Snowdonia National Park: Ultimate road trip itinerary
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In April 2022 we fulfilled a big dream and went on a two-week road trip through beautiful Wales. We were mainly on the road in the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. In this article I will tell you how to plan the perfect Wales holiday, what you can experience in North Wales and give you tips for planning your trip.
- The perfect route through North Wales
- Our journey through Snowdonia
- Tips for your Wales road trip: accommodation, driving, hiking, dog-friendliness
1. Snowdonia Road Trip: The perfect route through North Wales
When we were planning it was clear to us that we would take our dog Frieda with us to Wales, so the only option was to come by car. Our journey therefore began in southern England. By the way, you can find everything you need to know about entering Great Britain in the article with a dog - this is how it works.
If you start your journey like we did in southern England, I can only warmly recommend a stopover. We spent two nights in London (Greenwich) on the outward journey and one night in Canterbury (in connection with the Cliffs of Dover) on the return journey. From here it takes about five to six hours to North Wales.
Once you have arrived in North Wales, in Snowdonia National Park to be exact, you can experience a lot in a relatively small radius. As a result, there is no need to change accommodation every night, and you can explore a large part of North Wales from one location. We had decided on two accommodations in North Wales: one near Caernarfon - and thus in close proximity to the highlights of Snowdonia and one near Aberdyfi, on the southern edge of Snowdonia National Park.
Round trip Wales: route and starting point at a glance:
- Approach via Folkstone (Eurotunnel) or Dover (ferry), alternatively: night ferry via Newcastle
- Overnight stay in southern England, e.g. B.London, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, Dover
- Accommodation 1 (2-3 nights): Southern Snowdonia National Park, e.g. B Aberdyfi, Aberystwyth
- Accommodation 2 (3-5 nights): Northern Snowdonia National Park e.g. B. Conwy, Caernarfon
- Return journey with another overnight stay in southern England
For shorter trips I recommend staying in northern Snowdonia as that is where most of the attractions are!
2. The perfect day trips in Snowdonia National Park: Our journey through North Wales
Now I'll tell you what a tour of Wales can look like. The most beautiful places, the best hikes and tips for your vacation.
Day 1: Beddgelert: Hiking and town strolls in the heart of Snowdonia National Park
We decided to head straight into the heart of Snowdonia National Park on the first day. The perfect starting point for this is the pretty and legendary town of Beddgelert. Although the place is so small, you will find sufficient (paid) parking spaces, pubs, a well-frequented ice cream parlor and museums. During a city tour you can learn a lot about the history of the place. A path leads to a plaque with the heartbreaking tale of the Welsh prince Llywelyn and his dog Gelert, after whom the place is named.
Be sure to plan plenty of time for hiking, because around Beddgelert you can do numerous easy but enormously promising hikes. On these you dive deep into the mountains, see lakes, waterfalls, old mines and of course lots of sheep. Tip: There are free parking spaces for hikers just a few minutes' drive from the town center, which are perfect as a starting point for hikes. Also worth seeing is the Sygun Copper Mine, a Victorian copper mine that closed in 1903 but was renovated in 1986 and reopened as a tourist attraction.
Click here for the detailed hiking reports including GPS:
Day 2: Castles, Sea and Waterfalls: Conwy and Caernarfon
After a beautiful day of hiking, we were drawn to the coast on the second day of the trip. First we visited Conwy. Conwy is said to be the prettiest place in North Wales, which we actually felt. Located directly on the sea, you will find one of the most imposing castles in the country and sweet, picturesque streets with modern but authentic gastronomy. A small attraction is also the smallest house in Great Britain, which you can visit here. By the way, south of downtown is a picturesque beach where we made a stop before driving to nearby Caernarfon. The places are similar, Caernarfon is also dominated by a castle, but this place is a bit rougher than picturesque Conwy.
Tip: Conwy waterfall hike: The Aber Falls
One hike we didn't do but would still recommend is the Aber Falls hike, very close to Conwy. They are among the most beautiful waterfalls in the country and can be reached via an easy footpath. Since it can get quite crowded here, you should do the hike early in the morning.
