PORTUGAL

Date of establishment: June 24, 1128

Brief history:

868: Foundation of the County of Portucale, a territory in present-day Portugal, marking an early stage in the formation of Portugal.

1096: Henry of Burgundy was granted the County of Portucale by Alfonso VI of León and Castile after marrying Teresa of León, making Portugal part of the Leonese realm.

1128: The Battle of São Mamede took place, where Afonso I of Portugal (Afonso Henriques) defeated the forces of his mother, Teresa of León, and declared himself an independent ruler, marking the beginning of the Portuguese state.

1139: Afonso Henriques declared himself King of Portugal, and in 1143, the Treaty of Zamora recognized Portuguese independence from the Kingdom of León.

1290: The University of Coimbra was founded, one of the oldest universities in Europe, reflecting the development of Portuguese education and culture.

1385: In the Battle of Aljubarrota, Portuguese forces led by King John I of the House of Aviz defeated the Castilian army, securing Portugal’s independence and consolidating the power of the House of Aviz.

1415: Portuguese King John I, with his son Prince Henry the Navigator, conquered Ceuta in Morocco, initiating the Portuguese Age of Discoveries and colonial expansion.

1498: Vasco da Gama reached India by sea, establishing a maritime route that laid the foundations for the Portuguese empire in Asia.

1580: After the death of King Sebastian I, Portugal faced a dynastic crisis leading to the Iberian Union with Spain, where the Spanish Habsburgs ruled Portugal until 1640.

1640: The Portuguese Restoration War ended the Iberian Union, and the House of Braganza ascended to the throne, restoring Portuguese independence.

1755: A massive earthquake in Lisbon caused significant damage and led to extensive rebuilding efforts, notably under the direction of the Marquis of Pombal.

1807-1811: During the Peninsular War, French forces invaded Portugal, leading the Portuguese royal family to flee to Brazil. Rio de Janeiro became the temporary capital of the Portuguese Empire.

1820: The Liberal Revolution in Portugal resulted in the king’s return from Brazil and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.

1822: Brazil declared its independence from Portugal, significantly impacting the Portuguese Empire.

1910: The Portuguese revolution overthrew the monarchy and established the First Portuguese Republic.

1932-1968: The dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar, known as Estado Novo, governed Portugal with an authoritarian regime.

1974: The Carnation Revolution, a nearly bloodless coup, ended the Estado Novo dictatorship and led to the establishment of a democratic government.

1986: Portugal joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union), marking a significant step in its economic and political integration with Europe.

 

International abbreviation: P

 

Currency: Euro (EUR)

Portugal adopted the euro as its official currency on January 1, 1999, becoming part of the Eurozone.

 

Internet domain: .pt

 

Dialing code: +351

 

Time zone: GMT+0

 

Geography:

Portugal is a coastal state in southwestern Europe, situated on the western end of the Iberian Peninsula, and it borders the Atlantic Ocean.

The country features diverse geographical landscapes. The northern region is characterized by mountainous terrain and includes the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal. The central part of Portugal is also mountainous, with notable ranges such as the Serra do Caramulo and Serra da Lousã. The Minho region in the northwest is known for its fertile agricultural land, producing wine, fruits, and vegetables.

In the southern part of the country, the terrain becomes flatter and includes the Alentejo and the Algarve regions. The Algarve is famous for its stunning coastline with beautiful beaches, cliffs, and caves.

Portugal also possesses two autonomous archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean: Madeira and the Azores. Madeira is known for its lush landscapes, mild climate, and the capital city, Funchal. The Azores consist of nine volcanic islands renowned for their stunning natural beauty, geothermal activity, and unique biodiversity.

Portugal’s only land neighbor is Spain, with which it shares a long eastern and northern border. The western and southern boundaries of Portugal are defined by the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Highest peak: Ponta de Pico, 2 351 meters (7 713 feet) above sea level.

Pico is of volcanic origin and located on the island of Pico, part of the Azores archipelago. This peak reaches a height of 2 351 meters (7 713 feet) above sea level, making it the highest point in Portugal.

 

Climate:

The mainland of Portugal has a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Summers are typically very hot in the southern regions and inland areas, with average highs reaching around 28-35°C (82-95°F) and sometimes even higher. Coastal regions, especially in the north and near Lisbon, experience milder summer temperatures due to the Atlantic Ocean’s cooling influence.

The northern part of Portugal, including cities like Porto, experiences slightly cooler temperatures with more rainfall compared to the south. Summers are still warm, but not as hot as in the southern regions. Winters in the north are mild, with average lows around 5-10°C (41-50°F), and are wetter compared to the rest of the country.

Winters across mainland Portugal are generally mild and wet, with average lows around 8-12°C (46-54°F) in the central and southern regions. Rainfall is concentrated mainly in the autumn and winter months, with the summer months being typically dry and sunny. The amount of rainfall varies significantly, with the north receiving more.

The Azores Islands and Madeira have a subtropical oceanic climate. The Azores experience mild temperatures year-round, with average highs ranging from 17-25°C (63-77°F) and moderate rainfall distributed throughout the year. Madeira enjoys a similarly mild climate with slightly warmer temperatures, especially in summer, and less rainfall compared to the Azores.

 

Fauna and flora:

Portugal has a diverse range of plants and vegetation. Mediterranean climate regions, such as the southern part of the country, are characterized by evergreen shrubs like laurel, rosemary, thyme, and juniper. Coastal areas have maritime vegetation, including dune grasses, and pine forests, particularly the maritime pine and stone pine.

The flora on the Azores Islands and Madeira is quite different due to their oceanic climate. The Azores have lush vegetation with numerous endemic species, including the Azorean laurel forest with tall trees and various species of ferns and mosses. Madeira is known for its Laurisilva forest, a type of subtropical rainforest rich in laurel trees, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As for fauna, Portugal is home to a variety of animals, ranging from smaller creatures to large mammals and marine life. Common animals include hedgehogs, foxes, lizards, snakes, rabbits, and deer. Different species of birds, such as geese, herons, ducks, and birds of prey, can be found near waterways and lakes.

The Azores host a wide range of marine wildlife, including various species of dolphins, whales, and fish, making it a popular area for marine wildlife observation. The waters around the archipelago are particularly known for whale watching.

Portugal is also home to several endangered species, including the Iberian lynx, Iberian wolf, and the critically endangered Iberian imperial eagle. Conservation efforts are in place to protect these species and their natural habitats. Additionally, the country’s national parks and protected areas play a crucial role in preserving biodiversity.

 

Agriculture:

Portugal cultivates olives, grapes, cereals (especially wheat, corn, and barley), tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, and peppers. The country is renowned for its wine production, particularly Port wine from the Douro Valley region, as well as Vinho Verde from the Minho region and Madeira wine from the island of Madeira.

Olive groves are widespread, mainly in southern Portugal, especially in the Alentejo region. Olives are used for olive oil production, which is an essential part of Portuguese cuisine and is also exported to other countries.

The main livestock breeding sectors are sheep, goats, cattle, and poultry. Sheep and goat farming are prevalent in mountainous areas, especially in the north of the country, while cattle farming is significant in the Alentejo region. Poultry farming is also widespread, contributing to both domestic consumption and export markets.

 

Natural resources extraction:

Portugal lacks significant reserves of oil, gas, or large coal deposits. Small amounts of tin and tungsten are mined in the Beira region in the north. The country also extracts copper and zinc, primarily from the Neves-Corvo mine in the Alentejo region. Other resources include marble, especially from the Estremoz region, as well as limestone and granite.

Resource extraction is not a major source of income for Portugal, which relies more on industries such as agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing.

 

Industry:

Traditionally, the textiles industry is well known in Portugal, producing clothing, footwear, bed linen, and other textile products. Cities like Guimarães and Braga are known as centers of textiles production.

The automotive industry is also essential, with factories producing automobiles, components, and parts. Major companies, such as Volkswagen’s Autoeuropa plant, play a significant role in this sector.

Another significant industry is the electrical and electronics sector, focusing on the production of electronics, electrical appliances, components, and other electrical products. This sector emphasizes innovation and modern technology.

The chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries are also significant in Portugal. These industries produce a wide range of products, including pharmaceuticals, plastics, and other chemical substances. Major companies in these sectors contribute significantly to exports and employment.

Construction and the woodworking industry are other key sectors, with a focus on furniture and wooden products manufacturing. Portugal is known for its high-quality cork production, particularly in the Alentejo region, where cork oak trees are cultivated extensively.

Additionally, Portugal has a growing renewable energy sector, particularly in wind and solar power, which is contributing to the country’s efforts to diversify its energy sources and promote sustainability.

 

Services and other areas of the economy: Services, banking, tourism, and transportation.

 

Natural and historical attractions:

Portugal offers a wealth of natural and historical attractions across its diverse regions. Notable cities include Braga, Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra, Guimarães, and Porto. Each city boasts unique historical and cultural landmarks.

Porto, the second-largest city in the country, is a popular tourist destination known for its port wine cellars, picturesque streets, the Dom Luís I Bridge, and beautiful views of the Douro River.

In southern Portugal, the Algarve attracts visitors with its stunning beaches, warm seas, and excellent conditions for water sports and golf.

Historic cities like Évora, Sintra, and Coimbra offer a rich history, landmarks, and beautiful architecture. Évora is famous for its well-preserved Roman Temple and medieval walls. Sintra is renowned for its romantic 19th-century architecture, including the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, the University of Coimbra, with its stunning Joanina Library.

Lisbon, the capital, features landmarks such as the Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries), St. George’s Castle, and the vibrant Alfama district.

Other significant historical sites include the Batalha Monastery, the Convent of Christ in Tomar, and the Alcobaça Monastery, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Natural attractions include the Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest mountain range, and the Alto Douro Wine Region, known for its terraced vineyards. The Ria Formosa National Park in the Algarve is a coastal lagoon with diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes, perfect for nature lovers.

