Portugal has a great many enchanting tourist destinations. Situated at the western end of Europe, Portugal lies between Spain to the north and east and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west, and comprises also also the 9 Azores islands and the 4 Madeira isles, 500km off the Morocco coast.

In short

Area: 92,391 km² -- Population: about 10 million -- Density: 112 per km² -- Government: republic -- Capital: Lisbon -- Language: Portuguese -- Religion: the majority of the population are Catholic -- Currency: Euro -- Telephone code: +351 -- International car plate: P -- Internet suffix: PT -- Member of: the UNO since 1955, the EU since 1986


Administrative Division

Portugal is divided into 18 distritos: Lisbona (Lisboa), Leiria, Santarém, Setúbal, Beja, Faro, Évora, Portalegre, Castelo Branco, Guarda, Coimbra, Aveiro, Viseu, Bragança, Vila Real, Oporto (Porto), Braga, Viana do Castelo, and the 2 autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira isles.

The Territory

From the mountains of the Serra da Estrela (max. altitude 1991 m a.s.l.) the terrain gradually descends with gentle hills to the south. Almost half of the territory is occupied by the central plains, the largest being the Alentejo Plain, South of the Tago river - Portugal has over 850km coastline, mostly low, interrupted by the estuaries of the rivers.

Cities and places of interest

Lisbon, the capital, rising on 7 hills along the banks of Tago river, an ancient city founded by the Phoenicians, then a Roman and later an Arabic colony. In the city is the enchanting National Azulejo museum, which documents the history of the typical azure majolica tiles covering palaces and churches all over the country.

Porto, the second largest town with a population of over 300000 inhabitants, founded in Roman times as Portus Cali, on the estuary of the Douro river, from which the name Portugal is derived. Fatima, 140km from Lisbon, among the main pilgrimage destinations in Europe, where in May 1917 the Virgin of the Rosary appeared to three young children. Coimbra, a Roman town on the Mondego river and the Portuguese capital until 1245, famous for its university founded in 1290, whose entrance is the "Iron Door" and the Main Hall covered with 15 000 volumes. The professors still wear on official celebrations typical orange head covers and mantles.

The Serra de Arrabida National Park, covering over 10 000 hectares of green forests rich of wildlife, and hosting the largest community of storks in Europe. Inside the park is a 15th century monastery of Capuchin Friars.

The amazing Madeira Islands, with the town of Funchal

The Economy

Agriculture is still an important resource, with the main cultivation being Vineyards, producing famous wines as porto, moscato and Madeira wines, fruit and cork. Another important resource is fishing, especially of anchovies, tuna and cod. Portuguese cooking offers a great variety of fish cources, as the "caldeirada de peixes" (a fish soup), the "bacalhan con todos" (cod with a variety of vegetables), grilled anchovies, the Douro salmon, lobsters and crabs. Portuguese typical crafts include the embroideries of Guimaràes and Penich lace, leather accessories and footwear

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores * Convent of Christ in Tomar * Monastery of Batalha * Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon * Historic Centre of Évora * Monastery of Alcobaça * Cultural Landscape of Sintra * Historic Centre of Oporto * Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Côa Valley * Laurisilva of Madeira * Alto Douro Wine Region * Historic Centre of Guimarães * Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture.