Travel Guide Portugal
Historic cities with medieval buildings, lovely fishing towns, a rough-romantic coastline, several thousand hours of sunshine per year and some of the most stunning beaches you will ever get to see – Portugal is the perfect travel destination all year round.
Travellers from all over the world are amazed by Portugal’s exceptional range of different landscapes and its unique cultural heritage, where modernity and tradition blend together in perfect harmony. The following overview reveals more about the southwestern European country.
Highlights in Portugal
Geography of Portugal
Portugal is situated in the southwest of Europe at the western end of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain. Portugal’s territory also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Continental Portugal covers an area of around 90,000 km².
The Azores are an archipelago situated in the North Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. They have an area of approx. 2,400 km² and consist of nine volcanic islands: Flores and Corvo in the western island group, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the central group and São Miguel and Santa Maria in the eastern group.
The Madeira Archipelago covers an area of more than 740 km² and lies in the North Atlantic Ocean almost 1,000 km southwest of the Portuguese coast. It includes the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo as well as the uninhabited Desertas and Savage Islands which serve as nature reserves.
Portugal's mainland is mainly characterised by three different types of landscape:
- the flat plains of southern Portugal which are mainly used as arable land
- the low mountain ranges of the Algarve and Extremadura
- the Serra da Estrela which extend from the southwest, the coast, almost to the eastern border in the southeast
The highest mountain range is the Serra da Estrela, at the height of the Tejo. Here you can find the highest point of the Portuguese mainland, at 1991 metres. The highest point of the whole republic at 2351 meters is, however, on the Azores. Another mountain range is the Algarvian highlands. In this region the coast is not characterized by white sandy beaches, but by steep cliffs. In the extreme northeast of the country, the Tas-os-Montes is another elevation, crossed by many smaller rivers. This mountainous area which borders on the Douro in the south is covered by wide areas of grass and bush land, especially in the east.
The river Tejo divides the country into a northern and a southern part and forms the border between Beira and the Alentejo with the mountain range Serra da Estrela. In this area, earthquakes occur quite frequently which strongly influences the water level and fluctuates considerably. This section of the landscape is marked by plains divided by hilly elevations. The depressions in between, 120 to 400 metres above sea level, form the lowest points in the country.
Travel Tips and Trivia
Climate in Portugal
The climate in Portugal varies considerably from one region to another and is influenced by the relief, latitude and proximity to the sea, which offers mild winters, especially in the Algarve.
In the mainland of Portugal, particularly in the inland, winters are colder but still quite mild when compared to the rest of Europe. Snowfall may occur, mostly in the Serra da Estrela mountains. Summers are hot and dry, especially in the inland areas. There are often warm, sunny days in autumn.
Portugal's climate can largely be described as temperate and maritime. However, obvious differences can be observed from north to south. The north of Portugal is much more continental than the south. The summers are moderately warm and the winters mild but rainy. The northeast, bordering Spain, is very continental – with cold winters and snow in the plateaus as well as hot, dry summers. The Mediterranean climate in the south of Portugal is particularly marked by hot summers, similar to those in North Africa, and rainy winter months.
The Azores’ latitude and the Gulf Stream influence the region’s climate. Temperatures are basically mild all year round. The average maximum temperatures are 25°C in summer and around 19°C in winter.
In the Madeira Archipelago a subtropical climate is present. It is exceptionally mild, with average temperatures around 25°C in summer and 20°C in winter.
Flora and Fauna in Portugal
Portugal’s vegetation is a mixture of European (including Atlantic and Mediterranean) and some African species, just like the country’s fauna. Like other Mediterranean countries, Portugal is mainly known for its olive trees and eucalyptus species, but there are also evergreen cork and other oak species on the mainland.
Wild goat, boar and deer can be found in the Portuguese countryside, lynx in the Alentejo region. Wolves are still living in the remote parts of Serra da Estrela. Fox, rabbit and Iberian hare are spread across the entire country. As Portugal is situated on the winter migration route of western and central European species, bird life is quite rich.