Portugal is officially known as the Portuguese Republic and is off the Iberian Peninsula. This country has been continuously settled since prehistoric times and some of the earliest civilizations included the Celtics and Lusitanians. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal was one of the of the worlds most powerful political, economical and cultural powers and had an empire that included Asia, Africa and South America. Portugal is a highly developed nation and is ranked 19th in the worlds quality of life standard.
Portugal is one of the warmest countries in Europe and has a Mediterranean climate. Some of the more popular areas in Portugal are the conservation areas such as; one national park, nine natural reserves, five natural monuments and seven protected landscapes. Portugal has a very diverse fauna with over six hundred species of birds, one hundred kinds of freshwater fish and a thousand marine fish species.
There are also many festivals and locations to visit in Portugal. The Lisbon Village Festival which is a world famous film celebration that features music, film and arts. There are exhibits, Polish and Japanese films, the Village Lounge which features music played by DJ's and VJ's for actors, press and visitors. There is also an open-air fair called the Lisbon Book Fair, which is held in Edward VII Park, this event has been held every year since the 1930's. Both of these events attract several hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Portugal offers much in the area of sight-seeing activities. There is the beautiful Castelo de Sao Jorge, which dates back from the Moorish occupation during the 10th century. The castle boasts breathtaking views of the River Tagus and the famed Alfama medieval district. The castle grounds boast walking trails filled with olive, pine and cork trees which provide a welcome respite for relaxing. The Alfama district is located in the oldest part of Lisbon and is right down the hill from Castelo de Sao Jorge. There are narrow cobblestone alley ways, quaint row houses, and at the end is Lisbons famed flea market, Fiera dal Ladra. Alfama is an area filled with all the old world traditions that makes Portugal so popular.
Portuguese cuisine is very unlike than any other food in the world. In Portugal dry cod (bacalhau) is consumed and is in hundreds of different recipes. Grilled sardines and caldeirada are also examples of popular Portuguese dishes. Other typical meats included are pork, beef, chicken or lamb in recipes like feijoada (stew), churrasco (grilled beef or meat) or Carne de Porco a Alentejana (pork and clams). Each region of Portugal has their own traditional dishes, making for some very diverse cuisine. Portugal is also a country that is well known for its wines and has won several international awards. Some of the best wines in the world come from Portugal such as; Vinho Verde, Vihno Alvarinho, Vinho do Doa and Port wines.
The climate of Portugal is varying depending on what time of year it is. The summers can be very dry and hot, especially in Algarve, which gets little to annual precipitation. Lisbon, however, has a warmer climate with temperatures that hover around 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, with winters that are wet and windy with temperatures in the mid to lower 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In Portugal there is a steady stream of sea breezes that make conditions more pleasant. The best time to travel to Portugal is in either the spring or fall, there are cheaper hotel rates, less crowds on the beaches, restaurants and other tourist attractions.