Driving Directions Portugal

PORTUGAL, in the southwest corner of Europe, makes up about 15 percent of the Iberian Peninsula. It includes the island groups of Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic.

Lying to the west of Spain, mainland Portugal has a long Atlantic coastline and is mountainous only in the north, where the mountain ranges are lower extensions of those in Spain. The highest peaks occur north of the River Tejo (Tajo in Spain) in the Sierra da Estrela, reaching a height of 2,000 meters or 6,562 feet. South of the Tejo river lies the wheat fields and cork plantations of the Alentejo region’s extensive plains.

A range breaks these hills that divide them from the coastal plain of the Algarve, with its beautiful groves of almond, fig, and olive trees.

Driving Directions

The Iberian Peninsula is traversed by several large rivers that rise in Spain and flow on across Portugal, often through deep gorges cut through the mountains’ rocks. They flow along a generally westerly or southwesterly course before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.

The most important is the Tejo (Tajo in Spain), with Lisbon (Lisboa) at its mouth, the Douro (Duero), with Porto (Oporto) at its mouth, the Guadiana, which forms part of Portugal’s southeastern border with Spain, and the Minho (Mino), which creates a part of the northwestern border.

As agricultural methods remain traditional in many areas, wild animals and birds can flourish relatively undisturbed in Portugal.

The climate varies widely throughout the Iberian Peninsula. In general, considerable amounts of rain and temperate conditions prevail in the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean’s coastal regions. In the Algarve, summers are hot and dry in the south of Portugal, and temperatures are usually mild in winter. The northeast of Portugal has hot summers and cold winters and is generally dry.

Manufacturing has assumed greater importance as the country slowly moves away from a largely agriculture-based economy. However, about 25 percent of people are still engaged in farming and live outside the main cities in small rural villages. Crops include maize, wheat, rye, potatoes, tomatoes, olives, and grapes (for wine-making). Portugal’s Port and Madeira wine is renowned, and the country is the primary exporter of olive oil. Cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry are the most common farm animals.

Over two-thirds of Portugal is wooded, and the country is a leading exporter of cork oak and manufactures other wood products and paper. The long coastline has meant that Portuguese fishers have always enjoyed ready access to the Atlantic fishing grounds. Many species are caught, including mackerel, cod, hake, sardines, halibut, tunny, and anchovy. Shellfish are also harvested from the shallower, inshore waters, particularly oysters.

Portugal has some valuable mineral resources that were underdeveloped until comparatively recently. These include copper ores, wolframite (from which tungsten is produced), coal (although of rather low quality), kaolin, gold, tin, and iron ore. Food processing (especially sardines), textiles, paper and wood products, chemicals, ceramics, iron and steel, machinery, glass, and fertilizers are among the items produced by the country’s manufacturing industry.

A petrochemical plant and oil refinery located near Lisbon and hydroelectric power developed in recent years. Portugal is also renowned for certain high-quality craft products, especially lace, pottery, and tiles.

Google maps™ Portugal

Portugal’s major topographical dividing lines are the Douro and Tagus Rivers, which flow across the country, and the centrally located Serra da Estrela mountain range. The Tagus River forms a dividing line between the north’s upland regions and the rolling plains of the south. The Minho region in the northwest is bounded by several mountain ranges on the east and Minho and Douro Rivers to the north and south, respectively. Trás-os-Montes (literally, “across the mountains”) is the northeasternmost area of Portugal, bounded to the north and east by Spain, south by the Douro River, and to the west by the mountains that separate it from the Minho. The central area south of the Douro and north of the Tagus is the Beiras, a transitional region between the north and the south. The Serra da Estrela divide the region in two. Coastal Beira, known as Beira Litoral, consists of rolling, sandy hills. The northern part, known as Beira Baixa, is a dry and windswept region similar to Trás-os-Montes. The west-central region of Estremadura includes the Tagus estuary, the capital city of Lisbon, and the Tagus valley area known as Ribatejo. The Alentejo region to the south is a vast area of gently rolling hills divided into two subregions: Alto Alentejo and Baixo Alentejo. The Algarve, the southernmost region, is separated from the Alentejo by two mountain ranges: the Serra de Monchique in the west and the Serra de Caldeirao in the east.

Portugal is bordered on the west and south by the North Atlantic Ocean.

Did you know about Portugal?

Madeira, taken from the Portuguese word for wood, comes from the dense forests on this group’s islands.

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