Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world and is the south westerly country of Europe. Beside the continental mainland, Portugal has two independent archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean – Azores and Madeira. All frontiers remain since the 17th century.
Portugal’s biggest river Tejo divides the North, high mountains and high lands with the South, lower and without big mountains. The Interior, generally flat is also interrupted by peaks. The mountain chains are concentrated in the Centre: the Serra da Estrela with 1.991m high. The southern coastline consists of a long stretch of fabulous sandy beaches, broken up by extraordinary rugged cliffs with fantastic grottoes and the lagoon Ria Formosa Nature Reserve.
Portugal offers an attractive mix of temperate climate, heritage, culture and stunning scenery.
Tourism is increasing in Portugal. It is attractive to the individual or family looking for good beaches, excellent food, fine wines, a vast range of history, architecture and culture, and Portuguese hospitality. It is not an area which appeals to the more traditional "mass market” of certain areas of Spain, for example. There is a deep seated culture of respect in Portugal, and Portuguese extend their warmth and tremendous hospitality to those who take the trouble to find them and do not abuse their traditional values.
Situated on the extreme South of Portugal, this part of the territory was the last to be conquered from the Moors by the Portuguese king in 1292. Traces of the Moorish presence are still seen in its unique architecture - terraces, chimneys and whitewashed houses.
However, the distance that was difficult to cover back in the 13th century is no longer an obstacle thanks to the modern Lisbon-Lagos-Castro Marim road (A22) or Faro international airport. The Algarvian coast spreads over more than 200 km from the Spanish border in the East to the Costa Vicentina in the West.
In the northern part of the Algarve, the hills of Espinhação de Cão, Monchique and Caldeirão shelter the coast from strong winds. This brightly coloured region, with its fig trees, orange groves and almond trees in blossom, is also the most verdant and fertile.
Apart from the wealth of available water sports facilities (the marinas of Vilamoura and Lagos deserves special mention, amongst the various ports and harbours), there are other alternatives, such as tennis courts, famous golf`courses, luxury hotels or quaint holiday resorts and an exciting nightlife.
The pattern of the coast differs significantly. In the Eastern Algarve dunes and lagoons dominate the picture. The beaches of the Central Algarve are well protected by picturesque cliffs, and the Western Algarve offers dramatic rocks, hidden creeks and caves washed by the Atlantic Ocean.