The history of the country, and her cultural influences, is as rich as her natural landscape is diverse. Portugal was once, of course, a great Empire, colonising large parts of Africa, China, America and Malaysia. Gold from Brazil provided for magnificent Baroque buildings and gilded alter carvings. Exotic fruits and oriental spices changed gastronomic traditions forever, and Oporto and Lisbon are awash with memories of the great explorers, Prince Henry the Navigator and Vasco da Gama.
But Portugal was colonised too and there is also a surprising variety of architectural sites, reflecting a succession of occupying civilisations from the Ibero-Celts to the Christian reconquest. Romanesque temples, Baroque castles and numerous hidden churches all bear witness to a colourful past, as do ordinary village houses adorned with beautiful azulejo tiles and topped with Moorish-style chimney pots.
Portugal is a compact land packed full of historic, natural and cultural interest. For so small a country, it offers an astonishing array of natural splendours: great rivers, dense forests, lush valleys, rolling hills, exciting mountain ranges and long stretches of glorious white, sandy beaches.