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Paradise Uncorked: Hiking Portugal’s Douro Valley

Discover lovely Portugal by river and by foot in hillside vineyards, timeless villages, the warmth of its people — and even in a bookstore said to have inspired author J.K. Rowling.
Rating (5)
Program No. 21157RJ
9 days
Starts at

Paradise Uncorked: Hiking Portugal’s Douro Valley

Discover lovely Portugal by river and by foot in hillside vineyards, timeless villages, the warmth of its people — and even in a bookstore said to have inspired author J.K. Rowling.
9 days
Starts at
Program No. 21157 RJ
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At a Glance

Port wine’s birthplace, steeply terraced hillside vineyards, centuries-old footpaths and villages unchanged over time. Sail up Portugal’s Douro Valley in quest of adventure on water and on foot — 125 miles from the coastal city of Porto to Spain and back. Your home on the Douro River is the vessel, going ashore for daily hikes amid picture-postcard landscapes, welcomed by people as warm as the valley sun. Your first and last day in romantic Porto is its own chapter, experiencing a book store that is said to have inspired author J.K. Rowling.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Hike the Ribeira do Mosteiro trail in Douro National Park for panoramic views and to see history come alive.
  • View thousands of animal figures carved over millennia at the Prehistoric Rock Art Site in the Côa Valley.
  • Walk the ornithology route in Porto’s local nature reserve to see firsthand how an effort to protect birds and the landscape has paid off.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Portuguese: A Modern History
by Barry Hatton
Combining history and personal anecdotes, journalist Barry Hatton blends historical analysis with an intimate portrait of the unique people and country within his adopted home.
Grape Harvest
by Miguel Torga
Miguel Torga's first novel is a tribute to the Douro, its people, and its landscapes. A book for all who love this extraordinary region.
The Piano Cemetary
by José Luís Peixoto
Set in Lisbon, this novel incorporates the true story of Francisco Lazaro, all while following a working-class family of cabinet-makers who aspire to being piano-makers.
My Portugal, Recipes and Stories
by George Mendes
A showcase of 125 Portuguese recipes interwoven with tales and anecdotes by the author, a Michelin-starred chef. His 125 mouthwatering recipes include his signature Duck Rice and Garlic Seared Shrimp, Mozambique Shrimp and Okra with Piri Piri.
Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrasebook
by Clara De MacEdo Vitorino
A handy pocket phrasebook for Portuguese basics, covering pronunciation, basic grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler.
Portugal Map
by Michelin Travel Publications
At a scale of 1:400,000, this fully indexed map also includes insets of Madeira and city maps.
Jesus Christ Drank Beer
by Afonso Cruz
28 Portuguese Poets
by Richard Zenith
The Portuguese: The Land and Its People
by Marion Kaplan
A Traveller's History of Portugal
by Ian Robertson
A lively, admirably concise survey from prehistory to the present, great for travelers to Portugal who would like an overview of the country's history and culture.
What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire?
by António Lobo Antunes
A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening
by Mário de Carvalho
Originally published in Portuguese in 1994, this historical novel follows its protagonist, Lucius Valerius Quintius, as he navigates civil unrest at the end of the Roman Empire, and the beginning of the Christian era.
The Stone Raft
by Jose Saramago
A geological fantasy from the Nobel Prize-winning author, in which the Iberian Peninsula becomes unmoored from France.
Journey to Portugal, In Pursuit of Portugal's History and Culture
by Jose Saramago
Jose Saramago's richly detailed account of his journey across Portugal in 1979. He combines his vivid impressions of the Portuguese landscape and people with a dose of history, fiction and meditation.
Eyewitness Guide Portugal
by Eyewitness Guides
Featuring hundreds of photographs and drawings, an excellent overview of the culture and history, and good information about where to go and what to do.
The Painter of Birds
by Lídia Jorge
A House in Darkness
by José Luis Peixoto
The Book of Disquiet
by Fernando Pessoa
Cork Boat, A True Story of the Unlikeliest Boat Ever Built
by John Pollack
This endearing tale of family, loss and friendship revolves around a deliciously absurd childhood quest to build a boat of cork and sail it 133 miles on Portugal's Douro River.
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9 days
8 nights
18 meals
7 B 5 L 6 D
In Transit to Program
In Flight
Arrive Porto, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: We’ll check in to the hotel and settle in before orientation. Orientation: 6:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Adventures Afloat program. In addition to lectures and field trips exclusively for our Road Scholar group, you are invited to take advantage of activities and events aboard the boat that are separate from the Road Scholar program. The time available in each port is set by the cruise line. Whenever possible, the Road Scholar daily schedule indicates port arrival and departure times (subject to change by the cruise line). This may mean that free time in port is limited. Regardless of the time in port, Road Scholar delivers a robust educational program. All routes, field trips, and excursions are subject to change as weather conditions may affect the itinerary. Weather conditions could affect the progress of the boat, making it run late and sometimes miss ports because it is not safe to dock. Because of this, the cruise itinerary should always be regarded as provisional. The operators reserve the right to change the content of field trips and excursions without prior notice. All transportation will be provided via motorcoach unless specified otherwise. During this program, our Group Leader will also serve as our Study Leader. Lectures and field trips will be led by our Group Leader or by local experts unless specified otherwise. Field trips will include walking up to 3 miles at a moderate pace on hilly terrain, winding cobblestone streets, sidewalks, and steps with/without railings. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel or local restaurant, we will have a welcome dinner with one complimentary glass of wine, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Portuguese History, Porto, Embark Ship
Vila Nova de Gaia
CroisiEurope's Gil Eanes

