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Iberian Idyl, Porto to Salamanca on the Duoro river cruise

I love a river cruise and now I’ve said it, I’m trying to analyse why. There’s the usual cruise plus of unpacking once and organising your room just the way you like it. That instant relaxation that comes just from being on water and getting that floaty feeling.

The extra joy of the river cruise for me is there’s always something interesting to look at on the banks as you glide along. That can be anything from a magnificent historic church or castle to a humble and disinterested duck going about its business.

Historically, if you didn’t have the Romans to build roads for you, life and commerce happened along and beside rivers, so there are always plenty of interesting ancient places to investigate. Of course, the Romans left their centuries-ahead-of-their-time mark in the Iberian Peninsula so it’s the best of both worlds.

The Douro is a river worth cruising as along its banks are some of the finest towns and most magnificent scenery you could wish for.

It was once a wild river, notoriously challenging to navigate, especially for the traditional flat-bottomed boats, which often foundered in its waters.

Today it has been tamed by a system of dams and locks, which have raised the water level to produce a topography reminiscent of Scotland’s lochs that enhances the valley’s charm.

Riviera Travel is offering an eight day cruise for only a smidgeon over $3000pp that really makes the most of this unique waterway, starting in the Roman city of Porto, the home of Port wine.

Embark the ship in Porto and familiarize yourself with your five-star floating hotel. From the moment you board, the welcoming crew are at your service.

In no time you’ll be settled into your luxurious, thoughtfully furnished accommodation and familiarising yourself with all the first-class aspects of this floating boutique hotel.

Portugal’s once wild river Douro has been tamed by locks into resembling a series of finger lakes, adding greatly to the valley’s ambience.

Sailing in the morning, your first delicious breakfast is served by the attentive crew and whilst you linger over another coffee, you can really start to unwind as we leave the city skyline far behind.

Head up on deck to appreciate the changing landscape in all its splendour as the river weaves its way between the lush hillsides; from the first morning on board, it’s very apparent that the Douro is one of Europe’s most photogenic river valleys and the topography has prevented the building of extensive riverside roads. 

Day three sees a visit to Castelo Rodrigo, a delightful 12th-century walled village tucked away in the picturesque highland ranges bordering Spain.

Its church was a resting place on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and it is said that Saint Francis himself stayed here. The views are simply stupendous, stretching across almost-deserted ochre hillsides.

Then it’s on to Salamanca. Founded by the Romans, who erected its 389-yard-long bridge, Salamanca is mostly built from local sandstone that emanates a gorgeous rose-coloured glow in the sunlight.

Perched on a hill on a bend in the serene River Tormes, the city is a picture of tranquillity but its history is turbulent, having been successively fought over by Hannibal, the Moors, then the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon.

Salamanca is also the home of one of Europe’s oldest universities, two of its finest cathedrals, Spain’s finest city square and even the Inquisition!

The Spanish Inquisition’s records are still kept here, and as early as the 16th century it boasted some 12,000 students.

Seeing its immaculately preserved lecture halls with their vaulted ceilings, it’s easy to conjure an image of Christopher Columbus addressing the learned men of the day or legal experts constructing the international laws that originate here.

You will adore the away-from-it-all experience and visit some of Iberia’s most beautiful medieval towns, monasteries and vineyards, and feel you have been away for months!

For all the details and pricing from Riviera Travel, CLICK HERE

Michael G Browne
Michael G Browne
Michael G Browne is a crime author (Money Bags), comedy writer an inveterate traveller.

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