Blessed with beautiful natural scenery, Snowdonia has become the outdoor adventure capital of Wales. But there’s plenty more to this mountainous region. Here are our favourite things to do in Snowdonia.
Standing on the summit of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdonia National Park is unveiled beneath your feet. A maze of walking tracks curl away over steep-sided pinnacles and along pristine lakes. Craggy and buttressed mountains disappear into the distance and Ireland flickers as a faint mirage across the sea.
It’s a land of incredible natural scenery; a beautiful place to visit in the UK keeping both photographers and adventure enthusiasts entranced. Hike or scramble dramatic peaks, swim in pristine lakes, or take a kayak out among rugged landscapes.
Beyond outdoor experiences, there are more things to do in Snowdonia National Park than immediately meets the eye. Uncover the story of slate quarrying from the historic buildings it helped construct, to the slag heaps it has left behind. Journey on creaking scenic railways, visit medieval castles, laze on glorious beaches, and wander quirky towns.
Our guide to Snowdonia National Park covers all the top attractions, plus a few you might not have heard of.
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IN THIS GUIDE
VISITING SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK
1 – HIKE OR RIDE UP SNOWDON
The view from the summit of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, was once voted the best in Britain. A maze of paths disappear over craggy summits with steep-sided ridges that tower over shimmering lakes. Fortunately, it’s not only the view from the top that beguiles, so does the journey to get there.
There are various hiking routes to the summit, each with their own personality. The adventurous – unshakable by heights – scramble over the narrow arête of Crib Goch that drops vertically on either side offering a heart-pumping thrill. Those who like to get off the beaten track head for the South Ridge, a great ascent without the crowds. For a long and steady climb, the Llanberis Path is also a popular way to tackle Snowdon.
But our recommendation, for first-timers, is the Pyg Track. The easy-to-follow path steadily climbs the U-shaped curve of Snowdown, with the summit tantalisingly visible most of the way. For those less certain guided tours head up either the easier route – or over the more nerve wracking Crib Goch.
If that all sounds too much, the Snowdon Mountain Railway runs from Llanberis up the northern flanks of Snowdon all the way to the summit. Due to COVID restrictions, it was closed for much of 2021, but a limited-service is expected to begin in October 2021. Check with Snowdon Mountain Railway and book ahead.
FULL GUIDE / HIKING SNOWDON VIA THE PYG TRACK
2 – DRIVE THE DRAMATIC LLANBERIS PASS
You don’t have to put your hiking boots on to see the magical beauty of Snowdonia National Park. Simply drive over the Llanberis Pass and much of its rugged grandeur is revealed.
The road begins in Llanberis and climbs up a boulder-strewn valley to the 359-metre summit at Pen-y-Pass. It’s a claustrophobic journey with the steep-sided Snowdon massif towering over you on one side and the Glyderau massif on the other.
From Pen-y-Pass the confinement of the landscape opens up as the road continues on to Beddgelert. The reward is glorious views up to the summit of Snowdon and across the waters of Llyn Gwynant. There’s no other road in Snowdonia quite like it.
3 – STROLL THE STREETS OF HERITAGE-LISTED DOLGELLAU
Of all the towns of Snowdonia, Dolgellau (pronounced dol-geth-lai) is our favourite. Huddled under the mountain of Cadair Idris, its 180 heritage-listed buildings are steeped in history. Built from grey dolerite stone and slate, tall structures flank narrow lanes housing quirky independent businesses.
TH Roberts started life as an Ironmonger before more recently converting to a café. Wooden benches and glass cabinets retain the atmosphere of its former self. The coffee was uninspiring, but the cakes were a hit.
Dylandwad is the brainchild of a Welshman from Essex and a farmer’s daughter from Arthog. They sell a curated selection of foreign and Welsh (yes, Welsh) wines which you can pair with some delicious Caws Cenarth cheese.
For a pub with a view, it’s hard to go past The Royal Ship, while the Cross Keys has the cutest location. For a grander dining experience, head just out of town to the award-winning Cross Foxes.
4 – VISIT THE ITALIANATE VILLAGE OF PORTMERION
Resembling an Italian village, the somewhat bizarre Portmeirion was designed and built between 1925 and 1975. The pastel-coloured houses, grand cupolas and church towers rise above a central green with fountains, flowers, and a giant chessboard.
Set overlooking the Dwyryd estuary, it’s more like a film set than an actual village, but it nonetheless draws gasps of delight from the well-heeled.
The cult series ‘The Prisoner’ was filmed here in the 1960s along with several episodes of Doctor Who. Tours of the town are available, or you can just stroll around at your own pace, including along the peninsula.
Many of the houses are now holiday lets so you can stay on-site. Tours from Llandudno stop here and include Caernarfon Castle as well as some special Snowdonia scenery.
5 – CAPTURE THE REMARKABLE VIEWS AROUND LLYN OGWEN
Snowdonia National Park is blessed with superb vistas, but the most dramatic area is around Llyn Ogwen. Here imposing craggy mountains tower over lakes; vast walls of rock create magnificent natural amphitheatres. It’s home to some of the best ridge walks and scrambles in the country with a network of trails passing over steep-sided ridges and buttressed summits.
However, much of the best scenery can be enjoyed without too much effort. The views from the car as you drive along Llyn Ogwen are excellent, but it’s worth parking the car and taking two short walks.
Firstly, from the east end of the lake, walk for 10 minutes north towards Bryn Mawr to find magnificent views of Tryfan open up behind you. Secondly, from the western end of the lake, take a 15-minute walk to Llyn Idwal for a beautiful lake surrounded by rising cliffs of rock.
6 – SCRAMBLE UP TRYFAN
On the southern edge of Llyn Ogwen, Tryfan (917 metres) is one of the most recognisable peaks in the UK. From the north, there appears to be no easy way up its craggy summit, and indeed there isn’t. But the brave and adventurous attempt it anyway.
The North Ridge ascent of Tryfan is a 600-metre grade 1 scramble. One of the longest continuous scrambles in the country, it is a heart-pounding adventure clambering sharply up the face of rock. It takes 3 to 4 hours to complete and with barely any place to rest, the challenge is both mental and physical.
Finding a good route to the summit is not easy, so if you don’t know the area it’s worth joining a guided group. Not only will a guide pick the best way up for you, but they’ll also help with foot placements and reassure you during the climb.
It’s not for the faint-hearted or for anyone who doesn’t like heights. But it’s a day you won’t forget.
MORE GUIDES / BEST SCRAMBLES IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
7 – EXPLORE THE SLATE INDUSTRY AT LLANBERIS & BLAUNEAU FFESTINIOG
In 2021 the slate landscape of North Wales became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While slate had been quarried in Wales for over 1800 years, it became the world leader in slate production after the industrial revolution. As Victorian Britain expanded its empire, Wales was said to have “roofed the 19th-century world”.
Today, only a tiny fraction of production remains, but the slag heaps, ruined buildings and gigantic quarries leave behind an intriguing past. To understand more, visit the National Slate Museum in Llanberis. Nestled under the Dinorwig slate quarry (a massive gash of grey rock cut into the hill), the museum relives the heyday of the quarry.
The slate industry in Wales is a story of the rise and fall of a world-leading industry, the effect on the working class and the scars left on this beautiful landscape from the Industrial Revolution. To be honest, the museum could do a better job of creating a compelling narrative, but it’s still worth exploring. And it’s free.
An even better pit stop is Blaenau Ffestiniog. Only about 10% of slate that is quarried goes into final production, the remaining 90% is left in massive slag heaps. Blaenau Ffestiniog is a village surrounded by spiky grey piles of slate instead of the rolling green hills of the countryside. Driving through this desolate moonscape is an eerie and unforgettable experience, yet one of the best things to do in Snowdonia.
8 – WILD SWIM IN A BEAUTIFUL LAKE
Wild swimming has taken off in the last few years, and there are few better places to enjoy this on-trend activity than Snowdonia National Park. Lakes dot the valleys offering the perfect spot for a scenic swim. Combine it with a long walk and it’s a glorious and refreshing way to wash the tiredness away. While you can leap into almost any lake (but not quarries which can be tricky to get out of), we have a few favourites.
If you have hiked up Snowdon from Pen-y-Pass via Crib Goch or the Pyg Track, then descend via the Miner’s Track and take a dip in Llyn Glas. This 600-metre-high tarn is wild, enchanting, dramatically set and extremely chilly.
If your group is divided on the merits of wild swimming, head to Tyn Y Cornel Hotel. Situated on the edge of Talyllyn, the energetic and brave can swim in the lakes, while the rest can have a pint on the shore.
Finally, our favourite spot is Llyn Idwal. Not only does it have great views (as described above) and a lovely little beach for access, but there’s a strange micro-climate that makes it warmer than many others. Which as you can imagine, is greatly appreciated.
9 – RIDE THE FFESTINIOG & WELSH HIGHLAND HERITAGE RAILWAY
For a more relaxing way to enjoy the stunning Snowdon scenery, take a ride on a steam train. There’s a couple of different routes to choose from.
Established almost 200 years ago, the Ffestiniog Railway runs on the world’s oldest narrow-gauge track. Today majestic steam trains pulling grand carriages sweep through the hills between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Over the course of 13.5 miles, the train clings to the edge of mountains or tunnels through them, with flower-strewn meadows, wooded forests, and beautiful lakes whistling past.
