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History of the Douro – from Portugal to Spain - MS Douro Elegance

History of the Douro – from Portugal to Spain - MS Douro Elegance


History of the Douro – from Portugal to Spain - MS Douro Elegance

8 Days

Visiting: Porto, Fundação da Casa de Mateus, Almeida, Salamanca, Régua, Lamego

Tour operator:

Riviera Travel

Tour code:


Trip Styles:

River Cruise

This tour is no longer available

Tour Overview

The views from the sun deck of our luxurious ship are undeniably breathtaking but look a little closer and you'll see landmarks that chronicle the valley's tumultuous history. Famous battlefields, impenetrable fortresses (well, almost impenetrable) and opulent palaces await as local guides and experts bring history to life with tours and talks on the region's storied past. We'll tour the ancient cities of Salamanca and Porto - visiting the sites of sombre battlefields - and learn more about the Peninsular Wars. There's the chance to explore the grounds of the opulent Mateus Palace and the imposing fortress of Almeida. And, of course, we'll be cruising through port wine territory - so we'll stop for a tipple at a local quinta or two (it would be rude not to). 

This holiday is twist on our popular Porto, Douro and Salamanca river cruise ideal for history enthusiasts of every level, you're bound to uncover something new. 


  • Enjoy a guided tour of a famous port producer in Porto with plenty of opportunities to taste their fortified wine.

  • Follow in the footsteps of St. Francis with a visit to Castelo Rodrigo in the highland ranges near the Spanish border.

  • Visit a historic Quinta to learn all about the stages of wine production, from planting to tasting and labelling.

  • Experience regional delicacies accompanied by a traditional Portuguese folk music show. 

  • Click here to see our departures exclusively for solo travellers

  • Visit the star-shaped fortress of Almeida and learn more about the Siege of Almeida and the Peninsular War in the Military Museum.

  • Soak up stories from the region's history during on-board talks by experts. 

  • Tour Salamanca and see its nearby battlefields, where the Earl of Wellington earned his reputation as a prominent defensive general.

  • Savour the taste of Portuguese wine in a historic quinta and learn more about the historic ties between the UK and Portugal.

  • Explore historic Porto and learn more about the fierce Anglo-French battle, The Crossing of the Douro.


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Day 1

Paul Allen

Location: Porto

Arrive in Porto and transfer to our luxurious ship.

From the moment you board, the welcoming crew will be at your service. In no time you’ll be settled into your luxurious, thoughtfully furnished accommodation and familiarising yourself with all the first-class aspects of this floating boutique hotel.

Day 2

Location: Fundação da Casa de Mateus

Your first delicious breakfast is served as you linger over another coffee. There's time to explore the ship as we begin our journey upstream. We recommend heading up on deck to appreciate the changing landscape in the soft morning light as the river weaves its way between the lush hillsides. If you were in any doubt, the views today will cement the Douro as one of Europe's most beautiful river valleys. 

After lunch, we'll visit the landscaped gardens of Mateus Palace. Wine aficionados will recognise the palace from the label of Mateus Rosé, whose logo depicts the impressive facade. The owner of Mateus Palace was offered a few pennies commission for every bottle sold. However, he turned it down in favour of a one-off lump sum. This was a major mistake as the brand became one of the most successful wines, exported to over 100 countries and it continues to be Portugal's number one-selling wine. Despite this financial misstep, the well-preserved Mateus Palace is still one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Portugal. Here, there'll be time to explore the gardens - surrounding the palace, decorated with boxwood hedges, statues and a fragrant cypress tunnel – where you can view the magnificent structure from all angles. 

This evening we'll drive to the 126-acre Quinta da Pacheca for dinner. It dates back to the 18th century and is simply one of the most beautiful and distinguished properties in the region. It is also notable as being the first quinta to bottle wine under the name of its owner - the formidable aristocrat, Mariana Pacheco Pereira. You’ll have plenty of time to wander through part of the estate and enjoy splendid views of the Douro before dinner including a selection of the quinta’s wines.  

