arrábida bridge, and went to Gaia traveling the narrow road that winds along the river from the mouth to the quay.
Once we arrived we parked in the public car park next to the Quay. Next to the quay we found several boats and we looked for the Douro Millennium, which we found among a crowd of tourists. We wait our turn and get on the boat. This boat has a capacity for 250 people, several floors, terraces on the upper floors and a restaurant on the lower floor.
We enter and go to a place by the window, through which we see the beautiful city of Porto illuminated by the morning light. The river, the Clérigos tower, and in the background the Cathedral. It is a very pleasant landscape and we wait with some impatience for the boat to leave.
After a few minutes and once all passengers have boarded, we begin our journey upstream. We quickly went out on deck to better appreciate the view. We pass under the Luís I bridge and continue our journey.
In this initial route, still urban, we pass through the various bridges that connect Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. We continue watching the banks and pass by the Pousada do Porto (Freixo Palace) a restored baroque building dating from the 18th century. We slowly left Porto behind.
Upstream and gradually we enter the countryside, where the banks are covered with vegetation and several houses “watch” us from the still not very steep banks.
After a while the boat starts to slow down, we are arriving at the first dam of the route: Crestuma-Lever. Built in 1985, this dam was the last of the Douro dams to be built. The 5 dams on Portuguese territory have allowed the creation of the Douro navigation canal, which since 1990 has permitted navigation from Porto to Barca D’Alva.
When looking at the dam a question arises: where are we going to pass through? In the distance, on the right side, we can see the lock gates, which at first sight seems too small for a boat of this size… Meanwhile we see another boat approaching and then we understand why our boat slowed down, it was waiting for other boats to make the ascent at once.
The floodgates begin to open and very slowly, which causes a stir on board as everyone wants to get a good look at this experience. The boat enters the lock, with millimetre precision. As soon as all the boats enter, the lock closes behind us and the ascent begins. All the passengers outside take photos, make comments, you can feel the excitement on board. The ascent is done quickly and in an instant we are “on top” and then we continue our journey.
As we go up the river the landscape changes, from an urban area we pass to a rural area, with lots of vegetation, the boat continues up the river choosing the best route, through the waters of the Douro.
The journey continues upstream, and we reach a well-known bend in the river, where the river beach of Lomba is, a very pleasant place.
In this part of the river the landscape is very beautiful, and the river temporarily becomes busier with yachts and jet skis.
After a few kilometres we arrive at the Carrapatelo dam. The height of this dam is huge unlike Crestuma-Lever. It is 35 metres high and its lock is the largest in the Douro and one of the largest in the world.
As the boat approaches, the unevenness induces a lot of respect and once again the excitement on board increases. Cameras in hand, and everyone walks on deck to get a good feel for this unique experience.
The boat enters the lock and the 35 metres high side walls make us feel small before a work of this magnitude. Once again other boats accompany us on the way up.
The floodgates close, echoing inside the lock, briefly muffling the flow of water that the upper floodgates cannot fully contain. The ascent begins and only takes a few minutes.
On deck we see the upper bridge rapidly approaching, from where several curious people watch us and take pictures. The boat approaches in such a way that we manage with our raised arm to touch the bridge.
Once here, we begin the final stage of the journey to Régua.
We are approaching the heart of the Douro Wine Region, considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.
We pass through Pala, where we observe the church of Santo António de Ribadouro and the train bridge (photo below).
Next we pass through Porto Manso and Porto Antigo where we find the N211 bridge over the Douro River. The bridge is so low that you can “almost” touch it…
A few kilometres upstream we find Caldas de Aregos and across the river the almost submerged railway bridge where we can barely see its arches.
Next we pass near the Ermida railway station, where we see a train on the Douro line.
We pass the bridge of Ermida and the station of Porto de Rei, and then the river becomes narrower. Navigation here requires more care, and the ship heads upstream through the narrow riverbed.
One cannot help but wonder what it would have been like to navigate the river many years ago in a rabelo boat, the only one that could navigate here. Since immemorial times, the Douro was a river where navigation was dangerous, full of currents and bottlenecks, the largest of all being the Cachão da Valeira, for many years the limit of navigation in the Douro. This obstacle was only removed in 1791 after several years of using many kilos of dynamite.
Shortly afterwards the river widens again and the landscape is now dominated by vineyards on the slopes of the river. We are arriving at the heart of the Douro Wine Region.
When we reach Régua, we can see the three bridges in the background.
We got off the boat where we found several people selling souvenirs and bought some Régua sweets.
The journey back to Porto will begin, by train or bus. On this trip, and due to the CP strike, we will make the return trip by bus. However, always take the train because you will be able to admire beautiful landscapes along the Douro River.
Arriving in Porto, we have a feeling of a day well spent, but we want to know more, and go back to do more boat trips, train or even by car on the roads along the Douro.
It’s something we’ll do soon…
Roteiro do Douro