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Douro River Cruise: Into the Heart of Portugal
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11 days

from $7,395 AUD

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Travelers can choose light or moderate activities throughout the trip. They should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, and easy hikes, with options each day for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, or biking.

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Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.

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Expedition Overview

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EXPEDITION OVERVIEW
  • Tour some of the Douro Valley’s most prestigious vineyards, sip port at a celebrated cellar in Porto, and enjoy interpretive wine tastings on board as we sail.
  • In the company of a National Geographic expert, see the fascinating engravings of Foz Côa—widely considered the world’s most important open-air Paleolithic rock art site.
  • Take in a festive flamenco performance in Salamanca and a private concert in the spectacular gilded nave of Porto’s Igreja de São Francisco.
  • Attend on board photo talks led by a National Geographic photographer, and practice landscape shots on the sinuous vineyards that flank the Douro.
Itinerary

In northern Portugal, the Douro River curves through the terraced vineyards of Douro wine country, a World Heritage-designated region celebrated for its spectacular beauty and centuries-old viticulture. Step back in time in medieval villages, examine world-renowned rock art, and cross into Spain to roam the Renaissance streets of Salamanca. Along the way, taste excellent wines in the cellars of Porto and historic countryside estates, and listen to traditional rhythms of fado and flamenco in spectacular settings. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—and benefit from the insights provided by the National Geographic Expert and the National Geographic photographer who accompany us on the journey.

Days 1-2: Porto, Portugal

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Arrive in Porto, a World Heritage-listed city straddling the Douro River. Embark the Scenic Azure and enjoy a welcome reception and dinner on board. On a walking tour of Porto’s historic old town the following morning, explore medieval treasures, examine azulejo tiles, and visit the Palácio da Bolsa—the city’s old stock exchange. Later, we begin our cruise along the Douro.

Days 3-4: Guimarães/Douro Valley

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Delve into history at the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança in Guimarães, or venture to the stunning Quinta da Aveleda winery and gardens in the Vinho Verde wine region, where we’ll sip on sparkling whites. Cruise into the stunning Douro Valley this afternoon and get introduced to the history and culture of the region at the award-winning Douro Museum in Peso da Régua. The next day, explore the Varosa Valley, home to the elegant town of Lamego and a rich Cistercian heritage that dates back to the 12th century. On an afternoon excursion, choose to delve into the region’s past at the ruins of the Mosteiro de São João de Tarouca, Portugal’s first Cistercian monastery, and at the Monastery of Santa Maria de Salzedas’ historical collections. Or visit the opulent Mateus Palace, famously featured on bottles of Mateus rosé.

Day 5: On the Douro

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Take in scenes of the Douro Valley as we wind our way past charming terra-cotta-roofed towns, through towering locks, and past the vine-striped hillsides that earned the region its World Heritage designation. Watch the terroir transition from granite outcroppings to slate-terraced vineyards, and spend time documenting these picturesque scenes with your National Geographic photographer; or listen to an afternoon lecture given by your National Geographic Expert.

Day 6: Salamanca, Spain

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Cross into Spain for a visit to Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Two options for exploration await you in this fabled city. Visit the storied hallways and classrooms of the University of Salamanca, founded in 1218, and enjoy a discussion with students and professors about their studies and research. Alternatively, take in the city’s Renaissance splendor on a guided city tour, then enjoy some time to explore on your own. Have lunch in town with live entertainment before returning to our ship.

Day 7: Côa Valley, Portugal

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Explore notable tributaries of the Douro River today, choosing from adventures on the Côa and Sabor Rivers. Venture into the Côa Valley to learn about the prehistoric rock art at the World Heritage-listed Foz Côa. Opt for a thrilling ride in a 4x4 vehicle, and then hike to the archaeological site to witness these fascinating carvings. You may instead choose a canoeing excursion along the pristine Sabor River, a rugged tributary of the Douro. Or, for those more interested in the flavors of the region, set out on a culinary excursion to the Casa Painova estate and taste their delicious almond and olive products. Tonight, local musicians join us on board to perform traditional Portuguese songs.

Day 8: Provesende

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Drive into the hills of the Douro Valley to the time-locked town of Provesende. Wander this quaint village and get a glimpse into daily life during visits to the town church and the local bakery, and enjoy a glass of port wine at the charming Morgadio da Calçada manor house. This afternoon, experience a tasting at a winery along the river, opting for a walk through the vineyards, if you choose.

