Portugal is often classified as a
Mediterranean country, although it has no coastline on this body of water. However, in
terms of its climate, flora and fauna, Portugal displays many Mediterranean
characteristics. The country's landscape and terrain are varied and change often, even
over short distances. Portugal's two most important rivers are the Tagus (Tajo), which
flows past Lisbon, and the Douro, which runs alongside Porto.
Long considered the garden of Europe, Portugal is home to more than
2,700 species of plants. The famous cork-oak is particularly plentiful in the Alentejo. A
number of species, such as the eucalyptus, have been successfully imported from Africa and
South America. The maritime pine has also been widely planted as part of a major
Near Sintra, a dense tropical
and subtropical vegetation thrives in the mild, temperate climate. The Algarve, for its
part, enjoys a lovely Mediterranean climate with flowers blooming from February to
In addition to the Penada-Gerês national
park, this country has eight nature reserves or parks, including the aquatic reserve of
Ria Formosa, a stopping place for migratory birds. The Cabo de São Vicente, the
westernmost tip of Europe, is also an important rest area for many migratory birds. In the
Alentejo, you might have the opportunity to spot huge stork nests.
Most airline travellers arriving in Portugal first touch down in
Lisbon, the country's capital and a city rich in attractions. No trip to Portugal would be
complete without a sojourn in Porto, a metropolis to the north. Many of the city's ancient
historical neighbourhood are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Lovers of sun and
sand should not miss a visit to Faro, with its beautiful beaches and mild Algarve climate,
while those with a passion for cstles, churches and museums will certainly appreciate the
historic cities of Évora, Óbidos, Batalha, Alcobaça, Tomar and Coimbra. Finally, further
to the north, the cities of Braza and Guimarães will reveal many fascinating aspects of
Portugal's intricate history.
Where on earth
Excluding its islands, Portugal covers an area of 89,000
km2 (55,304 sq mi). No part of this oblong country, which measures 560 km (348 mi) from
north to south, lies more than 220 km (137 mi) from the sea. Generally speaking, the
altitude increases the closer you get to Spain, and the country's highest peak reaches
1,993 m (6,539 ft).