12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Snowdonia
Snowdonia is the name given to the mountainous area in the county of Gwynedd in Wales, a region boasting 14 peaks over 3,000 feet, including Snowdon itself (3,560 feet). Other lofty heights include Crib Goch (3,023 feet); Crib-y-Ddysgl, or Garnedd Ugain (3,493 feet); Lliwedd (2,947 feet); and Yr Aran (2,451 feet). Little surprise, then, that visitors to the region, many of them here to explore the region's extensive network of hiking trails, have plenty of magnificent scenery to enjoy. The best view of the whole group is from the village of Capel Curig, but the peaks, all of which stand within beautiful Snowdonia National Park, can also be seen from Porthmadog and the Nantlle Valley.
In addition to its natural attractions, Snowdonia also boasts a plethora of man-made points of interest worth seeing. Of these, some of the most notable are the exciting Snowdon Mountain Railway (a great way to ascend Snowdon), which drops you off at the spectacular Hafod Eryri visitor center at the top of the mountain; the beautiful villages of Llanberis and Beddgelert; and the fascinating National Slate Museum. There are also plenty of opportunities to get in a little outdoor action, too, including ziplining, white water rafting, rock climbing, and paragliding, to name but a few. The region is also home to a wide variety of accommodation options, from quaint bed-and-breakfasts and family-run inns to hostels and campgrounds. Plan your adventures with our list of the top things to do in Snowdonia.
1. Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park covers some 823 square miles and extends inland from the coast between Penmaenmawr and Caernarfon, by way of Bethesda to Bala Lake and Llanfairfechan. Access to the most popular part of this area, including Snowdon itself, is made easier by the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which starts at Llanberis. "Eryri" is the Welsh name for Snowdonia, the Land of the Eagle, and it is one of the most popular hiking and rock climbing places in Britain due to its spectacularly rugged mountain scenery, its beautiful beaches and sand dunes, and picturesque valleys. Along with 50-plus lakes, the park features a rich cultural heritage, which includes Roman ruins, ancient prehistoric circles, traditional stonewalls, and authentic Welsh hill farms.
Location: National Park Offices, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd
2. Hafod Eryri: Britain's Highest Visitor Center
From Llanberis at the base of Mount Snowdon a variety of well-marked trails branch out and enable visitors to become acquainted with the scenery, flora and fauna, and geology of the region. There are also a number of relatively safe and easy routes to the summit from here (those seeking a more challenging ascent usually start from Beddgelert and return to Pen-y-Pass, or vice versa).
In addition to the magnificent views of North Wales and the Irish Channel, a highlight of the climb is Hafod Eryri, the spectacular visitor center at the summit. The uniquely designed granite building with huge windows offers sheltered views of the area. In addition to being the terminus of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, it also has a cafe and gift shop and provides information about the mountain. It can be busy at times due to the more than 500,000 visitors who tackle the summit each year, so a mid-week ascent is always a good idea.
Location: National Park Offices, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd
Editor's Pick3. Snowdon Mountain Railway
By far the easiest method of getting up Snowdon is via the 100-year-old Snowdon Mountain Railway. This amazing narrow gauge railway opened in 1896 and trundles along the nearly five-mile route up to the summit of Snowdon at a top-speed of little more than five miles per hour, passing through Hebron, Halfway, and Clogwyn stations along the way. The views along this very steep route are wonderful, and many people use the train to carry them up the mountain just so they can walk back down.
Afterwards, be sure to spend a little time in the main station in Llanberis, where you can enjoy refreshments, as well as a movie about the journey up Snowdon (kids' movies are also shown). Discounted fares are available online, and be sure to check the railway's website prior to arrival for cancellations due to inclement weather. Advanced bookings are always recommended due to the attraction's popularity, and if steam's your thing (as opposed to diesel), pay the extra fee to travel aboard one of the railway's Heritage Steam trains.
Location: SMR Station, Llanberis, Caernarfon, Gwynedd
Little Llanberis lies in a magnificent setting at the beginning of the stunning Llanberis Pass. The village is a popular starting point for hikers wanting to scale Snowdon along the Llanberis Path and is also where the annual 10-mile Snowdon Race to the mountain's summit begins. Nearby, you'll find the twin lakes of Padarn and Peris along with the underground Dinorwig Power Station, one of the largest pumping stations in Europe. Between the two lakes is Dolbadarn Castle, with an early 13th-century round tower, while two miles away is lovely Bryn Bras Castle. And if you're looking for the perfect selfie, check out the 20-foot-tall "Blade of the Giants" (Llafn y Cewri), steel sword sculpture on the shore of lake Padarn, created to celebrate the region's rich heritage.
The fun Llanberis Lake Railway is a historic, narrow gauge steam train, which will take you on a 40-minute trip alongside the lake for spectacular views of Snowdonia's mountains. Today, tourists travel in comfort and luxury along railway lines once used to transport the area's slate. Llanberis is also a popular place to bed down for a night or two and includes a variety of accommodation options, from classic Victorian boutique hotels to cosy B&Bs, as well as hostels frequented by backpackers.
5. The National Slate Museum
Llanberis is also home to the fascinating National Slate Museum. Along with its restored 19th-century workshops and machinery, the museum also operates Britain's largest working waterwheel. Built in the mid-1800s, this vast wheel spans an impressive 50 feet in diameter. Located at the much-mined Dinorwig quarry on spectacular Elidir Mountain, the museum offers a fascinating insight into an industry that did much to shape Wales and its people. The old Victorian workshops are still in place, while talks and demonstrations illuminate how slate was quarried and split before being shipped around the world. It also features displays relating to the often harsh conditions faced by workers. Admission is free, and the museum also has a good cafe.
