Introduction to Portugal
Portugal’s endless sunshine and 850 kilometre-long Atlantic Ocean coastline makes it a popular year-round tourist destination. Located at the southwest point of Europe and bordering Spain to the north and east, it also happens to be the world’s largest producer of cork, boasts the longest bridge in Europe - the Vasco da Gama Bridge - and is the birthplace of football sensation Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portugal has a population of roughly 10 million people with the majority of people living in coastal areas. One-fifth of the country’s population live in the vibrant capital, Lisbon, but the most popular coastal area for tourists is the Algarve in the south. Here, calm waters, enclosed bays and jagged cliffs are complemented by historic and lively resort towns making for a joyous and relaxed atmosphere.
Around Porto and the Beira region in the north, the temperatures are cooler especially in the Serra da Estrela mountains where snow falls during winter. Further inland features areas like historic and hilly Trás-os-Montes to the northeast as well as Alentejo further to the south, where plains great for hiking and cycling extend as far as the eye can see and eventually lead you to sheltered coves with ideal surfing conditions.
The Kingdom of Portugal was formed by Christian nations in 1139, although the area’s history dates back to Celtic times and well before that it was part of the Roman Empire from 45 BC to 298 AD. Portugal was a major world power in the 14th century until the early 1900s with explorers like Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan helping shape the kingdom into a colonial empire encompassing parts of Africa, America and the Far East. Its reach is still noticeable in these areas today and over 250 million people worldwide use Portuguese as their native tongue.