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About Portugal

Portugal, in Southern Europe, shares the Iberian peninsula at the western tip of Europe with Spain. Geographically and culturally somewhat isolated from its neighbor, Portugal has a rich, unique culture, lively cities and beautiful countryside.

Although it was once one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, the end of dictatorship and introduction of Democracy in 1974, as well as its incorporation into the European Union in 1986, has meant increased prosperity -- and increased prices for travelers. Still, it may be one of the best value destinations on the Continent. This is because the country offers outstanding landscape diversity, due to its North-South disposition along the western shore of the Iberian peninsula. You can travel in a single day from green mountains in the North, covered with vines and all varieties of trees to rocky mountains, with spectacular slopes and falls in the Centre, to a near-desert landscape in the Alentejo region and finally to the glamorous Algarve. If you want a condensed view of European landscapes, culture and way of life, Portugal might very well fit the bill.


  • Northern Portugal
  • Central Portugal
  • Lisbon Region
  • Alentejo
  • Algarve
  • Azores Islands
  • Madeira Islands


  • Lisbon - capital
  • Aveiro
  • Cascais
  • Coimbra
  • Évora
  • Faro
  • Funchal
  • Lagos
  • Porto (Oporto)
  • Setúbal
  • Sintra
  • Vila Real
  • Viseu


Portugal is one of the warmest European countries. In mainland Portugal, yearly temperature averages are about 15°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south. Madeira and Azores have a narrower temperature range as expected given their insularity, with the former having low precipitation in most of the archipelago and the latter being wet and rainy. Spring and Summer months are usually sunny and temperature maximum are very high during July and August, with maximums averaging between 35°C and 40°C (86°F - 95°F) in the interior of the country, 30°C and 35°C in the north, and occasionally reaching 45°C (113°F) in the south. Autumn and Winter are typically rainy and windy, yet sunny days are not rare either. Temperatures rarely fall below 5°C (41°F) nearer to the sea, averaging 10°C (50°F), but can reach several degrees below 0°C (32°F) further inland. Snow is common in the mountainous areas of the north, especially in Serra da Estrela. Portugal's climate can be classified as Mediterranean (particularly the Algarve and Alentejo, though technically on Atlantic shore).

By car

Roads are generally good, and you can reach almost all major cities with ease, either by motorway or by good, modern roads. The biggest cities are well served by modern highways (most have tolls), and you can travel the full North-South length of the country without ever leaving the highway, if you choose to. However, some secondary roads are ill-treated and may be dangerous if proper care is not taken. Also, Portuguese driving can seem erratic and, frankly, scary to the uninitiated. The country shares with most southern european countries something that the successive Portuguese governments have been trying to fight: terrible road behaviour from some drivers. This is getting a little better year by year, but still, there are many drivers whose dream is to own a Ferrari, but all they actually have is a Renault Clio or a Ford Fiesta, or that think that they can drink and drive without any kind of problem. In order to fight this national calamity, road laws changed recently in order to punish with great severity speeding, driving without license, driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, etc.

It is probably unwise for those unfamiliar with Portuguese driving to try to drive in the cities - be aware if you do that city drivers give no quarter and have limited respect for lane markings. If you do want to try, choose a weekend or an hour outside the rush hour periods. These are early mornings (8 am - 9.30 am) and late afternoons (5 pm - 7.30 pm).

Speed limits in Portugal are:

  • 120 km/h - motorway
  • 90-100 km/h - open road
  • 50 km/h - town

A driver's blood alcohol level is not allowed to exceed 0.05 percent. Penalties are extremely high including time in prison of up to 2 years and a fine of € 2,500.00. Exceeding the limit by 0.5% to 0.8 % is a fine of € 700.00. From 0.8% to 1.2% is € 2,000.00.


If you want to spend your holidays in the countryside, you might want to visit Braga, Viana do Castelo, Castelo Branco, Guarda, or even Viseu. If you are more into visiting beautiful monuments and enjoy remarkable views, then Lisbon, Porto, Setubal, Braga, Sintra, Bragança and Évora are some of the cities with wonderful and magnificent monuments. On the reverse, you have the Algarve's beaches and sport's clubs. At night Setubal, Lisbon, Porto and Algarve are the best choices as you have major places of entertainment. And even if you wish to observe wild life in its natural state, Madeira and Azores Islands are places to remember.


Surrounded by sea in almost it's entirety, the Portuguese beaches are well worth visiting. A lot of activities are offered, from surfing, to kite-surfing, and during the summer months the most frequented beaches offer sand based activities such as aerobics. If you're not the type of breaking into a sweat during holidays, almost every single public beach will have a bar where locals sit, eat/drink and socialise.

The countryside also offers a great deal of possibilities, although you will have to incite the travel agent's advise a little more than usual, as they tend to just sell beach holidays. Cycling through the mountainous terrain of Gerez or white-water rafting in the affluents of river Douro is an exhilirating experience.

Modified: 2007-02-11 08:31:42+01
Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Portugal


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