Overview

Portugal

Geography

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.

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Population

Portugal has a population of about 10 million. The population density is at its greatest in Lisbon, the capital and its suburbs, where about 1.9 million people live. The second largest city in Portugal is Oporto in the north. Generally speaking, there are more people living in the country’s coastal regions than in the inland areas.

History

With such a long sea coast, it is not surprising that Portugal has witnessed so many sailings and arrivals. This is why we have been open to the world and to communication for so long. We have assimilated peoples of different origins: Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans (who left us our language), northern Europeans and peoples from Mauritania. In spite of all these mixtures, Portugal is one of the oldest nations in Europe. In the 12th century, the country gained its independence from the other kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula thanks to Count Afonso Henriques, who was our first king at his own wish. A century later, with the conquest of the Algarve, Portugal was to definitively establish its continental border.

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Religion

The majority of Portuguese are Catholics, but the Portuguese Constitution guarantees religious freedom and there are a number of different religions in Portugal.

Language

One of the Latin languages, Portuguese is the third most spoken European language in the world and the native tongue of about 200 million people. The Portuguese-speaking countries are scattered all over the world. Portuguese is spoken in Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe), in South America (Brazil) and in Asia, (East Timor, the youngest nation in the world). In Portugal there are lots of people who are able to communicate in English, French and Spanish.

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