Of all the parts in the United Kingdom, Wales doesn’t get anything close to the appreciation and recognition from travelers that it deserves. Most globetrotters think of England when they’re planning a trip to the U.K., staying in London or checking out the white cliffs of Dover. Some consider Scotland and its picturesque scenery stretching for miles. But hardly ANYONE planning an international trip to the U.K. even thinks about visiting Wales. But they should.
Although it’s technically been part of England for close to 500 years (okay, to be fair, there was a brief bit of independence in the 15th century), Wales has its own identity (as well as its own language). Sure, it may share a lot of things with the rest of the U.K., but there’s also a lot that makes it a uniquely amazing destination. There are so many great things about Wales, in fact, that if you try to list them all you’ll end up, as the Welsh say “Fel hwch ar y rhew” (“ like a pig on ice”). But it’s still possible to prove how awesome Wales is and get excited for going there.
Here are just six reasons to be wild about visiting wales.
The Small Towns & Villages
Sure, the small town or quaint village is most associated with England. But Wales has them too and does them almost better. Just imagine quiet streets lined with old brick buildings, housing cafes and pubs, nestled alongside lush green countryside. Many have centuries old churches and old brick bridges stretching over rivers or canals. If you’re looking to explore small out of the way places that look like they belong on post cards, you can’t go wrong by visiting some Welsh villages and towns. Some of more famous ones that are said to be worth checking out are Merthyr Mawr, Solva, and Tintern.
Visiting Wales and NOT going on a hike while you’re there is pretty much like traveling all the way to New York City and not riding the subway. Walks through the epic Welsh scenery is practically a national past time and one that makes any flight booking that gets you there worth it (even if you’re not that big a hiker). From exploring Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd to a day trip to Devil’s Bridge, there are more than enough cool and unique hikes to try.
There’s nothing that seems quite as romantic as traveling by train — think of all those great old movies that show how glamorous it used to be to get around by rail. Unfortunately, train travel in the modern era isn’t as enchanting as it used to be back in the day — unless you’re in Wales. And we’re not talking about efficient, boring trains that you’re used to (e.g. modern). These a functioning models that long since gone from everyday life, running through gorgeous vistas and countrysides. There are more than 10 rail lines throughout the country that use steam trains. And some will even let guests help out, or teach you how to drive the train! So if you or someone you know is a huge fan of trains, than a trip to Wales may be your next stop.
With over 1,500 miles of coastline, Wales has something for pretty much every kind of beach fan or lover. Plenty of travel guides highlight the Welsh coast as one of the best in the world, and with good reason. You can surf, swim, lounge, and enjoy many other adventures at these award-winning beaches. Some good bets are Rhossili, Barafundle, and Tenby. The climate in Wales is pretty temperate; it doesn’t get lower than 0°Celsius/32°Fahrenheit in the winter and higher than 28°Celsius/82°Fahrenheit in the summer. So, a beach trip in wales can really be at any time of year — though it’s probably best to stay out of the way and stick to strolling on the sand (unless you’re in a wet suit) outside of June to September.
Among the many (many) things that people have called Wales are”the land of castles” and “the castle capital of the world,” which means a lot since its almost all of its neighboring regions are kind of known for their castles too. It’s estimated that at one point, there were about 600 castles in Wales — of those about 100 remain standing in one state or another. The reason why the Welsh needed so many castles is complicated, but it boils to the years of conflict (with the English and then the Normans) in the region during medieval times. Castle highlights to visit include Caernarfon Castle, Beaumaris Castle, and Carew Castle.
The People (and Their Dogs)
Along with everything else on this list, Wales is probably most famous for its people and their Corgi dogs. The Welsh are known to be a fun-loving lot, who know how to have a good time. So it should come as no surprise that the people of Wales throw some fantastic get-togethers, from Eisteddfod, an annual festival of all things Welsh, and the Green Man festival, a non-corporate music and arts festival. If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Wales, there’s none better than a festival being on by the Welsh.
Are you a frequent traveler to Wales, or an evangelist of its awesomeness and want to add to our list? Leave it in the comments section below.