David Hayford-Hobbs, senior travel consultant at our Christchurch travel agents, reports back from a tour along the Douro Valley with Riviera Travel that’s aimed at solo travellers. Having visited many of the fantastic towns and cities in the region, he has plenty to tell about his enjoyable trip.
Destination: The Douro Valley
Operator/Host: Riviera Travel
(Hotel names/Ship name): The Douro Palace Hotel and Spa, Tivoli Coimbra Hotel and Olissippo Oriente Hotel
Duration: 8 days
The flight was from Gatwick for half the Group and the other half flew from Luton. Both flights were to Oporto and they arrived within 10 minutes of each other. Both groups were satisfied with the flights, commenting that they were very smooth, staff were pleasant and as the flights were quick and enjoyable (just 2 hours 10 minutes).
The Douro Palace Hotel and Spa
This is an excellent hotel overlooking the River Douro, set up a hill and quite away from anything in the vicinity. It’s reached by a very steep road and has beautiful gardens and wonderful views.
All the rooms have a view over the Douro, although some are slightly obstructed by the walls of the hotel gardens. When we were there, the pool and spa were being refurbished. However,looking at them, we could see that the potential was going to be fantastic when they opened in mid-June.
The food was excellent. There was a choice of menu and excellent bar facilities, again, with views of the river.
Tivoli Coimbra Hotel
This is a good, centrally located hotel in Coimbra within easy walking distance of the town, numerous restaurants and bars. The rooms are well-appointed and spacious, whilst the food was excellent and suited all tastes.
It’s a busy hotel with buffet-style breakfast, but still a good option.
Olissippo Oriente Hotel
This is a very central hotel in Lisbon, approximately 10 minutes from the airport. The rooms were excellent; large with all the facilities one would expect from a large chain hotel. The staff were most helpful; my safe didn't work, so they came to my room to fix it within five minutes, and had it working within two.
The food was excellent and the hotel is within five minutes of other dining venues and bars, so there’s a huge choice of eating establishments.
All the hotels used by Riviera were of a very high standard on this tour and I would highly recommend them to solo travellers.
What Was Included?
This was the first Riviera ground tour exclusively for Solo Travelers and our group was used as guinea pigs. It included a short trip on the River Douro and then on to Lamego, a hillside village with a beautiful church.
We also had an excursion to the fishing village of Aveiro, set on the coastal lagoon and then on to Coimbra,once the medieval capital of Portugal. We also visited Nazare, a very busy tourist town where the biggest waves can be seen (70 foot).
These are all optional excursions and will be offered to anyone who undertakes this tour. Not all excursions would be suitable for those with walking or mobility problems, but the hotels do offer a range of short tours that can be booked with the front desk if you would prefer a shorter tour.
My favourite part was simply enjoying the sights and sounds of the River Douro Valley. The scenery is incredible scenery. The town of Aveiro, with is 'Moliceiro' boat ride (a colourfull gondola -like boat), was another highlight. We enjoyed a port tasting session here at Port lodge of Taylors, learning about the history of the famous fortified wine.
It was also great to see the town of Nazare where some of the biggest waves in the world crash onto the shore. Some daredevil surfers come from all over the world to ride the ‘Big One’.
I would highly recommend this trip to anyone wanting to see Porto and the surrounding area on their own. There’s fantastic scenery and beautiful cities and towns that give a pleasant and enjoyable taste of Portugal.
Must see? The whole of the Douro Valley and cruise on the river
Must do? Visit Nazare and ride the cable car for the best views ever
Must try? The many, many ports
If you would like to learn more about David’s trip or any of our other holidays for solo travellers, drop by your local branch. We have travel agents in Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich, Bury St. Edmunds, Felixstowe and all along the South Coast.