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Awesome Facts about Portugal

Awesome Facts about Portugal

Portugal is a south-west European country on the Iberian Peninsula, which is a perfect tourist destination for leisure and rich cultural heritage. The beautiful country shares its boundary with Spain on one side and the Atlantic Ocean sweeping its coastline on the other enriching the country with bountiful food and scenery.

Portugal was a major world power during the 15th and 16th centuries playing a significant role in the ‘New World Discoveries’ colonizing countries in Africa, South America and Asia thereby establishing a vast Portuguese empire. The first person to find the sea route to India and open up the European trade route to Asia in 1498 was Vasco da Gama. He had come exploring the unknown lands sponsored by the Portuguese royals. However, a severe earthquake in 1755, wiped off much of its glory and status, but the Portuguese language remains the connecting link among its former colonial countries even today. It still maintains the status as the only European country with the same boundary since ancient times.

Portugal became a Republic in 1910 abolishing the monarchy, which did not last for long as a strong military dictatorship overpowered the weak Republic and ran the country for the next few decades. The democratic reforms swept the country in 1974 and the democratic Portugal became a part of the European Union in 1986. This brought a level of development as the other European countries in coming years.

In addition to the mainland continental Portugal, the two autonomous archipelagos of Madeira and Azores are also part of the country. Both the archipelagos are situated in the Atlantic Ocean and there has been volcanic activity in the Azores islands in historical records.

Portugal has a warm climate as compared to other European countries and in the mainland country. The climate is cool and rainy in the north while it is warm and dry in the southern part. On an average, there exists a maritime temperature in the country. The climate in the Madeira and the Azores archipelagos are mild throughout the year, which makes them an ideal place for visiting.

On general, the landscape is mountainous in the northern reaches of the Tagus River that divides the mainland whereas the southern part of the country typically has rolling plains. Portugal also has a varied landscapes and climate due to its positional latitude and proximity to the sea. The volcanic lagoons on its islands and the snowy winter landscape in the north makes the place a perfect place to explore and take part in various activities.

The population of the country stands at about 11 million with the capital Lisbon having a high population density. It may be seen that the major population of Portugal is concentrated on the coastal parts of the country, which decreases towards the inland areas. Roman Catholics are the major part of the population but in recent times, people following other religions may be found in the country as the Portuguese Constitution gives religious freedom to its people.

Portugal may be visited from the neighbouring European capitals due to its closeness with other European countries, receiving significant tourists being a favourite place of the tourists from all over the world. The regions of the country attracting tourists include Lisbon, Algarve, Greater Porto and the islands of Azores and Madeira.

The country boasts of UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Pena Palace in Sintra, a landmark for the tourists and the city of Porto, which is famous worldwide for the Port Wine, a trademark product of the place. Other Heritage Sites are in Tomar, Belém, Alcobaça or Batalha, which has a number of places to explore and visit. The Sanctuary of Fátima is another important tourist destination in Portugal where a large number of religious pilgrims visit the place every year. It is one of the largest Roman Catholic shrines visited by the devout from all over the world. In addition to these, Portugal remains one of the most visited place by tourists due to the rich heritage of its culture, natural views, architecture, food, music and traditions. It has age-old monuments, monasteries, churches, cobblestone villages, medieval castles and buildings.

Trekking through the countryside and the mountainous regions is a favourite activity of a good number of tourists. The Algarve region has the most popular beaches for tourists and the Sado Estuary is for those who want to see the dolphins. The islands in Azores and Madeira have plentiful wildlife for people who want to observe or study them, which are coupled with the scenic beauty of the place. The largest aquarium in Europe, the Lisbon Oceanarium, the Natural Reserve of Peneda-Gerês, the Douro Valley and Serra da Estrela are the other places visited by tourists in Portugal.

The country is well-connected by airways, railways, roads and sea routes with other countries. The country has had developments since it entered the European Union and today its public health systems are one of the best in the world.

Portugal’s culinary taste has been influenced by different cultures due to its colonial history that had encompassed different parts of the world. Fresh seafood is an important part of the Portuguese diet while the wines of Portugal have got recognition all over the world since time immemorial.

Music, literature and arts of the land have been influenced by different cultures but some of the original Portuguese architecture, also called the Manueline may still be seen standing in the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery and around the city of Lisbon.

Football is the favourite sport of the Portuguese people and the national football team first participated in the FIFA World Cup, 1966. Today, it is captained by the idol of millions of football fans, the young Christiano Ronaldo.

For majority of tourists, the souvenirs bought on a visit to Portugal are the Rooster of Barcelos and the Port wine, which has become famous all over the world.

In short, it is a developed, democratic country with high living standards, having a rich culture with diverse cuisine, excellent Mediterranean climate, making it a popular tourist destination.

Image courtesy: is-conf.org

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