The Republic of Portugal is located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula with mainland borders with Spain. In addition to mainland Portugal, the island groups of Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean belong to the national territory. Portugal is the poorest EU country with poorly developed agriculture. Foreign investment strengthened the industrial and service sectors. Tourism, with a focus on the coast of the Algarve, Madeira and the capital Lisbon, has become an important economic factor.
Abbreviated as PT by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, Portugal covers about one sixth of the Iberian Peninsula and borders Spain to the north and east. In the west and south it has coasts to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Tagus Valley forms the border between the mountainous Atlantic northern Portugal and the Mediterranean southern Portugal. The north consists of a coastal lowlands and the Estremaduras, the Portuguese Scheidegebirge as well as the north and east bordering highlands. The highest mountain range is the Serra da Estrêla, which rises up to 1991 m, only the 2345 m high Alto de Pico in the Azores is higher. The south of Portugal is divided into the Alentejo and Algarve landscape areas. Frequent earthquakes testify to the persistence of tectonic processes in the Tejos Basin and the Algarve. In 1755 the famous Lisbon earthquake destroyed large parts of the city. The alternation of cliffs and shallow alluvial coasts offers only a few good ports.
The main rivers are the lower reaches of the Tejo, Douro, Guadiana and Minho, which come from the Spanish highlands in narrow valleys. The seasonal and episodic fluctuations in the flow of water in rivers are among the highest on earth. That is why the large rivers are only navigable in the lower reaches.
Climate and vegetation
The climate is characterized by its Mediterranean character, which increases from north to south and the continentality that increases from west to east (Fig. 3). The mountainous north-west, exposed to the Atlantic foothills in winter, receives incline rain of up to over 2500 mm per year, the east lying in the rain shadow only 500 to 1000 mm. In the subtropical, hot summer south, it decreases to 400 mm. The northern mountains, where the snow can stay for several weeks in winter, are rich in forests composed of oaks, pines and chestnuts. In the dry south, evergreen bush heaths, stone and cork oaks and olive groves predominate. The abundance of cork oaks makes Portugal one of the world’s largest producers of cork.
Important data about the country
|110 residents / km²
|Growth of population:
|about 0.1% / year
(men / women)
|Form of government:
|Portuguese is the official language
|oceanic influenced subtropical climate
|Arable land 31%, forest 34%, pasture land 10%
(share of GDP)
|Agriculture 6%, industry 30%, services 64%
|Vehicles, clothing and shoes, textiles, machines and apparatus, cork and wood
|Gross domestic product:
|$ 147,899 million (2003)
|Gross National Product:
|US $ 11,800 / residents (2003)
Economy and Transport
Portugal is one of the EU countries with a comparatively low level of development. After the privatization of large industrial companies and banks as well as generous adjustment aid from the EU budget, economic growth has increased relatively strongly in recent years. Surplus from the service balance, especially from travel, mitigates the negative trade balance (Fig. 5).
Mining and industry
Portugal is a country poor in natural resources. An mineral tungsten, iron, tin, copper, manganese, gold and some coal are recovered. However, significant uranium deposits are known. Portugal is largely dependent on imports to meet its energy needs.
Foreign interest in Portugal as an investment location led to a significant improvement in the infrastructure and the expansion of the shoe, leather and textile industries in particular. A new industrial area was created in Vale do Ave in the north of the country. Other important branches of industry are the chemical industry with fertilizer and cement factories as well as oil processing, paper production, the steel and automotive industries and the manufacture of textile machines and household appliances.
Small farm sizes in the north and still predominant large estates in the south of Portugal are hampering the development of efficient agriculture. The country has to import about half of its food needs. Wheat is grown in particular, corn in the humid northwest, barley and rye in the mountains, fruit, vegetables, olives and cotton near the coast and in the south. The most important wine-growing areas are located in the north-western coastal area and in the area of the upper Duero. Irrigable cultivation areas are in coastal depressions and on rivers and reservoirs. Afforestation and artificial irrigation, for example the Alentejo irrigation project are funded. Sheep and goat husbandry predominate in the livestock industry, and pigs and cattle are also bred. Cork oaks provide more than half of the world’s cork production.
Portugal’s foreign trade is characterized by import surpluses. The main trading partners are the EU countries Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain. Tourism is an important source of income . The most important travel destinations are the Algarve coast, Madeira Island and the cultural cities of Lisbon and Porto.
The transport network shows clear gaps. Only the coastal regions are well developed by road and rail. In the north, 765 km of narrow-gauge lines are still in operation; otherwise all lines have the Spanish broad gauge. Important ports have Lisbon, Leixoes (Porto), Setúbal, Aveiro and Sines, which has been expanded into a modern deep-water port. The national ocean-going fleet has lost much of its traditional importance. International airports have Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Funchal in Madeira and Santa Maria in the Azores.
Vacation destinations in the Atlantic: Madeira and the Azores
The British appreciated Madeira’s pleasant climate a long time ago. Today the island is an attractive travel destination for package holidaymakers, hikers and cruise tourists from all over the world. Madeira is the main island of the island group of the same name in the eastern Atlantic, which also includes the flat island of Porto Santo with good beaches and some uninhabited islands. Madeira forms the 794 km² Portuguese district of Madeira with 260,000 Portuguese-speaking residents. The main town and port is Funchal. Madeira Island is a young shield volcano up to 1861 m high with severely cut edges and a spectacular, steep cliff coast. The southern flank is dry, the northern roof and the high altitude region are always moist with endemic laurel vegetation. A sophisticated irrigation system allows the intensive cultivation of sugar cane, wheat, bananas, pineapples, early vegetables, fruit, flowers and wine. Moorish slaves built a complex system of irrigation canals that channel water from the humid north to the dry south. These canals, called levadas, are also popular hiking routes today.
Also of volcanic origin is the 2247 km² large archipelago of the Azores, which is about 1400 km west of Portugal in the Atlantic. The nine larger islands are arranged in three groups on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. In the east lie the main island of São Miguel with the capital Ponta Delgada and Santa Maria, in the middle Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, in the northwest Flores and Corvo. Its volcanoes rise up to 2345 m above sea level and some of them are still active today. Earthquakes tooare common. The geothermal energy is used by a power plant. The oceanic climate is mild, dry in summer and humid in winter with stormy winds. Besides tourism, the main occupation is agriculture. Dairy products and slaughter cattle, pineapples, wine, figs and flower bulbs are exported. As a result of decades of emigration, many of the residents have family ties to the United States and Canada.
1143: The Spanish kingdom of Castile-Leon recognizes independence from Portugal.
15th century: Prince HEINRICH DER SEEFAHRER builds up a fleet and organizes voyages of discovery from Sagres.
1494: In the Treaty of Tordesillas, Portugal and Spain divide the colonial world among themselves.
1580: Spain conquers Portugal, thereby losing the Moluccas, Malacca and Ceylon.
1 640: Portugal regains independence.
1822: The former colony of Brazil declares its independence.
1910: The Republic of Portugal is proclaimed.
1933: Prime Minister SALAZAR founds an authoritarian state.
1974: After the “Carnation Revolution” Portugal returns to democracy. The colonial empire dissolves.
1986: Portugal joins the EC.
1999: With Macau, Portugal loses its last colony to the People’s Republic of China.