The best Douro river cruises

Besides its majestic beauty, the Douro Valley region is a dream come true for wine lovers who can wander around…

Sara Riobom
28 de September de 2023

Besides its majestic beauty, the Douro Valley region is a dream come true for wine lovers who can wander around some of its best vineyards. However, usually people who do not drink wine struggle a bit about what to do in Douro Valley besides drinking wine, which is why I am writing about the best Douro river cruises.

This article is about the short boat rides in Douro river, not about the week long ones. It is meant, therefore, for people who are planning to stay a couple of days in Douro Valley or organising a day trip from Porto.

If you are looking for the short boat rides in Douro river but in Porto, read my article about the best river cruises in Porto – one of the most popular activities in the city!

Classification of Douro river cruises

There are basically two criteria to classify the best douro river cruises:

  • A) Typology: Douro river cruises can be either group activities (prices ranging from 12,50€ / person to 25€ / person) or private activities (prices ranging from 45€ / person to 60€ / person, depending on the size of your group).
  • B) Starting point: Douro river cruises can either departure from Pinhão (my favourite spot) or from Peso da Régua.

Therefore, we are going to explore four different kinds of Douro river cruises, according to this Index:

Best GROUP Douro river cruises starting in Pinhão

There are some short Douro river cruises departing from Pinhão, the main city of the sub region of Cima Corgo, in Douro Valley. This is the river cruise that I enjoy the most, for several reasons:

  • It’s a short Douro river cruise, and hence you can combine it with a wine tour & tasting at a vineyard and a lunch in Pinhão – this is exactly what we do on our iconic private wine tour and river cruise in Douro Valley. If you have rented a car, you can simply park it in Pinhão and walk to the deck.
  • Whether you opt for a 1h river cruise (Pinhão – Romaneira – Pinhão) or for a 2h one (Pinhão – Tua – Pinhão), the views from the boat are simply stunning.

rabelo boat boat ride douro valley

There are several tour operators making the best GROUP Douro river cruises.

I personally recommend Magnífico Douro as the boats are in great conditions, the boat rides are cheap, and the staff is very friendly and professional.

They organise both 2h and 1h boat rides departing from Pinhão. You can simply buy the online ticket for the 2h Douro river cruise or the online ticket for the 1h Douro river cruise, depending on your time availability.

Price of the best GROUP Douro river cruises

Currently, a 1h Douro river cruise costs 12,50€, and the 2h Douro river cruise costs 25€.

Children up to 5 years old don’t pay anything.

Children from 6 to 11 years old have a 50% discount on the price of the tickets, as you can see when you buy the tickets online:

ticket prices best douro river cruises

Schedule of the best Douro river cruises

The 1h Douro river cruise departures every hour, from 10h to 18h. During winter, there are no boats at 17h nor 18h.

The 2h Douro river cruise departures only at 10h45 and then at 15h, so make sure to grab your seat!

What is the size of the boats?

electric rabelo boat douro valley
Dona Antónia – the only electrical rabelo boat in the country. Look at the solar panels on top, such beauties! 😀

Magnífico Douro uses 7 traditional rabelo boats of different sizes, and for the regular departures it usually uses one of 4 boats. Depending on the number of tickets that they have sold for each schedule, they will use one of the following boats:

Dona Antónia – it is an electrical boat (the only one of its kind in the country!), with capacity for 34 passengers. It is 17,5 meters long.

Torga – with 17,5 meters long, it has capacity for 45 passengers.

Touriga – with 17,5 meters long, it has capacity for 32 passengers. It is very similar to Torga.

Socalcos – their largest boat, it is almost 24 meters long and it has capacity for 100 passengers.

Are there bathrooms (WC) on board?

YES!

What if it rains?

If it rains you cry and ask for your money back, because everyone promised you a sunny Portugal 😛 Jokes aside: I get this question MANY TIMES so I guess it a major concern of a lot of people.

But there is no reason to worry, not really. First of all, the boats are super safe. Second of all, all the boats have a covered area with sofas, proper windows and a ceiling, creating a small room from which you can still enjoy your river cruise without getting wet.

What are you talking about Sara, I don’t see a covered area on some of the pictures! That is because both the windows and the ceiling are removable and removed on sunny days. True story. In engineers we trust.

Do they sell drinks and food on board?

One thing that distinguishes Magnífico Douro from its competitors is that you can actually buy some drinks on board – mostly water and beer. However, no one sells food (so if you really need to eat, I suggest you bring some easy-to-eat snacks like dried fruits).

Are there audio guides available?

Another thing I love about Magnífico Douro is that, unlike its competitors, you don’t hear a shrill voice speaking through a megaphone for the entire boat.

Instead, you simply download their audioguide app (available on Play Store and Apple Store) on your smartphone – don’t forget to take your earplugs. The app is available in four different languages: English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

When you buy the online ticket to the best Douro river cruises, just select the language you want:

audio guide languages best douro river cruises

Best PRIVATE Douro river cruises starting in Pinhão

private douro river cruise
private boat douro valley
inside boat

For those of you that dream about making a private river cruise but without breaking the piggy bank or having to eat pasta with tuna for the rest of the month, I have great news: there is a company in Douro Valley that makes affordable private river cruises!

