For such a small country, Wales sure packs in a lot of adventure. Wherever you end up, let the landscape lead the way – whether that means climbing mountains, hiking along the castle-strewn coastline or venturing into underground caverns.
Get trip planning with our roundup of the best things to do in Wales.
Visit a castle
Wales has more castles per square mile than any other European country. Top picks include Unesco-listed Harlech Castle, which overlooks Cardigan Bay from its hilltop perch; fairytale-worthy, forest-shrouded Castell Coch, with its distinctive conical roofs; and Powis Castle, renowned for its elegant gardens.
Summit a mountain
If you haven’t schlepped up a Welsh mountain or two, some would argue you haven’t really been to Wales. The landscape here is as rugged and ridged as a dragon’s back, but even the highest peaks are surprisingly family-friendly, and kids will love searching for mythical dragon lairs, sleeping giants and bottomless haunted lakes. Mt. Snowdon (the country’s tallest at 3560ft) and Pen y Fan are spectacular hikes but can get incredibly busy. Avoid the crowds by heading to the remote Cambrian Mountains. Summiting Pen Pumlumon Fawr (2467ft) is made all the sweeter when you have the place all to yourself.
Mining and the industrial revolution transformed the economy and landscape of Wales and are a quintessential part of the country’s heritage. Don a hard hat and descend 300ft below ground at the Unesco-listed Big Pit in Blaenavon to get a taste of what it was like to work there or opt for a less historically accurate experience at Zip World, where you can scramble along via ferrata or bounce on trampolines within the old Llechwedd Slate Caverns.
Eat Welsh food
By all means, try the Welsh classics – such as leek-filled Glamorgan sausages, Welsh cakes and bara brith – but save room for top-notch street food, vegan bakes and an ever-expanding selection of artisanal cheese (Caws Cenarth makes a superb blue). For a fantastic introduction to Wales’s leading food producers and chefs (among others from around the UK) come in September for Abergavenny Food Festival. Foraging is on the rise too – join a coastal foraging course, scour the hedgerows for tasty weeds on a mindful walk with Wild Pickings, or bottle your own botanical gin with Brecon Beacons Foraging.
Hike the Wales Coast Path
Wales was the first country in the world to launch a trail that covered its entire coastline – and what a trail it is. Spanning 870 miles (1400km), the Wales Coast Path meanders over craggy cliff tops and windswept headlands and is dotted with pristine beaches, seaside towns and ancient castles. Pick a section – Llŷn Peninsula, Anglesey or the Gower are all good places to start – pull on your boots and get walking.
Tour a distillery
Welsh spirits are having a moment. In 2021, gin distillery Aber Falls launched its first whisky and plans to seek Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for the locally made tipple, while Penderyn Distillery opened its second location in Llandudno. Book a distillery tour, try a glass or three at any decent country pub, or make your very own bottle of gin at Hensol Castle in South Wales.
Watch a rugby match with the locals
For many people in Wales, rugby is more than a sport – it’s an expression of Welsh identity. It doesn’t get much better than watching a Six Nations game at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium – which is smack bang in the city center – but even if you can’t get tickets, match day in the capital is an experience in itself.
If the mere suggestion of going camping in Wales makes you think of tramping through wet and miserable weather, don’t panic. The spectrum of Welsh accommodations with a back-to-nature feel has expanded rapidly in recent years, meaning you don’t need to wrestle with a tent pole in the rain unless you want to. Bed down in a geodesic dome complete with onsen-inspired outdoor tub and log burner at Fforest Farm near Cardigan, stay cozy in one of The Secret Yurts with private hot tubs near Welshpool or lounge in a luxury safari tent at NightSky Glamping in Abersoch.
Spend the day at the beach
Wales has 45 Blue Flag (ie exceptionally clean and safe) beaches, as well as countless hidden coves and secluded bays. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park – the UK’s only dedicated coastal national park – has the lion’s share, and Barafundle Bay, Broadhaven South and Whitesands Bay are all absolute stunners. Wherever you go along the coast, you won’t be far from swimmable, surfable and walker-friendly shores.
Ride the Ffestiniog Railway
Sure, it’s a little twee and touristy, but if you’re a lover of steam trains or slow, scenic travel, a journey along the Ffestiniog Railway is a delight. Established in 1836 to transport slate between the quarry and port, it’s now a heritage attraction – and the world’s oldest surviving narrow-gauge railway. You’ll trundle between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog – both part of the newly minted Unesco-listed slate landscapes of North Wales – past rushing rivers, forested hills and soaring peaks. Splash out on a 1st-class observation carriage for the best views.
Experience an eisteddfod
The ultimate celebration of Welsh culture, the National Eisteddfod of Wales is an annual event that sees musicians, poets, dancers, actors and creatives from across Wales come together to perform, compete and share their talents with the nation. The event is conducted through the medium of Welsh, but Welsh learners and non-Welsh speakers are welcome to attend (time to start that Welsh Duolingo course!). There’s also a youth-specific festival held earlier in the year.
Watch wildlife in its natural habitat
Wales’s bounty of unspoiled landscapes provides sanctuary for an abundance of wildlife, especially birds. Keep your eyes peeled for red kites in Mid-Wales (these birds of prey have been brought back from the brink of extinction); spot guillemots and razorbills at Southstack Cliffs RSPB Reserve; or take a boat to Skomer Island, a haven for Manx shearwaters and a colony of breeding puffins between April and August. Porpoises, dolphins and seals can also be spotted year round off the west coast.
Wales’s rural landscapes offer some of the best stargazing in the UK. Both Brecon Beacons National Park and Snowdonia National Park are designated International Dark Sky Reserves, and privately owned Elan Valley Estate is an International Dark Sky Park, meaning light pollution is at its lowest here. The UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership also lists many other spots where you’re likely to get stellar views, including the beautiful beaches of Broad Haven South and Poppit Sands in Pembrokeshire.
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