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Portugal, Land and Resources

Meseta Central, Cape Saint Vincent, Malhao, Mondego, Tajo

Although small in size, Portugal is geographically diverse. Roughly rectangular in shape, Portugal covers about one-sixth of the Iberian Peninsula. Portugalís eastern interior encompasses the westernmost slope of the Meseta Central, a high, mountainous plateau that covers most of Spain. To the north the land is rugged and hilly. Peaks rising to more than 1,200 m (4,000 ft) above sea level extend from the edge of the Meseta Central across the northern interior. To the west and south the mountains descend to a large coastal plain. This plain is intensively cultivated and increasingly urbanized; Portugalís two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto (Oporto), are located here.

In the central interior region are the lofty ridges that form the countryís backbone. Portugalís highest mountain, Malhao de Estrela, is found here. The peak, a part of Portugalís highest mountain range, the Serra da Estrela, has an elevation of 1,991 m (6,532 ft) above sea level. The ridges of central Portugal descend in a southwesterly direction to the hills near Sintra, which drop to the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Roca, near Lisbon. South of the Tajo (Tejo) are gently rolling lowlands that extend to the plains of Portugalís Baixo Alentejo region. The Serra de Monchique, a range of hills stretching to the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Saint Vincent, separate these plains from the southernmost region of Algarve.

Many of Portugalís major rivers originate in the highlands of the Meseta Central. The Tajo, with Lisbon situated at its mouth, is the longest river, followed by the Douro (Duero), with Porto at its mouth. The Mino (Minho) flows south from the mountains of Spainís Galicia region and forms part of Portugalís northern border. These rivers all cut narrow gorges through the mountains and widen as they empty into the Atlantic Ocean. The Guadiana, which originates in central Spain, flows south and forms part of Portugalís southeastern frontier with Spain. The Mondego, which flows through the west central city of Coimbra, is the longest river whose source is in Portugal.

The broad estuaries formed by rivers flowing to the west indent the coastline of Portugal, as do a series of saltwater lagoons. However, much of the Portuguese coastline, which extends about 800 km (about 500 mi), is generally straight and sandy. Good natural harbors are found at Aveiro, Porto de Leixoes, Lisbon, Porto, and Setubal. Sines is an important deep-water port used for petroleum and natural gas imports.

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Article key phrases:

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