Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country on the Iberian Peninsula, in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost country of mainland Europe, being bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. The country also holds sovereignty over the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.
Portugal is among the 20 most visited countries in the world, receiving an average of 13 million foreign tourists each year. Tourism is playing an increasingly important role in Portugal's economy, contributing to about 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Tourist hotspots in Portugal are Lisbon, Algarve, Madeira and the city of Coimbra, also, between 4-5 million religious pilgrims visit Fátima each year, where apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children reportedly took place in 1917. The Sanctuary of Fátima is one of the largest Roman Catholic shrines in the world.
The Portuguese government continues to promote and develop new tourist destinations, such as the Douro Valley, the island of Porto Santo, and Alentejo. Lisbon is the 16th European city which attracts the most tourists (with seven million tourists occupying the city's hotels in 2006, a number that grew 11.8% compared to previous year). Lisbon in recent years surpassed the Algarve as the leading tourist region in Portugal. Porto and Northern Portugal, especially the urban areas north of Douro River valley, was the tourist destination which grew most (11.9%) in 2006, surpassing Madeira (in 2010), as the third most visited destination.
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