Cuisine, stretch of beaches and the football star Christiano Ronaldo are what Portugal is mostly known for but it has so much more in store!
1. With borders that have pretty much remained the same since 1139, Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world and the oldest in Europe. Yes, Lisbon is older than even Rome! In fact, the Treaty of Windsor between Portugal and England was entered into the year 1386 and is the world’s oldest alliance still in force!
2. Speaking of treaties, the Treaty of Tordesillas actually promised half of the “New World” to Portugal in 1494 including Africa, Asia and even Brazil. Theirs was one of the longest running colonial empires, spreading over 6 centuries until the year 1999 which saw the handover of Macau (China).
3. The Portuguese language is officially used by 9 nations. In addition to its slightly over 10 million inhabitants, around 230 million others from around the world also converse and use Portuguese, making it the 6th most used language in the world.
4. Algarve manufacturers the best corks in the world. How do you know that? Well, seeing as their clientele includes NASA, Rolls Royce, Moet Chandon, etc. I’m guessing this is correct. Responsible for 50% of the world’s production, Portugal is the biggest manufacturer of corks in the world. More interestingly they say that the country is home to a Cork Convent. In 1560, in Sintra’s Convent of Capuchos, Fransican monks would use cells which were completely lined with corks. The place thus not only earned this name but was also regarded to be worthy for spiritual contemplation.
6. The country’s own ATM system is called Multibanco has been around since even before online banking. With it being as advanced, the machine can provide about 60 functions, beyond your basic banking to even buying events tickets, paying for your phone, etc.
7. The nation was really ahead of its times because it was the first to even begin including fingerprints in IDs, back in 2008. You know who set your Aadhar Card, etc. in motion!
8. Call me old fashioned but there’s something about the charm of reading books physically in your hand which E-books just don’t do for me. Smitten by the bookworm bug? You’ll be pleased to know that the world’s oldest bookstore is Lisbon’s Bertrand. Established in 1732, it only changed its location in 1755 due to an earthquake but has been around ever since. Ah, the smell of books, the sound of flipping a page and doing it all where the culture of bookstores first came to take birth.
9. Actually, Portugal is quite a name in the world of innovation, having hosted the Web Summit in 2016 and being ranked amongst the top 13 innovative countries of the world. We have them to thank for prepaid mobiles and green lane systems. It is the tech savvy hub today.
10. Speaking of world records and quirks, it is also home to the world’s largest dining set. How big? Well, they served lunch to 150,000 people on it amidst inauguration celebrations.
11. The coast in the region of Nazare is known to have some of the biggest waves in the world, some even touching 100 feet in height! This has thus been attracting surfers including star surfers from around the world and led to Portugal being one of 2 countries to host the World Surfing League including the big wave surfing contest. In 2018, Rodrigo Koxa broke the preceding the Guinness World Record by riding a wave 80 feet in height at Nazare!
12. It is also quite the blooming hub for footwears with the industry modelling itself as the sexiest in Europe. Portugal brand have international acclaim and have seen royalty such as Pippa Middleton and pop-royalty such as Rihanna don their shoes. The industry even projected an investment of 160 million euros between 2015- 2020.
13. Stretching over 17 kms, Vasco De Gama is Europe’s longest bridge.
14. Planning on catching a flight to Portugal? Sounds great, just make sure to avoid the Madeira airport! The airport named after Ronaldo, is actually located in an archipelago and its location between ocean shores and cliffs makes the landings here very tricky! (Curious about which are the other dangerous airports in the world? Click here to find out!
15. Hey explorers have you heard of Ferdinand Magellan? The Portuguese origin man was the first in the world to take on the adventure of circumventing the globe!
16. My favourite things to learn about a country are their folklore, their myths, etc. From Portugal we have the “mouras encantadas” or the shape shifting who with their magic would guard the castles, rivers, caves, bridges and beyond. They are said to have been held captive in occult power, offering a reward to whoever vanquished their freedom.
Trip Leader Niyati’s Recommendations:
1. When you’ve heard so much about the Portuguese empire and history, why not actually see it up close and personal? The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was built in the 16th century and is ornately decorated and waiting to tell you about the country’s rich history.
2. The Belem Tower of Lisbon is an icon for the trademark Manueline architectural style structure which overlooks the water crashing against it.
3. The city of Sintra is a treat with its forests, gardens and mountain tops. The Pena Palace particularly stands out for the 19th century construction is a vibrant burst of colours which beyond history also offers some picturesque sights to see as well as interesting themes which can be seen in the palace. When in Sintra you can even head to the National Palace, Castle of Moors and Quinta da Regaleira. Get lost in the dreamy side of a lost European era.
4. How about going to the world’s largest artificial underwater park?! An attraction for divers, this place has an evolving ecosystem and also 4 decommissioned naval ships! You’re looking to go to the Ocean Revival Underwater Park.
5. A lighthouse on the edge of a cliff, the Cabo De Rama is a special place because the water overlooking the view looks beautiful, the structure looks beautiful and the experience as a whole is one where you want to spend your whole day just taking in the beauty of all that surrounds you.
6. Ribeiro District is the old quarter in the city of Porto. With cafes and restaurants on the cobblestone path overlooking River Duoro, this is a place where you’d want to take long lazy walks as you roam around.
7. Hellooo water babies! With Ria Formosa Natural Park lagoons and a vast coastline beckon you into their blues. The right kind of blues!
8. Porto Moniz is also perched prettily upon volcanic cliffs offering some of the best views in the country! Natural pools surrounded by rocky formations and plush properties together make this quite the treat.
How to Reach:
From India you can fly to Portugal with a layover in either France, Istanbul or UK.