The Douro Valley

The Douro (Portuguese: Douro; Spanish: Duero; Latin: Durius) is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, flowing from its source near Duruelo de la Sierra in Soria Province across northern-central Spain and Portugal to its outlet at Porto.


The name, Latinized Durius, may have come from the Celtic tribes that inhabited the area before Roman times: the Celtic root is dubro- and in modern Welsh dŵr is “water” with cognate dobhar in Irish.  In Roman times, the river was personified as a god, Durius.

The Douro vinhateiro, an area of the Douro Valley in Portugal, has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  Traditionally, the wine was taken down river in flat-bottom boats called rabelos to be stored in barrels in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto.  In the 1950s and 1960s, dams were built along the river ending this river traffic on Spanish and border sections. Now Port wine is transported in tanker trucks.


It is the third longest river in the Iberian Peninsula after the Tagus and Ebro; its total length is 897 kilometres (557 mi), of which only sections of the Portuguese extension are navigable, by light rivercraft.

In its Spanish section, the Douro crosses the great Castilian meseta and meanders through five provinces of the autonomous community of Castile and León: Soria, Burgos, Valladolid, Zamora, and Salamanca, passing through the towns of Soria, Almazán, Aranda de Duero, Tordesillas, and Zamora.

Then, for 112 kilometres (70 mi), the river forms part of the national border line between Spain and Portugal, in a region of narrow canyons, making it a historical barrier for invasions and a cultural/linguistic divide.


These reaches of the Douro have a microclimate allowing for cultivation of olives, almonds, and especially grapes that are important for making the famous Port wine. The region around Pinhão and São João da Pesqueira is considered to be the centre of Port wine, with its quintas that extend the almost vertical slopes along the river valleys.  Many of these quintas are owned by multinational wine companies.

Recently, a prosperous tourist industry has developed based on river excursions from Porto to points along the Upper Douro valley.

The Douro railway line was completed in 1887; it connects Porto and suburbs to, Régua, Tua and Pocinho.  Pocinho is near the city of Foz Côa, which is close to Côa Valley Paleolithic Art site, another UNESCO Heritage Sight.



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