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Best River Cruises

Discover the Douro with Viking River Cruises

Breathtaking views of unspoiled countryside. Terraced vineyards blanketing the landscape. Meandering waters encountering storied towns with graceful bridges and dotted with UNESCO Sites. Traditional rabelo sailing boats transporting their casks of port wine. And, the warm smiles of friendly people eager to share their homeland with visitors.

Rabelo sailing boats on Douro river

A WINE LIKE NO OTHER

With a micro climate that is optimal for cultivation, the Douro River Valley produces a vintage exclusive to its region. Picturesque quintas – vineyards clinging to the river’s steep, sloped banks – produce a variety of grapes that blend to form the perfect port wine. Named after the seaport city of Porto, port is a Portuguese fortified wine aged in barrels in a cellar (“cave”). Traditionally transported in boats called barcos
rabelos, port is typically sweet and served as a dessert wine.

A TILE’S TALE

Everywhere you look – from churches and palaces to train stations and park benches – Portugal is decorated with azulejos. Tin-glazed ceramic tiles, the azulejos are used on floors, walls and ceilings as a decorative element as well as a functional one. Originated from Moorish traditions, the tiles showcased geometric patterns. In the late 17th century, Delft influenced a change to the blue – and white portrayal of scenes from Portuguese history and culture.

CULTURE & H ISTORY ABOUND IN LISBON

Nicknamed the “City of Seven Hills,” Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and one of the world’s oldest cities. Rich in architecture – Romanesque, Gothic, baroque and the region’s iconic Manueline style – the city is also home to a number of historic and cultural monuments. Experience local culture as you stroll the streets of the Bairro Alto, a shopping and entertainment district in the heart of the old city. A must-see is the Belem Tower; originally built as a fortified lighthouse, it is the famous place from which many Portuguese explorers began their voyages. Nearby, tour the Jeronimos Monastery; this massive complex has become a monument to Vasco da Gama’s successful voyage to India. Together, these two buildings comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

PICTURESQUE & PRODUCTIVE

A rolling landscape of terraced vineyards blanket the countryside. The perfectly planted grapes cling to the steep slopes along the river’s fertile banks. And villages, chapels and winding roads make their mark among the lush foliage. The Douro River Valley is not just picturesque; it is also productive, renowned as an exclusive source of port wine and one of the most scenic UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

THE GOLDEN CITY OF SALAMANCA

An ancient, university town, Salamanca, in western Spain, is nicknamed the “Golden City” because of the rich glow of sunlight off its sandstone buildings. The old city is a living museum that has been identified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights include the Old Cathedral, the New Cathedral, Monterrey Palace and a number of historic convents and churches. While there, visit Plaza Mayor (Main Square), built in the traditional Spanish baroque style and lined with restaurants and shops.

EXPLORE THE MUSIC SCENE

When traveling in Portugal and Spain, you will encounter a number of musical genres that are distinct to the region. The vibrant and colorful form of gypsy music and dance known as flamenco blossomed from 18th-century Andalusian music and dance styles. Its energetic, passionate and staccato style comes from a trio of cante (singing), toque (guitar), dance and palmas (handclaps). On the other end of the spectrum is fado, a music genre that can be traced back to the 1820s in Portugal. A form of the blues, fado singers are often accompanied by a 12-string Portuguese guitar, a string quartet or even a full orchestra.

Terraced vineyards from the Douro river cruise

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