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Geography & Topography

Capital: Lisbon

Area: 92,090 km²

Population: 10 561 614

Language: Portuguese

Religion: Catholic

Currency: Euro


Portugal is part of the Iberian peninsula, bordering only to Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. The country is quite different from Spain and is split by the Tagus river. Almost half of the northern area of the Tagus lies above 400metres.

In the southern part of the Tagus the land only reaches that height at a few places. The north is hilly and mountainous and reaches heights from 500-800 meters. The highest summits, almost 2000 meters, can be found in the central Serra da Estrela, a mountain range going from northeast to southwest leading to the mouth of the Tagus. The valley of the Tagus is a flat area. The coast line (800 kilometres) is mostly flat and sandy, often hemmed with dunes. Near Lisbon at Cabo the Roca, the most western point of Europe, and at Cabo the São Vicente there are rocky beaches.

The longest rivers, the Minho, the Douro, the Tagus and the Guadiana, originally come from Spain. The Mondego and the Sado are the main rivers that flow entirely within the country borders.

The Azores stretch over 547 km in the Atlantic, and consist of nine islands with a total area of 2.335 km². Madeira, consisting of two inhabited islands, Madeira and Porto Santo, and two groups of uninhabited islands, lie in the Atlantic about 861 kilometres southwest of Lisbon.

Performing Arts





Portuguese music was influenced by music from Ancient Rome’s musical tradition brought into the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans and the rich artistic European tradition. Its genres range from classical to popular music. Portugal’s music history includes musical history from the medieval Gregorian chants through Carlos Seixas’ symphonies era to the composers of the modern era. Musical history of Portugal can be divided in different ways.




The most recognizable instruments in traditional Portuguese music are:


Adufe: The adufe is a traditional square tambourine of Moorish origin, which is used in Portugal. The adufe is a square or rectangular frame drum usually made of pine, over which a goat’s skin is mounted . The size of the frame usually ranges from 12 to 22 inches on each side, and is 1 to 2 inches thick. The skin is stitched on the sides, with the stitches covered by a colored ribbon. In the interior small seeds or small stones are placed to make pleasing sounds. An adufe is completely handmade, from the treatment of the goat skins to the construction of the wood base and fixation of the skin.

Cavaquinho: The cavaquinho is a small string instrument of the European guitar family with four wire or gut strings. There are different kinds of cavaquinho. The minhoto cavaquinho, associated with the Minho region in Portugal, has the neck on the same level as the body, and the sound hole is usually in the raia format.

The Brazilian cavaquinho, associated with Brazil, as the cavaquinhos associated with Lisboa and Madeira, differs from the minhoto in that its neck is elevated in relation to the body, and the sound hole is traditionally round; thus it is more akin to the traditional guitar.



Each region of Portugal has its own style of dance and songs with the most traditional tunes played at a slower rhythm compared to those heard in Spain.

Some of the best examples of the regional dances are the vira, chula, corridinho, tirana and fandango, where couples perform a lively dance usually to a fast beat of hand-clapping, guitars and accordions. Many of these dances reflect the courting and matrimonial traditions of the area and are often passionate and exciting to watch.

During many of these traditional dances, people dress up in a variety of ways ranging from working clothes to colourful costumes.



Some interesting facts:

  • Portugal became a member of the European Union in the year 1986.
  • The University of Coimbra, established in 1290, is one of the oldest universities in Europe.
  • During the Roman times, Portugal was called Luisitania.
  • Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros and Parque Natural da Arrabida house well-preserved dinosaur tracks.
  • The Vasco da Gama Bridge of Lisbon is the longest bridge in Europe.

Portuguese Community in Australia:

More information on the Portuguese community: