Lying immediately west of Spain, Portugal is one of Europe’s smallest countries measuring a mere 560 km in length and 220 km wide. Home to 10.5 million people, Portugal’s small size belies its extraordinary history. Battered along its southern and eastern coast by the wild Atlantic sea, it is not surprising that its people became remarkable seafarers.
In 1415, Portuguese mariners set sail on an epic voyage that would see them the first to discover the ocean routes to India, Brazil, China and Japan. They founded settlements on the east and west coasts of Africa at the same time. This small country was at the helm of an enormously powerful and wealthy empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its vast artistic and archaeological heritage bears witness not only to its 850-year history of encounters with distant cultures, but also to the ancient peoples who once lived in the territory now known as Portugal - the Celts, Romans, Arabs and Visigoths.