With its mild climate, 3000 hours of sunshine per year and 850 kms of splendid beaches bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is the perfect holiday destination all year round.
This is a country that has the oldest borders in Europe, with an exceptional range of different landscapes just a short distance away, lots of leisure activities and a unique cultural heritage, where tradition and modernity blend together in perfect harmony. Its superb cuisine, fine wines and hospitable people make this a tourist paradise of the highest quality.
Situated in the extreme south-west of Europe, just a few hours from any of the other European capitals, Portugal attracts visitors from all over the world.
Come and discover the charms of this country too.
Portugal is situated at the south-west point of Europe and also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Mainland Portugal occupies an area of 88,889 km2. It is 218 km wide and 561 km long. It has 832 km of Atlantic coast and a 1,215 km border with Spain.
The Azores are situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. They have an area of 2,355 km2 and consist of nine islands - São Miguel and Santa Maria in the Eastern Group, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the Central Group and Flores and Corvo in the Western Group. It takes about two hours to get from the Azores to mainland Portugal by plane.
The Madeira Archipelago has an area of 741 km2 and lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 km from the African coast and 1,000 km from the European continent (1½ hours flying time from Lisbon). It consists of the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens islands, which are nature reserves.
The climate in Portugal varies considerably from one region to another and is influenced by the relief, latitude and proximity to the sea, which offers mild winters, especially in the Algarve.
In the Porto e Norte area and Beiras region, particularly inland, nearer Spain, the winters are colder, although the temperatures are still mild when compared to the rest of Europe. There is some snowfall. It occurs most in the Serra da Estrela mountains, where we find the highest point in mainland Portugal (1,991 m) and where it is sometimes possible to ski.
The summers are hot and dry, especially in the inland areas (Trás-os-Montes in north-eastern Portugal and Alentejo). Temperatures are slightly lower in the coastal areas, because of the influence of the sea.
There are often warm, sunny days in autumn. Nice weather at the beginning of November is often called "St. Martin’s Summer" as this saint’s day is on 11 November.
The climate in the Azores is influenced by the islands’ latitude and by the Gulf Stream, and temperatures are mild there all year round. The same factors also influence the sea temperature, which is very pleasant both in winter and summer and ideal for nautical sports all year round.
The subtropical characteristics of the weather in the Madeira Archipelago can be explained by its geographical position and mountainous relief. The climate in Madeira is exceptionally mild, with average temperatures varying between 24 ºC in summer and 19 ºC in winter.
The sea temperature is also very pleasant all year round, thanks to the influence of the warm Gulf Stream. It varies between 18 ºC in winter and 22 ºC in summer.
Portugal has a population of about 10 million.
The population density is at its greatest in Lisbon, the capital and its suburbs, where about 1.9 million people live. The second largest city in Portugal is Oporto in the north.
Generally speaking, there are more people living in the country’s coastal regions than in the inland areas.
The majority of Portuguese are Catholics, but the Portuguese Constitution guarantees religious freedom and there are a number of different religions in Portugal.
From a Latin root, Portuguese is spoken by about 250 million people in every continent, and is the 5th most spoken language in the world and the 3rd, if we only consider the European languages.
The Portuguese-speaking countries are scattered all over the world. Portuguese is spoken in Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé e Príncipe), in South America (Brazil) and in Asia, (East Timor, the youngest nation in the world), and it is also the official language in Macao Special Administrative Region of China.
In Portugal there are lots of people who are able to communicate in English, French and Spanish.
TAKE A LITTLE OF PORTUGAL
When we make a trip or discover a new place, we like to take a souvenir home or take the opportunity to buy some gifts. We usually look for objects or products that are representative of the country and its culture, which are unique.
Here are a few ideas of what is produced in Portugal and that you can take home.
A bottle of wine is always appreciated, whether it’s the classic Port or Madeira fortified wines or a good reserve or table wine from one of the demarcated wine regions. After all, Portugal is the 11th wine-producing country in the world and the 10th for exports.
Wine can be purchased at a wine shop for more specialised and personal advice, but you will find a good range in any supermarket. If you are in doubt and because the choice is so vast, it is always useful to consult Wines of Portugal, which has shops at the major airports.
Cork is one of the country’s most characteristic natural products. Portugal is the world's foremost manufacturer of cork and accounts for 53% of world production. Besides this, the area of cork oak plantations corresponds to 25% of its distribution worldwide.
Although cork stoppers are the most familiar object, many other things are made of cork, particularly in the areas where it is produced such as the Alentejo, where 72% of total production is concentrated. Cork fabric was recently created, and you can find many objects, accessories, shoes and clothes made with this material, which has some greatly appreciated properties, such as the fact that it is sturdy, versatile, recyclable, hypoallergenic and has thermal qualities.
Textiles and Fashion
The textile industry is one of the most representative in the Portuguese economy, accounting for 10% of exports.
The fabrics are recognised for their quality, and are the choice for many brands worldwide, both for clothing or household items. Portuguese designers like Ana Salazar, Fátima Lopes, the duo Manuel Alves/José Gonçalves, José António Tenente, Filipe Fapisca and Storytailors, among others, are internationally recognised references in fashion and design.
Shoes are another very significant sector in the Portuguese economy. Several Portuguese brands of shoes are internationally renowned for their quality and design. About 90% of production is destined for export.
The most internationally known brands are: Fly London, Camport, Eject, Exceed, Hard Hearted Harlot Shoes, Mackjames, Prophecy, Softwaves (GoAir, Go Green), Luís Onofre, Paulo Brandão, Miguel Vieira and Carlos Santos. The latter are recognised in the luxury segment.
Some products that are part of the Portuguese cuisine are also great ideas for small gifts or just to take home the flavour of Portugal with you.
Olive groves predominate in the south, in the northeast of Portugal and inland in the centre of Portugal, and Portuguese olive oil has qualities that are recognised worldwide, with prizes won in European organic farming. Olives are constantly used in Portuguese cuisine and highly appreciated as an aperitif, usually served as part of the cover charge in restaurants.
Fishing and the fish canning industry is one of Portugal’s main businesses, amongst the more traditional ones. Recently, there has been a strong focus on the revitalisation of Portuguese brands of canned fish, whose quality is appreciated worldwide.
Cheeses, jams and convent sweets and dried fruits like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, figs, raisins and chestnuts are also worth mentioning.