- 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.
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.
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.
Scenic Azure for the entire voyage
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. During our last full day together, opt to explore the Douro Estuary on foot, spotting birdlife and then tapping into the rhythms of a nearby fishing village. Or, visit the National History Museum located in the University of Porto, and browse its historical collections of geology, paleontology, and ethnography. Alternatively, enjoy a tasting in one of the city’s most celebrated port cellars. Disembark on our final morning and depart for home.
- Madrid Extension
- Lisbon Extension
Madrid has much to savor, with its elegant architecture and world-class restaurants, its celebrated art museums and colorful markets. After your Douro River cruise aboard the Scenic Azure, spend a few days soaking up the energy of Spain’s captivating capital city. Venture into the historic center to retrace the footsteps of Hapsburg royals, wander through stately plazas lined with baroque buildings, and marvel at beautiful neoclassical fountains. Visit the world-renowned Prado museum, sample the local cuisine, and enjoy time to explore the city’s elegant squares and leafy boulevards at your own pace.
¡Bienvenido a Madrid! Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
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.
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.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.