Portugal Tourism

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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One way to think about Portugal tourism is to break it down to the Azores, Madeira, and the Mainland. The two island archipelagos are not unalike. The nine islands of the Azores lie about 1,000 miles due west into the Atlantic. The eight islands of Madeira lie about 600 miles southwest--only two are inhabited. Both are volcanic strings and enjoy temperate climates.

When they were discovered by a Portuguese pilot in the early 15th century, the Azores showed no sign of previous habitation or even visits. By the end of the century all nine islands were inhabited, and have been ever since. A stopping point for Spanish fleets returning from the West Indies, the Azores became a focal point of both peninsular wars and the maritime war with England. The economy continues to be based on agriculture. The Azores are wonderful islands, with lush vegetation, natural hot springs (hence a popular spot of Portugal tourism), and a great sense of removal.

Madeira is said to be the site of the world's first sugar cane plantation. The island's economy is still based largely on sugar, as well as wine and bananas. Madeira's wine--dark brown and ranging in taste from dry to sweet--was first exported in the 17th century. Both sugar and wine industries on the island suffered for a time when slavery was abolished by Portuguese reformer Marques de Pombal in 1777.

Portugal Tourism: the Mainland

Continental Portugal has but one land border, with Spain, which governed Portugal until the 14th century. It is divided, fairly easily, into five Portugal tourism regions north to south. Most renowned for its year-round temperate climate, friendly people, and delightful cuisine, Portugal is a wonderful place to visit. Its history is as rich and varied as Spain's and Italy's, and a source of delight to architectural and art lovers everywhere, not to mention lovers of food and wine.

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