Douro or Dont-ro? Thoughts on Visiting Portugal

Greetings from Cape Town!

I just arrived to spend some time with Elsa, our trip-coordinator extraordinaire, before setting off to explore Namibia & Botswana with another group of Wheel & Anchor travellers.

(I was hoping for a Table Mountain backdrop for this week’s video blog, but delays and a subsequent missed connection kept me in Frankfurt and thus we had to go with the still-scenic Römerberg Square.)

So, while in Germany on the way to South Africa, I was thinking about Portugal, as we release our newest trip for 2024 to Porto and the Douro Valley.

Portugal is one of the most popular destinations that pops up on our New Member Questionnaire, and particularly the Douro region with its well-deserved reputation for fantastic food, wine, and landscapes. The most popular way to do the Douro is of course via a river cruise; it has become one of the hottest cruises in Europe over the past decade or so and I invariably get asked why we don’t have one on offer.

I completely agree that the Douro region is indeed a must-visit, and a cruise a must-do portion of it…just not the whole thing 🙂 On our program we’ll spend the majority of our time in Porto, with a few nights at the end up near the vineyards of the Douro, during which we’ll do a day cruise on the river.

My rationale for this is as follows:

First and foremost, we try to do some mixing and mingling with locals while on our trips, and it’s harder to do that while on a river cruise. We’ll have some opportunities to do so during our afternoons and evenings in Porto, as well as when we meet some local families in the Douro region.

Secondly, the food is one of the highlights of the region and I would stake my reputation, both as a foodie and a traveller, that Porto has some of the best food in Portugal (and better than you’ll find on any of the ships on the Douro). I think wandering through the alleys of Porto in search of tasty treats is an essential experience of the region and it requires more time there to do it.

Lastly, there’s only about 200km of sailing on most Douro cruises and thus there’s a fair amount of circling and seeing the same scenery, which, while beautiful, isn’t quite the same experience as an end-to-end river cruise like you’d find on the Mekong or other European rivers.

So what we’ll do after a few nights in Porto is stay up in the vineyards of the Douro region so we still get the scenery, and then do a day cruise to some wineries so we can say we did it all!

In the end there’s more than one way to peel an orange, and whether you cruise or not, Porto and the Douro region are well-worth the visit. Do take a look at the itinerary below should you be interested in coming with us, and I of course welcome your thoughts on travelling to Portugal or elsewhere.

Lots more coming soon, including our 2024 Azores and Algarve programs, and many more in the pipeline. I trust you’re well and carpe diem-ing your way through the spring.


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