Portugal's popularity as a holiday destination is growing by the year. Naturally, because in Portugal there is a lot to see and experience: the fairytale castles in Sintra, the staggering ravines in the Serra da Estrela, the capital Lisbon with its romantic districts, and the snow-white villages in the Alentejo. While enjoying the fabulous food, one can enjoy the melancholic fado-music.
The country is characterized by the beautiful colours the fishing boats bring to the water, the sparkling nightlife, and well-maintained golf courses. Besides all the beauty from the Algarve, all of the major cities are definitely worth visiting. The world city Lisbon counts approximately 2.5 million inhabitants. Lisbon is home to fascinating museums and festivities, has extensive shopping facilities, and hosts a booming nightlife. Lisbon , Porto , and Faro are each cities with particular characteristics and definitely worth a visit during your holidays.
General information on Portugal
Portugal is the western-most country on the European continent and is home to over 10 million inhabitants. Stretching a surface of 88.889 square kilometres, it covers 16 percent of the Iberian Peninsula which, for the remainder, is occupied by Spain, Portugal 's only neighbour. Portugal has a breadth of 218 kilometres, a length of 561 kilometres, an Atlantic coastline of 832 kilometre, and a common border with Spain stretching 1.215 kilometres. Owing to Portugal's rich historical past, the Portuguese territory has not remained restricted to the mainland but includes the Azores Islands and the island of Madeira together with the 'Ilhas Selvagens' (Portuguese for “wild islands”), situated in the Atlantic Ocean. The Azores , positioned in the Atlantic Ocean between the European and North-American continents, covers a surface of 2.355 square kilometres and consists of nine islands, which are divided into three groups: São Miguel and Santa Maria form the eastern island-group, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial are in the central group, while Flores and Corvo make up the western island-group. Madeira's archipelago, covering 741 square kilometres, can be found in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 500 kilometres off the coast of Africa and 1000 kilometres from the European mainland. The group of islands consist of Madeira and Porto Santo and the two uninhabited islands of Desertas and Selvagens, both of which are bird sanctuaries. Up to 1976, Portugal was divided into 11 provinces. Afterwards the country was split up into 18 districts on the mainland together with two autonomous regions, the Azores and Madeira. Over the last decades Portugal has grown to become a true holiday paradise. Each year, the amazing blue ocean and the delightful climate are responsible for attracting millions of holidaymakers. Most of them spend their holidays in the Algarve, in the south of Portugal. In contrast to Spain , Portugal 's tourism is much more small-scale. When compared to other western-European countries, Portugal unjustly seems to be in the blind spot. This may well be Portugal 's strongest asset; not too touristy and at the same time offering all the riches her neighbour has to offer, and maybe even more.
Positioning and Landscape of Portugal
Although Portugal finds itself next to Spain , isolated on the Iberian Peninsula , its landscape is hardly comparable to that of its neighbour. Portugal has a widely varying landscape, which it owes to its wide coastal regions. The country is divided by the river Taag. This river is an important border for the Portuguese landscape. Approximately half of the area north of the Taag lies 400 meters above sea level. This section of Portugal is hilly and mountainous, reaching altitudes ranging from 500 to 800 meters. Altitudes up to 2000 meters can be found in the Serra Estrella, a mountain range crossing northeast to southwest and ending up at the Taag's mouth. South of the river such heights are rarely reached. The 800 kilometres-long coastline is largely flat and sandy, and often surrounded by dunes enclosing lagunes. Rocky parts are found in the vicinity of Lisbon . The largest rivers, the Minho, Douro, Taag, and Guadiana originate in Spain . Both the Mondego and the Sado rivers originate and end within the Portuguese borders. Algarve has a versatile landscape. West of Faro the coast is home to the well-known rock formations with small beaches while east of Faro lagunes and sandy beaches can be found to go on for kilometres.
The Portuguese Climate
Portugal has a moderate climate with a dry, hot summer. A Mediterranean climate in the south gently transforms to a sea climate in the north. Winters are rainy and summers are hot. Portugal 's climate knows many variations from one area to the next. This is dictated by the relief in the landscape, the latitude, and the distance to the sea, causing mild winters in the Algarve area. Summers in Portugal are long, hot, and dry, in particular in the inland regions. In the coastal areas the heat is moderated by oceanic influences. There is a large contrast in temperature between the north and the south of the country. The best-known coastal sections have a pleasant summer temperature between 18°C and 24°C. Inland, temperatures are much higher and the thermometer may well reach a dazzling 40°C. Autumn offers many sunny days with mild temperatures.
Language in Portugal
Portuguese is Portugal 's spoken language. Portuguese originates from Latin and is the third-most spoken European language in the world, as used by approximately 200 million people. Countries which have Portuguese as their national language are spread out over the globe. For instance, Portuguese is spoken in Africa ( Angola , Cape Verde , Guinee-Bissau , Mozambique , and São Tomé e Príncipe), in Latin-America ( Brazil ), and in Asia (East-Timor). As far as the native inhabitants are concerned, Portugal is a very homogeneous country language-wise. Portuguese is spoken all throughout the country, except for villages around Miranda do Douro where an Asturian dialect, Mirandese, is spoken. In Portugal Mirandese is officially recognized as a minority language.
