Road trips can be fun and are a good way to quickly see a large portion of a country. But if you are considering a holiday to Portugal then you should definitely consider leaving the car behind. Portugal has one of the best train journey’s in Europe – a leisurely and meandering route that runs from Porto to Pocinho along 120km of riverside track. If you have taken advantage of cheap flight options to Porto and want to see some of the country then this train ride up towards the Spanish border along the Douro river is definitely one to consider.
This is a fascinating historic railway route, which once crossed the border into Spain from where it was possible to get a through service to Salamanca or Madrid in the heyday of railway travel. Now many branch lines have been closed but this is still an amazing route with more than 20 tunnels, 30 bridges and 34 stations. Trains run from Porto three times a day. It is possible to do the return trip, which costs around 13 Euros each way, in a day, though to get the most out of the journey, why not take your time and stop off at some of the fascinating stops along the way?
A ride on the Linha do Douro is perfect for combining with a hiking holiday. You could start off with a day or two rambling around historic Porto before hopping on the train. There are many useful stations that give access to some areas that are perfect for a walking holiday, enjoying the great outdoors. To get onto the best section of the line, along the Douro gorge, you change trains at Régua when you have come from Porto. Some stations are simply shelters on platforms that are used by local wine producers (this is Port wine territory), though you may be interested in disembarking at one of them none the less. You could hike in the gorgeous vineyards along the Douro river, well off the well-beaten tourist track.
Interesting stops on the route include the pretty port producing town on Pinhao, which is a good base if you feel like taking a river tour or hiking through surrounding vineyards and hills. Be sure to hike from Pinhao up to the miradouro at the small village of Casal de Loivos – the views from here are amongst the very best along the Douro. You can also hike to Sabrosa to see the home of Magellan.
Tua, another station, is a stop for river cruise boats and has good food. Then Pocinho, a pleasant port-producing town with plenty of amenities. If you want to truly experience what this region is all about though, you should be sure to spend at least some of your stay in a traditional quinta – wine-producing estates often diversify into tourist accommodation and some of them can be rustic and delightful.
Come to the Douro river and explore the possibilities on foot and by rail.