ABOUT An independent kingdom since 1143, Portugal established its continental frontiers in 1297 and is one of the oldest nations in Europe. Situated on the west side of the Iberian Peninsula, its geographic location along the Atlantic coast soon determined its vocation to the sea. In 1415, the Portuguese set sail on an epic voyage that would make them the first to discover the ocean routes to India, Brazil, China and Japan, and at the same time founded settlements on the east and west coasts of Africa. The natural advantages of a sunny country with such diverse geographic features have turned Portugal into a chosen destination for many holidaymakers, an ideal place for practicing water sports and playing golf, offering modern tourism facilities, and quaint and personalized means of accommodation, such as ‘turismo de habitação’ (privately owned homes ranging from wonderful farmhouses to manor houses), ‘hotéis de charme’ or ‘pousadas’.
CLIMATE The climate in mainland Portugal varies from north to south and from coast to mountain. Tthe south, experiences Mediterranean weather with particularly mild winters and hot summers. Further north, the coast is warmed by the Gulf Stream, so winters are still mild and summers are warm. More inland summers are hotter but the winter temperature drops. In winter you can even find snow in Portugal. In the Algarve summers are particularly dry and sunny with 12 hours of sunshine each day and an average maximum temperature of 28 degrees Celsius 82° Fahrenheit and minimum of 20 degrees Celsius 68° Fahrenheit.
BEWARE Crime rates are low but pickpocketing, handbag snatching and theft from cars and holiday properties are common in major tourist areas and can be accompanied by violence. Make sure your holiday accommodation has adequate security. Lock all doors and windows at night and when you go out. If you’re worried about security at your accommodation, speak to your tour operator or the owner. Sexual assaults are rare, but you should be alert to the possible use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs, including ‘GHB’ and liquid ecstasy. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times to make sure they aren’t spiked.