Portugal is the westernmost point of Europe and lies on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The long Atlantic coastline is popular with visitors and locals alike. Surfers are drawn to the strong surf in the west, and the warm, sandy beaches in the south are a haven for tourists.
Most people live along the coast, with a third of the population living in the large metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto.
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PEOPLE & CULTURE
Portuguese cities still retain their historic character and many of the old buildings remain intact. Lisbon hasn't changed much since the late 18th century. The natural environment is well preserved and there is no serious pollution.
The art of tile painting and glazing, known as azulejos, is one of the most popular art forms in Portugal. The technique was first introduced by the Moors and was adopted by the king in the 1500s and the use of the blue and white tiles spread across the country and is practiced by artisans today.
Eight out of ten Portuguese people are Roman Catholic. Saints' days and religious festivals are very popular events. Although the country has been modernized thanks to the money it receives from richer European countries, the people are still quite poor compared to those in other countries.
Most of Portugal was once covered by forests. Today, only a quarter of the country remains forested. While some native species, such as the cork tree are still common, many plants are foreign species and were introduced by humans.
Farming and hunting have reduced the numbers of wild animals living in Portugal. The common animals are boars, wild goats, fallow deer, foxes, and Iberian hares. The Iberian lynx is the most endangered cat species in the world. Portugal and Spain are working together to create open space to allow the remaining few hundred lynxes to roam freely.
The coastline is a rich habitat for crabs, clams, and oysters, and tuna, bonito, and sardines are a common catch for Portuguese fisherman.
Many migratory birds stop in Portugal while on their journey to and from central Europe to Africa and beyond.