Alternatively, take the Welsh Highland Railway. Running for 25 miles from Porthmadog via Beddgelert to Caernarfon, this heritage-listed steam train ups the opportunity for comfort. Slum it in third class (actually, very nice) or go a little crazy and enjoy the first-class service in the Pullman carriages.
10 – VISIT IDYLLIC CEUNANT CYNFAL NATURE RESERVE
There are a few grim tourist traps in Snowdonia. Private waterfalls with entrepreneurial owners charging £1 or £2 to look at a tiny trickle of water. But get just a little off the beaten track and not only do you escape the crowds at busier spots, but you can also find some of the best waterfalls in Wales.
There are few more idyllic things to do in Snowdonia, than exploring the waterfalls in the Ceunant Cynfal National Nature Reserve. A lovely brook babbles through a narrow gorge forming tiny pools between a series of cascades. It’s only a 10- minute walk from the road on a wooded track, and you’ll almost definitely have it all to yourself.
It’s a slightly tricky scramble to get down to the grassy banks but pick a good spot and you’ll find several secluded locations for a picnic or a quick dip in a leafy pool.
READ MORE / BEST THINGS TO DO IN PEMBROKESHIRE
11 – VISIT SNOWDONIA’S MIGHTY CASTLES
Is Wales the castle capital of the world? If not, it must be close. The area around Snowdonia National Park is blessed with well-preserved defensive fortifications. In the west, Harlech Castle stands proud on a sheer rocky crag overlooking the sea and dunes below. With mountains rising behind, it’s the most spectacularly set of the coastal fortresses built by Edward I.
Caernarfon Castle, (a short drive outside the Snowdonia National Park) lies on the coast next to the Menai Straits. Here Edward constructed a castle, town walls and quay, all at the same time. It may have taken 47 years but the result is a massive medieval fortress towering over the nearby harbour.
Finally, don’t miss the preserved castle of Conway, on the north-eastern tip of Snowdonia. The spiral staircases in the great towers have been restored allowing you to walk the entire battlements. The medieval royal apartments are the finest in Wales. Reaching out from the castle, 1.3 kilometres of unbroken town walls surround the charming narrow streets and cute shops of Conway village.
Explore them all under your own steam or see Carnaerfon & Conway castles, as well as the stunning scenery of Llyn Ogwen, on a guided tour from Llandudno.
12 – HIKE THE GLYDERS AND CADAIR IDRIS
While hordes of walkers attempt the ascent of Snowdon, far fewer try some of the other magnificent hikes in Snowdonia. There are hundreds to try but we have a soft spot for two of them.
The walk up Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach from Llyn Ogwen is truly exceptional with a huge variety of interest. There’s a beautiful lake surrounded by walls of rock, a vertiginous climb up the aptly named ‘Devils Kitchen’, a slog up a scree ridden slope and a spiky summit of rock with tremendous views. The day we climbed Snowdon there was a queue of people waiting to get a photo at the top. The next day we sat on the summit of Glyder Fach and there was no one else to be seen.
If you are in the southern half of Snowdonia National Park then hike the magnificent horseshoe circuit of Cadair Idris. The route gradually but steadily climbs the peaks of Penygadairn and Mynydd Moel. The views all around the horseshoe are glorious and Llyn Cau is a lovely spot for a wild swim.
13 – HAVE BRUNCH AT CAFÉ GWYNANT
If you need to escape the rain in Wales (and you most likely will) a good option is to do so while enjoying the excellent food at Caffi Gwynant.
Just east of Beddgelert, this rustic but charming café does a roaring trade thanks to well-crafted coffee and an innovative menu. On our visit, the selections included short rib benedict with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce and delicious looking buttermilk chicken waffles. They have a great selection of vegetarian options including a vegan breakfast for champions, and a spicy avocado on toast dish.
There’s seating indoors, outdoors under a glass canopy and in newly constructed pods. The cabin, just outside the front door, provides take away and the whole place overlooks the Glaslyn River.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN SNOWDONIA
There are so many great things to do in Snowdonia that they, unfortunately, couldn’t all make it on our list. If you have time, here are some other suggestions.
AMBLE THE RIVERSIDE AT BETWS-Y-COED
Betws-y-coed is often considered the gateway to Snowdonia National Park. The town is pretty enough, although stretched along a busy road it can be tricky to get away from the traffic. But the real joy are the leafy trails that head along the river and into the Gwydir Forest. You’ll discover rushing waterfalls, carpets of bluebells and some lovely spots for a picnic.
ADVENTURE ON ZIPLINES AND KAYAKS
Snowdonia is increasingly becoming an adventure destination in the UK. Take guided white water kayak tours from the National Whitewater centre in Bala. Sign up for multi-day climbing, biking, hiking and paddling adventures at classy Plas Y Brenin.
