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Republic in southwestern Europe on the Iberian
Peninsula on the Atlantic, 92.289 km² (including
"adjacent islands" of the Azores and Madeira), 10.6
million almost exclusively Catholic residents, capital
Lisbon , official language Portuguese.
Portugal (officially: Rep®≤blica Portuguesa) is the
westernmost country on the European continent and
occupies around 15% of the Iberian Peninsula with an
area of 92 289 km². In the east the country borders on
Spain (common border 1 215 km), in the west and south on
the Atlantic Ocean. The north-south extension of the
country is a maximum of 560 km as the crow flies, from
the Atlantic to the Spanish border it is around 220 km
at its widest point.
The country is divided by the Serra da Estrela, the
highest mountain range in Portugal (up to 1.991 m), into
a mountainous north and a hilly and flat southern part.
The northeastern plateau, which lies between 400 m and
1,000 m above sea level, is a continuation of the
Spanish Meseta and is divided by river valleys (eg the
Douro) and deep gorges. To the west, the country
descends to a broad and fertile coastal plain.
South of the Serra da Estrela is the Tagus Valley,
which originates in Spain and near Portugal's capital
Lisbon flows into the sea. With a total of just over
1,000 km, the Tagus is the longest river in the Iberian
Peninsula. On both sides of the Tagus is one of the most
fertile areas in Portugal, the lowlands of the Ribatejo.
The southern interior of Portugal is occupied by the
landscape of the Alentejo, which lies below 400 m above
sea level. In the southernmost part of the country, the
flat-waved hilly country merges into the mountainous
landscape of the Algarve, which stretches from the
Spanish border to the southwesternmost point of Portugal
and all of Europe, the Cabo de Sao Vicente. The capital
Lisbon is also the largest city in Portugal with around
565,000 residents (1.89 million in the metropolitan
area). Other cities are Porto with around 265,000
residents and Vila Nova de Gaia (approx. 250,000
The archipelago of the Azores , which lies around
1,600 km to the west in the Atlantic, and the island of
Madeira, north of the Canary Islands, also belong to
Portugal, they are autonomous regions.
Portugal's climate is very different due to the
country's north-south expansion. Atlantic influences are
dominant in the north of the country and continental
inland. The southern climate is more Mediterranean. The
amount of precipitation decreases from north to south:
in Porto an average of 1 150 mm is measured, in Faro in
the Algarve around 465 mm. The highest rainfall is in
the northwestern highlands (up to 3,000 mm annually).
Snow falls in the mountains in winter. In the Alentejo
in the southern interior, the winters are sometimes very
cold, while the summers are often hot and dry. The
Algarve, which is shielded by a mountain range to the
north, has short and mild winters.The average
temperatures in January in Faro are around 12 °„ C (July
24 °„ C), in Porto in northern Portugal approx.
The climate of the Azores is characterized by
constant, strong winds and a lot of rainfall. The
so-called "Azores high", which largely determines the
weather of the European continent, is formed in summer
as a high-pressure zone. In Madeira, the climate on the
north side of the island causes frequent rainfall, while
the south side is drier and warmer.
Flora and fauna
The flora in Portugal is just as diverse as the
climate. Pine, beech and oak trees grow in the humid
areas in the north (in total around 30% of the country
is forested, mainly the north). In the drier interior,
chestnuts and birches are added. The eucalyptus tree
imported from Australia can be found throughout
Portugal. Towards the south, the stock of olive trees,
pine trees, cork and holm oaks increases, there are also
carob trees, fig and almond trees. In the Algarve with
its particularly mild climate, citrus fruits, peach
trees, oleanders, bougainvillea and hibiscus grow. In
the higher mountain areas of the Serra da Estrela there
is alpine vegetation with moss and lichen.
Of the evergreen laurel forests that used to cover
the Azores, only a small remnant remains. They had to
give way to the agricultural land. Original laurel
forests can still be found in Madeira, especially on the
partially inaccessible north side. The south side of the
island also offers a rich flora.
As in many other European countries, the population
of wild animals is declining. But animal species such as
wolves or lynx still find habitats in the sparsely
populated interior. In the forests in the north,
especially in the Peneda-Ger®ļs National Park, deer, wild
boar and foxes are said to also have some wild horses.
Ibex and eagles can be found in the mountains. The bird
life is particularly diverse; carp and pike live in the
rivers in addition to trout.
Portugal has around 10.57 million residents. The
majority of them live in the greater Lisbon area or in
or in the catchment area of Porto, the second largest
city in the country and an important economic center. In
contrast, parts of the interior are sparsely populated.
According to COUNTRYAAH, 98% of the population are Portuguese, almost
all of whom belong to the Roman Catholic Church. There
are few Protestant, Jewish or Islamic communities. The
few foreigners in the country mainly come from the
former Portuguese colonies in Africa or from Brazil and
mostly live in the larger cities. In contrast, many
Portuguese live in other countries: several waves of
emigration in the 20th century meant that around 4.5
million Portuguese now live abroad, especially in
The official language is Portuguese; the literacy
rate is just under 94% (this is a very low figure in a
European comparison). In 1970, around 30% of the
population were illiterate. After the 1974 revolution,
education became more important. There is still an
educational gap between urban and rural areas, and there
is still a shortage of schools here. The average life
expectancy is 77.5 years. Population growth has slowed
in recent years and is now only 0.4%.
Portugal is a parliamentary democracy. The current
constitution dates from 1976. The head of state is the
President (Anibal Cavaco Silva since March 2006). He is
the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and is
directly elected by the people for five years (one-time
re-election possible). The head of government is the
Prime Minister (since June 2011 Pedro Passos Coelho). He
has the right to propose the ministers, who are then
appointed by the president.
The Portuguese Parliament (Assambleia da Republica)
has 230 seats, the members are elected for four years.
The most important parties are the Socialists (PS) and
the Social Democrats (PSD). Citizens from the age of 18
are eligible to vote. There is also a State Council with
an advisory role for the President.
The Portuguese mainland is divided into 18 districts
(Distritos), these in turn into districts (Concelhos).
Madeira and the Azores are autonomous regions that have
had limited political and economic sovereignty since
Portugal as a business location has come under
pressure in the past ten years due to increasing
globalization and increasing international competition.
The deficient school and education system, the high
level of new debt and the strong regional differences
continue to be problematic for development: coastal
areas are much more involved in the growth process than
inland areas, which is also reflected in the expansion
of the infrastructure.
Agricultural yields (around 10% of the workforce are
employed here) only cover the population's own needs in
a few areas (eg wine, olives and dairy products);
productivity is low due to poor soil, small holdings and
little mechanization. Corn, olives, potatoes, cereals,
vegetables, especially citrus fruits, peaches and
almonds are grown in the south. Port wine and cork from
cork oaks play a special role in exports (Portugal is
one of the world's largest cork producers). The
extremely rapidly growing eucalyptus trees imported from
Australia provide the raw material for the cellulose
industry and are cultivated accordingly. Fish-rich
fishing grounds lie off Portugal's 830 km long coast.
Sardines, especially for export, are fished here in the
The industrial sector, which had been neglected until
the country was democratized, now generates almost a
quarter of its gross domestic product. The main centers
are in Porto and Lisbon. The textile and leather goods
industry, paper and chemical industry, steel mills and
the electrical and electronics industry play a role.
Mineral resources include copper, tin ore, titanium,
hard coal, tungsten and gold.
The main trading partners are the other EU countries,
especially Spain, Germany and France. Tourism plays an
important role for the economy, about half of all
tourists travel to the Algarve.
The currency is the euro.