Visiting the Douro Valley is one of the favorite activities for tourists in Portugal. It is an easily accessible destination from Porto, which can be explored in different ways by car, boat, train, and even helicopter.
In this article, we will explain how to visit the Douro Valley by train, independently and cheaply. We will depart from Porto, where the Douro river flows and where we can find the famous port wine caves, and go upriver to explore the Douro farms and hills, where the most famous wine in Portugal is produced.
This is one of the most beautiful regions in Portugal and naturally one of the most popular destinations too. In 2001, the Alto Douro Vinhateiro was also classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to how a stunning natural landscape was worked by man, originating the iconic terraces of the Douro.
The train that takes us through the beautiful Douro Valley is called the “MiraDouro.” This offers us a magnificent journey along the Douro line, almost always parallel to the river in vintage carriages and panoramic windows, perfect for enjoying the landscape.
The Douro Line is the name of the railway line that runs from Porto-São Bento (or Campanhã) to Pocinho along the Douro River valley. Thus, this line takes us to 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
- Departs from Porto, a city whose historic center has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1996;
- It crosses the Alto Douro Vinhateiro, which, as mentioned, has been a World Heritage Site since 2001;
- It ends in Pocinho, Vila Nova de Foz Côa, where we can find the famous rock carvings of the Côa valley.
Route of the Douro line
The current route takes around 2h20 to 2h30, with five daily trains in each direction. In addition to the three UNESCO heritage sites, the Douro line passes through several points of interest, which we highlight:
This is the largest city in the region, and also the most touristy. Entirely surrounded by the terraces where Port Wine is produced, this place is impressive.
It is also worth visiting Regua to discover the Douro Museum, the riverside eco path, and the Pedestrian Bridge. There are many tours to the Port Wine production estates, with or without tasting the famous Douro nectar. It is also from Régua that many boat trips depart to cross the monumental Douro Valley wine region. So it is a good place to take a Douro boat tour.
The beautiful city of Lamego is also relatively close to the south of the Douro, but you need to go on a tour or bus to visit it.
Pinhão is the second best-known stop on the Douro line. The village is small but very well known, especially for its historic train station, with beautiful tiles inspired by the production of port wine.
In addition to the station itself, Pinhão is also the starting point for visiting some of the best-known Douro estates. It has a very pleasant riverside area for a short walk to enjoy the typical landscapes of the Alto Douro.
Pinhão is also the starting point for sightseeing on the historic Rabelos boats – the boats that formerly carried port wine from the Douro farms to the Port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Tua is the third town worth mentioning on this line of the Douro. Located at the mouth of the Tua River and the confluence of the old Tua line with the Douro line. It is a land of passage but also a great place to appreciate the natural beauty of the Douro, enhanced by the terraces built by Man.
Tua station is very beautiful with its typical architecture, but it has much to do with the stunning Pinhão station. On the other side of the station is one of the great reasons for Tua’s popularity, the restaurant Calça Curta – one of the best and most traditional restaurants in the Douro region.
If you decide to stop at Tua, don’t miss the opportunity to try river fish, deer and wild boar stews, and, of course, the lagareiro octopus.
Pocinho to Barca d’Alva
Originally the Douro Line went all the way to Barca d’Alva and later on to Spain. However, the last section of the trip between Pocinho and Barca d’Alva was deactivated in the 80s, as well as the Spanish section.
Incidentally, it is precisely in the continuation of this line between Barca d’Alva and La Fregeneda where you can currently take the “tunnels route” or “Camino de Hierro” – a well-known and spectacular hiking trail.
There is a project to reactivate the abandoned Portuguese section from Pocinho to Barca d’Alva, due to the route’s beauty and the high tourist interest in the trip, but the works have not yet started.
Why visit the Douro Valley by Train?
The Douro Valley is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal and a popular destination for foreigners and Portuguese alike. Visiting it is a pleasure in any way, but by train, it is incredibly relaxing and pleasant.
By train, we just have to buy the ticket, take the train, choose a good seat, and enjoy the view. Since we can depart from São Bento, right in the center of Porto, it is also a very simple trip to put into practice.
In addition, it is also the cheapest way to see the Douro Valley, as it is a regular train, not a tourist train, which means that the ticket is relatively cheap. From São Bento to Pocinho it’s only 13.60 Euros.
