Cruising in Portugal, Madeira and the Azores


Following its heyday as a world power during the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the independence in 1822 of Brazil as a colony. A 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy; for most of the next six decades, repressive governments ran the country. In 1974, a left-wing military coup installed broad democratic reforms. The following year, Portugal granted independence to all of its African colonies. Portugal is a founding member of NATO and entered the EC (now the EU) in 1986.


Location: Southwestern Europe, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Spain
Geographic coordinates: 39 30 N, 8 00 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 92,391 sq km
Land: 91,951 sq km
Water: 440 sq km; note: includes Azores and Madeira Islands


1,793 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm
Contiguous zone: 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation


Maritime temperate; cool and rainy in north, warmer and drier in south


Mountainous north of the Tagus River, rolling plains in south

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Ponta do Pico (Pico or Pico Alto) on Ilha do Pico in the Azores 2,351 m


Portugal has become a diversified and increasingly service-based economy since joining the European Community in 1986. Over the past decade, successive governments have privatized many state-controlled firms and liberalized key areas of the economy, including the financial and telecommunications sectors. The country qualified for the European Monetary Union (EMU) in 1998 and began circulating the euro on 1 January 2002 along with 11 other EU member economies.

Economic growth had been above the EU average for much of the past decade, but fell back in 2001-05. GDP per capita stands at two-thirds that of the Big Four EU economies. A poor educational system, in particular, has been an obstacle to greater productivity and growth. Portugal has been increasingly overshadowed by lower-cost producers in Central Europe and Asia as a target for foreign direct investment. The government faces tough choices in its attempts to boost Portugal's economic competitiveness while keeping the budget deficit within the eurozone's 3%-of-GDP ceiling.


Airports: 66 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 42
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 24
Pipelines: gas 1,099 km; oil 8 km; refined products 174 km (2004)
Railways: total: 2,850 km
Roadways: total: 72,600 km


210 km (on Douro River from Porto) (2003)

Merchant marine

Total: 113 ships (1000 GRT or over) 1,121,828 GRT/1,475,213 DWT
By type: bulk carrier 14, cargo 28, chemical tanker 15, container 7, liquefied gas 11, passenger 9, passenger/cargo 8, petroleum tanker 8, roll on/roll off 4, vehicle carrier 9
Foreign-owned: 87 (Australia 1, Belgium 7, Denmark 7, Germany 17, Greece 4, Italy 10, Japan 9, Lebanon 1, Malta 1, Mexico 1, Netherlands 1, Norway 8, Spain 17, Switzerland 3)
Registered in other countries: 19 (Cyprus 1, Malta 4, Marshall Islands 2, Panama 12) (2005)

Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals

Leixoes, Lisbon, Setubal, Sines

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Arctic Ocean - Bermuda - Spain and Canary Islands - Cape Verde Islands - Faeroes Islands - France - Greenland - Iceland - Ireland - Portugal, the Azores and Madeira - United Kingdom

Further Reading

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