What are the main contrasts to be found in Portugal?
When answering a question such as this, one must primarily begin by
pointing out that not only does Portugal have a great many contrasts within its
land, but also that it contrasts greatly with the other Mediterranean countries.
Portugal is not to be considered by any means as Spain's poor neighbour, nor
should a shadow be cast over it by such a formidable nation. Portugal has a
great deal to offer any visitor, it is not merely a tourist's paradise, yet this
is regrettably how it is viewed by a large number of individuals. One must also
not forget Portugal's history of being, in days gone by, one of the greater
maritime nations, one of the more advanced exploring countries of Europe. Whilst
Spain was occupied with discovering the Indias and consequently the Americas,
Portugal was itself busy exploring Africa and making its own invaluable
discoveries, although these are for the most part overlooked.
Being situated on the westernmost edge of Europe and the Iberian
Peninsula, Portugal enjoys a relative privacy and independence from the rest of
Mediterranean countries. Bordering on Spain on two sides and the sea on the
others, the nation as naturally turned towards the sea, from which it draws both
its strength and wealth and turned its back on its greatest rival, Spain. Due to
its constant waves of invasion throughout the ages, Portugal is a vastly diverse
land, not only in geographical terms but also in terms of heritage. It is true
to say that Portugal does share a number of similarities with Spain, but it is
by no means identical. Rather it is a nation which blends Moorish influences,
British tradition and Mediterranean culture to form a truly unique land of
When considering the diversity of a country such as Portugal, the mention
of which immediately conjures up a melange of images from North African to
Western European, from hot and balmy weather to snow capped mountains, one must
really begin by describing the two principle factors, those of climate and
geography, which themselves are interwoven.
These in turn have a great effect on and to a certain extent bring about other
differences which can be noted within the narrow confines of this nation, such
as those of vegetation, economy and landscape.
On examining Portugal in terms of contrasting regions or areas, one must
obviously have a starting point and that is generally considered to be a
comparison between north and south, the River Tagus (Tejo) being the dividing
line. However, Portugal can naturally be divided into three great natural
regions, the North- West Atlantic, the North-East and the south. It is here that
one truly becomes aware of substantial differences, therefore it is from this
point where one must begin.
Although one might imagine the climate of Portugal to be almost the same