PortugalPortugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is located in South-Western Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula. It’s the most western country of mainland Europe, being bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east.

Besides continental Portugal, the Portuguese Republic holds sovereignty over the Atlantic archipelagos of Azores and Madeira, which are both autonomous regions of Portugal.

The country is named after its second largest city, Porto, whose Latin name was Portus Cale, or in English”Port of Cale”.

The area that is present day Portugal has been settled since prehistoric times. In fact, the region was first inhabited by Neanderthals. With such a long history of habitation, much of what is of interest to visitors to Portugal is historically based. There are historical sites in Portugal that date back to prehistoric times, as well as stone age, bronze age and iron age sites, through to the late medieval ages.

Roman Temple at Evora, Portugal

Roman Temple at Evora, Portugal

What is modern day Portugal is also a land that has been fought over as far back as recorded history extends. Archaeological evidences indicates that that the lands of what is now Portugal have been inhabited by formal communities of one society or another since 1500 BC. Many of these peoples co-existed in relative harmony, or at least warred irregularly. The first true military invaders, and subsequent conquering rulers of the Iberian Peninsula were the Romans in 219 BC. The often contested period of Roman rule lasted almost 300 years. The declining Roman Empire required Imperial troops to be withdrawn to Rome to defend the city state, which opened the doors for the Visigoths and Suebians, who were already settled in the Iberian Peninsula, to assert their rule.

In 409 BC the Iberian Peninsula was occupied by Germanic tribes known as the Visigoths or just Goths.  The Goths shared the Iberian Peninsula with the Suebians and Romans until the second half of the 6th century. First the Romans left, leaving the Goths in control of most of the Iberian Peninsula, with the Suebian Kingdom being the northern coastal area of what is now Portugal. In the 6th century the Goths conquered the Kingdom of the Suebi and turned their northern coastal lands into the 6th province of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania. It wasn’t until the 8th century that much of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Moorish invaders and Visigoth rule ended.

The Moors were medieval Muslims who invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711 AD. They called their territory, which was comprised of modern day Gibraltar, most of Spain and Portugal, and parts of France, Al-Andalus.

It was in 1139 that Portugal established itself as an independent kingdom, but it wasn’t until the fall of Granada in 1492 that Muslim rule in all of Iberia ended. It was during the 15th and 16th centuries, the Age of Discovery, that Portugal began to expand its territories and established the first global empire. In so doing, Portugal became one of the world’s major economic, political and military powers to the point it divided the world with Spain. Both nations still hold overseas possessions from this period.

The Portuguese Empire was the longest lived of all the modern European colonial empires. The Portuguese Empire survived for almost 600 years, starting with the capture of Ceuta in 1415 and extending to when Macau was turned over to China in 1999, and East Timor was granted sovereignty in 2002.

The Portuguese Empire so vast that it once extended across territories that are now 53 different sovereign states. Portuguese imperialism’s legacy today is global, with over 250 million Portuguese speaking people spread around the world, making it the 6th most spoken first language.

Portugal’s international status was greatly reduced during the 19th century when Brazil gained its independence. Brazil was the largest and most important of Portugal’s colonies. The 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy and the Portuguese First Republic was established. It was unstable and was soon superseded by the right-wing, authoritarian regime known as “Estado Novo”. Democracy wasn’t restored until after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution in 1974. The Carnation Revolution also resulted in independence for Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Timor-Leste, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau in 1975.

Portugal today enjoys an advanced economy with a high standard of living, and is one of the world’s most globalized and peaceful nations. It’s a member of the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU),  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and World Trade Organization (WTO). Portugal is also a member of the Eurozone, meaning the official national currency is the Euro. Portugal is also part of the Schengen Area, which is an area comprised of the lands of 26 European countries that have abolished passport and immigration controls at their internal European borders. Of course Portugal is also a member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.

To book your accommodations Portugal, go to Booking.com

If you have visited Portugal please share your experience with other travelers by adding a review in the comment section below. Thank you!

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Vagabond Travel came into being April 16, 2014 when I departed Canada heading for Mexico City. I have no destination in mind, nor an itinerary to follow. This is a sort of website, journal and travel blog all rolled into one. That’s about it.

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