Top tip: Watch the sand on the sardines
Portugal is situated on the Iberian Peninsula in southwest Europe. It shares a border with Spain to the north and east, and is otherwise surrounded by Atlantic Ocean all along its 800km (500-mile) coastline. Portuguese territory includes the islands of the Azores and Madeira, the former lying around 1,100km (700 miles) west of Lisbon, and the latter situated just north of the Canary Islands and to the west of Morocco.
Outside the major cities, the landscape is more rural and sparsely populated than in many other European countries. Portugal is crossed by several rivers which originate in Spain, flowing west towards the Atlantic, the main rivers being the Minho, Douro, Tagus and Guadiana.
The landscape includes a high plain of intersected by deep valleys. The north of the country is rugged, mountainous and dotted with vineyards. The high northern point of the Serra da Estrela is a popular ski destination, while Serra de São Mamede further south on the Spanish border is a favourite among hikers.
The wide plains of the Alentejo region stretch to the south of Lisbon, and are divided from the Algarve by a range of mountains. The Algarve’s wide sandy beaches and pretty inlets run along the south coast.
Unsurprisingly, given how close it is to northern Africa, Portugal is one of Europe’s warmest countries with average temperatures of 15°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south, while the Azores has more rainfall and Madeira is even hotter, away from the coast. It can become rainy and windy during autumn and winter, but spring and summer see temperatures soar as high as 40°C (104°F) inland. The northwest enjoys mild winters with plenty of rainfall, and fairly short summers. The northeast experiences longer winters and hot summers. In the south, summers are hot and consistently sunny except in early spring and autumn. Snow will fall in the north, but melts quickly.
Facts and Figures
|Area||92,345 sq km (35,655 sq miles).|
|Capital||Lisbon – population 564,657 (2002).|
|Language||Portuguese. English is widely spoken within the business community.|
|Time||GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).|
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