Snowdonia travel guide

The name Snowdonia evokes different things for different people. Mountains usually come first, what with the pater of all peaks, Snowdon, Wales’ highest at 3,560 ft (1,085 m) overlooking this magnificent national park, like a grand eagle protecting its nest. Indeed, the Welsh word for eagle is Eryr and it is sometimes thought that this is the ancient origin of the region’s Welsh name, Eryri. However, Snowdonia feels a bit like a giant BOGOF. Buy one get one free that is. If you go hiking you can take in a bit of river gorging en route. Go cycling and swap saddle for paddle as you discover Snowdonia from water level.
It's amazing how many people think Snowdonia is in England. Maybe because the name has a royal vibe about it. Wrong. Snowdonia is wholeheartedly and most wonderfully Welsh.
There is so much more here than you may first expect. And the icing on the cake, a bit like the dusting on its most famous peak, is that it has a coastline too. And all of Snowdonia National Park’s lakes, forests, coastline, rivers and mountains are in safe hands, as this landscape - or landscapes, really - has been protected since 1951 to ensure Snowdonia remains not only an evocative and eclectic Eryri but also utterly adored.

Snowdonia is...

for those who seek silence but also a little silliness in nature.

Snowdonia isnít...

just about mountains. With coast, lakes and forest you can dip and dive Ďtil your heartís content.

What we rate & what we don't

Underrated

Beside the seaside

Few people associate Snowdonia with the sea, but there are sixty kilometres of coastline within the National Park, with the seaside town of Harlech, on Tremadog Bay, the salty central hub. Snowdonia boasts around 35 beautiful beaches with Llanfairfechan, Dinas Dinlle, Nefyn and Morfa Bychan, just a few of the sandy stretches to air your toes after a good day or two spent walking in the mountains.

Sustainable slate

Don’t overlook the quarries. Although they are not picture postcard, they have an industrial beauty, the likes of which we celebrate in derelict power stations, transport museums or canal systems around the world. Visit the quarrying villages too for real Snowdonia. Sustainable slate souvenirs are pretty cool too; just don’t take loads from the hillsides, if everyone did there would be none left.

Autumn warmth

Snowdonia’s indigenous oak, birch and ash forests explode with autumnal exuberance around October and there’s nothing that gets the blood pumping and the heart singing other than a good old stomp through the park’s fabulous fiery foliage.  Of course, tucking into a steaming bowl of lamb and veggie cawl will also do the trick although it’s always best appreciated after being outdoors.
Rated

Zip World

Not only can you go flying at speeds of up to 100mph, but you also get to support a now revitalized Penrhyn Quarry which is nestled amongst the mountains of North Wales. This is not only the largest zipline in Europe it’s actually the fastest zipline in the world and has had a very low impact on the landscape as well as helping to give a much needed boost to the local economy.

Outdoor activities

River rafting, canyoning and camping under the stars in a Dark Sky reserve all make a multi-activity holiday one of the best ways to really appreciate every single aspect of Snowdonia’s great outdoors. Join a small group with specialist guides and qualified instructors as you set off as safely as possible and make the most of Wales’ wildest waterfalls and most magnificent mountain peaks.

Power up

Dinorwig Power Station aka Electric Mountain is so cool they’ve turned it into a Llanberis visitor experience. This is no hydro hype, but an almost Orwellian marriage of machines and nature. Elsewhere in Llanberis you can take the train to the summit of Snowdon. Well worth the views as well as appreciating engineering feats and the Hafod Eryri terminus building on the summit.
Overrated

Charity climbs

Great for the charity, but not so great for Snowdonia as most events only involve people staying for a night, leaving loads of waste and going home. Come for a longer walking holiday or a multi-activity break or book into self-catering accommodation so you can aim to take in the whole of Snowdonia National Park, not just the peak.

The package holiday

Snowdonia is so not package. More of a pass the parcel, where you have to unwrap all the layers carefully to discover the treats that await inside. It is rawer than, say, the Lake District. Less fudge, more fun. Settling into a self catering cottage allows you to explore in your own time. Go for a swim in the lake, visit the local butchers, light the open log fire and cosy up with a shawl and bowl of cawl.

English castles

The English still upstage the Welsh when it comes to castles, with Harlech and Caernarfon always top of the tourist maps. But check out the famous creations of the Welsh Princes of Gwynedd, as stunning architecture plays a huge part of their legacy. Visit Castell y Bere, Castell Dolwyddelan and Castell Dolbadarn to delve more deeply into Snowdonia’s history.

Food, shopping & people

Eating & drinking in Snowdonia

Lamb is very local, with organic farmers like award-winning Aran Lamb well worth a visit.

Local ales run through Snowdonia’s veins. Look out for names like Purple Moose, Snowdonia Ale, Cader Ales or Big Bog.

Seek out the wild hand raked mussels which you can buy straight off the pier in the lovely medieval town of Conwy.

Oh, the cheese. It’s everywhere. Addicts have ample space to walk it all off though. Buy the Best of British award-winner Black Bomber, from Snowdonia Cheese, and you're doomed!
Any doubts that Welsh is a living language? Check out their National Eisteddfod Festival, taking place in a different place every August.

Our top Snowdonia Holiday

Snowdonia self catering accommodation, Wales

Snowdonia self catering accommodation, Wales

Cottage on Lake Padarn with wonderful views of Snowdonia

From £350 to £450 per cottage per week (sleeps 4-5)
Accommodation
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Snowdonia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

People & language

Snowdonians have a real link with their landscapes. Historically they farmed the land or worked the quarries and slate underground. So, when you tell them you loved your walk or cycle and the secret corners of Snowdonia you discovered, they appreciate it. Not just because they want to please visitors, but because there is an innate link between people and places here.

Snowdonians are also Welsh (Cymraeg) speakers, with over half of the population speaking Welsh as their first language.

Bore da (pr. bor-er dah) – Good morning

Hwyl (pr. who-ill) – Goodbye

Diolch (pr. dee-olck) – Thanks

Iechyd da (pr. Yah-key-Dah) – Cheers

Gifts & shopping

Traditional 'Cartheni' blankets are made by young designers at Trefriw Woollen Mills although you might also discover a few vintage varieties at antique shops too.

Seek out Snowdonia slate for sale in the form of table mats, coasters and custom made signs.

Snowdoniaís local chocolate maker Cathryn Cariad has droolworthy treats, like Welsh cider truffles.

The Purple Moose is far from endangered in Snowdonia. Porthmadog’s local brewery is omnipresent and thriving.

Snowdonia is falling down with writers and artists inspired by the landscapes. Local wild swimmer Vivienne Rickman Poole is one of our favourites.
Snowdon is the tallest mountain in Snowdonia, standing at 1,085m above sea level and attracting half a million visitors a year.

How much does it cost?

Entry into National Park: Free

Hire a kayak on Lake Bala: £12 per hour or £28 for half a day

Train up Mount Snowdon: £23 one way or £30 return

Round of Little Black Bomber cheese: £4.50

Snowdon Sherpa bus ticket: from £2 single
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Hefin Owen] [Is/Isn't: Red Morley Hewitt] [Underrated: Scott Wylie] [Rated: Mike Hudson] [Overrated: Markus Trienke] [People & language: Allatseanow] [How much does it cost?: Richard Leonard]
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