Days 9-11: Porto

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Enjoy a relaxing day onboard as we sail back toward Porto. Expert talks, wine tastings, and handicraft workshops are all options as we cross back over the coastal range. Upon arrival in Porto, head to Igreja de São Francisco for a private concert in this opulent church. Later, tour the Douro Estuary on foot, spotting birdlife and then tapping into the rhythms of a nearby fishing village. There are also options to visit Porto’s oldest canning factory, or go for a tasting in one of the city’s most celebrated port cellars. Disembark on our final morning and depart for home.

EXTENSIONS

Day 1: Madrid, Spain

¡Bienvenido a Madrid! Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.

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Day 2: Madrid

This morning, begin our exploration of Madrid in the historic center, Los Austrias, built during the reign of the Hapsburg dynasty. Explore the quarter’s highlights including the elegant Plaza Mayor, which is dominated by the Casa de la Panadería (Bakery House)—the city’s municipal center. View the impressive Almudena Cathedral and meander through the neoclassical-style Sabatini Gardens, located in front of the 18th-century Royal Palace and named after the Italian architect who contributed to the palace’s design. Then continue to the Cibeles and Neptuno Fountains, two of the most majestic fountains in the city, which were commissioned by King Charles III. In the afternoon, you may opt to visit the world-renowned Prado Museum and its superb collection by Spanish masters, including works by Goya and Velázquez. Or choose to venture inside the sprawling Royal Palace, which boasts over 3,000 rooms. This evening, enjoy fine Spanish cuisine at a local restaurant.

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Day 3: Madrid

Spend the day at leisure exploring this marvelous city. Stroll amid the boutiques that adorn the famed Barrio de Salamanca, or relax in one of Madrid’s many beautiful parks and gardens. Venture to the “Golden Triangle of Art” to visit the city’s celebrated museums, including the Reina Sofía, home to Picasso’s Guernica, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, which houses works by a diverse collection of masters, from Rubens to Cézanne. Savor the eclectic cuisine of this culinary capital at a local restaurant, or venture to the historic San Miguel market to browse colorful stalls selling cured meats, cheeses, and seafood. Or simply wander along the city’s lively streets, taking in a contrasting mix of baroque, neoclassical, and contemporary architecture, and soak up the vibrant energy.

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Day 4: Madrid

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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Day 1: Lisbon, Portugal

Arrive in Lisbon and transfer to your centrally located hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure, and gather for dinner this evening.

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Day 2: Lisbon

The capital of Portugal since the 13th century, Lisbon rests on a series of hills at the mouth of the Tagus River, the longest waterway of the Iberian Peninsula. Step into Europe’s Age of Discovery on a historical tour of the city—the departure port for celebrated Portuguese explorers like Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias. This afternoon, venture to Sintra, summer residence of Portugal’s royal family for four centuries, and climb to the eclectic Pena Palace. Or, travel just outside Lisbon to seaside Cascais for a guided stroll through this former fishing village.

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Day 3: Lisbon

Enjoy a full day to explore Lisbon at your leisure. Climb the cobbled streets of the historic Alfama neighborhood, explore multicultural Mouraria, and take in views of the skyline framed by sparkling waters from the ramparts of São Jorge Castle—a Moorish stronghold that presides over the city. This evening, savor upscale Portuguese cuisine at a local restaurant.

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Day 4: Lisbon

After breakfast, journey to Porto for your cruise along the Douro.

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What to Expect

Enjoy an all-inclusive experience aboard a world-class river ship featuring fine dining and butler service. Choose from a variety of excursions suited to a range of activity levels, from short walking tours to options for extended hiking and biking.

ACCOMMODATIONS
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Launched in 2016 and custom built to sail Portugal’s sinuous Douro River, the Scenic Azure joins luxury with cutting-edge technology. The ship is equipped with a range of state-of-the-art amenities and a variety of casual and upscale dining options; and a one-to-two staff-to-guest ratio ensures the highest level of service. A National Geographic expert and photographer accompany each departure.

Capacity: 96 guests in 48 outward-facing suites

Overall Length: 265 feet

Public Areas: The vessel is outfitted with four decks, including a spacious all-weather sun deck with comfortable lounge furniture for relaxation and al fresco dining. The ship also holds three elegant dining areas as well as indoor bar and lounge areas, all equipped with expansive panoramic windows.

Meals: Fare served on board is inspired by regional Portuguese and Spanish cuisine. The main dining area offers buffet and à la cart options three times daily, and exquisite multi-course meals with wine pairings are served upon invitation in two intimate dining rooms. The more casual café offers light meals and snacks, and a bar and lounge has a robust menu of wine, beer, and spirits.