Keep the kids entertained with a day out at Zip World. Scramble across treetop nets, riding a rollercoaster through the forest, zipline across quarries, or explore underground caverns.
HIT THE BEACH ON THE LLYN PENINSULA
Snowdonia conjures up images of rugged mountain scenery but there is also an array of wonderful beaches at the edges of the national park.
At the southern end, Barmouth is a traditional bucket-and-spade Victorian resort. Further north is Harlech, a wild and remote beach backed by dunes and overlooked by the castle. But if you are willing to drive a little further, the best sands are found on the Llyn Peninsula, in particular, the Blue Flag beach tucked into the cove at Abersoch.
If you are in the area, pop into the lovely little village of Beddgelert. It only takes fifteen minutes to walk every street but the grey slate building set along a babbling brook under high mountains make for a very scenic combination.
If you manage to score a warm, sunny day Bodnant Garden is a great thing to do in Snowdonia. Run by the National Trust, the 80 acres of garden are a mix of flower-filled terraces, manicured lawns, and wildflower meadows. Keep an eye out for its around 40 Champion trees – individual trees that are important examples of their species. Right next door is the Tal y Cafn Welsh Food centre for enjoying the local produce.
MAP / THINGS TO DO IN SNOWDONIA
We have included our list of the best things to do in Snowdonia on the below map to help you find all the main attractions dotted along this rugged, mountain part of Wales.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SNOWDONIA
The best time to visit Snowdonia is from May to early July when the days are long and dry, the mountains are dotted with wildflowers, and the school holidays have not yet begun. September and October are also good options.
From mid-July to the end of August the weather should be better and hiking conditions in their prime. However, this is also peak tourist season, and the area can get incredibly busy. If you plan to visit over this time, make sure to book your trip well in advance.
All our trip tools can be found on our book page.
Winter months can be cold and wet, but if you can book late and wait for a window of good weather, it’s particularly good for photography with lovely winter light.
WHERE TO STAY IN SNOWDONIA
It takes two hours to drive from one end to the other of Snowdonia National Park. Most of our favourite things to do are in the northern section, so we have skewed our accommodation recommendations for that area.
In the lovely village of Beddgelert sitting under the flanks of the highest mountain in Wales, the Saracen’s Head has the perfect setting. Contemporary well-appointed rooms in a traditional pub, there’s also a great outdoor terrace. Sit back, listen to the River Colwyn gurgle past and take in the vista.
This beautiful house has been converted into a modern and stylish B&B. Nicely decorated, Beth and Andrew have created a relaxing, yet elegant atmosphere in a pretty location. It’s right up in the north-eastern section of the park so exploring requires a bit more driving, but it’s worth it.
In the southern end of Snowdonia National Park, this hotel sits by the lake under the summit of Cadair Idris. Modern clean and comfortable rooms come with a lovely communal lounge and bar. Sit by the log burners when it’s cold, go for a dip in the lake when its warm, or enjoy a pint and watch the world go by.
This elegant stone guest house is just a short walk through fields to the village of Betws-y-Coed. Being just out of town, the garden terrace is a beautiful place to relax and it has easy access to many of the best sights in Snowdonia. The breakfast is pretty good too.
HOW TO GET AROUND SNOWDONIA
The major attractions in Snowdonia National Park are spread out and many are in remote areas or tiny villages. By far, the easiest way to get around the area is in your own car.
Car parks (in particular around the walking paths up Snowdon) can be very busy and in peak times it’s advisable to arrive early. Payment is with a mixture of PayByPhone (so download the app before you go) and credit card. However, there are a couple of car parks that still only take cash so always have some handy.
If you are looking to hire a car for your Snowdonia trip, we recommend rentalcars.com who compare prices across all major car rental companies.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
If you are looking to visit Snowdonia using public transport, check the Visit Snowdonia website. The easiest access is from the coastal towns in the north which have direct trains to Chester, Birmingham & Manchester. You can then head inland on the Conway Train Line to Betws-y-coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog or via bus from Caernarfon or Bangor.
The Snowdon Sherpa service is the best option for getting around the park. It runs six different bus routes connecting the area. The busier ones go every hour so making multiple connections can be time-consuming. But base yourself in one of the transport hubs (Llanberis, Beddgelert, Capel Curig/Betws-y-Coed) and it’s a good offering.
See the Snowdonia Sherpa website for details.
Single day and multi-day tours head into Snowdonia from nearby Llandudno and Manchester, enabling you to see much of the area without the hassle.
Llandudno day tour: Bodnant Gardens, Snowdonia & Castles
Manchester day tour: Conway Castle, Chester & Snowdonia
Manchester 3 day tour: Chester & North Wales
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