With cascading waterfalls, rolling hills, dramatic mountains, hundreds of castles, rare flora and fauna and a coast path that runs along the entire coastline of the country, in Wales - beauty is everywhere. Our cities are compact and our towns bustling with community life.
Key facts and figures
A brief history of Wales
While Wales’ land is thought to have been inhabited since circa 250,000 BC, it only became a recognised country in 1536 with Henry VIII's Act of Union (between 1216 and then, it was a principality). Within the last few millennia, Wales has been home to European Celtic tribes, Roman and Saxon invaders and people from all over the world who have settled here. The south of Wales is more densely populated with people living in and around the surrounding areas of our capital city Cardiff, however as it’s only 170 miles (270 km) from South to North and 60 mi (97 km) East to West, our population is spread out with people living in towns and cities across the country, each with their own unique feel, but the same Welsh Welcome.
Wales has its own language and identity, both of which are held in high esteem by Welsh people. It has a devolved parliament (the National Assembly for Wales) and a government (the Welsh Government) that makes laws, agrees taxes and represents Welsh people, though the UK Parliament and Government hold significant power and influence. Read more about the history of Wales.
Wales is often called the castle capital of the world. With over 600 sites remaining, we have more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe. Most can still be visited (and you can even stay in some of them), and are managed by Cadw (the Welsh historic environment service), the National Trust, or by private owners.
The Welsh national anthem picks out 'beirdd a chantorion' – the poets and singers – for special mention. That tradition continues to this day at our eisteddfod, the annual celebration of the language and its culture that have been part Welsh life since 1176. Today, the National Eisteddfod festival is held every year in a different Welsh location, as a showcase for music, dance, visual arts, literature, and original performances. Over 6,000 people compete each year, and to be 'chaired' as the the Bard is a prestigious honour.
Many famous actors, singers, writers, poets, musicians and artists were born in or come from Wales, including Anthony Hopkins, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, John Cale, Roald Dahl, and Kyffin Williams. More contemporary Welsh stars include Luke Evans, Charlotte Church, Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Sheen, Christian Bale, and Taron Egerton. Read more about our cultural history and famous faces.
Today, the Welsh music and arts scenes are alive with the sounds of bilingual music, poetry, art, and everything in between. Find out more about arts and culture in Wales.
Our weather is very similar to the rest of the UK and Ireland, which means it can be wet here from time to time and can be cloudy and sometimes windy. Spring and summer are usually pleasantly warm and dry, while autumn is windy and rainier and winter is cold, icy and sometimes snowy (especially in mountainous and hilly areas).
Fortunately, Wales has a great array of things to do in each of its seasons, from daffodil walks in spring to dolphin spotting in the summer.
How to get to Wales
As part of the UK, Wales is easy to get to by air, land and sea. Cardiff Airport is the biggest in Wales, with over 50 direct routes and at least 900 connecting destinations worldwide. It is ideally placed for travels around South, West and Mid Wales. Some of England's airports are well placed for Wales, too.
Bristol Airport is about 90 minutes to Cardiff by car, while Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Manchester Airport are just an hour by car to North Wales with Birmingham Airport accessible to Mid Wales. London (including its airports and Eurostar stations) are about two and a half hours by train.
For more detailed information on how to get to Wales, including information on arriving by cruise ship or ferry, read our guide on getting to Wales from outside the UK.
While you may need a passport to get into the UK, you don't need to show your passport at the Welsh border with England. Note that if you live outside of the UK, you may need a UK visa to visit Wales. To find out more about this, visit the UK Government Visas and Immigration website.
Getting around Wales
There are train lines connecting all four of the main sections in Wales, with main lines connecting larger towns and cities and branch lines that reach places further out. Transport for Wales manage rail services across Wales and some parts of England.
Some of the railway lines are particularly scenic, such as the Heart of Wales Line that cuts across rolling hills, the Cambrian Line that hugs the North West coast and the Conwy Valley Line that runs through Snowdonia. There are plenty of vintage railways in operation too, and mountain railway services.
Wales' colourful landscapes make for lots of scenic driving routes around the country. Getting from north to south isn't fast as you have to drive through mountain ranges and National Parks, but it's so pretty that you'll want to stop to take in the views.
Cars drive on the left-hand side in Wales. There are rules and regulations around driving, so check the UK Government website if you plan on driving here.
There are good options if you want to travel by bus or ferry and almost too many walking routes to count, including the Wales Coast Path. Read our dedicated page to find out more about getting around Wales.
Interestingly, all UK coins (and many coins from countries around the world) are made in Wales at the Royal Mint, which you can visit. Like the rest of the UK, pound sterling is the currency used here. Most places in Wales accept major credit cards from Visa and MasterCard, but some places and transport providers only accept cash payments.
You can take out cash at ATM machines, which you'll find on high streets, in banks and at service stations. Some ATM machines charge for withdrawal. To change money, head to a Post Office or major bank. For more information, read our guide to currency in Wales.
Wales is a polite, friendly and patriotic country. Its people are welcoming and they uphold most of the etiquette practices that the rest of the UK follows, such as queuing and saying 'please' or 'thank you'.
You are not obliged to tip in Wales, but if you think the service you've received has been very good you can leave a little extra (10% of the bill is considered more than enough). Some restaurants add an optional service charge to the bill, but if you do not want to pay it you can ask for it to be removed.
Posting letters and parcels
You can post letters and parcels at branches of the Post Office. Some newsagents sell books of stamps for posting things within the UK, while Post Office branches sell individual stamps and international stamps. Find your nearest Post Office branch online.