Travel to Wales

Travel to Wales

Wales may be small, but it means business. Dramatic river valleys, windswept coastline, and one of Europe’s oldest living languages. You name it, you’ll find it here.

Part of Great Britain but utterly its own proud territory, Wales casts an irresistible spell: a bit of dignified Welsh overheard at the market, a walk along a deliciously desolate seacoast, a congregation of standing stones studding the horizon. The capital and biggest city of Cardiff includes some vintage architecture of superb quality, such as Cardiff Castle and the Pierhead Building, as well as topnotch museums like the St Fagens National History Museum (itself anchored by a 16th-century castle). Pay tribute to a Welsh icon with a visit to the Dylan Thomas Centre in the coastal city of Swansea. Other alluring landmarks—including mysterious ancient ruins—dot the countryside. While modern Welsh cuisine incorporates many international influences, you can still find reservoirs of traditional cookery across the country—cafes, taverns, and bakeries for sampling classics such as Welsh cakes and the lamb-and-leek stew called cawl. The Welsh landscape is dominated by mountains and windswept plateaus: stunning countryside well on par with Scotland’s. Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons national parks in particular serve up wild scenery of heart-stirring character.

Wales' bewitching landscapes have undoubtedly influenced Welsh culture. One great example of this can be seen in the many Welsh sites steeped in Arthurian legend. While the historical jury is out on whether King Arthur ever existed, Wales is the setting of much of the mythical, folkloric legend. As you journey though the Welsh countryside – past ancient hill ports, mysterious standing stones, caves, and beautiful lakes, you will be walking in the mythical footsteps of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and Merlin.

Despite its close proximity to England, those visiting Wales will immediately notice that the Welsh have some significant cultural differences from their Anglo-Saxon neighbors to the east. To begin with, while all inhabitants of Wales speak English – a good many of them still speak the Welsh language and when visiting Wales you are likely to both see and hear plenty of Welsh on the radio and in the local newspapers. It is mandatory for all students in Wales to study the Welsh language at school. Unlike English, Welsh is a Celtic language, and Wales is considered one of the six modern Celtic nations (along with Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, Brittany and the Isle of Man).

Throughout the centuries, Welsh literature has always flourished, but there are also important writers from Wales who have had international success writing in English, such as Welsh children's literature author, Roald Dahl, who penned classics like James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among many others. Other important literary giants that hail from Wales include poet Dylan Thomas, author of Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, and novelist Philip Pullman, who wrote the His Dark Materials trilogy. Other prominent Welsh actors and musicians include Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Charlotte Church, John Rhys-Davies and Richard Burton.

While vacationing in Wales it is also worth seeking out a concert of choral performance. The country has a strong tradition of music and is famed for its choral groups and folk instruments like the triple harp, the crwth and the hornpipe.

Interesting cultural attractions: The Dylan Thomas Boathouse, St Fagans National History Museum, and the Plas Newydd Historic House

While you might not automatically associate Welsh cuisine with great food, we guarantee that you can eat extremely well in Wales. The country is home to a number of prestigious food festivals, and its thriving restaurant scene is based on farm-to-table ingredients – and an unstuffy ambience. As the vast majority of Wales is agricultural, it is unsurprising that its cuisine is defined by delicious, locally-produced cheeses, seafood dishes (particularly cockles and monkfish), high-quality meats (particularly lamb), and fresh produce (particularly leek, the national veggie). Traditional Welsh delicacies include laverbread, lamb stews, fruit breads and Welsh raisin cakes.

And while ale is the drink of choice in Wales, for the past 40 years the Welsh have been trying their hand at winemaking so you might happen to pass by a vineyard or two during your travels in Wales. Taking traditional afternoon tea is another fun activity to include on your itinerary.

Located on the western shoulder of central Great Britain, Wales is a country of islands, magical coastlines and castles. With its capital in Cardiff, Wales – along with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – forms part of the United Kingdom.

While there are numerous fascinating historical attractions to see in Wales, many travelers venture there because of its renowned natural beauty. Wales possesses many a pristine, beautiful beach (over 100 in fact) and 750 miles of lovely coastline that looks out at 50 islands. For those wanting to incorporate fresh air, the great outdoors and pleasant walks into their vacation to Wales, exploring the Wales Coastal Path is a wonderful option.

Beyond the Welsh coastline, Wales is really most known for its mountains – with Mount Snowdon, which is located inside Snowdonia National Park – being its crown jewel. Additionally, Wales is home to two other outstanding national parks, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and Brecon Beacons National Park, as well as several other particularly-spectacular areas like the Wye Valley, the Gower Peninsula, the Clwydian Range and the island of Anglesey.

Because of its breathtaking scenery, Wales is a paradise for vacationers seeking outdoor pursuits. Whitewater rafting, hiking, golfing, cycling, mountain biking, climbing, fishing, and horse riding all are great options. Wales is also famed for its steam trains and today they are still a great way to explore the Welsh countryside. Green-thumbed travelers will also be amazed at the fantastic gardens in Wales. We recommend visiting the National Botanic Garden of Wales near Llanarthne, the Dyffryn Gardens in the Vale of Glamorgan, and the Aberglasney Gardens in the Tywi valley of Carmarthenshire.

In land size, Wales is just a smidgen larger than the state of New Jersey. Because of this and its proximity to nearby countries, an itinerary to Wales is very easy to pair with visits to England, Scotland, Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Largest cities: Cardiff, Swansea and Newport

Wales' vibrant, fascinating history is a tale of Celtic settlers, Roman conquerors, Britons tribes, Anglo-Saxon aggressors, Viking raiders, Norman lords, Tudor kings and Welsh nationalists.

By the 13th century, the Welsh were conquered and consequently governed by the Norman kings of England. As the English continually doubted the loyalty of their Welsh subjects, truly magnificent medieval castles were constructed throughout Wales, many of which can still be visited today. Of Wales' six official UNESCO World Heritage Sites, four are impressive castles commissioned by King Edward I: Harlech Castle and Caernarfon Castle in Snowdonia, Conwy Castle, and Beaumaris Castle on the isle of Anglesey. If you are particularly interested in discovering Wales' outstanding military architecture, we recommend you consider purchasing one of the various castle and heritage passes available to tourists visiting Wales.

It is also worth mentioning that the Industrial Revolution dramatically transformed Wales from a largely rural economy into a British, economic powerhouse due to thriving industries like coal mining, slate quarrying, copper smelting and iron manufacturing. Should you wish to learn more about this era of Welsh history, consider visiting the Big Pit National Coal Museum or take the underground tour of the Llechwedd Slate Caverns.

Interesting historical attractions: Caerphilly Castle, Conway Castle, Caernarfon Castle and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Wales Vacations

Not Included