Gastronomy in Portugal
Portuguese usually eat three meals a day. Breakfast, usually taking place between 07.30 and 10.00 is often a light meal consisting of coffee or juice and bread or toast. Breakfast is often consumed in a coffeehouse or “pastelaria”. Lunch takes place between 12.00 and 15.00, and dinner is served from 19.30 onwards. Lunch and dinner are the most important meals of the day and to the Portuguese these are entire meals, consisting of starters, main courses and deserts. Eating outdoors is a commonality to the Portuguese. During weekends, lunch and dinner are always a welcome pretext for agreeing to meet up with friends or going on trips. There is a great variety of restaurants ready and able to satisfy everybody's wishes and likings. Portugal 's positioning and past have caused an extensive use of fish in its traditional meals. It is sometimes said that for each day of the year there is a bacalhau-recipe. Bacalhau is Portuguese for codfish, though is commonly referring to (meals with) dried and salted cod. Sometimes hake or ling substitute for cod. Originally the fish was laid to dry on the cliffs. Pork, too, is a favoured ingredient in the Portuguese kitchen. Besides that, the Portuguese are amongst the biggest rice consumers in Europe . Popular Portuguese dishes include: Feijoada, Favas, Entremeada, and stewed wild boar. However, these dishes are seldom found on menus in restaurants. Portuguese take pride in their 'Doces', meaning 'sweets' or 'candy', but also refers to their sugar-sweet deserts such as cakes or pastries. Many restaurants serve their own Doces da Casa, homemade deserts.
Spirits of Portugal
Portuguese wines are famed. Outside Portugal especially port, vinho verde, and madeira (named after the island in the Atlantic Ocean ) are well-known. The three most important wine-districts are Dão, Alentejo, and Estremadura. Port is a wine with an alcohol level of 18% to 20%. The area the port is produced lies along the banks of the Douro, about 100 kilometres east of Porto . Vintage port is of a declared vintage year. Bottled up, vintage port ages at least another twelve, but sometimes even up to 40 years. Ruby and Tawny port are simple ports, in which a range of seasons and ages are blended together. Ruby port is a young port with a fruity taste. Tawnyport ages much longer on barrel and then obtains its brown (tawny) colour. White port is exclusively made of white grapes. The dry, white port is very suited as an aperitif. After meals, the sweet port is recommended, whereas 'Old Tawny' is suitable for any occasion. The English first discovered the taste of port, which accounts for the English labeling on the bottles. Vinho verde is a typical wine from the Minho province and comes in both red and white variations. This wine is slightly sparkling. The Portuguese 'verde' (green) is a reference to the wine's age, always young. This wine is most delicious when served well-cooled. One of the most well-known rosé wines is Mateus. Another good rosé, definitely worth trying, is Lancers. In Portugal , both red and white wines come in either sweet or dry variations. Medronho is a strong gin-like liquor, made of red berries from the arbutus shrub.
Portugese bieren (Cerveja) zijn goed te drinken, bekende merken als "Superbock" en "Sagres" hebben ook een donker bier.
Holidays and Commemorations in Portugal
- 1 January
New Years day (Ano Novo)
- 25 April
Day of the Revolution (Dia da Liberdade) National holiday commemorating the turn-around in 1974 (the carnation revolution)
- 1 May
Labourday (Festa do Trabalho)
- 10 June
Day of Portugal (Dia de Portugal)
- 13 June
Day of Saint António (Dia de Santo António)
- 15 August
Ascention of Mary (Assunção de Nossa Senhora)
- 5 October
Day of the Republic (Implantação da República) Founding of the Republic in 1910
- 1 November
All-Saints Day (Todos os Santos)
- 1 December
Independence Day (Restauração da Independência)
- 8 December
Immaculate Conception (Imaculada Conceição)
- 25 December Christmas (Natal)
National Holidays with changing dates:
- Carnival (Terça-Feira de Carnaval)
- Good Friday (Sexta-Feira Santa)
- Eastern (Páscoa)
- Sacrament Day
- Corpo de Deus
Music of Portugal
The melancholic sad fado music is inextricably linked to Portugal . Traditional singers, accompanied by guitars, dress in sober black. The main topic of the performances is often 'the inevitable disaster'. Fado is often considered abroad to be the only national music of Portugal . However this image is not accurate. Each region in Portugal has its own music. Fado music is but one of many musical genres belonging to Portugal . Fado music originated in 1820 when it was originally sung by Brazilian and African labourers. A defining feature of fado music is 'Saudade', and is translated as homesickness or weepfullness. The singer is usually accompanied by guitar and viol, and nowadays sometimes by bass-guitar.