Day 3: Just Wow: Llyn Idwal and the Ogwen Valley
After strolling through the city is before hiking. This day should again be dedicated entirely to nature. This time we decided to hike in the Ogwen Valley. An easy but promising hike can be made around the lake Lllyn Idwal, but we extended the hike to include a small mountain tour along the imposing Tryfan summit. This mountain impresses with its dragon-like shape. The whole valley has a fjord-like quality to it, and it was honestly one of the prettiest places we've ever been. What you should know: The main car park gets very crowded in the morning, as the hike is also doable for families. There are other parking spaces for hikers along the pass road. Reservations are not possible here, unlike at Snowdon (see below).
Day 4: Beach please: Beach day around Criccith
Next place we visited was the seaside town of Criccith. And yes, of course, a castle towers over the bay here too. Although the place is very small, it exudes a certain charm, and you will also find very beautiful, wide beaches here. If you have a dog: In Criccith there is an ice cream parlor with dog ice cream. And judging by the long lines, it also seems to have the best fish and chips in Wales.
Very close by is Morfa Bychan, a place with picturesque beaches of the same name, which we explored on a coastal hike.
Day 5: The mountains are calling: Day trip up Snowdon. Our ascent of Wales' highest mountain
We've been waiting for this day for a long time. Because of course we didn't want to miss out on what is probably the most beautiful hike in Wales: the hike up Yr Wyddfa, Mount Snowdon. And - what you should know - this hike requires some advance planning, especially if you want to do it with a dog. And those who have often hiked in the Alps may not be particularly impressed by the 1085 meters, but you should not underestimate this mountain. On the one hand, because the vertical meters have to be walked in full, on the other hand, because the location and nature bring with them the same conditions as high mountain hikes.
A total of seven routes lead to the imposing summit, so you are spoiled for choice. We chose a moderate route: The Pyg Track for the ascent and the Miners Track for the descent. Both tracks start and end at the same parking lot. On this route you overcome around 800 meters in altitude over a distance of 13-14 kilometers. Some demanding passages have to be overcome. By the way: You can also reach the summit of Snowdon with a mountain railway.
We started our tour early in the morning as the hike is popular. Especially with tourists who completely overestimate themselves. By the way: It is absolutely necessary to reserve the parking space in advance. In a good mood and in complete solitude, we started the hike at half past five in the morning, with the rising sun. I have to say, we have seldom seen a beautiful mountain world, seldom has a hike been more fun. The path is paved throughout, sometimes rocky passages have to be overcome, but with a bit of fitness it is easily manageable. You take short breaks anyway, simply because the view of the mountain lakes and surrounding peaks is so beautiful. So beautiful that the view from the summit can hardly be topped. Since the seven-hour hike is quite exhausting, you should keep the rest of the day free.
Day 7 to 9: Glamping at a sheep farm near Aberdyfi
We had something very special planned for the last few days in Wales: glamping on a sheep farm. On the very southern edge of Snowdonia National Park and close to the coastal towns of Aberdyfi and Aberystwyth, we found our little piece of paradise. Our wooden barrel had everything we needed: a sofa bed, a bathroom, our own outdoor area and the most beautiful view in Wales. We looked out over the mountains, the bay and straight onto a 360 degree sheep pasture. Our pod was almost in the middle of it. We made small trips to the lovely town of Aberdyfi, apart from that we just enjoyed the peace and quiet, sat around the campfire or went on small hikes.
More excursion tips for the Snowdonia National Park
I admit it, I could have spent weeks in Wales and we will definitely visit this place again. Then we would like to explore the Anglesey Peninsula, for example. Rough seas, strong winds and magical lighthouses dominate this place, which is best explored via the Anglesey Coastal Path.
Other places worth seeing are the impressive seaside resort of LLandudno, which with 20,000 inhabitants is the largest seaside resort in Wales and quickly catches the eye with its colorful facades, as well as the small town of Betws-y-Coed, which, like Beddgelert, can be found in the heart of the national park . And if you are looking for a little more action, you can also find adventure parks and a zipline in the national park.
Highlights of the Snowdonia National Park
Located in North Wales, Snowdonia National Park is known for spectacular mountain ranges that rival the Scottish Highlands. The park was named after the highest and centrally located mountain in Wales, the 1085 m high Snowdon - in Welsh, by the way, Yr Wyddfa. Snowdonia National Park is 2170 km² and the third largest national park in Great Britain. Snowdonia is mainly visited for its nature, but you can also visit pretty towns, lakes, museums, castles or amusement parks.