Suites: All suites face outwards and are equipped with en suite bathrooms, and most have private balconies that can be converted into all-weather sun lounges. Select suites offer spacious lounge areas and large bathrooms. All accommodations are equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi.

Special Features: Plunge pool, wellness center, fitness center, and gift shop. A National Geographic expert and photographer accompany each voyage.

PRICES & DATES

  • date Sep 22-05 Oct
  • Prices From Per Person
  • Ship Scenic Azure
  • extensions yes

Trip PricesPer Person

Accommodations
Double Occupancy
Single Occupancy
Standard Suite (E)
Double Occupancy
$11,835 AUD
Single Occupancy
$21,890 AUD
Standard Suite (D)
Double Occupancy
$12,230 AUD
Single Occupancy
$22,680 AUD
Riverview Suite (C1)
Double Occupancy
$13,830 AUD
Single Occupancy
$25,880 AUD
Balcony Suite (C)
Double Occupancy
$14,530 AUD
Single Occupancy
$27,280 AUD
Balcony Suite (BB)
Double Occupancy
$14,780 AUD
Single Occupancy
$27,780 AUD
Balcony Suite (B)
Double Occupancy
$14,830 AUD
Single Occupancy
$27,880 AUD
Balcony Suite (P)
Double Occupancy
$15,230 AUD
Single Occupancy
$28,680 AUD
Junior Suite (BJ)
Double Occupancy
$15,430 AUD
Single Occupancy
$29,080 AUD
Junior Suite (RJ)
Double Occupancy
$16,430 AUD
Single Occupancy
$31,080 AUD
Balcony Suite (PA)
Double Occupancy
$18,425 AUD
Single Occupancy
$25,185 AUD
Royal One Bedroom Suite (RP)
Double Occupancy
$18,630 AUD
Single Occupancy
$35,480 AUD

Deck Plans

Jewel Deck
Sapphire Deck
Diamond Deck

All trip prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to change without notice and do not include airfare.

  • Transfers upon arrival and departure
  • Accommodation aboard a world-class ship operated by Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
  • All meals, from dinner on the first night to breakfast on the final morning
  • Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • All gratuities

What's Not Included

  • Airfare to and from destination
  • Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance
  • Visas
Sergio Coimbra
Writer
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Sergio Coimbra helped launch and served as the first Editor-in-Chief of the Portuguese edition of National Geographic magazine. He was born in Mozambique, a former Portuguese territory, then moved with his family to Portugal while still a boy. He began his journalism career traveling extensively in Europe and Africa and covering hard-news stories such as the siege of Sarajevo, the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, and the war of independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. Sergio went on to become the Editor-in-Chief of Portugal’s leading travel magazine, where he explored the beauty and wonders of our world. In 2000, he was named the Director of National Geographic Portugal. In this role, he helped internationalize National Geographic’s Explorers Program, launched a Portuguese version of the National Geographic Bee, and encouraged other endeavors to promote a better understanding of the planet. In 2005, Sergio set off on his own voyage of discovery within Portugal to deepen his understanding of his country’s cultural and geographical resources. The result of the trip was his book Passeios com o Moby—literally Travels with Moby. In this tribute to John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charlie, he compares the Portugal he experienced at 12 with the country today. Sergio is a member of Sociedade Geografia de Lisboa, the guardian of historical documents from the Portuguese Age of Discovery and its overseas territories, and of Real Associacao de Lisboa, an institution that promotes and preserves Portugal’s heritage.

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  • Sep 22-Oct 2, 2020 - Scenic Azure
Krista Rossow
Photographer Photo Editor
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For more than a decade, Krista Rossow has worked as a photographer, photo editor, and educator for National Geographic. She began her career as a photo editor at National Geographic Traveler magazine, where she shaped compelling stories from world-class imagery. In her freelance career, she has shot feature stories as a contributing photographer for Traveler in South Africa, Morocco, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Japan, and various U.S. cities. She regularly judges Instagram contests for @NatGeoTravel and photo edits for National Geographic Books. Krista travels with National Geographic Expeditions teaching photography around the world–from the Galápagos Islands, Patagonia, and Peru to Alaska, Antarctica, and the Arctic. She sees the camera as a tool for understanding new cultures, meeting the locals, and exploring the natural world. Her images are represented by National Geographic Creative.

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  • Sep 22-Oct 2, 2020 - Scenic Azure