Portugal // Porto and the Rio Douro //

The Linha do Douro – Portugal’s best train ride

A true engineering marvel when it opened in 1887, the Linha do Douro (Douro Line) still thrills passengers today. In its heyday it crossed the border to Spain (for a through service to Salamanca and Madrid) and sprouted some stunning valley branch lines, but even though the branch lines are no more, it’s still some ride – 160km of river-hugging track from Porto to Pocinho, via more than 20 tunnels, 30 bridges and 34 stations.

There are regular daily departures from Porto (São Bento and Campanhã) and you change on to the smaller Douro Line trains at Peso da Régua (just “Régua” on timetables). Régua also marks the point at which the Douro Line turns from a good route into a great one, sticking closely to the river from then on, clinging to the precipitous rocks as the river – and track – passes through the Douro gorge. Some of the stations are no more than a shelter on a platform, used by the local wine quintas, though there are useful stops at Pinhão (a pretty port-producing town), Tua (a cruise halt with a good restaurant) and finally Pocinho (for Vila Nova de Foz Câo and its rock art).

Currently five trains a day run from Porto to Pocinho at the end of the line (around 3hr 30min; €13 each way), so you can make the return trip in a day if you take a morning train: there are also summer weekend steam-train services between Régua and Tua. For timetables, see wcp.pt or call t808 208 208 (local-rate call in Portugal) or t707 201 280.

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