With three epic national parks, reams of beach-studded coastline, an underrated capital and more chocolate-box villages than you can shake a love spoon at, small but mighty Wales has a wealth of locations worth adding to your itinerary.
Planning a Welsh adventure but not sure where to start? Be inspired by our selection of the best places to visit in Wales.
Move over Bassey, forget it Tyler – with effortless beauty, an undeniable flair for the dramatic and the X factor that attracts devoted fans in their millions, you could call Snowdonia National Park the ultimate Welsh diva. Beyond its famous peaks, you’ll find ancient forests, sparkling waterfalls, historic mining towns and fairy-tale castles. Are you a thrill seeker? If so, there’s plenty to get your adrenaline pumping, from white water rafting to ziplining over the world’s largest slate quarry and surfing on an inland lagoon.
Popular Pembrokeshire – the most westerly county in Wales – is home to some of the country’s finest beaches, a plethora of pretty seaside towns and the UK’s smallest city, St Davids. The entire coast is a national park, best explored with a hike along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path or on a coasteering tour – the cliff-scrambling sport was born right here. Lovers of wildlife won't want to miss a trip to Skomer Island, where thousands of puffins gather to raise their young come summer, while Harry Potter fans will want to make a pilgrimage to Dobby’s final resting place, Freshwater West beach. If you’re an ancient history buff, don’t miss Pentre Ifan, a prehistoric tomb hewn from the same bluestone used at Stonehenge.
The undulating hills and quaint villages of Brecon Beacons National Park are an irresistible draw for nature lovers and walking enthusiasts, not least because of the park’s proximity to the major towns and cities of South Wales – Cardiff, Swansea and Chepstow are all less than an hour away. Top hikes include Pen-y-Fan (come mid-week during school term time to beat the crowds) and Sugarloaf Mountain. The region is also an International Dark Sky Reserve – a dream for budding astronomers – so bring your binoculars for a spot of stargazing.
Is this Wales or the Italian Riviera? The brainchild of eccentric architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion is unlike anything else you’ll see in the UK, thanks to its hodgepodge of pastel-colored Mediterranean-style buildings and manicured gardens complete with giant chess board and golden Buddha shrine. But despite its commercial theme park-esque leanings, this curated “village” will soon win you over, especially if you stay to watch the sunset over the Dwyryd Estuary.
Cardiff has all the trappings you’d expect of a cosmopolitan city – great nightlife, vibrant culture and a burgeoning indie food scene – but it all comes in an unusually green and compact package. Wander along the River Taff in Bute Park, picking up a coffee and decadent orange brownie at the Secret Garden Cafe; catch a musical at the Wales Millennium Centre (nicknamed “the armadillo” thanks to its copper-colored curves); browse for bargains in the capital’s Victorian shopping arcades; or tour the ornate rooms and grounds of Cardiff Castle. Whatever you do, you’ll be met with a warm Welsh welcome.
For a wholesome weekend away, look no further than Hay-on-Wye. This charming market town sits snugly between the River Wye and the English border, just north of the Brecon Beacons. It’s known for its annual Hay Festival, a literary extravaganza headlined by big-name authors featuring readings, writers’ workshops and book signings. But there’s still plenty to do year-round if you can’t make the festival. Peruse the abundant antique markets and secondhand book stores, hike to Hay Bluff via Offa’s Dyke Path or opt for a spot of wild swimming at The Warren, a pebble beach on the river bank.
Slow travel comes with a historic twist in Llangollen, a compact, culture-packed town in North East Wales. A heritage steam train trundles between Llangollen and Corwen daily from February to October, and the town is a popular launchpad for hiking the ancient national trail, Offa’s Dyke Path. Don’t miss a trip to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct: towering 125ft (38m) above the River Dee, this spectacular World Heritage Site is the highest canal aqueduct ever built and can be traversed by foot, canal or even kayak. For a livelier time, visit in July, along with 120,000 other people, to attend the International Musical Eisteddfod and Fringe Festival.
The UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), this 70-sq-mile (180 sq km) peninsula is renowned for its dramatic coastline and fabulous beaches. Following the south coast west from Swansea and the Mumbles, you’ll find a smattering of family-friendly bays (try Caswell and Langland for starters) backed by heather- and gorse-clad cliffs. Three-mile-long Rhossili Bay Beach dominates the peninsula’s west coast, spoiling visitors with broad golden sands, rolling surf and coastal walking trails peppered with ancient ruins. It’s worth saving time for a walk to Worms Head – the rocky promontory at the southern end of the beach – but keep an eye on the tides to avoid ending up stranded.
The Isle of Anglesey has two obvious claims to fame: it’s where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge lived in the early years of their marriage, and it’s here you’ll find the village with the longest place name in Europe: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (a selfie next to the train station’s expansive sign is a tourist rite of passage). But the real magic is found along Anglesey’s coast (another AONB), whether you’re hiking the Wales Coast Path to bird-spotting heaven, South Stack Cliffs RSPB Reserve; stand up paddleboarding on the Menai Strait; or lounging on Llanddwyn beach, a curve of pale sand backed by Corsican pines with views of Snowdonia. Beaumaris – with its Unesco-listed castle – makes a fine base from which to explore.
This unassuming market town on the southern border of Snowdonia National Park is something of a cultural powerhouse. Once the capital of Wales (freedom fighter Owain Glyndŵr was crowned Prince of Wales here in 1404), today travelers come for the Museum of Modern Art and the increasingly popular Machynlleth Comedy Festival, which takes place each May. Save time for a day at the mostly open-air Centre for Alternative Technology, where you can learn about sustainable ways of living.
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