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Best Time to Take a Douro River Cruise (Portugal & Spain)

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At a Glance:
  • Busy season: June-October
  • Shoulder season: March-May, November
  • Avoid: January-February
Considered one of the most untamed rivers of Europe, the Douro, stretching from the Atlantic Coast of Portugal into the Iberian heart of Spain, enjoys a longer cruising season than most European rivers due to its relatively southern location on the continent. More months of warm weather and milder winters allow Douro River cruise operators to start in March and run cruises through late November. In fact, though there is no official Christmas market season on the Douro River, a growing number of Douro River cruise lines are offering itineraries into December as well. 

The busiest season for Douro River cruises runs from June through October. Warm and sunny summer temperatures define the months of June and July, reaching seasonal highs in August. Keep an eye out for deals in mid-July to August, when travelers might be avoiding the extreme heat of the Spanish summer. September and October have cooler autumn temperatures with nice breezes.

If you’re hoping to snag a deal, consider traveling during the shoulder months from March-May. Right at the start of the Douro River cruising season, you can expect cooler, rainier temperatures, but for an affordable cruise on one of Europe’s up and coming river destinations, don’t let the rains dampen your experience!

What about high water? 
Veteran river cruisers might be wary of planning a cruise in the spring months where you can get some excellent discounts. On the other hand, you run the risk of a modified itinerary because your riverboat may not be able to get under a low bridge due to the high water caused by snow melt and rains. Fortunately, the Douro River has a very low risk of high water cruise delays and actually offers a great alternative for travelers hoping to visit Europe on a river cruise during the spring. 

You won’t find any cruises that travel in January or February because this is the European winter and the off-season for river cruising in Europe, when temperatures are cold and most tourism is at its annual low.

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