Friday, June 03, 2005

Portugal Overview

PORTUGAL


Fine beaches, a temperate year-round climate, mouth-watering gastronomy and friendly people are just a few of the ingredients that spice up the experience of visiting Europe's south-westernmost country.


Portugal is roughly a rectangle in shape; 561 km (350 miles) long and an average of 188 km (117 miles) wide. Its 88,550 sq. km (34,200 sq. miles) cover almost one seventh of the Iberian Peninsular. In reality, its Atlantic position provides a much cooler climate, particularly in the north where a refreshing amount of rain falls during winter. Influenced by the Gulf Stream and the isobars circulating around North Africa, the climate in Portugal is simultaneously Atlantic and Mediterranean.


Portugal's strength as a holiday destination is its diversity, a something-for-everyone kind of place with mountains, vast arid plains, sub-tropical volcanic islands and lush-green meadows, not forgetting 528 miles of sandy beaches. Rich in cultural traditions and history it is one of the oldest nations in Europe, an ideal country with lovely beach resorts offering the opportunity for a pleasant and restful break at any time of the year.


Portugal is a fast-growing destination for golfers who can now choose from more than forty top-class courses including San Lorenzo, in the Algarve, officially recognised as one of Europe's best championship courses. Most other sporting activities are freely available in Portugal, such as, surfing, windsurfing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, fishing, sailing, swimming, mountain biking, rambling, horse-riding, hunting, bird-watching, skiing, tennis, cycling, etc...


Portugal - the last real old place in Europe - is a country of outstanding natural beauty, scattered with medieval towns and historic castles and palaces.


PORTUGAL GASTRONOMY


Portuguese food is distinctive and varied, featuring many regional specialities that have evolved from local traditions and ingredients.
Much of Portuguese cooking is spice based, thanks largely to Vasco da Gama and the other navigators of his time. He and his seafaring countrymen traversed the globe collecting pepper, cloves, curry, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a range of savoury foods which serve as the base of many dishes today. Fish is a mainstay of Portuguese cuisine, particularly sardines and the ever-present dried codfish. Portuguese meat is both tasty and safe to eat, particularly pork which for centuries has been an important livestock in the country's rural economy. The annual slaughter between December and Easter is still a major event in the winter calendar of most farms and villages. In the Bairrada region north of Coimbra, many restaurants specialise in roast sucking pig. Some parts of the pig in feijoada, a bean stew made with black pudding and pork knuckle.


PORTUGAL LEISURE


Despite its size, Portugal offers a great variety of terrain, with a wide range of sports and leisure activities to match. Golf and tennis facilities have been well established for many years, and in the south the mild climate means that both sports can be enjoyed all year round. In the Algarve, most of the courts in tourist complexes are hard-surfaced, although elsewhere many are clay. The larger resorts in the Algarve, Madeira and the Estoril Coast & Sintra region offer tennis coaching holidays.


Portugal’s resorts are also famous for their golf courses, which include some of Europe’s finest. The majority offer coaching for golfers of all abilities and specialist holidays are now easy to arrange. Surfing, windsurfing and sailing are extremely popular along Portugal’s 800 kilometres of coastline and around the Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Azores. The best beach for surfing is the world-famous Guincho, just outside Cascais in the Estoril Coast, where international championships are often held. Also in the Algarve, the modern marinas at Lagos, Albufeira and Vilamoura are important yachting centres.


PORTUGAL CURRENCY


Portugal currency is the euro. You can exchange money at banks, which are open from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. five working days a week; at bureaux de change; and at automatic currency exchange machines (these are for currency sale transactions only).
In Portugal, the most commonly used credit cards are: Visa, Visa Electron, American Express, Diners Club, Europay / MasterCard, JCB and Maestro.


DRIVING IN PORTUGAL


Vehicles drive on the right in Portugal. Unless otherwise indicated, vehicles coming from the right have priority in squares and at intersections.
At junctions with roundabouts, vehicles already on the roundabout have right of way.
Road signs comply with international rules.
It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 grams per litre or more.
All occupants must wear seat belts.


PORTUGAL TELEPHONES


In public telephone booths, coins and special cards can be used. They are sold in Portugal Telecom shops, post offices and some kiosks and news-stands (with a sign indicating this).


All telephone numbers in Portugal are composed of nine digits. To call from abroad to Portugal, it is necessary to dial the international access code 00 and the country code 351. To call abroad from Portugal, dial 00, the country code, the area code and then the number wanted. The dialling codes of the various countries are affixed in public telephone booths.


During your holiday don't forget to visit the most famous and important highlights of the Algarve .Beginning with the Algarve 's capital, located at the sea side Faro, is surrounded by the Ria Formosa, a nature reserve of 17.00 hectares and stopping place for migrating birds. The Faro airport is connecting the Algarve with most European capitals by direct flights and handles several million passengers a year. Drive west and you will arrive to Vilamoura. A special place, an exclusive leisure and recreation resort community where the peace of life is so easy it feels like summer all year round. Driving a few kilometres more, you will get to the centre of the Algarve , Albufeira, acknowledged as one of the main tourist regions of the country. Continuing towards the heart of the sunny Algarve , you will find the small inlet of Carvoeiro protected between high cliffs. A few kilometres ahead, Lagos is our last stop. A Marina presents a lovely picture and the harbour, is the first sight a visitor has. With its relaxed atmosphere and quiet charm, make it one of the most appealing locations in the Algarve to visitors from abroad, an important tourist town there are still many architectural signs of its ancient past.Car Hire in the Algarve at a cheap price, a brand new vehicle and a helpful team to assist you. We suggest the following websites: Algarve Car Hire, Car Hire in the Algarve, Car Hire Portugal, Portugal Car Hire, Car Hire Lisbon, Faro Car Hire, Vilamoura Car Hire, Albufeira Car Hire, Carvoeiro Car Hire, Lagos Car Hire. If you need airport transfer from or to Faro airport check out Algarve Transfers.