Wales

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Wales is a land of dramatic national parks, plunging, unspoiled coastlines, and awe-inspiring medieval castles. Its ancient history and deep-rooted Celtic culture make Wales similar in many ways to its more famous neighbors, Scotland and Ireland; and yet it doesn’t attract the same hordes of visitors, which is a big part of the appeal.

Vast swaths of Wales were untouched by the industrial boom of the 19th century. Although pockets of the country were given over to industries such as coal mining and manufacturing (both of which have all but disappeared), most of Wales remained unspoiled. The country is largely rural, and there are more than 10 million sheep—but only 3 million people. It has a Britain-as-it-used-to-be feel that can be hugely appealing.

Now is a great time to visit Wales. The country is reveling in a new political autonomy, just a decade-and-a-half old, that’s brought with it a flourish of optimism and self-confidence. Welsh culture has undergone something of a renaissance, and its culinary traditions are being embraced and reinvented by an enthusiastic new generation of chefs and artisan foodies. Simply put, Wales loves being Wales, and that enthusiasm is infectious to the visitor. It also means that the tourism industry has grown by leaps and bounds, including some truly unique and special places to stay.

Although Wales is a small country—on average, about 60 miles wide and 170 miles north to south—looking at it on a map is deceptive. It's quite a difficult place to get around, with a distinctly old-fashioned road network and poor public transportation connections. To see it properly, you really need a car. The good news is that along the way you'll experience some beautiful drives. There are rewards to be found in the gentle folds of its valleys and in the shadow of its mountains.

Were some of the more remote attractions in Wales in, say, the west of Ireland, they'd be world famous and overrun with millions of visitors. Here, if you're lucky, you can almost have them to yourself.

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Cardiff

Home to the Welsh Assembly and a population of 330,000, Cardiff is financially, industrially, and commercially the most important city in Wales...

Aberystwyth

A pleasingly eccentric combination of faded Victorian seaside resort and artsy college town, Aberystwyth is the largest community in Mid-Wales...

Swansea

The birthplace of poet Dylan Thomas (1914–53), Swansea adores its native son. Citywide celebrations in 2014 marked a century since his birth...

Porthmadog

The little seaside town of Porthmadog, built as a harbor to export slate from nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog, stands at the gateway to the Llŷn Peninsula...

Abergavenny

The market town of Abergavenny, just outside Brecon Beacons National Park, is a popular base for walkers and hikers. It has a ruined castle...

Conwy

The still-authentic medieval town of Conwy grew up around its castle on the west bank of the River Conwy. A ring of ancient but well-preserved...

Llangollen

Llangollen's setting in a deep valley carved by the River Dee gives it a typically Welsh appearance. The bridge over the Dee, a 14th-century...

Brecon

The historic market town of Brecon is known for its Georgian buildings, narrow passageways, and pleasant riverside walks. It's also the gateway...

Hay-on-Wye

With its crumbling old castle and low-slung buildings framed by lolloping green hills, Hay-on-Wye is a beautiful little place. In 1961 Richard...

Llandrindod Wells

Also known as Llandod, the old spa town of Llandrindod Wells preserves its Victorian look with turrets, cupolas, loggias, and balustrades everywhere...

Tenby

Pastel-color Georgian houses cluster around a harbor in this seaside town, which became a fashionable resort in the 19th century and is still...

Beaumaris (Biwmares) and Anglesey (Ynys Mon)

Elegant Beaumaris is on the Isle of Anglesey, the largest island directly off the shore of Wales. It's linked to the mainland by the Britannia...

Holyhead

Once a northern defense post against Irish raiders, Holyhead later became best known as a ferry port for Ireland. The dockside bustle is not...

Llanberis

Like Betws-y-Coed, Llanberis is a focal point for people visiting Snowdonia National Park. ...

Betws-y-Coed

The rivers Llugwy and Conwy meet at Betws-y-Coed, a popular village surrounded by woodland with excellent views of Snowdonia. It can be used...

Llandudno

This engagingly old-fashioned North Wales seaside resort has a wealth of well-preserved Victorian architecture and an ornate amusement pier...

Lake Vyrnwy

This beautiful lake has a sense of tranquillity that doesn't entirely befit its history. Lake Vyrnwy was created in the 1880s to provide water...

St. David's

Despite its minuscule size, this community of fewer than 1,800 people isn’t a village or a town—it's actually Britain's smallest city. Historically...

Merthyr Mawr

As you cross over an ancient stone bridge into Merthyr Mawr, you feel as if you've entered another world. From stone cottages with beehive-shape...

Cardigan and the Teifi Valley

The little market town of Cardigan, with its ancient bridge, was the scene of a never-to-be-forgotten victory by the Welsh over the Norman army...