Activity note: Walking up to 2.5 miles in about 1 hour on coastal and city roads. In the afternoon, climbing approximately 240 steps to the Clerigos Tower belfry.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a buffet, plus coffee, tea, juice, water.

Morning: We will begin our day with a lecture in our meeting room, that will introduce us to Portugal, its history, and its people. We will then check out of the hotel and set out to discover the different sides of Porto, both the old and the new, with your Group Leader. Boarding a motorcoach, we will ride to the seafront for a walk along the rocky beaches of the city towards the mouth of the Douro River. Returning to the motorcoach, we will discover the six bridges of Porto. Each bridge has its own distinctive style as they were used to carry Porto’s wine cargoes.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like or sample the local flavor.

Afternoon: We will walk to Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookshops in the city, with our Group Leader. We will first be greeted by its storefront facade, featuring ornate Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau elements. The shop was opened by two esteemed brothers who were actively involved in the affairs of the growing and bustling city. Passionate about literature and culture, the bookshop opened in 1906 and has remained relatively unchanged. We will then continue on foot to the Clerigos Tower for an opportunity to enjoy spectacular views of northern Portugal’s largest city from the belfry. Completed in 1763, the 250-foot church tower was the tallest building in Portugal at the time of its construction and remains one of Porto’s most important symbols. It counts about 240 steps that we can choose to climb to admire the view of Porto from the belfry. Back on the bus, our field trip will end at Vila Nova de Gaia on the Douro’s south bank, where we will embark the ship. Upon our arrival, crewmembers will be waiting to assist with luggage and bring it to our rooms. We’ll check in at the front desk and settle into our cabins before the presentation of the crew. Each afternoon and evening, join your fellow participants in the ship’s restaurant for a plated, multi-course meal featuring fresh and local cuisine, plus coffee, tea, assorted juices, beer, wine, and water. The menu will be displayed ahead of time in the ship’s lobby, offering participant’s time to request an alternative course with your server. Breakfast features a plentiful buffet including breakfast meats, a variety of eggs, pastries and spreads, yogurt, cereal, and fruit, plus coffee, tea, assorted juices, and water. In Portugal, dinners are generally much later than in North America and there is therefore little or no leisure time in the evenings.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: At leisure. The ship will remain docked in Via Nova de Gaia overnight.

Nature Reserve Walk, Contemporary Portugal
Peso da Regua
CroisiEurope's Gil Eanes

Activity note: Walking up to 5 miles in about 2 hours in the nature reserve and some roads.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: Leaving the ship, we’ll drive to the Local Nature Reserve of the Douro Estuary. With a local expert, we’ll take a relaxing walk through the natural haven created in 2007. The reserve's main purpose is to protect the birds and the local landscape. We will start on the south bank of the Douro, where the river empties into the Atlantic, and approach the center of Gaia, ending the morning at the boat to start sailing upstream.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: We will enjoy the landscape and passing dams as we sail towards Peso de Regua. We will attend a lecture on Portugal in the 20th and 21st centuries, learning how the past centuries have shaped modern day Portugal. Topics may include neutrality during WWII, the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar and the Estado Novo, the Colonial War, the Carnation Revolution, and post-revolution democracy.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: We’ll sit back, relax, and enjoy a show put on by the ship’s crew in the lounge.