- The pretty villages of Beddgelert and Bets-y-Coed
- The Anglesey Peninsula
- The Waterfalls But Falls
- Snowdonia Adventure Park
- The zip lines Zip Worls Penrhyn Quarry, Zip World Llechwedd, Zip World Fforest
- The castles and palaces Harlech Castle, Doldabarn Castle, Conwy Castle, Criccieth Castle, Caernarfon Castle
- The copper mines Sygun Copper Mines
- The National Slate Museum
- Lakes Llyn Padarn, Llyn Peris and Llyn Cwellyn
- The Ogwen Valley
- Mount Snowdon
- The village of Llanberis (starting point for many walks and activities)
3. Tips for your Wales road trip
In this part I will tell you more about traveling and holidays in Wales.
Best travel time for a holiday in Wales
In my personal opinion, Wales is a country that you can easily visit all year round. Our trip took place in April and we had mostly sunny weather and comparatively little rain. In spring and autumn, however, a little more luck is required and you should be able to get used to a foggy, cloudy atmosphere. And even in winter you can explore Wales without any problems, it is a bit milder than the winter in Germany. However, ice and snow must be reckoned with. If you want to be on the safe side, simply use the summer for a trip to Wales. Then relaxing on the beautiful beaches is the most fun.
Find accommodation in Wales
In Wales you can find every form of accommodation: from chic hotels, warm bed & breakfasts and secluded holiday apartments in the mountains to camping and glamping, everything is there. There are many hotels and B&Bs in the coastal towns of Caernarfon, LLanfairfechan, Porthmadog and Conwy. If you want to hike around Mount Snowdon in particular, you could find suitable accommodation in Llanberis or Beddgelert. Our highlight was our glamping pod in Aberdyfi.
Driving in Wales
When it comes to driving in Wales, it should be said that you drive mainly on country roads or mountain passes, which can be quite narrow. The top speed on country roads seemed relatively high (96 km/h), especially if you're not used to driving on the left. We have, however, seldom seen ourselves harassed by the Welsh. From time to time we used the emergency bays to let faster cars overtake. Overall, you should not trust the time estimate of the navigation system. Approximately 30 percent travel time should be added.
The Welsh love roundabouts, by the way. Some of them appear almost every kilometer, often with several tracks. By the way, the navigation system usually shows which lane you should take for your descent, so make sure you pay attention. And then there are the single track roads, i.e. roads that are driven on in one lane in both directions. This is a little strange at first, but usually works well, especially since the Welsh react very confidently here. Important: Always drive to the left to let cars pass. Note: In Wales, speed is given in miles. A mile is 1.6 km/h.
Parking in Wales
Sufficient cheap parking spaces were always available in the cities. If you want to go hiking, you should actually expect that parking spaces will sometimes be full or that you have to reserve them in advance. This affects two hotspots in particular: The Ogwen Valley and Mount Snowdon. This can be climbed from several routes and parking problems have to be expected practically everywhere where the official tracks start. For example, it is currently only possible to reserve parking spaces online at the Snowdon tracks, we did this two days in advance. Seats for the following day were already fully booked. Alternatively, Park & Ride systems are available. For us with a dog, however, not an ideal solution. At the Ogwen Valley (as of April 2022) it was not possible to reserve, here you have to arrive early or hope that a place is (again) free. In contrast, the parking situation around Beddgelert was uncomplicated. Free parking spaces for hikers with clean sanitary facilities were the norm here.
Is Wales dog-friendly?
We have found the Welsh to be extremely dog-friendly. Dogs are welcome guests in most restaurants and there are hardly any places where dogs are not allowed. Dogs are allowed on the beaches (with only a few exceptions and alternatives) at any time, which is unfortunately not the case in many countries. Dogs we encountered were almost exclusively friendly and well socialized.
Hiking with a dog in Wales
When hiking with a dog in Snowdonia, there were two factors that are worth mentioning: Firstly, the animals, i.e. sheep, cows, horses and goats, which you regularly encounter while hiking. Dogs with hunting instincts must therefore be leashed (it is also mandatory in some areas). On the other hand, there are one or two obstacles to overcome, such as fences. There are often no gates that you can open, but ladders that you simply climb over the fence on. With large dogs this can be a little more difficult. It wasn't a problem with our medium-sized dog weighing 15 kilos. Otherwise, what goes without saying applies: Before each hike, you should check whether it is manageable for the dog in terms of length and altitude.
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