Machynlleth

Machynlleth (pronounced "Mack- unth -leth"), at the head of the beautiful Dovey Estuary, doesn't look like a typical Welsh country town. Its...

Ruthin

Once a stronghold of the rebel Welsh prince Owain Glyndwr (c. 1354–1416), Ruthin is a delightful market town with elegant shops, good inns,...

Dolgellau

A solidly Welsh town with dark stone buildings and old coaching inns made of the local gray dolerite and slate, Dolgellau (pronounced dol- geth...

Denbigh

This market town (market day is the last Friday of the month) was much admired by the great English literary figure and lexicographer Dr. Samuel...

Barmouth

Barmouth, on the northern mouth of the Mawddach Estuary, is one of the few places along the Welsh coast that can be described as a full-fledged...

Cardiff

Home to the Welsh Assembly and a population of 330,000, Cardiff is financially, industrially, and commercially the most important city in Wales...

Aberystwyth

A pleasingly eccentric combination of faded Victorian seaside resort and artsy college town, Aberystwyth is the largest community in Mid-Wales...

Swansea

The birthplace of poet Dylan Thomas (1914–53), Swansea adores its native son. Citywide celebrations in 2014 marked a century since his birth...

Porthmadog

The little seaside town of Porthmadog, built as a harbor to export slate from nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog, stands at the gateway to the Llŷn Peninsula...

Abergavenny

The market town of Abergavenny, just outside Brecon Beacons National Park, is a popular base for walkers and hikers. It has a ruined castle...

Conwy

The still-authentic medieval town of Conwy grew up around its castle on the west bank of the River Conwy. A ring of ancient but well-preserved...

Llangollen

Llangollen's setting in a deep valley carved by the River Dee gives it a typically Welsh appearance. The bridge over the Dee, a 14th-century...

Brecon

The historic market town of Brecon is known for its Georgian buildings, narrow passageways, and pleasant riverside walks. It's also the gateway...

Hay-on-Wye

With its crumbling old castle and low-slung buildings framed by lolloping green hills, Hay-on-Wye is a beautiful little place. In 1961 Richard...

Llandrindod Wells

Also known as Llandod, the old spa town of Llandrindod Wells preserves its Victorian look with turrets, cupolas, loggias, and balustrades everywhere...

Tenby

Pastel-color Georgian houses cluster around a harbor in this seaside town, which became a fashionable resort in the 19th century and is still...

Beaumaris (Biwmares) and Anglesey (Ynys Mon)

Elegant Beaumaris is on the Isle of Anglesey, the largest island directly off the shore of Wales. It's linked to the mainland by the Britannia...

Holyhead

Once a northern defense post against Irish raiders, Holyhead later became best known as a ferry port for Ireland. The dockside bustle is not...

Llanberis

Like Betws-y-Coed, Llanberis is a focal point for people visiting Snowdonia National Park. ...

Betws-y-Coed

The rivers Llugwy and Conwy meet at Betws-y-Coed, a popular village surrounded by woodland with excellent views of Snowdonia. It can be used...

Llandudno

This engagingly old-fashioned North Wales seaside resort has a wealth of well-preserved Victorian architecture and an ornate amusement pier...

Lake Vyrnwy

This beautiful lake has a sense of tranquillity that doesn't entirely befit its history. Lake Vyrnwy was created in the 1880s to provide water...

St. David's

Despite its minuscule size, this community of fewer than 1,800 people isn’t a village or a town—it's actually Britain's smallest city. Historically...

Merthyr Mawr

As you cross over an ancient stone bridge into Merthyr Mawr, you feel as if you've entered another world. From stone cottages with beehive-shape...

Cardigan and the Teifi Valley

The little market town of Cardigan, with its ancient bridge, was the scene of a never-to-be-forgotten victory by the Welsh over the Norman army...

Machynlleth

Machynlleth (pronounced "Mack- unth -leth"), at the head of the beautiful Dovey Estuary, doesn't look like a typical Welsh country town. Its...

Ruthin

Once a stronghold of the rebel Welsh prince Owain Glyndwr (c. 1354–1416), Ruthin is a delightful market town with elegant shops, good inns,...

Dolgellau

A solidly Welsh town with dark stone buildings and old coaching inns made of the local gray dolerite and slate, Dolgellau (pronounced dol- geth...

Denbigh

This market town (market day is the last Friday of the month) was much admired by the great English literary figure and lexicographer Dr. Samuel...

Barmouth

Barmouth, on the northern mouth of the Mawddach Estuary, is one of the few places along the Welsh coast that can be described as a full-fledged...

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