Tickets, Costs, and Schedule
The Douro line has only five daily trains, of which three depart from São Bento and two from Campanhã. Note: those departing from São Bento must pass through Campanhã before heading to the Douro Valley.
The total journey takes between 2h20 to 2h30 minutes and costs 13.60 Euros. If you buy the return ticket soon, you can enjoy a discount. See here for full prices and hours.
You can buy tickets in advance or on the same day; however, if you are traveling at the weekend or in the summer, we strongly advise you to do so in advance. You can buy online at the CP website or the ticket offices in São Bento or Campanhã.
Tip: You can also download the CP APP and buy tickets there. It’s pretty simple and very convenient.
What is it like to visit the Douro Valley by Train – MiraDouro
For most tourists, this trip starts in São Bento in the center of Porto, which is very convenient. If you want to start in Campanhã, you can get there by metro.
As mentioned above, if you are traveling in the low season, you can perfectly buy the ticket before departing as the train does not fill up and there are no reserved seats. If you are traveling in high season, buy them as far in advance as possible and try to arrive early to choose where you want to sit.
Tip: the train will always travel along the river’s north bank, so the best views are always to the south. So choose seats next to the window on the right.
After choosing a good place, just wait for the train to start and take us through the magnificent Douro Valley. However, we must clarify that the trip is not made through the Douro Valley for the first hour and until you get close to Régua.
The train initially goes through an urban area and then through a rural area, passing through Ermesinde, Penafiel, and Marco de Canaveses until it reaches the Douro, close to Régua. The good news is that from the moment we see Douro, we never leave it.
In Régua, we have the first important stop for those who want to explore the Douro region. However, if you only have one day, we suggest you continue, as we are just at the beginning. The train stops for a short time, you can’t get off and return. On the other hand, from the train, you can get a good idea of the spectacular landscape surrounding the Regua.
Following the MiraDouro, we will continue for about half an hour until we reach Pinhão, where we can see the wonderful Pinhão train station, and then another 15 to 20 minutes to Tua. After the Tua, we have another 45 minutes to reach the last station in Pocinho.
This whole region between Régua and Pocinho is lovely, and seeing it from the train is spectacular. In Pocinho you can perfectly stay there for a while and wait for a later train. If you want, there are 2 or 3 restaurants close to the station, or you can take a snack and have a picnic to enjoy the scenery.
On the way back, the train takes precisely the same route, stopping at the same places.
If you are staying for more than one day, first do the complete Douro line, and then on your way back, leave where you decide to stay. We provide some suggestions below.
Where to sleep if staying more than one day
Stay in Régua
If you have more than one day to visit the Douro Valley by train, we advise you to stay in Régua as it is the largest city and the one with the most and best options for accommodation and restaurants.
As we travel by train, it is important to choose a hotel not too far from the station. So our suggestion goes to the Hotel Régua Douro, as it is just a few meters from the station, from the center of Régua and with rooms facing the terraces of the vineyards and the Douro. It is an excellent hotel with a swimming pool and gym. See availability and prices here.
Alternatively, you can also stay in Pinhão, which is quieter and much smaller. There are far fewer options here, so booking in advance is even more important.
The best accommodation option in Pinhão is undoubtedly The Vintage House – Douro. It is right next to the station and is a luxury hotel built in an old farmhouse from the 18th century that has been completely renovated. The price is steep, but it is a spectacular hotel. See prices and availability.
If you want a more affordable option but still close to Pinhão station, we suggest Casa Seixas Baptista. It is well located and is ideal for groups of up to 6 people as it has several two bedrooms. Book here.
Douro Valley Historic Train
In this article, we explained everything you need to know to travel to the Douro Valley by train, using the InterRegional train, which runs daily. This train is known as the MiraDouro.
We should not confuse the MiraDouro with the Douro Historical Train. The Historic Train is a tourist train that only travels during the summer and high season. The season, prices, and trips are updated every year.
In addition, it has completely different prices and offers incomparable services such as a music group, port wine tastings, and even samples of regional products.
In addition, the historic train departs from Régua, stops in Pinhão, and ends in Tua. It’s a much shorter journey but a memorable experience, especially for those who love trains and train travel.
So, if you want to take this train, you can simply take the train to Régua and take the historic train there. Don’t forget to book everything well in advance. See the CP website for more information, as this changes annually.