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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 07 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: David Atkinson

Rugged landscape, open spaces, and pure, fresh air. It’s clear why Snowdonia was Wales’ first (established 1951) national park and remains its largest.

The 823 sq miles extent is a haven for outdoors experiences and known increasingly as the UK’s hub for adventure sports. But Snowdonia is not just for hikers, bikers and adrenaline junkies. Expect, too, a buzz of contemporary culture, heritage castles to explore, and lashings of warm, Welsh hospitality with some cracking local food and drink.

It’s even home to Wales’ latest addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List, new trails and projects springing up around its slate-mining heritage.

Orientation

The anchor point is Mount Snowdon (Eryri in Welsh), Wales’ highest peak at 3,000ft.

The mountain Mecca is the small, Alpine-style town of Llanberis but other honeypot hubs offer alternative takes on the park. The Victorian resort town of Betws-y-Coed is the primary base for many visitors, its high street packed with outdoors shops and food-fuel cafes. Given the bucolic setting, you can see why artists and Romantic writers were first drawn here.

Otherwise, westerly Caernarfon makes a good base for families and the central, but tiny, village of Beddgelert an attractive base for couples seeking rustic tranquillity.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Ffestiniog Railway

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

The world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway offers the chance to travel deep into Wales’ most spectacular mountainscapes.

Best for ages: 4+ | £25 | 1-3 hours

Castles of the Ring of Iron

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

The four castles of Edward I’s ‘Iron Ring’ mark the landscape of North Wales with a bold military statement about the crushing of the 13th-century Welsh rebellion.

Best for ages: 4+ | £8

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Zip World Penrhyn Quarry [Zip-lining]

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Hard-core adrenaline lovers will make a beeline for this adventure-packed quarry site near Bangor. It’s home to the world’s fastest and longest zipline, with speeds of up to 100mph.

Best for ages: 13+ | £12 | 2+ hours

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Adventure Parc Snowdonia
Experience

Adventure Parc Snowdonia

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

The artificial surf reef and activity centre in the Conwy Valley is an adventure hub with activities for all ages; activities on offer include indoor high ropes courses, soft play, caving and climbing, and outdoor climbing, zip lines, and surfing. There’s a Hilton hotel handily placed next door.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

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Beaumaris Castle
Experience

Beaumaris Castle

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

The last and most elaborate of the four, Beaumaris is a castle designer’s dream with its concentric design of a castle within a castle. Although unfinished, it represents a dramatic landmark and the gateway to the visitor-hub town of Anglesey.

Best for ages: 4+ | £8

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Bodnant Garden
Experience

Bodnant Garden

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

The formal gardens surrounding Bodnant Hall are the most spectacular in Wales with sections of wildflowers, rare species and water features. The highlight comes every May when the 160ft laburnum arch explodes into its canary-yellow finery.

Best for ages: 13+ | £14

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Caernarfon Castle
Experience

Caernarfon Castle

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

This imposing medieval fortress was originally built in the 11th century, then enhanced by King Edward I at the end of the 13th century. The scene of many a siege and sacking, and then increasingly unnecessary, it fell into disrepair so that only the shell walls remain today.

Best for ages: 4+ | £11

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Snowdonia, North Wales and Chester Small-Group Day Tour from Manchester

Snowdonia, North Wales and Chester Small-Group Day Tour from Manchester

Manchester

King Edward built a castle in Conwy, King Arthur slayed a giant in Snowdonia, and the Romans laid the foundations for the town of Chester: t...

£46 | Rating 4.58 / 5 [24 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Olif Guesthouse

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Homely, cosy and fuelled by local produce, Olif is a rare find in an area besieged by coach trippers come high summer. Adults only.

Official star rating:

Plas Weunydd

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

A boutique property with a real sense of history, it offers a stylish, central base to explore both the industrial heritage and the ever-expanding adrenaline activities of the region. It sits amid Wales’ latest UNESCO site.

Official star rating:

Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Stylish stays and sea salt treatments are de rigueur at this contemporary hotel, located within the grounds of Adventure Parc Snowdonia. Families and surf dues will feel equally at home with activities aplenty on the doorstep.

Official star rating:

Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

A grand Victorian mansion, set in its own country-estate grounds, this is a family-run bolthole with a welcoming, cosy ambiance. Located towards the quieter southern end of the Snowdonia National Park, it’s a rural haven.

Official star rating:

When to go

The peak travel season is from Easter to September, although Snowdonia is increasingly viewed as a year-round destination with cosy-Christmas breaks also popular.

Expect hotels to be heavily booked and prices hiked during the school holidays in July and August, especially around the bank holiday late August. The shoulders seasons around May and early October can be great times to visit, while walkers should be checking the weather carefully before tackling any long hikes during the winter months.

Getting there and away

Most international arrivals to North Wales are coming via Manchester Airport (transfer: two hours plus) with a smaller number by ferry via the port of Holyhead. The A55 expressway is the main artery into North Wales by road (expect weekend delays). Bus services are less common, however, so better to seek out local care-hire options. Otherwise, specialist local tour operators can assist with transfers and itineraries.

Getting around

This is a self-drive destination with some spectacular driving routes to soak up the widescreen scenery. Parking is plentiful, as are the opportunities to walk, bike and wander free, exploring the off-the-beaten-track attractions and must-see views in the rural heart of the park. Look for car hire outlets in the major hubs or check with a local tourist information centre for details.

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination