Portugal – Douro River
Kayaking, Culture and Cuisine (and Wine!)
One of Europe’s iconic rivers, the Douro flows across Northern Portugal, from wild rugged mountains on the Spanish border, to the medieval city of Porto. It is the heart and soul of this region, and the life force of its ancient wine growing culture. Our Douro paddling adventure follows the ‘River of Gold’ between steep terraced slopes planted with millions of vines, rolling green hills and sheer granite walls. And it takes us deep into the world of Douro wine and refined cuisine.
We always pride ourselves on finding accommodations and restaurants that authentically and beautifully reflect the area we are exploring. This time, we have outdone ourselves! Our quintas include an architecturally brilliant eyrie perched on a cliff with sweeping views (and raptors riding the currents close to our rooms), a 17th Century manor house, and – trust us, this will be lovely, and very comfortable – sleeping in giant wine barrels in the middle of a vineyard! The carefully crafted itinerary gives us time to settle into each of these lovely places, get to know our hosts and learn about (and enjoy!) the wine they produce and their locally sourced gourmet food.
The trip starts and ends in beautiful Porto, where our cultural guide takes us on a walking tour of its medieval centre, one of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites we visit along the way. We kayak on five days of the trip, going with the flow of the river, on flat water. The kayaking is suitable for beginners, however you should be able to paddle for four hours a day (with breaks for al fresco lunches, etc.) And this is paddling plus: we also have time to wander through quaint villages, take a scenic train ride, visit prehistoric rock art, hike through rolling countryside, sample lots of port and exquisite table wines, learn how to make Vinho Verde… and savour amazing meals in exquisite settings.
What are the physical activities on the trip and what level of fitness do I need?
A reasonable level of fitness is required. Typically, we will be kayaking for a maximum of four hours a day (sometimes less) with breaks. The cultural walking tours, which are very easy. Wine tastings require a good constitution!
What are the kayaks like?
We use high quality, sit-in style kayaks and paddles that are adjustable to suit your preference of feathered or unfeathered. Generally we use double kayaks. In the case that you prefer a single kayak you would need to demonstrate your ability to successfully perform a wet exit and reentry at the beginning of the trip.
What is Portuguese food like?
Traditionally, the food in Northern Portugal is quite hearty and meaty. However, there will also be vegetarian and fish options, and throughout the trip we will have lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads. Some of the dinners will be full-on gourmet, with locally sourced (and sometimes grown on the property) ingredients.
I'm a vegetarian, is that a problem?
Not at all, but please let us know in advance, and advise us on your dietary preferences.
Do I need a visa?
US and Canadian citizens do not require a visa to visit Portugal.
Do I need any special insurance?
Medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, is mandatory on all our trips. We also strongly advise you to purchase trip cancellation insurance.
Do I need vaccinations?
Your routine vaccinations (tetanus/diphtheria, polio, etc.) should be up to date.
What does the trip price cover?
Airport transfers on the first and last days of the trip, all guiding and entrance fees, all accommodation, meals as indicated in the itinerary, wine with all dinners, water on excursions (in restaurants, tap water is potable), kayak equipment.
What does the trip price not cover?
International and domestic flights, airport transfers not on the first or last days of the trip, beverages apart from wine with dinners, meals not indicated on the itinerary, personal insurance and gratuities.
How can I access cash when I'm on the trip?
ATMs are readily available throughout the trip.
What clothes and equipment will I need?
No special equipment is required. When you sign up for the trip, we will provide you with a comprehensive clothes and equipment list. If you prefer to use you own paddle or PFD, please feel free to bring those along.
I’m travelling alone, is that a problem?
Absolutely not. We have many guests who travel with us on their own. They appreciate the camaraderie of our Hidden Places groups and usually go home with new-found friends. Prices are quoted on a shared room basis. If you require a single room, a Single Supplement will apply.
Transfer from Porto Airport to our gorgeous hotel, meet our trip leader and head out for a fun welcome dinner.
Explore Porto, including its UNESCO World Heritage old quarter, dating back to the 12th century AD. And, of course, visit a Port wine cellar for some delicious tastings!
Transfer to Alto Douro area (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) and settle into an exclusive boutique hotel surrounded by the vineyards of Quinta do Vallado, one of the most important Douro wine producers. Enjoy the infinity pool, go for SUP on the river, or simply sit on the terrace with a glass of wine, taking in the amazing vistas. At dusk visit Paleolithic engravings in caves nearby, your third UNESCO World Heritage Site of the trip!
Meet the kayaks! Paddle off along the along the Coa River, one of the Douro’s tributaries, stopping for lunch and a swim en route.
Drift along the Douro between steep terraced slopes planted with vines. Stop for lunch in a pretty village then paddle on to Ferradosa and hop on a train for a scenic ride!
Paddle thought a lock – a special Douro experience! Then point your kayak towards the most breathtaking stretch of the trip – the very heart of the Douro Valley’s designated
UNESCO World Heritage area, where the best Port wine is produced. In the afternoon transfer to the hilltop village of Provesende and next home: a restored 17th century manor surrounded by vineyards and olive groves.
A rest day to enjoy your historic hotel, explore Provesende and have a long and leisurely wine adventure! In a nearby winery an experienced vintner introduces you to his nine top wines, accompanied by tapas.
Take an easy hike over rolling Douro hills to Pinhão. In the afternoon, kayak to your next hotel, which just happens to be a famous winery! Have a guided tour of the vineyards, a tasting session, and a gourmet dinner. Tuck up for the night inside your special room: a supersized and comfortably appointed wine barrel, out in the vineyards, on the banks of the Douro.
Wake up amidst the vines and get ready for your final paddle, through lush green landscapes. Say goodbye to the kayaks, and transfer to an amazing hotel: boutique, eco friendly, carbon neutral, set in 75 acres of vineyards, and with its own vino-spa.
As a grand finale, take a private workshop on making Vinho Verde – create your own batch to keep!
After breakfast transfer to Porto – which takes about 45 minutes – for your return flights.
A transfer to Lisbon can be arranged at an extra cost.
From US $6920 per person
9 nights / 10 days
Scheduled: May 31 - Jun 09, 2022
Private: May through Oct
4 and 5 star hotels, historic boutique hotels and comfortable country inns.
12 guests maximum
Kayaking, gentle hikes, wine tasting and culinary adventures, cultural and historic tours
Best selling author Maria Coffey and photographer/veterinarian Dag Goering. Travel with us and fall off the map!
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