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About Azores, Portugal and Madeira

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic is a country located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. The Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are part of Portugal.

The land within the borders of today's Portuguese Republic has been continuously settled since prehistoric times. In 29 B.C. the territory was occupied by the Gallaeci and the Lusitanians when it was integrated in the Roman Empire as the provinces of Lusitania and part of Gallaecia. Roman settlers strongly influenced Portuguese culture, particularly the Portuguese language, mostly derived from Latin. In the 5th century, after the fall of the Roman empire, it was occupied by several Germanic peoples, mainly the Suevi and the Visigoths. In the early 8th century Muslim Moors conquered those Christian kingdoms, occupying most of the Iberian Peninsula.

During the Christian Reconquista (Reconquering), the County of Portugal was settled, as part of the Kingdom of Galicia. With the establishment of the Kingdom recognized in 1143 and the stabilization of its borders by 1249, Portugal claims to be the oldest European nation-state. In the 15th and 16th centuries, as the result of maritime exploration, Portugal established a global empire that included possessions in Africa, Asia and South America, becoming the world's major economic, political and military power. Portugal´s Empire was the first and most long-lived Global Empire in the world. In 1580, after a succession crisis it was united with Spain for a period called the Iberian Union; however in 1640 it re-established full independence during the Portuguese Restoration War that resulted in the establishment of a new dynasty and a return to the previous separation between the two empires.

Portugal ranks as the world's 19th-highest quality-of-life, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit. It is the 13th-most peaceful and the 8th-most globalized country in the world. It is a member of the European Union (joined the then EEC in 1986, leaving the EFTA where it was a founding member in 1960) and the United Nations; as well as a founding member of the Latin Union, the Organization of Ibero-American States, OECD, NATO, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the European Union's Eurozone, and also a Schengen state. On 31 May 2010,

Azores

The Azores is a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,500 km (930 mi) west from Lisbon and about 3,900 km (2,400 mi) east from the east coast of North America. The Monchique Islet on Flores Island, is regarded as the westernmost point in Europe, even though from a geological standpoint the two westernmost Azorean islands (Flores and Corvo) actually lie on the North American plate. The archipelago, and economic exclusion zone, forms the Autonomous Region of the Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal. Its main industries are: agriculture, dairy farming (for cheese and butter products primarily), minor livestock ranching, fishing and tourism, which is becoming the major service activity in the region. In addition, the government of the Azores is responsible for employing a large percentage of population directly or indirectly in many aspects of the service and tertiary sectors.

The nine major Azorean islands and Formigas extend for more than 600 km (370 mi) and lie in a northwest-southeast direction. The vast extent of the islands defines an immense exclusive economic zone. The westernmost point of this area is 3,380 km (2,100 mi) from the North American continent. All of the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no historical activity since the islands were settled. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m in altitude. Generally, the Azores are actually the peaks of several of the tallest mountains on the planet, breaking the surface in the mid-Atlantic (as measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean).

In 1877, Samuel Clemens, who found fame under his moniker Mark Twain, wrote of the Azores, as follows: I think the Azores must be very little known in America. Out of our whole ship?s company there was not a solitary individual who knew anything whatever about them. Some of the party, well read concerning most other lands, had no other information about the Azores than that they were a group of nine or ten small islands far out in the Atlantic, something more than halfway between New York and Gibraltar. That was all.

Because these once uninhabited, remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries, their culture, dialect, cuisine and traditions vary considerably from island to island. Farming and fishing are key industries that support the Azorean economy. (Source Wikipedia)

Madeira

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean, and outermost region of the European Union. The archipelago comprises one of the two Autonomous regions of Portugal (the other being the Azores located to the northwest), that includes the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, the Desertas and the Savage Islands.

Madeira was re-discovered by Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator) in 1419, and settled after 1420. The archipelago is considered to be the first territorial discovery of the exploratory period of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

Today, it is a popular year-round resort, noted for its Madeira wine, flowers, and embroidery artisans, as well for its annual New Year celebrations that feature a spectacular fireworks show (considered the largest in the world according to the Guinness World Records). The main harbour in Funchal is an important stopover for commercial and trans-Atlantic passenger cruises between Europe, the Caribbean and North America. (Source Wikipedia)