While Wales often seems to be overlooked by travelers who instead end up in London, Ireland, or Scotland, it offers breathtaking scenery that includes some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, lush green hills, dramatic mountains, opportunities for scenic walks, and countless castles to explore.
What are the most enchanting destinations in Wales?
If you’re looking to have your breath taken away while visiting Wales, these are the most beautiful and inspiring destinations you have to visit:
- Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
- Pembroke Castle
- Snowdonia National Park
- Cardiff Castle
- Brecon Beacons National Park
- The Vale of Neath
- Pistyll Rhaeadr Waterfall
- Picton Castle and the Secret Owl Garden
- Caernarfon Castle
Wales is a destination that’s well worth spending your entire vacation in, but no matter how much time you have, you’ll want to put at least a few of these especially enchanting destinations on your itinerary.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
The only coastal national park in the country, Pembrokeshire, is located along the Pembrokeshire Coast, renowned for its steep sea cliffs, idyllic beaches, islands, and wildlife. The scenery is absolutely jaw-dropping, much of which can be enjoyed from the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
A highlight, winding nearly 200 miles at the edge of the sea, a hike here brings the chance to watch for hundreds of different bird species flying overhead while seals are often spotted soaking up the sun on the rocks below. Kite surfing, windsurfing, and traditional surfing can all be enjoyed here too.
Just minutes from the national park is Pembroke Castle, the birthplace of the first Tudor king and father of the infamous Henry VIII, Henry VII. It was originally built in the 11th century but was rebuilt just a century later when it became one of the most impressive Norman castles in all of Wales.
A path winds around it, passing swan-filled Mill Pond, with benches along the way for relaxing while taking in the scenery. Viewing the castle from the outside is impressive, but you’ll want to make time to explore the interior, which provides an excellent look at the medieval era.
There is a maze of stairs, tunnels, battlements, and towers, while the gatehouse rooms feature historical displays.
Snowdonia National Park
When many envision Wales, it’s the hills and mountains of Snowdonia that most often come to mind. It includes the famous Mount Snowdon, which rises over 3,500 feet, along with 13 other peaks that are more than 3,000 feet high.
By riding the Snowdon Mountain Railway on the narrow-gauge track, you can easily travel the 4.7 miles to Snowdon’s summit for a view that seems as if you’re on top of the world.
There are plenty of opportunities for exploring on foot, too, with the park one of Britain’s top hiking destinations. Beyond the mountain, this region is often featured in local legends, including those based around King Arthur and filled with ancient forests, cascading waterfalls, fairytale-like castles, and historic mining towns.
While you might not think Cardiff would be considered a place of beauty, it not only boasts a burgeoning indie food scene and vibrant culture, but it’s unusually green with a compact package that includes Cardiff Castle and its picturesque grounds.
One of the highlights here is Cardiff Castle, a Victorian gothic revival mansion that was originally built in the late 11th century. Located in the heart of the capital city, it’s a medieval dream world set within picturesque parkland.
Explore the magnificent fairytale-like apartments, complete with elaborate murals, wood carvings, gilding, and stained glass.
The walled town of Tenby was founded in 900 AD and boasts a beautiful harbor with access to both the Atlantic and the Irish Sea.
One of the top spots for a beach getaway, it offers some of the most spectacular stretches in the entire U.K., including Blue Flag Castle Beach.
The ancient ruins of Tenby Castle lie just above the sandy cove, and when the tide is out, it’s split in two by St. Catherine’s Island with its old fort. You’ll also find Wales’ oldest independent museum, Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, which focuses on local geology, maritime, and archaeological artifacts, established in 1878.
The town center is a charming mix of fish ‘n’ chip eateries, ice cream parlors, and gift shops, providing that quintessential seaside escape.
Brecon Beacons National Park
Covering about 520 square miles in South and Mid Wales, Brecon Beacons gets its name from the Central Beacons that dominate the skyline south of Brecon.
It includes some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in the country, with the east famous for its wild ponies and the west is the source of the River Usk.
It’s a hiker’s paradise with lush mountains covered in heather, caves, sparkling lakes, forest, waterfalls, and nearly 270 ancient monuments to discover. There are Roman ruins, Iron Age hill forts, Bronze Age burial cairn, and even ancient standing stones.
The Vale of Neath
The Vale of Neath, also known as Waterfall Country, was once described by Alfred Russel Wallace who exclaimed that no place had such picturesque scenery and special features as this valley.
The special features Wallace was referring to were the waterfalls that grace this valley bordering Brecon Beacons National Park, including Aberdulais Falls. Visitors can also marvel at Neath Abbey, a 12th-century Cistercian abbey that was later converted into an Elizabethan mansion.
Pistyll Rhaeadr Waterfall
Considered one of the Seven Wonders of Wales, Pistyll Rhaeadr plunges for 240 feet as the highest waterfall in all of Wales and England.
This stunning natural wonder has been enchanting visitors for centuries, with many returning for generations to soak up its magical presence. It’s a place to enjoy peaceful contemplation and one or more of the myriad of scenic walks available with something to suit nearly every level.
Picton Castle and the Secret Owl Garden
Dating back to the 13th century, guided tours are available of Picton Castle, a fortified manor house that was owned by the Phillips family from the late 15th century until 1987, when the last members donated it to the National Trust.
While the interior is well worth exploring with its many opulent rooms, the grounds may be even more impressive. The stately structure is surrounded by some of the most picturesque gardens and includes a “Secret Owl Garden” for close encounters with owls from around the world.
There are more than 25 different own species along with other exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles. It’s well worth planning a full day with a tour of the castle and the grounds.
There’s lots to see in Conwy, located in North Wales. It’s home to multiple castles and spectacular Llanrwst, set along the east bank of River Conwy.
Pont Fawr, a 16th-century stone bridge, is the focal point, sitting next to one of the most photographed structures in the region, 15th-century Ty Hwnt l’r Bont, or the House Beyond the Bridge.
While it once served as a courthouse, it’s now a tearoom with visitors coming from far and wide to enjoy its famous cream tea and picnic along the banks of the river.
One of Europe’s most well-preserved medieval fortresses, Caernarfon Castle, looms over the town of Caernarfon in northwest Wales.
Constructed in the late 13th century by Edward following the defeat of the last native Welsh prince, it occupies the site of an even older Norman Castle and is protected by a moat on one side with the River Seiont and Menai Strait on the other.
It may best be known as the venue for Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969, with a tour here even more interesting thanks to the informative displays throughout its towers.