Price of the best PRIVATE Douro river cruises

Currently, the price of the private 1h douro river cruise vary depending on the number of people that book this activity:

  • If you are a group of two people, then the boat costs 120€ in total (so, 60€ / person).
  • For a group of 3 to 5 people, each person pays 50€ / person.
  • For groups from 6 to 14 people, each person pays 45€ / person.
  • If you are traveling alone and book the boat just for yourself, the price is 100€.

Children up to 4 years old don’t pay anything.

Children from 5 to 9 years old pay 25€.

Schedules

The affordable private Douro river cruise departures every hour from 9h to 19h.

There is only ONE boat doing this service, so hurry up and book your private douro river cruise!

What is the size of the boats?

The boat used for this private Douro river cruise is 172 meters long and it has capacity for 14 passengers.

Are there bathrooms (WC) on board?

YES!

What if it rains?

Fun fact: the boat is called Unbelievable and it has two double cabins, a kitchen with dining room and a large room, with a control point and a set of windows that allow for a 360º visibility.

The exterior includes a large space at the bow and a raised and protected area at the stern, which accommodates a second command post.

Therefore, if it rains you have lots of space to take shelter onboard, do not worry!

Do they sell drinks and food on board?

I am afraid not, but you will be welcome onboard with a glass of Port wine.

Are there audio guides available?

I am afraid not, but the captain (A lady called Barbara) can answer any question you might have about the region.

GROUP Douro river cruises starting in Peso da Régua

There are shorter Douro river cruises that start in Régua, the main city in the Douro Valley, at the heart of the Baixo Corgo Sub Region.

I don’t find these boat rides as beautiful as the ones departing from Pinhão (simply because the landscape from Régua to Pinhão is not as beautiful as the one from Pinhão upwards), but it might be more convenient to get these because Régua is more central than Pinhão.

short douro river cruise departing from regua
© Luso Viagens

Useful information

Honestly we never include Douro river cruises departing from Régua on our private tours in Douro Valley so I cannot be of much help in this particular case.

However, I do know that the river cruise companies are located in Cais da Régua, in front of Museu do Douro (a famous wine museum).

GROUP River cruises that connect Porto to Régua / Pinhão

This one day Douro river cruises consist of a combination of a train ride from Porto to Régua, Pinhão, Pocinho or Barca d’Alva, followed by a boat ride down the river, or the other way around (going up the river by boat and then getting back to Porto by train).

Usually there are welcoming drinks and lunch being served on board of the one day Douro river cruises, and there are also some programs that include a visit to a vineyard. Therefore you need to spend some time to find the right tour operator & program that meets your expectations.

large boat one day douro river cruise from porto to regua
© Tomaz do Douro

This is the Douro river cruise that I like the least, for several reasons:

  • It is a very lengthy day, starting at around 7h and ending somewhere around 23h. If you are traveling with kids or with elder people they might get tired half way through.
  • Because you will be taking a combination of both train and boat ride you will loose the flexibility to visit the vineyards you are truly interested in. This happens because only a handful producers have their vineyards close to the train stations in Douro Valley (Régua, Pinhão and Pocinho).

Nonetheless, the one day Douro river cruises are still a popular choice for those who are not so much into wine tastings and would rather (and quite understandingly) spend the day just enjoying the views.

Tour operators

You can get your online ticket to the one day Douro river cruise Porto – Régua (the main city in the Baixo Corgo sub region) or get your online ticket to the one day Douro river cruise Porto – Pinhão (the main city in the Cima Corgo sub region).

Prices

The prices range from 67€ to 88€ depending on the tour operator, the length of the river cruise and other factors.

The one day Douro river cruises that I just suggested cost 67€ (Porto – Régua – Porto) and 88€ (Porto – Pinhão – Porto), respectively. These prices may vary according to the season of the year.

Duration

Around 16h, but check the schedule of each tour operator of Douro river cruises.

Are there three days Douro river cruises?

I’ve been getting this question lately so I decided to update this article to include that information.
First of all, it is important to distinguish between a three days Douro river cruise and a three day tour in Douro with a river cruise. Presumably, if you choose the first option you will be on a Douro river cruise for three days, whereas on the second option, you will be in Douro Valley for three days during which you will take a short Douro river cruise, for sure like the ones I mentioned above. These are two different value propositions.
All private tours companies in Douro Valley, including myself, can arrange a short Douro river cruise as part of a day (or multi days) tour in Douro Valley.
However, I don’t personally know any company arranging three days Douro river cruise. I found one when researching online (the things I do for you!), but honestly I never worked with them, never heard of them, so I cannot vouch for them. I hope I was able to cast some light!

How to get to Douro Valley

There are train connections from Porto to the major cities in Douro Valley: Peso da Régua and Pinhão. This is the best option if you just want to do a Douro river cruise and then come back by train. You can check the schedules on CP website.
However, if you are want to combine a Douro river cruise with a visit to one of the vineyards in Douro Valley you definitely need a car.
You can also hire a private guide like myself or, worst case scenario, use taxis from one place to another – but you will end up loosing a lot of time in the process if you choose this last option!
Therefore, I recommend you to use AutoEurope to find the cheapest car rental deals.

Save this article for later:

douro river cruises
guide douro cruises boat rides

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