If you’re craving a deeper connection with nature, consider a trip to Wales. This compact country packs a punch when it comes to the great outdoors, with plunging valleys, craggy cliffs, rolling dunes and more. It’s the ideal staycation destination for Brits, and a lesser-known marvel for visitors to the UK who want to escape the crowds.

Boots at the ready? Here’s how to have a wild, windswept wellness adventure of your own in underrated Wales.

A view of the sea and the lighthouse on Llanddwyn Island.
The staggering beauty of the Welsh countryside is waiting for you © Emma Sparks / Lonely Planet

Coastal walking

Think Wales is just all green hills, rain and sheep? It’s a forgivable assumption. Even I, a proud South Walian, could not believe my eyes as I stepped foot on Newborough Beach in Anglesey. A pancake-flat bay and crescent of sand trimmed with Corsican pines – under an uncharacteristically blue sky of Caribbean island standards – had me questioning whether I was even in my homeland at all.

The 125-mile Anglesey Coastal Path, 95% of which falls within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, opened in 2006. The Wales Coastal Path officially launched six years later, encompassing some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches, historic castles and cultural sights and making Wales the first country in the world to have a footpath hugging its entire coastline (England’s coastal path is due to open in 2020).

A view of Newborough Beach with a forest in the background.
Who needs the Caribbean when this is on your doorstep? © Emma Sparks / Lonely Planet

There’s hiking here for all abilities, with some sections suitable for prams and wheelchairs, and for those who – quite rightly – come for the famed mountains of Snowdonia and Brecon, there’s plenty to challenge you along the coast too: tackling the 186-mile Pembrokeshire portion of the path alone for example, with its 35,000ft of ascents and descents, is supposedly the equivalent of climbing Everest.

Don’t miss:

Llanddwyn Island, where St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers established a convent after being refused permission to marry her true love.

The Gower Peninsula, with its rolling surf and coastal ruins.

Pembrokeshire, where you can spot puffins and seal pups.

A woman stand up paddleboarding in Wales.
Emma proves she's a natural when it comes to SUP © Emma Sparks / Lonely Planet

SUP, yoga and sound baths

I’m feeling smug. The sun’s still out, I have an epic view of Mount Snowdon and – splosh! – my stand-up paddleboarding companion’s just fallen into the Upper Nantlle Lake in a spectacular fashion. Schadenfreude-induced giggles almost tip me in after him but I regain my balance by looking at the horizon rather than at the water, a tip shared by Psyched Paddleboarding founder, SUP guide and environmental activist Sian Sykes.

Sian was the first person to SUP circumnavigate Wales solo and unsupported, coping with brutal conditions and treacherous waters while picking up plastic to raise awareness along the way. Perhaps my inflated confidence – based on nothing more than managing to stay upright in perfect conditions – was excessive…

A woman sits cross legged in front of large gongs and has metal bowls at her feet.
Yoga, a sound bath, and meditation ensures utter relaxation © Emma Sparks / Lonely Planet

Back on dry land, the balance testing continues with a yoga class overlooking the lake, followed by a sound bath. Using a variety of gongs, singing bowls and percussive instruments, Steph from Pure Sound fills the air with otherworldly reverberations to aid meditation, rebalancing both body and mind. 

Make it happen: Trigonos Centre runs regular mindfulness and wellbeing activities throughout the year and its vegetarian kitchen serves up the perfect fuel for local adventures.

Emma sits inside her geodesic dome looking out at the countryside through the glass wall.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the daily grind in your own cosy dome © Emma Sparks / Lonely Planet

Connecting with nature

You’ve heard of forest bathing, but what about Fforest bathing? Spanning 200 acres along the River Teifi near Cardigan, Fforest Farm provides a retreat for frazzled urbanites and nature lovers with its wooden shacks and bell tents. Don’t be fooled by the basic-sounding lodgings – if this is camping, I’m a convert. Fforest co-founders Sian and James hate the ‘G’ word (glamping), but there’s no denying this is fancy camping at its finest.

Inspired by their travels in New Zealand and Japan, they’ve incorporated their love of the outdoors with al fresco kitchens and social areas, a barrel sauna in the bushes and even a few onsen-inspired baths alongside their popular geodesic domes. Although the soil isn’t particularly fertile here due to underlying slate, vegetables are grown in raised beds on site, resulting in nourishing, locally-sourced feasts.

A canoe floating on a river with large trees lining the banks on both sides.
The least stressful commute of all time © Emma Sparks / Lonely Planet

The farm is car-free and child- and dog-friendly, and lighting is kept to a minimum at night, meaning you have to pay extra attention to your wild surroundings to get from the tiny pub, Y Bwthyn, to your bed – easier said than done after a bramble cocktail or two.

Don’t miss:

Foraging with Jade from Wild Pickings and creating your own herbal tea from the hedgerows – you’ll be surprised how diverse and abundant Welsh flora can be.

Canoeing in Cilgerran Gorge on the River Teifi with Heritage canoes, spotting the ruins of Cilgerran Castle on the clifftop above.

Wild swimming come rain or shine, in the Teifi or at nearby Mwnt beach.

A hot tub surrounded by wooden decking and a roof with views of the countryside.
Indulge in some relaxing luxury in the Welsh countryside © Emma Sparks / Lonely Planet

Spa hotel stays

After a few days of brisk walks, fresh air and foraging, it’s time to sink into a hot tub and recharge. Established in the 19th century as a hunting and fishing lodge, Lake Country House Hotel in Llangammarch Wells is set within 50 acres of countryside, and is a 45-minute drive north of Brecon Beacons National Park. If (or when) the rain arrives, there’s something calming about watching the downpour from the lounge with afternoon tea, or from the indoor heated pool.

The buildings that line Cardiff Bay lit up against the night sky.
Ease yourself back into city life with a night by the bay © Matthew Dixon/Shutterstock

Despite its location in the Welsh capital, St David’s Hotel boasts views of Cardiff Bay that make the transition back to city life a gentle one. If the sea air and vistas alone don’t suffice, a massage at the Marine Spa downstairs should help rid your shoulders of any post-adventure tension.

Emma Sparks travelled with support from the Visit Wales and Adventure Tours UK. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

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Take the plunge: the best wild swimming spots in the UK and Ireland
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What I learned from backpacking in my 20s and 30s

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