 

 

System of government: Semi-presidential republic

Portugal is a semi-presidential republic, combining elements of both parliamentary and presidential democracy.

The president of Portugal, who has relatively strong powers compared to a traditional parliamentary republic, is directly elected by the citizens for a five-year term. The president’s role goes beyond ceremonial duties, including the appointment of the prime minister, who must then be approved by the Assembly of the Republic. The president also has the power to dissolve the parliament and call new elections, as well as to veto legislation, although this can be overridden by parliament.

The government, headed by the prime minister, is responsible for the country’s day-to-day administration and policy implementation. The prime minister selects cabinet ministers who oversee various government departments.

The Portuguese parliament, known as the Assembly of the Republic, is unicameral and consists of 230 deputies elected for four-year terms. This body has the power to create laws, approve budgets, and oversee the government. Portugal does not have a Senate.

The judicial system in Portugal is independent of the executive and legislative branches. The highest court is the Constitutional Court, which oversees the constitutionality of laws. Other key judicial bodies include the Supreme Court of Justice, which is the highest court for civil and criminal matters, and the Supreme Administrative Court, which handles administrative and fiscal disputes.

 

Capital city: Lisbon

Lisbon is located on the western coast of Portugal, on the northern bank of the Tagus. The city has a long history, dating back to the pre-Roman era. Throughout its existence, Lisbon has experienced various historical events, such as periods of Arab rule, crusader conquest, colonial expansion, and the devastating earthquake of 1755.

Lisbon is known for its beautiful historic neighborhoods, narrow medieval streets, magnificent churches, and monuments that reflect its rich history and culture. Prominent landmarks include the Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery, Padrão dos Descobrimentos (the Monument of the Discoveries), St. George’s Castle, and many others.

The city has a population of about 546 000.

 

Area: 92 090 km2 (35 560 square miles)

 

Population: 10 467 000 (2022 estimate)

Most of the population resides in the coastal regions and large cities such as Lisbon, Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Amadora, and Braga.

Portugal is a relatively homogeneous country ethnically, with the majority of the population identifying as ethnically Portuguese. However, Portuguese society is generally open and tolerant toward immigrants, contributing to the diversity of its population. Significant communities of immigrants come from former Portuguese colonies such as Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau, as well as from other countries.

Portuguese is the only official language. Over 95% of the population is of Portuguese nationality.

Religiously, Portugal is predominantly Roman Catholic, with about 81% of the population identifying as such. There are also small communities of Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, reflecting the country’s historical and modern diversity. Additionally, there is a growing number of people who identify as non-religious or secular.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 16

 

  1. Batalha Monastery (1983) – A Dominican monastery located in Batalha, about 110 km (68 miles) north of Lisbon, representing the pinnacle of Portuguese Gothic architecture.
  2. The Monastery of the Hieronymites and Belém Tower in Lisbon (1983) – The Hieronymites Monastery and Belém Tower are located in the Belém district of Lisbon, both built in the Manueline style in the early 16th century.
  3. The Historic Centre of Évora (1986) – The historic center of Évora, located in southern Portugal, which was once the residence of Portuguese kings.
  4. The Monastery of Alcobaça (1989) – A Cistercian monastery with the largest Gothic church in Portugal.
  5. Cultural Landscape of Sintra (1995) – A cultural landscape with palaces and gardens in the area of Sintra, twenty kilometers northwest of Lisbon.
  6. Historic Centre of Oporto (1996) – The historic center of Portugal’s second-largest city, also known as Porto.
  7. Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde (1998) – These sites are famous for their rock paintings and engravings from prehistoric times. Note: Siega Verde is located in Spain, but it’s part of the same transboundary site.
  8. Alto Douro Wine Region (2001) – A wine region in northeastern Portugal where wine has been produced by traditional methods for about two thousand years. The most famous product is Port wine.
  9. Historic Centre of Guimarães (2001) – The historic center of Guimarães, located in the northwest of Portugal, is the birthplace of the first Portuguese king.
  10. Historic Centre of Angra do Heroísmo in the Azores (1983) – The port and fortresses of San Sebastian and San Juan Baptista in the city of Angra do Heroísmo in the Azores.
  11. Laurisilva of Madeira (1999) – A laurel forest dominated by laurel trees, with many endemic species.
  12. Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (2012) – A fortified town near the border with Spain, boasting the most extensive surviving star-shaped fortifications in the world.
  13. University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (2013) – The campus of Portugal’s oldest university in the city of Coimbra, which was founded as early as 1290.
  14. Royal Building of Mafra – Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden and Hunting Park (2019) – A palace complex from the eighteenth century in the town of Mafra.
  15. Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga (2019) – An important pilgrimage site in the city of Braga in northern Portugal, known for its monumental baroque staircase.
  16. Pico Island Vineyard Culture (2004) – A wine region on the volcanic island of Pico, part of the Azores archipelago, known for its long lava stone walls that intersect and create a network of enclosed plots.

 

National parks: 1

 

Peneda-Gerês National Park