Despite a rich history, great safety record, stunning beaches and vast cities, Portugal is a destination that often goes overlooked in Europe. This has been beginning to change over time, with people beginning to catch on to all that Europe’s westernmost country has to offer. To get started on learning about this underrated powerhouse, here are ten interesting facts about Portugal.
1. Thanks to big waves and pristine beaches along this coastal country, Portugal is one of the most popular surf destinations around the world. Some of its legendary beaches for surfing include Nazaré, Algarve and Cascais.
2. Portugal is also considered to be the oldest country in Europe, with the same borders it has today dating back to 1139 when Afonso Henriques took the throne as the first king in their monarchy that would last for several centuries and gain influence across the globe.
© William Warby
3. Though they were one of the first countries to contribute to the transatlantic slave trade, Portugal was also the first colonial power to abolish it. They got rid of it in 1761, which was almost 50 years ahead of Britain, France, Spain and the United States.
4. Their Mediterranean climate provides roughly 300 days of sunshine per year, allowing warm and sunny weather that makes it an ideal travel destination during almost any month without risk of bad weather.
© Giuseppe Milo
5. Portugal is responsible for over half of the cork production in the world, making it one of their biggest exports. Because of this it’s unsurprising to discover that they are also home to world’s the largest cork forest.
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6. In 2010, Portugal became the sixth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage, and has been well ranked for their LGBT human rights record since then. This occasionally comes as a surprise to foreigners who also know that Portugal is largely Roman Catholic with over three-quarters of their population devoted to this faith.
© Pedro Ribeiro Simões
7. While many people look to Rome as one of the oldest cities in Europe, Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon is actually older. People have populated the area since as early as 1,200 BC, which predates Rome’s founding by almost four centuries.
8. UNESCO declared fado, a popular type of music throughout Portugal, as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage. It’s often characterized by mournful tunes backed by guitars, mandolins and violins, and to this day is commonly heard in cafes and restaurants across the country.
© Terry Kearney
9. Though the capital city of Lisbon is also Portugal’s largest city, Portugal is named for its second-largest city, Porto. In the past, this city has been principally known for its wine production. However, this is rapidly growing as a beloved destination not only in Portugal, but also in Western Europe as a whole for its history, architecture and relaxed atmosphere.
10. Portugal is also a world leader in renewable energy, with nearly with more than half of its energy needs being met by hydro, wind, and solar power. They’ve also began using even more innovative ideas that work for them, such as technology capable of converting the movements of ocean waves into energy and electricity.