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Portia Jones
11/5/2020

Luscious green valleys, dense forests, majestic mountains and serene lakes. The diverse landscapes of Wales are an outdoor playground for adventure seekers.

Despite its relatively modest size and unpredictable weather, Wales is well equipped for outdoor activities and adventure holidays. With so many professional activity providers and specialist companies, it's easy to plan a multi-adventure trip, family activity weekend or a couple's adrenaline break.

From coasteering and hiking to hill walking and paddleboarding – and mountain biking in between – Portia Jones (travel writer and host of the Travel Goals podcast) shares what Cymru has to offer!

Mountain biking in the Elan Valley

The Elan Valley is a picturesque river valley in the Cambrian Mountains, situated to the west of the town of Rhayader. The Elan estate covers approximately 70 square miles of peaceful reservoirs, dams and countryside. It also has a growing reputation as a biking hotspot in Wales.

One of the best activities here is mountain biking through the rugged and awe-inspiring landscape. You can bring your own bike or book a guided mountain bike tour of the area. Seek out expert companies, like MTB Wales, to help you navigate the rocky trails with a seasoned pro.

It's pretty sweet to bike through epic trails around wild, Welsh landscapes and not see another soul. You'll pass by grassy valleys, trickling streams and plenty of wildlife when you explore the Elan Valley on two wheels.

Be sure to also cycle by some of the iconic Elan Valley Reservoirs to get some gorgeous snaps of these photogenic and historic dams.

Water works buildings in a valley, Elan Valley, Wales © Christopher Willans/Shutterstock

Hiking in Pumlumon Fawr

Unlike other tourist-heavy hiking hotspots in Wales, there's no crowds, queues or cafés at Pumlumon Fawr, the most secret mountain in Wales.

At 2468ft, elusive Pumlumon Fawr is the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains area.

It's a mountain that has largely escaped the attention of day-trippers and selfie-seekers, who instead head to the familiar peaks of Snowdon and Pen y Fan, for those coveted Instagram shots...

This might be because it's definitely not an easy 'give it a go' kind of mountain. There are no marked trails, toilets, tour groups, or exiting via the gift shop here. It's truly the last wilderness in Wales.

Pumlumon Fawr is probably best suited to hardcore adventure enthusiasts who aren't afraid of a challenge and can read a map. If in doubt, book a guided hike with a professional mountain guide, so you don't end up lost on this remote mountain.

Be sure to walk the picturesque Caradoc Jones Trail to the summit. It's a scenic yet challenging route through some of the most tranquil scenery in Wales, where you're unlikely to see another soul.

Ogwen Valley in Snowdonia National Park, Wales © Kath Watson/Shutterstock

Multi activity adventures in North Wales

North Wales has long positioned itself as the home of adventure activities in Wales. It's become a popular hub for all types of adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities all year round. Most activities are concentrated around the craggy peaks of the Snowdonia National Park, boasting over 823 square miles of adventure playground with a mountainous backdrop.

North Wales has managed to successfully utilise its dramatic landscapes and also repurpose their industrial heritage into world-class adventure attractions. Former quarries, historic slate mines and decaying industrial estates have now been transformed into exhilarating zip wire zones, underground trampolines and innovative surf lagoons.

The mountainous terrain and tranquil lakes also lend themselves to outdoor adventures and are used as multi-activity destinations.

If you want to pack in a range of adventure sports into a short amount of time, then check out the National Outdoor Centre, Plas-y-Brenin. Here, you'll find adventure breaks and courses that include paddle sports, mountain biking, abseiling, gorge walking and kayaking.

Abandoned slate mine barracks at Cwmorthin quarry Snowdonia North Wales © Christopher Chambers/Shutterstock

Coasteering in Pembrokeshire

One of the must-do outdoor activities in Wales is coasteering. Get your heart racing as you bravely scramble your way across the dramatic Welsh coastline – just don't look down!

This challenging activity will likely push you way out of your comfort zone as you boldly jump off cliffs, traverse rocky outcrops and plunge into frothy pools.

One of the best places for coasteering in Wales is Pembrokeshire. This picturesque part of Wales has over 86 miles of ruggedly beautiful coastline to explore.

Experience the exhilaration of leaping from land to sea in the tiny city St Davids, the birthplace of coasteering. You should only attempt to scale the precarious Welsh sea cliffs under the expert guidance of adventure professionals. Book your saltwater thrills with outdoor specialists like Big Blue Adventures and explore the coastline safely.

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, near St David's in Wales © AlanMorris/Shutterstock

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Paddleboarding in the Wye Valley

The Wye Valley borders England and Wales and is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. One of the most natural features in the area is the flowing River Wye. This meandering river begins in Plynlimon (in mid-Wales) and flows south, becoming part of the border between Wales and England, and then eventually meeting the Severn.

It's the perfect place to try your hand at paddleboarding. Stand-up paddleboarding – or SUP – is an entertaining activity for all the family and suitable for most ages and abilities.

You will definitely need to put a fair amount of effort into to stay upright and balanced when you start! It's pretty much guaranteed you'll all fall in at some point, so perhaps take a waterproof camera to capture the most hilarious fails.

Gently paddling down the river is a unique way of experiencing the beautiful scenery of the Wye Valley, spotting wildlife and getting a great core muscle workout at the same time.

There are several companies in the area who offer a range of SUP experiences for all ages, including family-run company Inspire2Adventure.

Meandering River Wye © Matthew Dixon/Shutterstock

Hillwalking in the Brecon Beacons

The wildly popular Brecon Beacons has some of the most glorious landscapes and flowing waterfalls in South Wales. Its impressive peaks and ridges bring a sense of haunting beauty and provide a range of strenuous hill walking opportunities.

There are hill walks in the Beacons that are suited to all abilities, from easy circular walks to the high mountain summits.

For some of the best views of the Brecon Beacons, hike up the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Pen-y-Fan. Enjoy panoramic views of the Brecon landscape on a scenic ten-mile hike. The majority of walkers hike the well-trodden route to the summit from Storey Arms Activity centre. There's also a less crowded ascent via the path up from Taf Fechan Forest past Neuadd Reservoir.

Why not hike Pen-y-Fan with a guide? You can take the stress out of map reading and be taken through the Welsh wilderness with a qualified guide, like Nia from Wild Trails Wales.

Llyn Ogwen Lake and falls, Wales © Antonio Coppola/Shutterstock

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