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Extensive travel and tourism guide for Portugal, Europe

Portugal Travel

An independent kingdom since 1143, Portugal established its continental frontiers in 1297 and is among the oldest nations in Europe.

Situated on the extreme southwest corner of Europe, in the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal's position on the Atlantic coast soon determined our attraction to the sea. To the north and east we have open borders with neighboring Spain, whose people we usually call nuestros hermanos--"our brothers."

In 1415, the Portuguese set sail on an epic voyage that would make them the first to discover the ocean routes to India, Brazil, China and Japan, and at the same time founded settlements on the east and west coasts of Africa. This year we are commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil by the navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral with a series of festivities.

The nation's vast monumental, artistic and archeological heritage bears witness to 850 years of encounters with distant cultures, and also to the presence of many ancient peoples in Portugal (including the Celts, Suevians, Visigoths, Romans and Arabs).

The natural advantages of a sunny country with diverse geographic features have turned Portugal into a chosen destination for many holiday makers. It is an ideal place for water sports and golf, offering modern tourism facilities, as well as historic and personalized accommodations, such as turismo de habitação (less expensive lodging in private homes ranging from wonderful farmhouses to manor houses), the privately owned Hotéls de Charme or the government-operated pousadas.

According to figures released by the World Tourism Organization, Portugal ranks 15th worldwide in number of international visitors, reflecting their confidence in choosing Portugal.

For centuries, Portugal has maintained this greatest treasure: a reputation for hospitality that makes the country a haven of congeniality and safety.

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Portugal Facts

Area: 35,550 square miles (slightly smaller than Indiana).
Population: 10,400,000 (Lisbon, 1,500,000; Porto, 345,000).
Language: Portuguese.