For a small country, Wales offers incredible diversity – so much so that it's one of our top travel destinations. Even better, many of Wales' (beautiful) landscapes and experiences remain surprisingly undiscovered. From pristine white-sand beaches and rolling, quintessentially Welsh valleys to tucked-away villages, here are the most beautiful places in Wales you really should visit.
1. The Tywi Valley, South Wales
In the southwest of the country, the Tywi Valley is home to some of the most beautiful places in Wales. Indeed, it’s not hard to see why the legend of Merlin remains so prevalent in the area. The lush green hills are punctuated with ruined castles, the standout of which is romantic Carreg Cennan.
Thought to have been constructed on the site of a fortress that was built by one of King Arthur’s knights, the castle commands a striking position 300ft above the Cennen River. Here one can enjoy views over towards the Black Mountain.
A much more modern attraction can be found in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the centrepiece of which is Norman Foster’s striking glasshouse. These gardens will transport you into a much more Mediterranean climate than you could ever hope to find in the country.
The real joy here is, of course, taking your time, following the curve of the green hills and discovering the quiet villages that sit among them.
2. Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire
Winding country lanes lead to Strumble Head on the beautiful north Pembrokeshire coast, which is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Wales for sea-bird spotting.
This peaceful spot – though expect to be buffeted by the wind a little – is a rewarding place for watching gannets, kittiwakes, guillemots and fulmars as they swoop and dive. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of porpoises out on the water.
The best way to reach the headland is on an invigorating walk along the Coast Path, from which you can enjoy some astounding cliff-top views. Plus, you’ll also be able to discover the lovely little beaches of Aber Mawr and Aber Bach.
3. Ruthin, Denbighshire
Sitting in the fertile Vale of Clwyd, the attractive little hilltop town of Ruthin stands out in the area for its particularly fine food and makes a great base from which to explore the gentle hills that surround it.
The market town is especially notable for its clutch of appealing half-timbered buildings, centred around St Peter’s Square. While here, the higgledy-piggledy Nantclwyd y Dre, which dates partly from 1435, is especially worth seeking out.
On the southern edge of town, the imposing red-sandstone castle makes a nice spot for a drink among rather grand surroundings, or for a wander among the resident peacocks.
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4. Rhoscolyn, Anglesey
The island of Anglesey, joined to the mainland by bridges near Bangor, offers a surprising plethora of lovely sights. One of the most beautiful places in Wales here, though strictly speaking on another island entirely (Holy Island), is the tiny seaside village of Rhoscolyn.
The sandy beaches here are exquisite and make this the ideal spot for a few days of chilling out. If you’re after more active pursuits, it's also a great place for kayakers.
Best of all, there’s an excellent pub here – the White Eagle. This establishment boasts a huge deck that’s perfect for soaking up the views of the coast, ideally over a pint or two of cask ale or a plate of locally harvested oysters.
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5. Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Glyn Ceiriog Valley
There’s not much to Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog (or Llanarmon DC as it’s commonly known) – but that’s part of its charm. Sitting on the edge of the quiet Glyn Ceiriog Valley, this is one of the most beautiful places in Wales to come to get away from it all.
The blissfully quiet valley was long a vital route into both Snowdonia and the heart of the country, and today it still makes a great choice for a stop as part of a wider exploration of the country.
For such a small place, there are not one but two impressive inns here. Combined with some lovely walks on the doorstep, through the valleys and onto the moors – Llanarmon DC is the ideal choice for a relaxing countryside break.
6. Tenby Harbour
Beguilingly old-fashioned Tenby (Dinbych-y-Pysgod), wedged on a promontory between two sweeping beaches fronting an island-studded seascape, is everything a seaside resort should be. Narrow streets wind downhill from the medieval centre to the harbour, past miniature gardens fashioned to catch the afternoon sun.
Steps down the steeper slopes give magical views of the dockside arches, while rows of brightly painted houses and hotels are strung along the clifftops. Simply walking around the streets and along the beaches is a delight, but Tenby is best visited at quieter times such as May or late September.
Nearby Caldey Island (Ynys Pyr) was settled by Celtic monks in the sixth century, perhaps as an offshoot of St Illtud’s monastery at Llantwit Major. From the island’s jetty, a short woodland walk leads to its main settlement: a tiny post office and the popular tea gardens. The narrow road to the left leads past the abbey to the heavily restored chapel of St David, whose most impressive feature is the round-arched Norman door.
7. Snowdonia National Park — one of the most beautiful places in Wales
Other regions will argue, of course, but it is in Snowdonia (Yr Eryri) that you see Wales is at its grandest – even at its most Welsh. This compact area is a small, separate world where Welsh is regularly the first language, slate mining remains in the collective consciousness and small villages retain quiet self-sufficiency. It’s also a place for picturebook castles, particularly at Caernarfon and Criccieth.
With everything from woodland strolls to mountain scrambles, Snowdonia is a fabulous walking country, and its small valley settlements make great bases or places to rest. Foremost among them is the Victorian resort town of Betws-y-Coed, very much a stop on the coach-tour circuit.
The smaller walkers’ hamlet of Capel Curig feels more rugged, while the main focus of the region is Snowdon, reached on foot or by railway from the small town of Llanberis. Only slightly less celebrated are Llyn Idwal and Tryfan and Glyderau. Iin truth, your options for walking here are only limited by your imagination; hike for a month and you’d still only scratch the surface.
8. Swallow Falls
Spread across a plain around the confluence of the Conwy, Llugwy and Lledr valleys, Betws-y-Coed – the self-described “gateway to Snowdonia” – is almost totally devoted to the needs of visitors, particularly walkers. Any number of activity operators will get you out into the scenery – which is the point of being here, after all – but there are modest sights within reach, including pretty waterfalls and a Neolithic burial site.
