See Douro Kayak on a map.
Day 1.- We encourage you to come a few days early to enjoy Portugal before our Expedition. Nevertheless the first two days will be relaxing and allow you to recover from jet lag. You will be joining us at our hotel in Porto where you will meet your guide and receive detailed information about the expedition. We will then take a short walking tour of the historic center of Porto, preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, followed by dinner in a typical Porto restaurant.
Day 2.- Today the adventure really begins. We have an early breakfast and go to the Sao Bento train station which is in itself a tourist site because of the very fine hand painted tile work. All the immense scenes are of historical events in northern Portugal. Here we’ll board the train called the “Linha Do Douro” at 9:10 arriving at the end of the line in Pocinho at 12:40. (www.roughguides.com/destinations/europe/portugal/porto-rio-douro/douro/linha-douro-portugals-best-train-ride) “Linha do Douro” After arriving in Pocinho we’ll have lunch in a local family run restaurant and drive in our vans to Barca d’Alva. After checking in our hotel we’ll have a brief paddle to get familiar with our gear and to touch Spain on the Douro River before dinner at 20:00.
Today we have our first real experience paddling magnificent Douro River as we paddle on the reflections of the 600 feet walls and the grape vine terraces. We’ll visit a house in ruins that is made completely out of stone and we’ll have a swim or two and a picnic lunch at our takeout just below the new Rock Art Museum. After arriving in Villa Nova de Foz Coa and checking into our hotel we’ll offer an optional and recommended visit to the Rock Art Museum (www.arte-coa.pt) The museum is on a very high point over looking the confluence of the Coa and Douro Rivers and was considered a magical place for the people who chose this spot for their over 5000 stone engravings. Dinner will be in Vila Nova de Foz Coa.
Today is a special day because we have lunch in a restaurant hosted by our good friend Jose Manuel in Mos. Jose Manuel raises much of the food he serves for lunch. He also makes his own port wine and will describe his process. Before arriving in Mos we pass some of the most beautiful parts of the Douro. After lunch we’ll portage to the mountain top village of Sao Xisto where we’ll spend the night. Sao Xisto is more of a museum then a B&B but you must see it to understand. This is always one of the high points of our expedition and a place to which many of our clients have returned to spend time in this very remote part of Europe. Sao Xisto is a working winery, producing DOC red wine as well as port wine. They are also producing very fine olive oil. (http://www.quintasaoxisto.com) We will have a tour of the facilities before the wonderful barbecue dinner prepared by our guides.
The paddle today will not be forgotten. The Valeira Cataract was the greatest obstacle to navigation on the Douro till the first great hydraulic project carried out between 1780 and 1791. This project was to demolish the falls and they succeeded to make it possible to navigate up the Douro to the border with Spain. This made possible an important development of the wine industry and in fact this was the reason for the project. This incredible project didn’t eliminate the dangers of the river, it only made it possible to pass but still with great risk. A point worth mentioning is that the wine casks were only half full so that when a boat hit the rocks the wine casks would float and be saved. The man who made the first detailed map of the river, Baron Forrester, drowned in this place 70 years after it was demolished.
All 5 locks on the Douro River are of the same size but the levels we are lowered or raised to are different from lock to lock. The locks allow ships up to 272 ft. in length, 37 ft beam (wide) and a draft of 12.5 ft. Today we will pass the Valeira Lock (2.8 miles from Sao Xisto 1.5hr) which will lower us 108 ft. Passing through a lock in kayak for the first time is an exciting experience and you’ll enjoy it, I’m sure.
As usual we get on the water early. and we’ll have a picnic lunch at a beautiful site a short distance below the lock. After lunch we’ll continue on to Pinhao to our takeout. In Pinhao, time permitting, we’ll visit the famous train station to see tile work dedicated to the working vineyards in the Douro Valley. From Pinhao we’ll portage on to Peso da Regua where we’ll spend the night.
Today we won’t pass any locks but we have a special experience at the end. Our first stop is Porto Rei for lunch and a swim in either the pool or the river before moving on to Caldas d’ Arégos with their natural hot baths and spa. (www.visitportugal.com/en/NR/exeres/5E6059BA-53AE-43BC-EDF07377564)These public baths in use since Roman times, are next to our hotel. For those who wish there is an optional plan to relax and enjoy the the hot water pool. A full body massage is also available. Our hotel also has a very nice pool. We’ll have dinner in our hotel.
Today we will pass another lock and it is the tallest on the river. The Carrapatelo Dam and lock is about 2 hours from Caldas. (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrapatelo_Dam) This lock lowers us 114.8 ft. into one of the most beautiful parts of the river. Our lunch stop on this paddle will be on a sandy beach just after the lock. After lunch we paddle on to our take out at the Convento de Alpendurada where we will spend the night and have dinner. Even before the foundation of the Portuguese Nationality (12th century), The Convento de Alpendurada was already a place of passage by the many pilgrims on the way to Santiago Compostela and Rome, and was also an important trading centre, due to the proximity with the Douro river. As you walk through this convent you will marvel at how well this place founded about two centuries before Columbus sailed is so well preserved.
The Convent was founded in the 11th century, serving the Order of Saint Benedict. Even nowadays, in a totally different environment, the monks´ cells still maintain their austerity of other times.
The convent has had several restoration and conservation works during the 17th and 18th centuries, yet it maintains many of its Romanesque elements as is observable where we often have our dinner in the medieval kitchen complete with a walk in fireplace.
On a recent voyage through Entre os Rios I saw a young fox along the river bank a few feet away. I’m sure it had never seen a kayak before. He studied me as I did him until both our curiosities were satisfied and we each moved on. Time permitting we will paddle up a river that feeds into the Douro. Lunch break and take out will be in Melres. We’ll have lunch at another family run restaurant that also have a wonderful garden where they produce some of the best vegetables I have ever eaten.
Today is our last day on the Douro and we’re off to an early start. Today we will put in at the beach of the most famous racing kayak club in Portugal. Today for the first time we are paddling on the river as it was before the dams. This is tidal water and if we’re lucky we’ll get a free ride into Porto. We’ll paddle helped by the river current as it flows out to the sea at Porto. After the first bridge in Porto we have an early lunch at Oliveira do Douro and arrive early afternoon in the center of Port. We’ll continue on and be the focus point of many cameras as we paddle on to the fishing port where the Douro meets the sea. Here we take our kayaks out of the water for the last time and raise our glass of port wine in celebration of having paddled together across Portugal. After taking out our kayaks we go to our hotel in Gaia and at dinner celebrate our 9 days together with a farewell dinner.
Our services end after breakfast. Those who desire may spend time visiting the historic quarter of Porto which is classified as a World Heritage Site. You will find the people genuinely welcoming and Porto is home to very impressive architectural styles in Gothic, Baroque and the very interesting store fronts in Art Nouveau. Important note: Our itinerary is always subject to change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
FRIEND US ON: www.facebook.com/DouroKayakExpeditions