 We are moored in Régua overnight.

+ Included Experiences – Visit to Mateus Palace gardens & dinner at a typical quinta.

Day 3

Location: Almeida

You can relax over a leisurely breakfast as the scenery idly slips by through the restaurant’s superb panoramic windows. It might be hard to imagine but the Douro was once a wild river, notoriously challenging to navigate, especially for the traditional flat-bottomed boats which sunk in its torrents. Thankfully, today it has been tamed by a system of dams and locks, which have raised the water level to produce a topography reminiscent of Scotland’s lochs, enhancing the valley’s charm.  

Onshore, we'll visit Almeida Fortress, a fortified town that came under siege in the Peninsular War. Once thought to be impenetrable, it held firm against the French for 12 days before the fortress's own magazine erupted in a massive explosion that stunned its defenders and left it open to attack. The force of the explosion was so powerful, that some of its granite blocks were said to have been found as far as three miles away. The defensive system - casemates, sentry boxes, hidden passages, and embrasures for cannons - is still present in some areas of the fortress. The structure is a complex system of bulwarks, ravelins, platforms, trenches, and a moat with only two entrances protected by bomb-proof gates. While from the ground these may look like normal fortress walls the view from above reveals a complex geometric shape - a 12-point star. Its design eliminated all dead zones by exposing the enemy to fire from all sides, which significantly increased the defender's firing efficiency.  

We'll visit the fascinating Museu Histórico Militar de Almeida. Displays of weaponry, uniforms and military paraphernalia from each period are housed in a series of underground rooms, originally used for storage and shelter during times of siege. It's an atmospheric setting in which to learn more about the town's military history.  

After dinner back on board we will see a celebratory vintage port wine opened in the traditional way.  

+ Included experiences - Visit to Almeida Fortress & Military Museum 

Day 4

Location: Salamanca

We'll visit historic Salamanca, one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this journey, regarded by many Spaniards as their nation’s most beautiful city. Founded by the Romans, who erected its 389-yard-long bridge, Salamanca is mostly built from local sandstone that emanates a gorgeous rose-coloured glow in the sunlight. Perched on a hill on a bend in the serene River Tormes, the city is a picture of tranquillity, but its history is turbulent, having been successively fought over by Hannibal, the Moors, then the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon. 

Founded in 1218, Salamanca's university is the oldest in Spain and was one of the civilised world’s most important seats of study for over 400 years. The Spanish Inquisition’s records are still kept here, and as early as the 16th century it boasted some 12,000 students. Seeing its immaculately preserved lecture halls with their vaulted ceilings, it’s easy to conjure an image of Christopher Columbus addressing the learned men of the day or legal experts constructing the international laws that originate here.  

In Salamanca, you’ll have some time to explore as you wish. You may choose to linger, admiring the ornate interiors of its cathedrals – the more recent structure dates from the 16th century – or explore its tiny streets, medieval squares, traditional shops, gardens and marketplaces. Or, if you're looking for a taste of Salamanca's history, you could head to the former Colegio de San Ambrosio to the archives of the Spanish Civil War or the Palacio Episcopal - the former headquarters of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War (whose connections to Hitler led to the removal of his medallion from the Plaza Mayor). Our guides will be on hand to show you the highlights.  

Over lunch, we'll enjoy a traditional flamenco show. Then we'll venture outside the city to visit the Battlefields of Salamanca. With a guide bringing the history of the battle to life, you'll explore the sights and learn more about the military strategy that defined Wellington's reputation as a defensive general and shattered French dominance on the Iberian Peninsula. 

This evening, after dinner, head up onto the sun deck to listen to the unmistakable sound of crickets and breathe in the scents from the surrounding valley slopes that pervade the warm evening air.

+ Included experiences – Guided tour to Salamanca and its battlefields, with lunch and a flamenco show.

