The best independent guide to the Douro
The best independent guide to the Douro
The Douro Valley conceals some of the most beautiful natural scenery of northern Portugal, which is formed of terraced vineyards and steep valleys. Snaking along the meandering river, for much of the route is the scenic the Linha do Douro Railway.
This railway connects Porto with the Pocinho, high up in the Alto Douro, and the later sections of the route are considered as one of the most picturesque railways in Europe.
This guide will provide an overview of the Linha do Douro train service, different suggested tours and details of the towns that can be visited along the route.
Related articles: Douro by car - Porto day trips - Introduction to Porto
The Linha do Douro railway as it follows the river upstream
The main advantage of the Linha do Douro is that more of this stunning region can be visited than seen by a cruise boat. The train connects Porto with the small village of Pocinho, whereas the 1-day river cruises from Porto only travel to Pinhão, much further downstream.
The Douro river between Pinhão and Pocinho is the most scenic section and can only be seen via car, train or boat cruise that starts in Pinhão. The train also allows for greater flexibility and time to explore the different towns along the route.
The pretty town of Pinhão on the banks of the Douro
The Porto to Pocinho train departs from Sao Bento train station in central Porto and a single ticket to Pocinho costs €13.55.
The train journey takes around three and a half hours, but there are multiple trains with different connections, our suggested routes are detailed in the following section.
The latest timetable can be viewed on the CP (Comboios de Portugal) website:
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The first hour of the journey is through non-descript residential areas and bland countryside but after the town of Peso da Régua the railway starts to follow the river.
The final section between Pinhão and Pocinho could be considered one of the most beautiful train lines in Europe, with stunning views of the Douro River and the terraced vineyards that climb the sides of the steep hills.
There are multiple options for a day trip along the Linha do Douro and this section will detail some of the feasible choices. Please note these were correct in July 2020 and are based upon the timetable detailed above; always check train times and boat cruises are seasonal dependant and should be pre booked.
Note: At Pinhão and Régua short 1hour cruises can be caught
Pinhão train station and the hills of the Douro region
Option 1 - Direct train to Pocinho. The 9:20 train, which departs from Sao Bento, is the only daily direct service to Pocinho. This is a great service as there are no connections and arrives in Pocinho at 12:38. The return train is at 13:08 or 17:14.
Note: Pocinho is a very small village and can be easily seen within 30 minutes.
Option 2 - Train to Pinhão and River Cruise to Tua. This option combines the train with a boat cruise along the most beautiful stretch of the river to the Confluence of the Tua River with the Douro. Try to catch the earliest train as the boat cruises depart at 10:30 or around 14:00-15:00. The stretch of river between Pinhão and Tua is wonderful and is much better experienced on a boat than train.
Option 3 - Train to Pinhão and visit the Museu do Douro in Regua. For this trip catch the direct 9:20 train to Pinhão (11:38), explore Pinhão for a couple of hours and then catch the train to Régua. In Peso da Régua you can visit the informative Museu do Douro, which details the history and traditions of the region.
Pocinho - end of the line....
Peso da Régua is a major centre for Porto production and sits on the banks of the Douro River. The town is a popular departure location for Douro boat tours and is the location of the excellent Museu do Douro. Peso da Régua has a pretty waterfront, but Pinhão, (the next town along the river) is much more charming.
Pinhão is the quintessential Douro valley town. This delightful town is surrounded by hills lined with vineyard terraces and sits on a major bend in the river. From the charming waterfront, there are boat tours and the town has a much more relaxed atmosphere than Peso da Régua.
While stopped at the station do look at the azulejos (blue and white painted tiles) that depict traditional scenes of vine growing within the Douro.
Tua is a small village in the upper Douro. This is a quiet and tranquil area, (once away from the train station complex), which is popular for hiking. There is a scenic riverside walk which leads to the newly constructed dam and the Tua reservoir.
The construction of the dam submerged the Tua to Mirandela railway, which was once regarded as one of the most scenic lines in Europe. The history of this railway can be seen in the museum in Tua train station.
The Linha do Douro terminates in the tiny village of Pocinho, and it has the atmosphere of being at the end of the line. There is a semi-industrial feel with the numerous power lines leading from the dam, and an abandoned railway bridge crossing the Douro, which was part of the defunct Linha do Sabor, a narrow-gauge railway that connected to the Miranda do Douro.
Pocinho lies within the parched and hot region of the upper Douro, where summer temperatures regular exceed 40C, and is often referred to as the Terra Quente (hot earth). For the day trip, there is not really much to see in Pocinho, the main draw is just to complete the scenic rail journey and then catch the return train.
4km south of Pocinho is the Vale do Côa, famed for its prehistoric rock art (22,000 to 10,000 years ago). Tours of the Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa must be pre-booked, but there is an informative museum on the edge of the site.
Advice: To explore the upper Douro a car is really needed.