At the western edge of Europe, Portugal’s character and history have been shaped by the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Once a seafaring superpower vying for control of the world’s seas, Portugal today is a much more tranquil place.While masses of tourists descend on neighbouring Spain every year, Portugal receives relatively few visitors. You can enjoy remarkable scenery and unique cultural experiences without the crowds, and it’s also one of the more affordable European destinations.The Portuguese themselves are one of the best reasons to visit Portugal. While embracing modernity, they remain proud of their country’s heritage and traditions, and barely a day passes by without a feast or festival of some kind. Don’t be surprised if you come around a corner and bump into a procession of people in colourful traditional clothing, bearing flowers, fruit or statues of saints. The warm, friendly welcome you’ll receive everywhere you go means that you’ll more than likely be swept up and carried along by the festivities.For a relatively small country, Portugal has a remarkable range of landscapes – perfect beaches, rugged hills and mountains and even therapeutic hot springs. It also boasts remarkable caves, including several that you can even row into.If you have a taste for life, you’ll love Portugal – superb seafood, famous wines and delicate little custard tarts known as pastel de nata.Factor in some of the best surfing for miles, and volcanic islands out in the Atlantic, and you’ll begin to see how it is that Portugal has always punched above its weight in so many ways, and continues to do so as a destination.Portugal’s consistently excellent weather might lead you to expect people here to be of a sunny disposition, and indeed they are. In contrast, the most distinctive sounds are the melancholy notes of traditional fado songs – soulful tales of love and loss set to guitar.Even without understanding a word, you can’t fail to be touched by the emotions you’ll encounter during an evening in a fado bar. But however introspective the night’s music, the following day will doubtless bring sunshine, and new opportunities to explore the rolling green landscapes of Portugal. It’s a country that very few people visit only once, and it’s impossible to be unmoved by the warmth and sincerity of its people, and the natural and manmade beauty of their homeland.