Day 5

Location: Régua

One of the benefits of life aboard a river cruise is the sheer sense of relaxation it brings. We’ll continue our journey during breakfast, after which there is plenty of time for a spot of pampering in the on-board spa. Or you could simply relax and watch the seamless changing of the riverbank scenery passing by from the comfort of a cosy seat in the lounge – the choice is yours this morning. But don’t miss our riveting lecture with our on-board expert this morning. Together we’ll delve into Portuguese history from the Douro Valley and beyond.

We arrive later in the pretty little town of Peso da Régua. We'll enjoy a visit to a local historic quinta to learn all about the stages of wine production, from the planting of the vines, harvesting, the wine-making process and finally tasting and labelling. No visit would be complete without sampling some of their excellent produce of course, so we enjoy a tasting before returning to the ship.

+ Included experience – Visit to a quinta with a wine-tasting. 

Day 6

Location: Lamego

After breakfast, we'll take a short drive to historic Lamego, home of Portugal’s sparkling wine, Raposeira, and one of the first places to be reclaimed from the Moors in the 12th century.  It's known for its church, the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, which is situated at the top of a beautifully tiled baroque staircase. If you’re up for a challenge, it’s worth climbing the 686 steps to the top of the staircase for stunning views of the city - don't worry, you can stop to admire the fountains, mosaics and hedges along the way. By the time we return to our ship, our chef and his team will be adding the finishing touches to another delicious lunch, ready to be served as we depart for Cais da Lixa.  

After lunch, you can join an expert for a talk on board on the region’s history that brings untold stories to life. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon cruising down the Douro before this evening’s Captain’s Dinner, a truly memorable experience featuring exquisite regional specialities, followed by a colourful performance of traditional Portuguese folk music. 

+ Included experiences – Visit to Lamego, on-board talk about the region’s history & a traditional Portuguese folk music show.

Day 7

Paul Allen

Location: Porto

As we continue the last leg of our journey, delve into the detail of the ‘Crossing of the Douro’ this morning with another fascinating lecture – this will help you truly appreciate the historic sites of Porto that we’ll visit later today.  

There’s also time to take advantage of the ship's five-star facilities this morning as we cruise towards our final destination. You could work up a sweat in the fitness room, head up to the sun deck to enjoy a coffee whilst chatting with newly made friends or relax and enjoy the scenery as we return to Porto once more, passing under the city’s spectacular bridges.  

On our tour of the second largest city in Portugal, we'll pass some of the key historic sites, including the circular dome of the Monastery de Serra do Pilar – which can be seen from the Douro. While it was built as a monastery, it has been utilised for military use, including during the Siege of Oporto, where it was transformed into an improvised fort and, at the beginning of the 20th century, it was used as military barracks.  

We'll also see the site where Soult blew up the Bridge of Bridges - a bridge made up of 20 boats anchored side by side that provided a crossing over the Douro - having destroyed (almost) every other boat on the south bank. We’ll visit the site of the legendary Crossing of the Douro where a brigade of Anglo-Portuguese forces were ferried across to the Seminary in broad daylight, undetected by the French forces for at least an hour. And see the locations of the fierce fighting at the Seminary. 

You’ll have the rest of the afternoon to explore this truly fascinating city; so perhaps return to the terraced streets of the old town and wander the sloping maze of cobbled alleyways, soaking up the atmosphere whilst stopping to admire the architecture, bell towers, baroque churches, golden rooftops and beautiful tiles of this slice of traditional Portugal. Or you could stop for a drink in a cosy café and be tempted by an array of delicious cakes and pastries. (Top tip: treat yourself to a pastel de nata - the traditional Portuguese custard tart - they're delicious.) 

This evening, enjoy a final dinner on board expertly served by our restaurant staff under the supervision of the maître d’. Afterwards, perhaps settle into the lounge to chat into the evening and reflect on the splendours of the remarkable river Douro – over a glass of port, of course.

