|Portugal had an illustrious past. Its navigators sailed the world and turned it into a major colonial power. Later, matters went down-hill, ending in a military dictatorship which reduced it to one of the bottom countries of Europe. Since then Portugal has recovered under a democratic regime with membership in the European Union.
As seen on the map below, the country may be divided into four regions.
All the way south is the Algarve, an attractive tourist region with booming sea resorts. It is among the major tourist destinations of Europe and attracts some 10 million visitors annually. Albufeira, Lagos and Sagres are major tourism centers. Some of Europe's top golf courses are located in the Algarve.
North of the Algarve is the Alentejo, which extends to the Tagus river. The area is hot and arid and not a particularly good tourist destination. The major cities are Beja, Evora and Portalegre.
The South Central Region includes the capital, Lisbon, which is an alpha- rated Global City, because of its highly developed financial infrastructure. Lisbon attracts close to 2 million visitors annually. Baixa is the city center, Bairro Alto and Chiado are shopping and entertainment areas, Alfama, the historical quarter and Parque das Nações the spectacular result of urban renewal.
Coimbra, once the capital of the country, is the major City of Northern Central Portugal. It is an interesting city to visit because of its Roman monuments and renowned university.
The capital of the North is Porto, Portugal's second city. Its historic center is a UNESCO World heritage Site. The city serves as the region's hub of culture, commerce and industry. Port Wine is a world-renowned local product.
Off in the Atlantic are the Portuguese archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores.
Madeira attracts some one million visitors per year. Its capital, Funchal, is an important cruise line destination.
The Azores are nine volcanic islands, where Ponta Delgada is a cruise destination. Waterfalls, lakes and mountains are the local attractions. You may wish to download the Portugal Tourism Bureau's comprehensive brochure on the Islands.