Wales at its best is tramping in splendid isolation across magnificent green hills and purple-heather moors, valleys ringing with the song of male voice choirs and poetry of 6th-century bards, local pubs beckoning with a pint of Best Bitter.
One man and his dog (and sheep by the millions) are the only souls for miles around; King Arthur fires the imagination with his treasury of ancient Welsh lore; and you can be sure it will rain. Political devolution has long dominated national politics and no one shows a greater pride in this raw, underrated land of heady rough-cut landscapes, mighty stone castles and lyrical morning mists than those fiercely patriotic, rugby-loving, song-mad, Welsh-speaking Cymry (Welsh).
BEST TIME TO VISIT
March to June, September
TOP THINGS TO SEE
• Pontcysyllte, the world's longest navigable aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
• Snowdon, Wales' highest and headiest peak at 1085m
• The Six Nations Rugby Championships in Cardiff
• Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech and Beaumaris castles
• The Brecon Beacons National Park - rugged hills, moors and fantastic pubs
TOP THINGS TO DO
• Hike, mountain bike, camp, get wet, feel alive in the Snowdonia National Park
• Shop for china in Portmeirion, a whimsical vision of Italian classicism
• Be roused by male voice choirs performing at Llangollen's International Eisteddfod
• Follow the Pembrokeshire coastal path through quaint fishing villages and around secluded coves – play spot a puffin!
• Frolic across sandy beaches and limestone cliffs on the Gower Peninsula
GETTING UNDER THE SKIN
Read Random Deaths and Custard by Catrin Davydd, one of Wales' best contemporary creative writers
Listen to operatic arias by Welsh tenor Aled Wyn-Davies
Watch Solomon and Gaenor, a turn-of-the-20th-century tale of forbidden love set against South Wales' coalfields
Eat bara brith (tea-soaked fruit loaf); a Welsh cream tea (fruit scone with strawberry jam and whipped cream); or a lunchtime plate of Welsh rarebit (an 18th-century version of beer-soaked Cheddar cheese on toast)
Drink a pint of Cardiff-brewed Brains or ale from a local microbrewery
IN A WORD
Bore da (Hello, good morning)
Mountains; sheep; coal mines; male voice choirs; rugby; tongue-twisting place names starting with double L; King Arthur and Merlin; leeks; the Welsh red dragon
Genuine Welsh products: Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Ashley, Roald Dahl, Tommy Cooper, Peter Greenaway, Alfred Sisley
This article was updated in May 2012.