+ Included experience – Guided tour of Porto.

Day 8

Paul Allen

Location: Porto

After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the airport at the appropriate time, with memories of one of the most unspoilt corners of Europe to savour for a long time to come. 

What's Included

Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of sole occupancy cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:

All meals on board - from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day - including welcome cocktails and the Captain's dinner.
Complimentary on-board tea and coffee
All visits and excursions as mentioned;
Airport/station transfers
Coach travel as mentioned
Travel to and from port of embarkation
The services of a Riviera Travel cruise director

Check out our Q&As

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    For almost 40 years

  • I have reduced mobility; can I still travel?

    We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to contact us to discuss these concerns

  • Do I require travel insurance?

    It is a condition of booking that you carry suitable travel insurance.

  • What is my luggage allowance?

    You will receive details of your luggage allowance with your final travel documents, which are sent approximately 10 days prior to your date of departure.

Reviews of this operator

David Clarke (Google Reviewer)  

This review is for the...


This review is for the italian Lake Como trip Aug 1-8 Wow what a trip. Riviera from start to finish were excellent the booking and help line answering questions were very good and clear. The travel booklet you get is laid out that it is simple to read and follow with step by step info from booking in to flights to meeting the guides. Our guide Matt Purse was just the best guide and real credit to Riviera with his knowledge and straight forward approach to running the trips. Matt kept us informed and told us all the sort of info you want to know without going over the top....This chap should teach other reps ..thank you so much. The coaches they use are all clean and well equipped with usb chargers and have aircon. The places chosen to visit were well researched even down to where coaches park or drop you off. The Bernina Express was the highlight for our family and matts photo tip was welcomed. The only down point was the hotel,a little dated and evening meal in main restuarant was a bit of a let down. I think we were lucky with our room on level 7 and with balcony as the walls are very thin and noise travels. We would book again with riviera

Barbara Shillaker (Google Reviewer)  

I have been on three...


I have been on three trips with Riviera Travel so far, with two more booked during 2024. Highly recommended. Excellent tour guides. Great program of visits. Great hotels used.

Julie Berry (Google Reviewer)  

What a fantastic holiday to...


What a fantastic holiday to Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer & Alaska Cruise. If you are thinking of booking this do it right now. From start to finish everything was great. The hotels, the transport and the cruise. The rep was absolutely fabulous. If you have ‘B’ as your rep you will make a friend. She is so full of knowledge. We went on this trip with strangers and left it as friends.

Mrs Bodnarec (Google Reviewer)  

Thankyou Riviera and all the...


Thankyou Riviera and all the staff on the William Wordsworth Danube River cruise. My husband and i have just travelled on the Danube to celebrate my husbands 60th and we had such a lovely experience. We were younger than most of the travellers but we met so many lovely people so this wasnt a problem. The staff were so lovely and professional. The service we experienced was so high. The boat was beautiful, the food amazing and the excursions were informative and well managed. I would definately recommend riviera as a company. In fact we are now considering their Japan holiday.

Valerie Pascoe  

We would go again in a heartbeat


Oh my goodness, what a relief it was to actually get away! Full marks to all at Riviera for keeping us up to date before our trip and for the help so cheerfully and patiently given with the extra admin that Covid brought our way. We felt totally safe with the measures taken on board, thank you very much for this. Without exception, Staff were fantastic and our every need was attended to. The additional Covid testing ran smoothly, organised by our Riviera Reps. The guided tours were most interesting: the guides very knowledgeable and more importantly, interesting to listen to. We loved this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you again Riviera, you were FAB!

Chris Wilson (Google Reviewer)  

Second escorted tour with this...


Second escorted tour with this company. Did 5 days in Iceland tour. Everything went smoothly, excellent tour guide, Per. Extremely knowledgeable and interesting guy. Very friendly too. Highly recommend. Just let down by the room given at the hotel, but I guess the travel company doesn't have control over this.

