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The Snowdon Mountain Railway will get you to the top minus the blood, sweat and tears
Photograph: Shutterstock

12 best things to do in Snowdonia

Exploring the rooftop of Wales? Find rugged hills, aerial thrills, hearty grub and more things to do in Snowdonia

Written by
Claire Webb
&
John Bills
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Yr Wyddfa is special. How can it not be? Snowdonia is the rooftop of Wales, from where this magical nation spreads out in its own inimitable way. The best things to do in Snowdonia revolve around that magical mountain, with quaint pubs and darling restaurants ready to provide pre-hike sustenance or post-walk restoration. Or both, obviously.

The craggy peaks and languid lakes of North Wales are a tonic at any time of the year, but they are at their loveliest in spring. Half a million people (there or thereabouts) make the pilgrimage to the top of Wales every year, but the views are worth the company. It is time to go for a wonderful Welsh walk.

Best things to do in Snowdonia

First up

First up

Snowdonia National Park covers a large swathe of territory and is dotted with quaint villages and charming towns, with plenty of choices when it comes to starting the day off right. In Beddgelert, Caffi Gwynant serves up gorgeous brunches in a converted chapel and is as popular for breakfast as for a post-hike pint. But choose wisely – you may struggle to waddle anywhere after the buttermilk chicken waffle slathered with maple butter.

Go on an adventure
Zip World

Go on an adventure

This national park is essentially one great adventure after another, but something about Zip World really stands out. After all, it isn’t every day that a disused slate quarry gets transformed into an adventure playground. Not sure where to start? Hurtling head first down the world’s fastest zip line sounds like a good way to begin, so make a beeline for that at Penrhyn Quarry. Not mad about heights? Scale underground waterfalls, traverse mineshafts and zoom down the world’s longest and deepest zip lines on Go Below’s caving trips. Snowdonia National Park might be mainly focused on scaling mountains, but there is more than enough excitement waiting below the surface.

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Stop for lunch

Book a table at Olif in Betws-y-Coed for Welsh tapas and towering burgers. No, that isn’t a typo; Welsh tapas is definitely a thing. Try the fiery Y Ddraig Goch (Red Dragon) burger topped with Snowdonia Red Devil cheddar, locally made chorizo and giant onion rings. The Stables (Y Stablau) is another excellent option in Betws-y-Coed, serving up big portions of refined pub grub in a delightful beer garden setting.

Soak up the vibes

Soak up the vibes

The Snowdonia Sherpa bus transports ramblers between villages and trailheads. Hop off at the National Trust’s Ogwen Cottage, which is the starting point for two glorious walks: a challenging trek up to Llyn Idwal, a crystal-clear lake surrounded by hulking cliffs; and a leisurely stroll around Llyn Ogwen – King Arthur’s sword Excalibur is said to lie at the bottom of its lonely waters. 

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Drink like a local

Drink like a local

There are plenty of historic pubs stocking the growing list of independent beers coming out of North Wales, but there is also plenty to get excited about on the spirits front. Snowdonia boasts several distilleries, including the award-winning Aber Falls, which does tours and tastings. Whisky and gin are making their mark, but there remains something reliably comforting about a crisp pint after a long hike. Step back in time with a pint of real ale at the Pen-y-Gwyrd Hotel, a memorabilia-stuffed inn at the foot of Snowdon that hasn’t changed since Sir Edmund Hillary used it as a training base for his Everest expedition in 1953.

If you only do one thing

If you only do one thing

Spy Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man from Mount Snowdon’s 1,085-metre summit. A dinky century-old train pootles up it several times a day, but that top-of-the-world feeling is even better when you’ve walked up. Plus, you can justify an oggie (a Welsh pasty) and a slab of homemade cake from the café. For the most dramatic views, take the steep Llwybr Pyg (Pig Track) up, winding past glassy lakes and rocky ridges.

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And if you stay the night, wake up here

And if you stay the night, wake up here

The aforementioned Pen-y-Gwyrd is a charming accommodation option for those after that genuine old-school experience, but the reality is that there is no shortage of hotels and guesthouses in these parts. The phrase ‘five-star hostel’ sounds like a contradiction until you step inside The Rocks at Plas Curig. It has everything you expect from a hostel – dorms, a drying room for damp boots, a huge self-catering kitchen – but the aesthetic is more boutique hotel, with bold colours, snug corners and a roaring wood-burning stove. Not to mention the excellent selection of local ales and a firepit for balmy nights. Each bunk bed has its own curtain and bedside lamp so you can cocoon yourself. Or there are double and family rooms for those who value their privacy. Hike straight out the front door in the morning – the hostel sits in the shadow of Moel Siabod, one of Snowdonia’s most scenic peaks. At the end of the day, you can watch the sunset behind Mount Snowdon.

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