Vineyard & Wine Producer on the Douro
Vega de Terron
CroisiEurope's Gil Eanes

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles in about 1 hour on nature trails, some uneven terrain; there is some downhill walking.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We will leave the ship and ride to Pinhão, a small town located in the heart of Douro wine country. The region has produced port and other wines since at least the 3rd century CE, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. With a local expert, we will set out on a walk through the vineyards where grapes for some of the best ports are produced. We will take a break and go inside the winery to see how the grapes are crushed and processed, and then have local wine tasting. We will then return to the ship.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: The afternoon is spent sailing through the heart of the famous Porto vineyards to Vega de Teron. Take your time to sit outside and enjoy the breathtaking views of the river Gorges, the never-ending terraces planted with vineyards, orange orchards, and olive trees.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: Aboard the ship, we will have an evening of entertainment featuring Spanish cuisine and music.

Douro Int’l Natural Park, Captain’s Gala
Senhora da Ribeira
CroisiEurope's Gil Eanes

Activity note: Walking up to 5 miles in about 3 hours on uneven, mountainous trails; some very steep uphill and downhill portions. This is the longest and most challenging walk of the program.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: Reaching the furthest point of our sailing, we will leave the ship to ride into the Douro International Natural Park and walk through the area famous for its protected flora and fauna. The route will give us an opportunity for birdwatching. Forming a natural boundary with Spain, the Douro has created a magnificent setting of rolling mountains and canyons. Along the way, we will also discover the old smugglers’ routes between Portugal and Spain, a practice around since the 15th century amongst poor families acquiring necessities. Guns were smuggled into Spain as people were smuggled out during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. During the dictatorships of Portugal’s Salazar (1932 – 68) and Spain’s Francisco Franco (1939 – 75), the practice increased when poverty was rife—coffee, food, medicines, fabric, and all manner of contraband were smuggled over the borders.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: The ship will start back down the river. We will have a lecture with our Group Leader.

Dinner: Aboard the ship, we will have the opportunity to eat with the captain during the captain’s gala.

Evening: At leisure while enjoying some lively folk music.

Côa Valley Rock Art
CroisiEurope's Gil Eanes

Activity note: Walk up to 4 miles in about 2 hours on dirt trails; walking up and down hills; uneven terrain.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We will transfer via motorcoach to Vila Nova de Foz Coa for a walking field trip to the prehistoric rock art site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, led by a local expert. Located on the bank for the Douro’s tributary river Côa in the Côa Valley, the Paleolithic engravings are evidence of millennia of human occupation. According to UNESCO, “hundreds of panels with thousands of animal figures were carved over several millennia, representing the most remarkable open-air ensemble of Paleolithic art on the Iberian Peninsula.”

Lunch: During our field trip, we will have boxed lunches provided by the ship.

Afternoon: Back aboard the motorcoach, we will drive across the mountains to join the boat at Leverinho. Sit back, relax, and take in the scenic views as we head to the small town.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for disembarkation in the morning. Consult the Group Leader and pick up a ribbon from the front desk, representing your departure time in the morning. Leave your luggage with the ribbon outside your cabin door for the ship’s crew to collect and bring to the main lobby

Disembark, Ribeira, Free Time
Mercure Porto Centro

Activity note: Disembarkation around 9:00 a.m. Walking up to 3 miles, about 2 hours, additional standing. Steep slopes and cobblestones all through the city of Porto.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: Arriving in Porto, we will disembark the ship and will have an expert-led walking exploration of Porto’s historic center—the Ribeira—a UNESCO World Heritage Site where traditional plazas and small storefronts stand atop picturesque cobblestone streets. We will enjoy the rest of the morning on our own in downtown Porto. Later we will regroup at a designated time and place for our farewell lunch.

Lunch: In a local restaurant, we will have our farewell lunch featuring a plated meal, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will rejoin the motorcoach and drive to the hotel for check-in. The rest of the afternoon will be free to pack and do what interests you most. Your Group Leader will be happy to give suggestions.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

Program Concludes
In Flight

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At the hotel depending on departure flight. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on another rewarding program in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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