Location: Llanberis, Gwynedd
Quaint Beddgelert, a tiny village at the confluence of the rivers Colwan and Glaslyn, is one of the most charming little places in Wales. A favorite starting point for walks and climbs, the village - named after a legendary faithful dog called Gelert ("Bedd" means grave in Welsh) - is situated at the junction of three main roads. From Moel Hebog, a two hours' climb from here, there's a splendid panoramic view extending across to Cardigan Bay. One road from here descends to Caernarfon, while another runs northeast through Nant Gwynant, the valley of the Glaslyn, one of the most beautiful in Wales. The village is also on the route of the restored Welsh Highland Railway, with regular connections directly to Porthmadog and Caernarfon. Those seeking an authentic Welsh experience would do well to book a stay here at one of the quaint hotels, guesthouses, or B&Bs found in Beddgelert.
7. Betws-y-Coed and The Ugly House
The road running through the Glaslyn valley leads to the delightful little town of Betws-y-Coed ("the temple in the wood"). Situated in Gwydyr Forest at the junction of the Conwy, Lledr, and Llugwy valleys, this popular holiday spot is crowded with visitors in summer, drawn here to enjoy the ruins of Pany Mill and the 15th-century Pont-y-Pair bridge. The immediate surroundings are very beautiful, with the Fairy Glen (Ffos Anoddun), Swallow Falls, and Conwy waterfalls being particularly popular destinations for a stroll.
Nearby, you'll find famous Ty Hyll, aka the Ugly House. Anything but ugly, this picturesque stone cottage is believed to date from the 15th century and may well have served as a hideaway for robbers (or so legend would have us believe). A variety of charming Victorian-era hotels, along with other accommodation options, such as B&Bs and old inns, are also available in the village. The village is also home to some great restaurants, as well as boutique shops and galleries selling original Welsh craft goods, artwork, and souvenirs.
8. National White Water Centre
Located near the town of Bala, the National White Water Centre offers a variety of exciting paddle sport adventures suitable for young and old alike. While notable as a training center for kayakers, it's the rafting that is the big draw for tourists and visitors. Options range from two-hour sessions that whisk you along a steep section of the Upper Tryweryn river, with a number of challenging obstacles and rapids, to more modest introductory sessions lasting an hour on the same stretch of water (both suitable for ages 12 and up).
Sessions are also available for families with younger kids on the lower Tryweryn River, including a fun four-mile adventure, which features some rapids and challenging obstacles. A two-person raft experience is also available for those with some experience (ages 16 and up). For those with the time, why not consider one of the center's weekend adventure packages, which include four wheeler ATVs and off-roading, canyoning, clay pigeon shooting, ziplining, as well as accommodations. (Wetsuits must be worn when on the river, and can be rented for a modest fee.)
Address: Canolfan Tryweryn, Fron-goch, Bala
Official Site: www.nationalwhitewatercentre.co.uk
9. Dolwyddelan Castle
Dolwyddelan Castle is located in Snowdonia on a ridge set against Moel Siabod. Built between 1210 and 1240 by Llwelyn the Great, the most powerful medieval prince in Welsh history, it saw active service during the wars between the Welsh and Edward I before falling to English forces in 1283. A visit to this superb old fortress is worthwhile for the views alone, as well as the walks around the surrounding countryside. The small village of Dolwyddelan is also worth wandering around, too, especially for the attractive 500-year-old St. Gwyddelan Church. The village is home to a small number of hotels and B&Bs, as well as a hostel that's handy for hikers.
10. Bala Lake
On the eastern edge of Snowdonia are lovely Bala Lake and the little market town of Bala, a lively holiday place at the foot of the Aran and Berwyn Mountains. Its main attraction is the four mile lake itself, the longest in Wales, which offers ideal conditions for adventures such as sailing, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. And like most such deep bodies of inland water, Bala Lake even has its own monster, Teggie, so called for the Welsh name of the lake (Llyn Tegid). The lake also has a number of dedicated swimming areas suitable for families, as well as gentle walks and trails popular for those traveling with kids. Also a tourist draw is the Bala Lake Railway, a narrow-gauge railroad running along the shore of the lake and through a very picturesque part of Snowdonia National Park.
11. Electric Mountain
A great attraction for young and old alike to enjoy, Electric Mountain -located on Padarn Lake (Llyn Padarn) in Llanberis - is a fun experience centered around the huge Dinorwig Power Station, capable of providing power to all of Wales. It's only accessible via hour-long organized tours. Your minibus journey starts at the power station's visitor center (the aptly-named "Electric Mountain") and takes you deep under Elidir Mountain and into one of the world's largest man-made caverns.
This vast space and its 10-mile network of tunnels is used by the power station to house a massive pumped storage generator, which creates electricity from water, the workings of which are explained along the way. While kids of all ages are welcome to enjoy the attraction's indoor playground, the tour has a minimum age of four (safety helmets are provided, plus storage facilities to store personal belongings are available). There's also a café and gift shop located in the visitor center.
Location: Llanberis, Gwynedd
Official Website: http://electricmountain.co.uk
12. Sygun Copper Mine
Another popular attraction in Beddgelertis is the award-winning Sygun Copper Mine. This fun underground adventure includes a chance to explore a variety of winding tunnels under the very heart of Snowdonia, where you'll discover magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations and numerous colorful (and well-lit) caverns. Disused since 1903, the site provides a riveting insight into the conditions faced by miners at the time through the informative displays in the visitor center and museum, as well as in the caverns and the abandoned mines themselves. Tours are self-guided, with audio and visual presentations included (and there's plenty of walking, so wear comfortable shoes). Other fun things to do for kids are the play area and the chance to pan for gold.
Official Site: www.syguncoppermine.co.uk