Go for a walk #1: the quiet ones
Most first-timers want to bag Snowdon itself - and fair enough - but there are more than a dozen quieter local peaks that top the magic 3,000ft (914m) figure. They’re all in three neighbouring ranges: the Snowdon Massif, Carneddau and Glyderau - where you’ll find the peak voted British walkers’ favourite, the fabulous Tryfan. Further south, Cader Idris is a magnificent mountain set around a glacial lake; to the east, the lakeside town of Bala is the starting point for adventures in the Aran and Arenig ranges, where you’re likely to have summits to yourself.
Go for a walk #2: the easy ones
You can still enjoy the big-mountain experience with small kids, or by wheelchair, or if you simply fancy great views without breaking a sweat. For instance, the circular walk around Cwm Idwal is a relatively easy way to get into the heart of Snowdonia’s most dramatic landscapes, while the Mawddach Trail around Barmouth has epic views of the estuary and Cader Idris. The Snowdonia National Park has a good list of access-for-all walks.
Go for a walk #3: the big one
Snowdon– Yr Wyddfa in Welsh– is the highest point in Wales (and England, for that matter), topping out at 1,085m. On a clear day, the views from the top are astounding, stretching all the way down to Pembrokeshire, up to England’s Peak District and across to Ireland. There are six routes to the top, and their starting points are all linked by the Snowdon Sherpa bus, so you can go up one way and down another. Since 1896 the Snowdon Mountain Railway has chugged up to the summit from late Spring to the end of October. When the train’s running, the Hafod Eryri summit visitor centre is open for refreshments.
Have an adventure
Snowdonia is the adventure capital of the UK, thanks to the imagination of local entrepreneurs who’ve taken bits of spectacular landscape, and thought, ‘Hmm… what if we did THIS?’ Some of them are wildly improbable, like the world’s fastest zip wires at Zip World, the trippy underground experience of Bounce Below, and the 1km-long sled ride at Fforest Coaster. Adventure Parc Snowdonia features surfing, Adrenaline Indoors and a range of outdoor activities.
For these, and many others, check out the local Adventure Map.
Go wild and wet
The National White Water Centre offers year-round kayaking and rafting on the River Tryweryn, while Surf Snowdonia’s 300m inland surf lagoon is the centrepiece of a whole range of nature-inspired exploits at Adventure Parc Snowdonia. Strictly speaking, the Menai Strait, which separates Anglesey from the mainland, falls outside the National Park, but it’s an extraordinary stretch of water. It’s a geological fault line, scrubbed out by ice sheets more than 20,000 years ago, and filled by whirlpools and weird tides. It’s a brilliant place to explore by boat, either on a gentle guided tour or – less gently – on the world’s fastest passenger RibRide.
Visit a castle
Some of the world’s best medieval castles are clustered around the northern fringes of Snowdonia. The four mightiest - Beaumaris, Harlech, Caernarfon and Conwy – collectively form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were built by Edward I (1272–1307) to subjugate the Welsh, but he didn’t entirely succeed in the long run: this remains the most strongly Welsh-speaking part of Wales, and – sorry, Edward - it’s our red dragon flag that flies over them today. The Welsh princes were pretty handy at military architecture, too. Native Welsh castles are usually smaller than their Norman counterparts, but are always located in spectacularly lovely spots – check out Dolbadarn, Dolwyddelan, Dinas Emrys and Castell y Bere. Size isn’t everything, you know.
Explore our towns
The climbers’ favourite HQ Betws y Coed bills itself as the ‘gateway to Snowdonia’, while Beddgelert opts for ‘Snowdonia’s loveliest village’ – and both are hard to argue with. Blaenau Ffestiniog sits right in the heart of the National Park but is, weirdly, not actually part of it: its slate-mining moonscape wasn’t considered pretty enough when the boundaries were drawn in 1951. So instead, it’s superbly reinvented itself as adventure central.
Further south, Dolgellau and Machynlleth are cracking market towns on opposing sides of the Cader Idris massif, while Barmouth and Aberdyfi are fine seaside resorts. Portmeirion is also a must-visit: the fantasy village was built by architect Clough Williams-Ellis from 1925 to 1973.
Explore our heritage
Snowdonia has thousands of years’ worth of human activity to explore, from the Neolithic burial chamber at Capel Garmon to the rather more up-to-date hydroelectricity centre at Electric Mountain. In between, there are all those castles we’ve mentioned, the 14th-century Aberconwy merchant’s house, and our National Slate Museum. The region’s strong Welsh language heritage is self-evident whenever you step into a shop or pub, but a couple of extra points: the childhood home of the soldier-poet Hedd Wyn, Yr Ysgwrn, has become a shrine to national culture, while Bala is a town that’s steeped in Welsh history.
Go for a ride
Cycling has become hugely popular in Wales, both on and off road: we’ve got plenty of quiet lanes and big climbs, according to the guru of British cycling, Sir Dave Brailsford. He grew up in Snowdonia, and is honoured with two stunning cycle routes, The Brailsford Way, around his old mountain stomping grounds. For MTB riders, Coed y Brenin was the UK’s first and largest purpose-built singletrack complex, and it’s been joined by several other MTB centres and bases – see Mountain Bike Wales.
Great little trains
The Snowdon Mountain Railway was purpose-built for tourists in 1896, but the slate industry also left a rather splendid legacy of steam railways that have been re-purposed for fun. And actually, the combined 40 miles (64km) of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways make it a practical, as well as stunningly lovely, way to travel around. For these and more, see the our miniature and narrow gauge railways page.
Exploring the outdoors is fantastic fun, but please read up on the risks and make sure you are prepared.