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Geography of Portugal

Learn Information about the European Nation of Portugal


Portugal Flag

The Portugal flag has two vertical bands of green (hoist side, two-fifths) and red (three-fifths) with the Portuguese coat of arms centered on the dividing line.

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2007
Updated July 08, 2011

Population: 10,760,305 (July 2011 estimate)
Capital: Lisbon
Bordering Country: Spain
Area: 35,556 square miles (92,090 sq km)
Coastline: 1,114 miles (1,793 km)
Highest Point: Ponta do Pico at 7,713 feet (2,351 m)

Portugal is a country located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and Spain to the north and east. In addition, Portugal's area also includes the islands of Azores and Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal is considered one of the world's most developed countries and it has a very strong economy as well as a very high quality of life as determined by the Human Development Index.

History of Portugal

Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Its organized history begins in 1140 C.E. when Afonso Henriques, the Count of Portugal, became Portugal's first king after a rebellion. At this time he was known as Afonso I and during his and his successor's time in power, Portugal's territory expanded to the south. In 1147 Portugal took Lisbon from the Moors and nearly all of Portugal's current borders were set in 1249 by Afonso III.

Throughout its early history, Portugal was known for its explorers and by 1337 they landed on the Canary Islands. Shortly thereafter many Portuguese explorers made expeditions to Brazil, India and Japan and Portugal became a colonial empire with territories all over the world (U.S. Department of State). In 1580 some political disputes led to Philip II of Spain becoming the Portuguese king. In 1640 a revolt in Portugal ended Spain's power there and the House of Braganca became Portugal's ruling family, which lasted until 1910 when the Portuguese Republic was established (U.S. Department of State).

Following Portugal's independence was years of political and economic instability. As a result in 1926 a military government was established and Antonio Salazar was named as prime minister in 1932. Salazar then began ruling Portugal "as an authoritarian 'corporate' state" (U.S. Department of State). As a result, Portugal's economy began to improve.

By the 1960s however, Portugal's territories in Africa began to stage independence movements and this led to economic problems in Portugal. In addition, dissatisfaction with Portugal's military-led government caused social problems and in 1973 the Armed Forces Movement began. On April 25, 1974 the Armed Forces Movement took power from the government and established its own military government. This led to some instability and in 1976 a new constitution was ratified and its shifted toward a parliamentary democracy.

Government of Portugal

Today Portugal's government is considered a republic as well as a parliamentary democracy. It has an executive branch of government consisting of a chief of state (the president) and a head of government (the prime minister). It also has a legislative branch that is made up of the unicameral Assembly of the Republic whose members are elected by popular vote for four year terms. Portugal's judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court and its judges are appointed for life. Portugal is divided into 18 districts for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Portugal

In 1986 Portugal joined the European Community (what later became the European Union) and since then its economy has become highly diversified and strong. Its main industries are textiles, clothing, footwear, wood and cork, paper, chemicals, auto-parts manufacturing, base metals, dairy products, wine and other foods, porcelain and ceramics, glassware, technology, telecommunications and ship construction and refurbishment ("CIA World Factbook"). In addition tourism is also a major part of Portugal's economy and as such the related service-sector has increased in importance there in recent years. Agriculture is also practiced in the country and the main products are grain, potatoes, tomatoes, olives, grapes, sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, dairy products and fish ("CIA World Factbook").

Geography and Climate of Portugal

Portugal is located in southwestern Europe with 1,114 miles (1,793 km) of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. The total area of Portugal includes both its mainland on the Iberian Peninsula as well as the archipelagos of Madeira and Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. The highest point in Portugal, Ponta do Pico at 7,713 feet (2,351 m), is located on the island of Pico in the Azores. In general the topography of Portugal's mainland consists of mountains in its northern areas and rolling plains in the south.

The climate of Portugal is maritime temperate but it varies based on location within the country. In the north it is cool and rainy, while the south is generally warm and dry. Portugal's capital and largest city, Lisbon, is located in central Portugal on the Atlantic coast and its average August high temperature is 82˚F (28˚C). The average January low temperature for Lisbon is 46.6˚F (8˚C).

To learn more about Portugal, visit the Geography and Maps page on Portugal on this website.


Central Intelligence Agency. (15 June 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - Portugal. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/po.html

Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Portugal: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107895.html

United States Department of State. (17 May 2011). Portugal. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3208.htm

Wikipedia.com. (29 June 2011). Portugal - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portugal

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