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Celtic tribes inhabited the region of Portugal as early as 1st millennium BC. By 219 BC, the Roman empire had attacked the Iberian Peninsula, conquering the region and shaping its culture and identity for over 200 years.
Islamic Moors of North Africa attacked in 711, demolishing the Visigoth kingdoms. During the next centuries, Christians were slowly fighting to regain Portugal from the Moors, successfully reconquering the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century.
By 1139, Alfonso Henriques won a battle of the Moors, with him being declared as King of Portugal.
From the 15th to the 16th century, Portugal was one of the most powerful empires in the world, owning half of the New World, and millions of other lands across the world. In 1579, then King Sebastian died in battle with no direct heir, sending the empire into a succession crisis. Spain took advantage of Portugal's plight and invaded the region, placing it under their monarchy in 1580 and ending in 1640, when Portugal was finally declared independent.
Portugal is located in the Iberian Peninsula, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west and south, and Spain to its north and east. Portugal is the westernmost country in Europe, with its northern landscape characterized by mountainous valleys and several plateaus; while the south is defined by rolling plains.
The country makes up the mainland and two islands in the Atlantic, which are the islands of Azones and Madeira.
The highest peak is the Azones region's Mt. Pico, which is an ancient mountain 7,713 feet above sea level. On the mainland, the highest peak is Serra de Estrela, which is 6,532 feet above sea level, and famous for its ski and winter sports resorts.
Portugal is one of the warmest countries in Europe, with average temperatures of 12 to 18 degree Celsius.
Portugal has a semi-presidential constitutional republic. They have 4 main institutions: the President of the Republic, the Parliament, the Government - headed by the Prime Minister, and the courts. The President is elected to a 5-year term and acts as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The courts are divided into 3 levels: judicial, the administrative, and the fiscal branches. The Supreme Court is the institution of the last appeal.
Portugal is one of the top 20 travel destinations in the world, with over 13 million average tourists a year. An important part of the country's economy, earnings from tourism account for 5% of the total Gross Domestic Product or GDP.
The top 3 tourist hotspots are Lisbon - the capital, Algarve - the beach destination, and the island of Madeira on the Atlantic Ocean.
Algarve is the most popular tourist destination in Portugal. Located in the southernmost region of the mainland, its population triples during the summer peak season. The city offers stunning beaches and natural beauty.
Madeira is one of Portugal's sovereign lands on the Atlantic. A sub-tropical archipelago, it is the go-to place for scuba diving, surfing, and a host many other water sports and activities.
43 km from Madeira is Porto Santo, an island being promoted by Portugal's tourism as one of the top emerging tourist destinations. It is known for its golf course and beach resorts.
Adult literacy rate in Portugal is 99%, with primary education enrollment reaching almost 100%. About 35% of the Portugal citizens around the age of 20 attend the country's higher education institutions.
Portugal's universities are among the oldest in the world, with the first one established in 1290.
- Portugal produces more than half of the world's supply of cork, mainly on the Alentejo countryside.
- Lisbon is the 2nd oldest city in the world, which comes next to Athens. The Portugal capital was established in 1200 BC.
- Portugal actually introduced drinking tea to the British. When Catherine of Braganza married King Charles II, she brought the practice with her to England.
- Portuguese is spoken by over 230 million all over the world, with a total of 9 countries with Portuguese as their national language.
Last Updated : June 27, 2015
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