Easy access makes Swallow Falls (a mistranslation of Rhaeadr Ewynnol, or “foaming cataract”) one of the region’s most-visited sights. It’s a really pretty waterfall in a gorge, enlivened by heavy rainfall the night before or by the appearance of a kamikaze kayaker. A path leads to two viewing platforms.
9. Three Cliffs Bay Beach
The first few miles of the southern Gower coast are highly developed, including the popular surf beach of Langland Bay, between two headlands. The narrow, golden-sanded Caswell Bay – another great spot for surfing – comes next, from where you can follow the cliff path to the tiny and remote former smugglers’ haunt of Brandy Cove, or pebbly Pwlldu Bay.
Three miles along, huge Three Cliffs Bay is one of Wales’s finest beaches, at the end of a silent valley fringed by dunes and the eerie ruins of Pennard Castle. The best approach is from the car park at Southgate, from where you hike a mile or so west along clifftops to Three Cliffs Bay, where you turn inland and follow the boundary of the golf course to the castle.
The quaint border town of Hay-on-Wye (Y Gelli), at the northern tip of the Brecon Beacons, is synonymous with secondhand books. Since the first bookshop opened here in the 1960s, just about every spare inch has been given over to the trade, including the old cinema, houses and most shops.
There are now well over thirty bookshops in town, most of which cluster on and around Castle Street. Many are highly specialized, including those dedicated solely to travel, poetry, children and even “murder and mayhem”. In addition to the bookshops, you’ll find antique shops, galleries and an increasing number of fine-food haunts.
Apart from its literary connections, Hay-on-Wye is also one of the most beautiful places in Wales. It is located within the Brecon Beacons National Park, surrounded by stunning natural landscapes and the beautiful River Wye.
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11. Tintern Abbey
The roofless ruins of Tintern Abbey are spectacularly located on one of the most scenic stretches of the River Wye. The abbey and its valley have inspired writers and painters ever since the Reverend William Gilpin published a book in 1782 extolling their picturesque qualities. It can get murderously busy, so it’s best to go out of season or at the beginning or end of the day when the crowds are thinner.
The best way to appreciate the scale and splendour of the ruins is by walking along the opposite bank of the Wye. Just upstream from the abbey, a bridge crosses the river, from where a path climbs a wooded hillside. Views along the way and from the top are magnificent.
12. Brecon Beacons National Park
The vast inland county of Powys takes up a full quarter of Wales. Often traversed quickly en route to the coast, it’s well worth exploring in its own right. One of the most beautiful places in Wales - the Brecon Beacons National Park, at the county’s southern end, an area of moody heights, wild, rambling moors and thundering waterfalls.
With the lowest profile of Wales’ three national parks, the Brecon Beacons are refreshingly uncrowded, primarily attracting local urban walkers.
Spongy hills of grass and rock tumble and climb around river valleys peppered with glassy lakes and villages that seem to have been hewn from one rock. Known for the vivid quality of their light, the Beacons hills disappear and re-emerge from hazy blankets of cloud, with shafts of sun sharpening the lush green patchwork of fields.
13. Cardigan Bay
Cardigan Bay (Bae Ceredigion) takes a huge bite out of Wales’ west coast, bordered by the Pembrokeshire peninsula in the south and the Llŷn in the north. Between these two rugged projections lies the Cambrian coast, which starts where the rugged seashore of Pembrokeshire ends, continuing in much the same vein of great cliffs, isolated beaches and swirling sea birds.
This coast is split by tumbling rivers, while the bulwark of the Cambrian mountains lies to the east. Before the nineteenth-century construction of the railway and improved roads, these served to isolate this stretch of coast from the rest of Wales. Today, development is still low-key, with large sand-fringed sections sprinkled with enchanting coastal resorts.
14. Blue Lagoon
Five miles north of St Davids, a small lane tumbles down into the bleak hamlet of Abereiddi, where you can find tiny fossilized animals in the shale of the black-sand beach. At the back of the beach are remains of workers’ huts and a tramway that once looped around the hill to Porthgain, all part of the slate quarry that closed in 1910.
The quarry was then dynamited for safety reasons, producing the “Blue Lagoon”. This is a stunning natural lagoon with vibrant blue waters. The unique colour of the water is a result of the minerals present in the quarry.
The vicinity of the Blue Lagoon can easily be considered one of the most beautiful places in Wales, with rugged cliffs and dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Once here, hike through the picturesque surroundings, explore the nearby beaches or simply enjoy a picnic in the spectacular setting.
15. Gwenffrwd-Dinas Nature Reserve
Twelve miles northeast of Llandeilo, the former cattle drovers’ town of Llandovery (Llanymddyfri) makes a natural base for exploring the Tywi Valley and the breathtaking countryside around Llyn Brianne and Dolaucothi to the north and west.
The community-run Local History Exhibition contains interesting displays on the legend of the Lady of the Lake from Llyn y Fan Fach and her descendants, the Physicians of Myddfai; sixteenth-century outlaw Twm Sion Cati, the “Welsh Robin Hood”.
Four miles beyond the village of Rhandirmwyn, at the Ystradffin chapel, there’s a car park for the RSPB’s Gwenffrwd-Dinas Nature Reserve. From here spectacular trail loops through the gorge and ancient woodland, home to woodpeckers, nuthatches, sandpipers, dippers, redstarts and pipits. A short side trail leads up to the reputed hideout cave of Twm Sion Cati.
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