Introduction to Portugal
Portugal is situated in south-western Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Its only neighbour is Spain, which borders it to the North and East. The countries name derives from its second largest city and former capital Porto. Portugal is the most westerly nation in Europe with the vast Atlantic Ocean on its western border. The country is home to 10.5 million people and its size is approximately 35,645 square miles.
For such a small country Portugal has left a huge imprint on world affairs and global history. Most of the medieval period saw the fledgling country fight the Reconquista against the Muslim caliphs in the south of Iberia. Today there are many spectacular ruins and castles to be seen from the period. In the late middle ages the country began the age of discovery and began an empire that stretched all over the world. Present day countries such as Brazil, the Azores and parts of Indonesia. Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to discover Australia and New Zealand.
Portugal was formally a kingdom but in 1910 the people replaced the monarchy with a republic but only became a fully fledged democracy in 1974. Portugal is a developed nation and ranks 19th in the quality-of-life index. Thanks to its reserved foreign policy Portugal is one of the world’s most globalized and peaceful nations. It is a member of the European Union and entered the single currency in 1999.
Portugal has a diverse landscape and is divided North and South by its largest river the Tagus. The north is home to a mountainous landscape and plateaus whereas the south includes the rolling plains of the Alentejo and Algarve.