Wales is home to some of the UK’s most beautiful drives. Beyond the more densely populated south (where you’ll find the Wales' only highway), narrow, undulating lanes criss-cross the land, meaning travel can be slow – but there’s no need to rush when your surroundings consist of sky-skimming mountains, deep green valleys and swaths of pristine coastline.

Fasten your seatbelts. Here are the best road trips to take in Wales.

The Coastal Way

Best road trip for sea views and beaches

Start – Aberdaron; End – St Davids; Distance – approx 180 miles

This route covers the entire length of Cardigan Bay – the sweeping curve of Irish Sea that looks like it’s taken a huge bite out of the Welsh west coast – and spoils travelers with its secluded beaches and charming seaside towns.

Scour the sand for fossils, shells and rockpool-dwelling crabs at Aberdaron Beach, on the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, and then hit the road, heading east along winding coastal lanes toward Porthmadog. Here you can hop on a heritage steam train, a relic of the region’s mining history, to give Snowdonia’s skyline your undivided attention.

Once you’re back in the driver’s seat, myriad potential pitstops await as you swerve south including the village of Portmeirion, with its ornate, Italian-inspired facades; Harlech’s expansive beach overlooked by a Unesco-listed castle; and the buzzy student town of Aberystwyth, a fine spot to stay overnight.

The next day, take an early morning dip at Mwnt Beach, a sheltered bay known for its decent dolphin spotting, before searching for hidden coves and cliff-top selfie spots in Pembrokeshire. The county’s entire coastline is a designated – and dazzling – national park.

Two sheep on a hill in the Cambrian Mountains of Wales
Spot the distinctive sheep in the mountains of Cambria © Kerry Walker / Lonely Planet

The Cambrian Way

Best road trip for mountain scenery

Start – Cardiff; End – Conwy; Distance – approx 185 miles

The human eye is said to be able to perceive more shades of green than any other color. The Cambrian Way, which cuts north to south through the verdant heart of Wales, is a fantastic place to test that theory, thanks to its patchwork fields, dense forests and rolling, sheep-dotted hills.

Primarily following the A470, the route becomes increasingly wild and rugged as it weaves north from the capital city of Cardiff through the Brecon Beacons and into Powys. Spend the night in Rhayader, gateway to the stargazer’s paradise of Elan Valley, but don’t stay up too late – you’ll need plenty of energy for the next day’s adventures, which could include hiking up Pumlumon Fawr (the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains at 2467ft), or mountain biking along the trails at Coed Y Brenin Forest in Snowdonia National Park.

Continuing north, you’ll know you’re near Blaenau Ffestiniog when you realize the roadside slopes are in fact heaving piles of slate. The town and surrounding region were granted World Heritage status in 2021 to recognize its mining legacy. Tour nearby Llechwedd Mine to learn more. Before you reach the north coast, stop for a surf lesson at Adventure Parc Snowdonia, or dig into some delicious local produce at Bodnant Welsh Food (book ahead for a guaranteed table).

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Llandudno Pier in Wales on a beautiful summer day
Take a stroll on the historic Llandudno Pier in this seaside resort town in North Wales © S-F / Shutterstock

The North Wales Way

Best road trip for castles and culture

Start – Mold; End – Holyhead; Distance – approx 75 miles

Spanning Wales’ short but scenic north coast, this route offers road trippers a chance to encounter Welsh history, language and culture in a spectacular setting.

Head west through the uncrowded Clwydian Hills – stopping to summit Moel Famau (1820ft) on the way for epic views of Snowdonia and the North Wales Coast – until you reach Ruthin, a little town brimming with history (exemplified by its restored castle, century-spanning museum and Victorian Ruthin Gaol).

Veer north to explore the nostalgia-inducing seaside resort towns of Colwyn Bay and Llandudno – lingering for a day or two if the weather’s on your side – before crossing the River Conwy to wander its namesake market town and castle. As you head west towards Bangor, hook a left into Snowdonia National Park to walk to Aber Falls, or treat yourself to a warming Welsh whisky at Aber Falls Distillery.

Save time for a detour to Caernarfon Castle before making your way across Menai Bridge to set tire to tarmac on the Isle of Anglesey. Highlights include the laid-back town of Beaumaris, pine-trimmed Newborough Beach and bird spotter’s paradise South Stack Cliffs RSPB Reserve.

Ruins of Tintern Abbey, a former cistercian church from the 12th century
Explore the ruins of Tintern Abbey, a former cistercian church in the border town of Chepstow © hipproductions / Shutterstock

Border Country

Best road trip for crowd-free escapes

Start – Chepstow; End – Wrexham; Distance – approx 171 miles 

Tracing the dotted line that separates England and Wales on a map, this border-hugging route will take you to some of Wales’ most underrated sites – slowly, if you stick to the narrow back roads.

Starting in the border town of Chepstow in Southeast Wales, wend your way northward through the lush Wye Valley, stopping to admire the roofless ruins of Tintern Abbey and lesser-known castles Skenfrith and Grosmont, until you reach Hay-on-Wye for a spot of second-hand book shopping. This is also a fine spot to stretch your legs along Offa’s Dyke Path before driving on to explore the fabulous gardens at Welshpool’s Powis Castle.

Don’t miss the chance to walk across Unesco-listed Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen – at 125ft high, it’s the highest canal aqueduct ever built. Finish up in Wrexham, where you can climb the tower of the largest medieval church in Wales and explore Erddig, a large stately home on the outskirts of town.

Man walking above Rhossili Beach, with Worm's Head in the background
Leave time to walk unspoiled beaches on the Gower Peninsula and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park © Crown Copyright / Visit Wales

South Wales Circuit

Best road trip for a bit of everything

Start – Cardiff; End – Chepstow; Distance – approx 333 miles

This lengthy loop encapsulates everything that makes Wales wonderful, from culture-packed cities and chocolate-box towns to gawp-worthy beaches and mountains galore.

Spend a day or two restaurant hopping in Cardiff and Swansea before turning your attention to some of Wales’ best beaches, found around the Gower Peninsula and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Stop over in Britain’s smallest city, St Davids; the surrounding coastline is prime walking territory, tempting travelers with secret coves, rugged cliff tops and a sparkling blue lagoon.

Head northeast to Cardigan and then make a beeline for inland treasures including Brecon Beacons National Park, where you can summit South Wales’ highest mountain, Pen y Fan; foodie town Abergavenny; and the crumbled ruins of Tintern Abbey near Chepstow.

You might also like:
10 unmissable places to visit in Wales
Introducing Wales’ epic national parks
The best time to visit Wales for food, hiking or bog snorkeling

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