Portugal is a small country about three times the size of Belgium. It has a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and a land frontier with Spain. In addition, two attractive groups of Atlantic islands are integral parts of Portugal.
Including (with names of towns and cities in parentheses Corvo, Faial, Flores, Graciosa, Pico, Santa Maria, São Jorge, São Miguel (Ponta Delgada), and Terceira (Angra do Heroismo).
The Azores, discovered and settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century, consist of a group of nine main islands situated about 1,300 km/800 mi west of Portugal. The land area is rather less than that of the state of Rhode Island. All the islands are hilly or mountainous, with peaks rising to between 600-2,300 m/2,000-7,500 ft.
The Azores have a very mild climate throughout the year with no great extremes of temperature. Summer days are warm, but never really hot, and in winter cold weather with frost and snow is unknown at sea level.
Winter weather can be stormy and changeable when deep Atlantic depressions track across or near the islands. Summer is generally a more settled season but occasional storms and wet weather can occur.
Sunshine amounts are only moderate for the latitude and range from an average of three to four hours a day in winter to seven to eight in summer. Rainfall is well distributed around the year but is heavier and more frequent in winter.
The table for Angra do Heroismo is representative of conditions at or near sea level in the Azores.
Including (with names of towns and cities in parentheses): Madeira (Funchal) and Porto Santo.
The Madeira group of islands, occupied and settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century, consists of the two inhabited islands and several small uninhabited islands. The total land area is small: 790 sq km/305 sq mi.
The main island of Madeira is volcanic and mountainous, with its highest peaks rising to over 1,800 m/6,000 ft. Its mild winters and generally warm, sunny summers have made it a popular holiday resort. The islands are situated about 725 km/450 mi west of the coast of Morocco.
The climate of Madeira is similar to that found around the Mediterranean or in coastal California, but the ocean waters moderate the temperature so that the island never suffers extremes of heat or cold. The winter months are quite wet, particularly at higher levels, and stormy and cloudy conditions may last for a few days at a time.
There are also spells of fine, settled weather in winter, with mild to cool temperatures. There is little cloudy weather from May until September but occasional light rain may fall and fog can occur. In general the island has a sunny climate with an average of five to six hours' sunshine a day in winter and as much as seven to eight in summer.
Days can be cloudy and cool as late as April at sea level and for much longer in the mountains. The table for Funchal is representative of conditions at sea level on Madeira.
Including from north to south (with names of towns and cities in parentheses) the Douro region (Porto, Bragança), the Beira region, the Ribatejo region (Lisbon, Fátima), the Alentejo region, the Algarve region (Faro).
Together with Ireland, mainland Portugal occupies the most westerly position in Europe and its weather and climate are much influenced by the Atlantic. Its southerly latitude gives it a Mediterranean type of climate, similar to that of the state of California, but one where the summer heat is tempered by the Atlantic influence.
On the coast the winters are particularly mild. The north and the central interior of Portugal include mountains and plateaux rising in places over 1,800 m/6,000 ft; here the summers are much cooler and winters may be quite cold (see the table for Bragança, situated at medium height in the extreme north).
Winter is the wet season everywhere in Portugal, but autumn rain can sometimes be heavy in the north as the fine weather of summer breaks. The length and severity of the summer drought increases from north to south. This can be seen by comparing the monthly rainfall and number of wet days at Porto, Lisbon, and Faro in the climatic tables. Summer sunshine and temperature and winter mildness also increase southwards.
The south-facing coast of the Algarve region is the sunniest, driest, and warmest part of the country, but the summer heat rarely reaches the unpleasant levels sometimes found in southeastern Spain. Another favourable aspect of this region for tourists is the higher sea temperatures as compared with those on the west-facing coasts farther north, where seas are most likely to be rough.
Snow is very rare at sea level in Portugal, but it becomes more frequent inland and on the higher areas of the north. Winter rainfall is rather heavy north of Lisbon and the weather in the far north is often wet and stormy.
Most parts of Portugal are sunny. Daily hours of sunshine average from four to five in winter and ten to eleven in summer in the north. These figures rise to six in winter and twelve in summer in the far south.
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