Christine Hardy (Google Reviewer)  

Although most people seem to...


Although most people seem to book and pay for their holidays online, because we live close by we prefer to make a personal visit. In my opinion if they are offering this as an option they should be better equipped to accommodate visits in person. We have not been on our river cruise yet, so can't comment on that yet.

Norma Patrick (Google Reviewer)  

Recently went on a tour...


Recently went on a tour of the Deep South USA plus Texas. Before we set off on the trip we were informed that our trip On the Amtrak train would not be going ahead and we were given a £50 refund each. We were disappointed especially as there was no consultation beforehand and to only receive £50 each in compensation was poor. This was one of the reasons we had chosen Riviera Travel and may have considered another company had we been given the choice. Despite this we had a fabulous holiday, although we thought the tour guide was poor. There was no music played whilst we were traveling on the coach and when asked if more could be played we received a flat ‘no’. If we had relied on the tour guide all the time we wouldn’t have gone anywhere. However we ignored his comments that Nashville was ‘mad’ and went downtown and had the best night. All in all we had a wonderful holiday but it could have been better from Riviera Travel point of view. This is a very expensive tour and we thought the standard of hotels were very poor in some places. Probably would try a different tour company next time.

S BP (Google Reviewer)  

Delayed writing this review as...


Delayed writing this review as I wanted to see if my frustrations dampened but they have not and it gives me no pleasure to write the following. Have travelled with Riviera previously without issue, and in fact loved everything. However on the latest riviera cruise from Budapest the vegetarian food offering was way below par and indeed it was clear there were times they cross contaminated between veggie and meat/fish. Staff on the cruise seemed unable to improve the issues and indeed on occasion the attempt to say they were giving this full attention resulted in even worse food. On return my complaint was dealt with quickly and we were refunded what in effect would be the cost of the food element of the cruise without delay. There was no recognition however that the marketing references to fine dining were in fact misleading. The individual who dealt with the complaint mentioned more than once that she had tried the vegetarian food on another ship Riviera use (it's the same two week rotating menu all season across the fleet) and found it to be good; pleased to hear, that doesn't help me does it! And totally ignored the fact that on a cruise you can't exactly jump ashore to supplement your food if it is poor, which meant there were occasions I went to bed hungry as it was truly that bad or lacking in quantity and food is such an integral part of the trip when you are basically held captive. I even bought my own extras when ashore for the chef to add to my meals like smoked tofu which they had the audacity to present to me at the special chefs dinner as cheese they had sourced! Very poor complaint handling that lacked real empathy, did not address all the points I raised and we all know escalating to the ombudsman is pointless as they are a toothless shark. Pictures shown are a main course for dinner - Pad Thai that was actually rice sticks with carrot and pine nuts, two tiny samosas & lettuce while the non veggies had shrimp skewers that were apparently delicious and roasted vegetable pie that was two mm of chopped veg with an inch of mash in top! The cruise itself was lovely but completely marred by the food and Riviera have now lost my business.

Barbara Parkes (Google Reviewer)  

Presently in Croatia staying at...


Presently in Croatia staying at Arauana Hotel, supposedly a 4 star property, but wouldn't give it any star rating. Rooms are small and dirty. Wallpaper blistering. Meals served in a shed like lean-to. Food like warm, greasy and always self service. Second holiday with Riviera this year and neither at standard advertised. Have travelled with them previously and everything was fine, but standards have really dropped. Have booked a holiday with them next year and now dreading it. Certainly don't provide the standard advertised. We have never stayed in such a hovel and have visited youngsters in back packers accommodation which was far better than this supposedly 4 star accommodation. There are no indoor bars or lounges only a shed as a so called restaurant. Absolutely disgusting. Won't be boking with them again

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  • Low Deposit

    Riviera Travel requires a minimum deposit of 500 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 101 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of riviera travel charges.

    Up to 101 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 100 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 70% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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