Portugal is known for its food, culture and for its beautiful coastline, which stretches for over 500 miles. Inland however, less than one percent of the country’s area is water. When it comes to major bodies of water, many of the longest rivers in Portugal begin in Spain, with which it shares the Iberian Peninsula.
So what are the longest rivers in Portugal? When it comes to shared rivers, does one look at the river as a whole or just the part that flows within Portugal? And what is the biggest river in Portugal that is solely within its borders? Read on to find out.
River Tagus: The Biggest River in Portugal?
Length: 626 miles
At 626 miles in length, it is the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, but is the River Tagus the largest river in Portugal? Known as the Rio Tejo, it’s certainly a vital resource for the country, especially in terms of irrigation and hydroelectric power. It also passes by the major cities of Santarém and Lisbon and is generally only navigable towards its latter end.
Rising in Sierra de Albarracín in eastern Spain, it travels west, entering Portugal within the region of Beira and emptying into the Atlantic at the Lisbon estuary. In all, 138 miles of the river is attributable to Portugal. Of this, 27 miles is part of the nation’s border with Spain.
Length: 556 miles
Like the Tagus, the Douro is one of the longest rivers on the peninsula, as well as being amongst the longest Portuguese rivers. It also begins in Spain, in the Sierra de Urbion, and a portion of it traces the Spanish-Portuguese border. This 70-mile or so stretch is characterised by significant and sudden drops in elevation, creating gorges and rapids.
Once in Portugal, the Douro meanders for some 200 miles to its mouth at Porto. Along its banks are mostly agricultural areas including the Douro wine region, and its waters are busy with barges transporting wines and, in some sections, coal. The Douro has been altered to include numerous dams and locks and is used for hydroelectric power production as well as irrigation.
River Mondego: the Largest River in Portugal Wholly in the Country
Length: 137-145 miles
After two international rivers, the Mondego is the first on this list of the longest rivers in Portugal to be contained wholly within its borders. Rising in the mountain range of Serra da Estrela, it travels through central Portugal to the Atlantic, entering it at Figueira da Foz, a city in the Coimbra district.
The Mondego has a number of tributaries, the most important of which are the Alva, Dao and Ceira. Its waters are home to a number of different species of fish, including the sea lamprey, sea trout, and shad. The river is also popular for swimming, canoeing and other water sports.
Other examples of the longest Portuguese rivers entirely within the country include the Zêzere at 133 miles, the Sado at 109 miles, and the Vouga at 92 miles. The latter is also a tributary of the Tagus.
Length: 483 miles
The vast majority, over 80 percent, of the Rio Guadiana basin is located in Spain, but its final leg borders and enters Portugal. Unlike the other international rivers already mentioned, it traces the border of Spain and Portugal not once but twice. The first instance separates Extremadura in Spain from Alentejo. The second, Andalusia from the Algarve. In between these sections, it travels within Portugal. Despite being one of the longest Portuguese rivers, it is only navigable for about 42 miles. It’s also home to a variety of wildlife, including fish, birds, and reptiles.
Length: 220 miles
For about 50 miles, the river Minho delineates the border between Spain’s autonomous region of Galicia and northern Portugal.
Portugal's Longest Rivers
As so we have seen that determining which are Portugal’s longest rivers is not as straightforward as it might seem, especially as many of the longest rivers in Portugal are international in character. Beyond this, Portuguese rivers share many commonalities, many having been put to extensive use in irrigation and power generation, as well as supporting industries such as wine production.