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Portugal, one of the world's former colonial masters, has influenced many countries with their culture, history, and the formation of their national identities. Its status as a global maritime power has led many of its explorers to cross uncharted lands and establish their presence as they compete with Spain, Great Britain, and other European nations that sought to control the world. Its standing lost its grandeur, however, when its capital was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and the occupation of Napoleonic forces in 1807. The gradual call for independence also rose among many of its colonies, which further caused the decline of the Portuguese empire.

This European power bounced back from the weakening of its economy and gained a fraction of its economic clout in the 1990s. By the turn of the 21st century, it also bestowed Macau back to China and granted sovereignty to East Timor. Today, the country is one of the most developed countries in Europe. It has also launched various social reforms in recent years, such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage and decriminalisation of drugs.

What to see & do

Travellers going to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, will be captivated by its classical beauty. Its cobblestone streets, cathedrals, and grand plazas all make up a relaxing atmosphere. The tree-lined streets and freshly baked bread shared among friends in the pub or cafe can also make one stop and just let the time pass by. This scene can get more exciting at night when the bars and clubs open for late-night parties. The city gains a cosmopolitan vibe with many boutiques selling various types of merchandise.

Those who want to see structures that illustrate the Golden Age of Portugal should schedule a tour of the Grand Palace. Inside this magnificent structure built in the Baroque design are various collections of paintings, sculpture, religious vestments, and other beautiful works from Portuguese, French, and Italian artists. More treasures await in the Basilica, where a one-of-a-kind set of organs and two carillons can be found. There is also the Rocaille Library in the convent that contains around 40,000 volumes published in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Beautiful surroundings also abound in the countryside. The fertile lands make excellent fields for growing grape and olives, the staple products of the Portuguese. Those excited to taste a sample of the vintages should visit the Alto Douro wine region. The long tradition of viticulture in the area which spans 2,000 years has made the area a UNESCO World Heritage site. The grapes, however, are not the only attraction here, due to the charm of the lush landscape. Tourists going here will be intoxicated with wine and nature as one goes on a tour across various wineries.

Wines only make up part of the landscape, as tourists can also discover the fine olive oils in Trás-os-Montes. One can buy here the finest Portuguese oils produced in the region which appear to be golden or greenish yellow. Bitter, sweet, spicy, or mild, the oils found here can be an experience, especially when mixed with freshly baked bread or used for cooking.

How to get around within Portugal

Travellers going around the country can go on the various coach services plying the routes across the city and the country. There is also a large network of regional trains that connect to Lisbon, which allows those who want to explore the countryside to move around easily. Those commuting in Lisbon can also go through the underground metro systems. Those who want to get a taxi going to various points in the city can also do so. Standard fares apply with charges for every kilometre with return fare added to the total.

Those interested in hiring a car should be at least 21 years old. One must also have an international drivers' licence, as well as various documents, to gain permission to drive on Portuguese roads. Although the pavements are generally in good condition, one must be careful while on the road to avoid accidents due to others who drive recklessly.

How to get there

Travellers going to Portugal can make their way to Lisbon Portela Airport through various airlines in Europe as well as a few in Asia, Africa, and America. Some of the airlines serving this port of entry are: Aer Lingus, Aigle Azur, Air Algerie, Air Canada Rouge, Air Europa, Air France, Air Transat, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, easyJet, Emirates, Germanwings, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Luxair, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Royal Air Maroc, Ryanair, SATA International, Swiss International Air Lines, TAAG Angola Airlines, TAP Portugal, Transaero Airlines,, Tunisair, Turkish Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, United Airlines, and Vueling.

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