Photograph by Richard Klune/CORBIS
The westernmost country of mainland Europe, edged by the Atlantic to the west and south and Spain to the north and east, it’s best known as the great seafaring nation that created a global empire stretching from Africa to Asia to South America in the 15th and 16th centuries. • This rugged wedge of the Iberian Peninsula has its own long history of being overrun, but today Portugal is one of Europe’s best kept secrets, with great food and wine and spectacular countryside at some of the Continent’s best prices.
Photograph by Michael MelfordPort produced in the Douro Valley was once shipped downriver to the city of Porto in sailboats called barcos rabelos, anchored here along the Douro River. "We could see long cellars hunkered down on the riverbank, their slanted roofs emblazoned with the names of the port trade's biggest players: Croft, Taylor, Sandeman, Graham, Cockburn," says writer Rachel Howard. "As the light fades in the west, and the city lights come on, this is a magical time to be out strolling along the promenade that lines both sides of the river," says photographer Michael Melford.
Photograph by Michael MelfordA shepherd stands above a vineyard at Quinta do Vesuvio, "a grand, five-century-old estate that exclusively produces vintage port," according to writer Rachel Howard. "After the harvest, the sheep come and eat what is left of the fruit on the vines," says photographer Michael Melford. "I sat and watched as the dog and the shepherd worked as a team to direct the sheep through the vineyard and up the hill." Once known only for its port wine, the Douro Valley now also produces highly regarded table wines. Travelers here can visit vineyards and explore tiny villages.
Photograph by Michael MelfordThe facades of buildings reveal Porto's faded grandeur. "Scrawny dogs scavenged in alleys so narrow they were in perpetual darkness," says writer Rachel Howard. "Lured by the mournful strains of fado, the Portuguese music dedicated to the pangs of love and exile, we stepped inside dimly lit bars in the Rua de Como da Villa. The medieval cathedral loomed above the city, almost sinister in its bulk. The double-tiered Dom Luís I bridge, built in the 1880s, afforded giddying views over the city, which appeared to have changed little in the intervening years."
Photograph by Michael MelfordVineyards hug the hills near Chanceleiros village. Hiking the Douro Valley, author Rachel Howard and her friend Angelos Talentzakis encountered only the occasional pickup truck or flock of sheep. "The world's oldest demarcated wine region, the Douro had its boundaries set in stone in 1756," says Howard, "when the Marquis de Pombal put up granite pillars to define the area officially permitted to produce port. The entire valley is now a World Heritage site, and several wine estates have recognized the potential of turismo rural, offering tasting tours and rooms to rent."
Photograph by Michael MelfordA local woman walks a stone-paved path at the Alojamento Senhora da Ribeira, a riverside inn where writer Rachel Howard spent the night. "It was pitch dark by the time we reached the tiny station of Vesuvio, 75 miles east of Porto. We boarded a motorboat and glided across the inky river under a dusting of stars. The immense quinta loomed out of the darkness on the south bank of the river." That night, Howard enjoyed a dinner of roast lamb with pomegranate at the inn's humble but homey restaurant.
Photograph by Michael MelfordA night view of the city of Porto shows the Igreja dos Grilos, a church built in the 17th century. Arriving in Porto before heading to the Douro Valley, writer Rachel Howard visited the city's cacophonous Mercado do Bolhäo, the food market. "Among the garlands of sausages, chili peppers, live chickens, and plastic flowers were beef and pig tripe, destined for the city's famous dish, tripas à moda do Porto," says Howard. "Residents of Porto are nicknamed tripeiros for their long association with the dish."
Photograph by Michael MelfordAt the Barrigodos bakery in the village of Favaois, "huge bundles of pine needles are used as kindling," says writer Rachel Howard, "giving their bread a delicious smoky flavor. The baker produced some warm rolls, along with homemade jam and a demijohn of port while we were there. Thankfully, there was only enough to fill one glass, as it was industrial strength. When I explained that we were walking the seven miles to Vilarinho de Säo Romäo, she crossed herself and did a little jig. I gathered that after a few more sips of port we'd be dancing all the way there."
Photograph by Nuno Cardal,
A very stormy night—this light and color are from a thunderstorm.
Photo and caption by Wim Veenstra,Windmill, Portugal
Photo and caption by Miguel Costa,After driving for hours in the southern part of Portugal (Alentejo region), right before sunset I finally pulled over by the roadside to take a shot of this amazing show of colors reflected in the menacing clouds at a short distance. Right after taking just a few pictures, it started raining like I've never seen before and everything went dark grey.
