Portugal is situated at the south-west point of Europe and also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Mainland Portugal occupies an area of 88,889 km2. It is 218 km wide and 561 km long. It has 832 km of Atlantic coast and a 1,215 km border with Spain.
The Azores are situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. They have an area of 2,355 km2 and consist of nine islands - São Miguel and Santa Maria in the Eastern Group, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the Central Group and Flores and Corvo in the Western Group. It takes about two hours to get from the Azores to mainland Portugal by plane. The Madeira Archipelago has an area of 741 km2 and lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 km from the African coast and 1,000 km from the European continent (1½ hours flying time from Lisbon). It consists of the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens islands, which are nature reserves.
One of the Latin languages, Portuguese is the third most spoken European language in the world and the native tongue of about 250 million people. The Portuguese-speaking countries are scattered all over the world. Portuguese is spoken in Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé e Príncipe), in South America (Brazil) and in Asia, (East Timor, the youngest nation in the world), and it is also the official language in Macao Special Administrative Region of China.
Portugal's charms go beyond its sandy coast and the natural beauty of its Atlantic islands. Founded upon a nearly 900 year old history, the country is genuinely diverse. Today, the past and present are uniquely juxtaposed in the appealing mix provided by a rich cultural heritage and joy of living. Benefitting from a favorable geographic location - enhanced by a distinctive Atlantic flavor and an innate sense of hospitality - Europe's westernmost frontier invites visitors to enjoy nature, beaches, cuisine and entertainment, often amid the exquisite setting of centuries-old monumental edifications. Ranked among the world's 15 major tourist destinations, Portugal is mainly renowned for its pioneering navigations throughout the globe in the XV and XVI centuries, and epic endeavor that made Portuguese today an expanding language and the sixth most spoken in the world.
Lisbon is a tourist attraction center due to its History and monuments: the Aqueduto das Águas Livres, the Sé Catedral, the Baixa Pombalina (downtown Lisbon) the Torre de Belém and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. The Museums of Arte Antiga, of the Coches and of the Azulejo, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Centro Cultural de Belém and the National Theatre of São Carlos, the Oceanarium and all its surrounding area at the Parque das Nações are among other places worth mentioning.
The city of Porto has acquired an outstanding position within both the country’s and Europe’s cultural life. The city was elected European Capital of Culture in 2001. Worth visiting are the Fundação de Serralves and the Casa da Música, the Torre dos Clérigos (the city ex-libris) the Sé, the National Theatre of S. João, the gardens of the Palácio de Cristal and the entire historic center. The Algarve, in southern Portugal is, par excellence, a tourist landmark for many Europeans, undoubtly due to its mild climate and the lukewarm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Madeira, visited all year round by thousands of tourists, is one of the most well-known international tourist landmarks due to its mild climate, exuberant landscapes and exceptional gastronomy. Setúbal is another region of Portugal with its specific natural and cultural characteristics. The main locations are: the Serra da Arrábida, the beaches of Caparica and Sesimbra, the Natural Bay of Seixal, the salt ponds of Alcochete, the Moinhos de Maré, the typical boats that sail the Tejo and Sado rivers, the old fishermen’s villages and the local fauna and flora.
Listed as World Patrimony, other places must not be left unmentioned: Angra do Heroísmo, Guimarães, Évora and Sintra, the monuments in Alcobaça, Batalha, Tomar, the Palaeolithic engravings discovered on the banks of the Rio Côa, the laurissilva forest in Madeira and the wine landscapes of Pico Island and of the Douro River. Other unmissable spots are: the cities of Braga (Historical Centre, Bom Jesus and Bracalândia) Bragança (Historical Centre, Castle and Municipal Theatre) Chaves (Historical Centre and Thermal Springs) Coimbra (University, Jewish Quarter and Portugal dos Pequeninos) and Vila Real (Mateus Manor-House and Town Theatre).
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