Geology of Portugal

Cave at Ponta da Piedade - a sea cave in southern Portugal. ©Anne Oldham, with kind permission.

Geographically, Portugal is a diverse country lying on the western edge of Europe. Bound by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the west and by Spain to the east and the north. The Rio Tejo, which enters the Atlantic at Lisbon divides the country into two. The north of the country is mountainous, where 90% of the land is over 400 m. The southern part of the country is mainly flat, 60% is below 400 m.

Although over 500 caves have been recorded, few are really extensive. There are four major areas of speleological interest.

  1. the limestone range of Estremadura, some 60 km north of Lisbon which includes the towns of Leire, Fatima and Tomar.
  2. the Cambrian outcrops of the high Alentejo
  3. the Algave in the south of the country
  4. the pseudo karst of the volcanic islands of Madeira and the Azores where there are several lava tubes.

Speleology has been slow to develop in Portugal but this has now been remedied by lots of new keen cavers.