Photo and caption by Sandy Lunitz,This image was captured in the fading light of a stormy day on the Portuguese south coast, the Algarve. Waves were rolling in, very powerful, and there was salty spray in the air, covering the equipment within minutes, but I was so amazed by the light. Location: Praia Evaristo
Photo and caption by Miguel Costa,While driving from the southern part of Portugal to Lisbon, I spotted this picturesque field by the roadside, but I had no time to pull over. So I quickly grabbed my camera and just had time to take this shot through the open window of my car, at a speed of about 80km/h. Luckily I got it at perfect framing and light exposure.
Photo and caption by Pedro Sanches,
Serra do Geres, one of the most beautiful places in Portugal. It's a protected area with lots of beautiful sites, such as waterfalls and small wood bridges.
Photo and caption by Jarek Zuzga,Kids escaping from old Lisbon's tram
Photo and caption by Victor Van Keuren,Bairrada, Portugal
Photo and caption by Mario Carvalho,Popular festival in Portugal
Photo and caption by Jessica Blanco,Lisbon, Portugal
Photo and caption by Nuno Serrao,Skaters enjoying the surroundings of the beautiful Casa da Música (House of Music concert hall) in Oporto, Portugal
Photo and caption by Sandy Lunitz,I was traveling to the Alentejo, the quiet area above the Algarve, to capture the awakening nature. There is only a little time to capture the green and colorful side of the Alentejo—within weeks everything turns grey. The temperature in the summer reaches more than 45°C.
Photo and caption by Bulgarelli Francesca,Fishing village near Portimao, Portugal. Shooting into the sunset after a storm highlighted each of the colors.
Photo and caption by Martinho Costa,Gaia, Portugal
Photo and caption by Tomas Kotouc,Azores, Portugal
Photo and caption by Tiago Pedroso,People waiting for the boat that will take them to Almourol Castle, Almourol, Portugal, May 2009
Photo and caption by Goncalo Lopes,
Sao Lourenco Point, the easternmost peninsula of Madeira Island, named after the caravel sailed by Joao Gonalves de Zarco, one of the three discoverers of Madeira, who on coming near this piece of land shouted to his ship, "Sao Lourenco, that's enough!" This peninsula is volcanic in origin and is mainly made of basalt, although there are also some limestone sediment formations.
Photo and caption by Jorge Ferreira,Serra do Acor, Portugal
Photo and caption by Miguel Costa,The Portuguese Silver Coast is stunningly beautiful, with wide golden stretches of unmarked sand, turquoise sea, and rolling countryside. This picture was taken at one of the most beautiful beaches in the west coast, near Sao Pedro de Moel village. The region is truly an unspoiled gem, with its unique natural beauty. You can drive for miles along the coast and still find yourself on a completely deserted stretch of beach.
Photo and caption by Jose Fernandes,In a Lisbon, Portugal, mosque, prostrate believers show their faith and submission in perfect order.
Photo and caption by Leonard Cantor,Waiting for the bus high over the port town of Camaro do Lobos on Madeira, we witnessed the fading winter sun.
- Lisbon; 1,962,000
- 92,345 square kilometers (35,655 square miles)
- Portuguese, Mirandese
- Roman Catholic
- Life Expectancy:
- GDP per Capita:
- U.S. $19,400
- Literacy Percent:
Portugal, with its long Atlantic coast, lies on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe—the most westerly country on the European mainland. The land consists of highland forests in the north and rolling lowland in the south. It tends to be wetter and cooler in the north. The south can be hot and parched, and it is dotted with reservoirs to conserve water. Most people live along the coast, with a third of the population living in the urban areas of Lisbon and Porto.
Portugal Facts Flag
Established in the 12th century, Portugal came to preside over a vast realm that had its roots in the seafaring expeditions of the 1400s. In 1487-88 Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to round Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Breakup of the last great overseas empire came in the 1970s, when Portugal relinquished Angola, Mozambique, and other colonies; the influx of some 700,000 returning settlers—retornados—strained an already weak economy. Portugal includes the Azores and the Madeira Islands. Macau, the nation's last possession, reverted to China at midnight on December 19, 1999.
A coup in 1974 ended 42 years of dictatorship. Portugal joined the EU in 1986. EU loans funded infrastructure improvements but added to the burden of debt. To reverse the depopulation and desertification of its southeast region, the government built the Alqueva Dam on the Guadiana River. The hydroelectric dam was completed in 2002—the filling reservoir is creating Europe's largest manmade lake.
- Industry: Textiles and footwear; wood pulp, paper, and cork; metalworking
- Agriculture: Grain, potatoes, olives, grapes; sheep
- Exports: Clothing and footwear, machinery, chemicals, cork and paper products, hides