Snowdonia National Park is one of the most loved UK holiday destinations for good reason. Whether you’re looking for a holiday jam-packed with outdoor activities, want to explore unique historical and cultural sites or simply relax by the sea, Snowdonia really has something for everyone.
Travel across the region is made easier thanks to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. However, with such a variety of things to see and do, it’s important to find the location that is best for you. The following guide of the best towns and villages in the region will help you plan your perfect trip, whatever your needs.
Best for: Outdoor Adventures
Lying at the foot of Mount Snowdon, Llanberis is the perfect base for enjoying some of the most exciting outdoor activities in North Wales. The village couldn’t be better located for enjoying the surrounding landscape and there is a fantastic selection of places to unwind after a busy day outdoors.
The landscape surrounding Llanberis offers some incredible climbing and mountaineering and there are even spots for inland diving in nearby Vivian quarry. If looking for a day out to remember, the nearby attractions of Zip World and Rope Works are also guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping!
If looking for a more relaxed way to enjoy the scenery, the famous Snowdon mountain railway line will take you directly to the summit and offers breathtaking views of the spectacular scenery.
Best places to drink: Centrally located on the village high street, the Heights Bar and Kitchen is the perfect place to share stories of your days’ adventures over a drink. The staff here know the area well and so are more than happy to suggest the best spot for your next adventure if you’re getting itchy feet!
Best places to eat: If you’re looking to sample the region’s traditional fayre, the Peak Restaurant is a must-visit. The affordable menu celebrates some of Wales’ most famous dishes, including locally-sourced lamb and seafood, and is served in a relaxed and welcoming environment.
Best for: Watersports
The historic market town of Bala lies on the edge of Llyn Tegid, the largest lake in Wales. There are several spots to rent kayaks or sailboats to take out onto the water or you can view the lake from above via one of the many walking routes nearby. The town also has a fantastic selection of shops, museums and restaurants to enjoy once you’ve got your fill of lakeside air.
At 14 miles in total, the walk around the lake can be demanding for novice walkers, however, there are a number of ways to split up the journey into more leisurely 6-8 mile walks. If travelling without a car, the Bala Lake Railway and local bus services are also available to provide return transport and give your legs a break!
In nearby Llanycil, the award-winning Byd Mary Jones World is a fantastic visitor and education centre where you can find more about the rich history of the area and the literary legacy of local girl, Mary Jones. If you get the bug to find out more, why not pop into one of the several bookshops in Bala to pick up one of the many available guides to local history.
Best place to drink: The snug at the Plas-Yn-Dre is one of the best spots in Bala for an early evening drink before dinner. The pub is dog-friendly, has a real log fire for the winter months, a fantastic garden to enjoy in the summer, and has a wide selection of drinks on offer.
Best place to eat: The Cyfnod Cafe Bistro is known across the region for its friendly service and its fantastically affordable menu. The food here is hearty and unfussy and there are also a fantastic range of vegetarian and vegan options available.
Best for: Walking and Cycling
Nestled on the banks of River Wnion, Dolgellau is a great spot for enjoying some of the best trails in the Snowdonia national park. There are fantastic local spots such as Precipice Walk and Mawddach Trail and the village is also well located for travelling out to the coast.
Dolgellau Cycles have everything you need to explore the surrounding landscape on two wheels and happy to recommend the best local routes to meet your ability and interests. If wanting to catch some sea air, you can travel out to Barmouth along the foothills of Cadair Idris, along Mawddach estuary, in under an hour.
Just 8 miles from Dolgellau lie the wooded valleys of the Coed Y Brenin Forest. There is a great Visitor Centre to introduce you to the trails and the friendly staff will be happy to let you know what local wildlife to look out for.
Best place to drink: The bar at the Gwin Dylanwad Wine Shop offers some of the best quality wine from around the world. This modern and relaxed spot couldn’t be further from the image of a traditional country pub but is worth dusting your boots off to enjoy a glass!
Best place to eat: The restaurant at the Torrent Walk Hotel has a wide menu and a range of delicious daily specials to choose from. The hearty meals on offer are sure to help you re-energise after busy cycling or walking.
Best for: the seaside
Harlech may be small but it really packs a punch. Whether looking to enjoy spectacular coastline or wanting to explore Snowdonia’s local history, the charming seaside town offers the best of both worlds.
The hill-top castle overlooks the sand dunes below and is one of the most impressive historic sites in the region. Recent investment in this UNESCO World Heritage Site have made the site far more accessible via a ‘floating bridge’ and the new visitors centre has all of the information you need to know about the centuries-old site.
If looking for a but more adventure, the long sandy beach here is popular for windsurfing but it’s also a great spot for a paddle and for enjoying an ice-cream with a view.
Best place to drink: Cemlyn Tea Shop is famous for its wide selection of loose leaf tea. Served alongside a wide selection of homemade cakes and chocolates, why not pop in to enjoy a cuppa and enjoy the fantastic views of their castle and sea from their garden terrace.
Best place to eat: Tucked away just behind the castle, the award-winning Castle Cottage is a perfect spot for that special romantic meal for two. The menu here is unashamedly upmarket but when delivered to this quality, it really is worth the money.
Best for: History and Relaxation
The historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog is the perfect place to learn about the unique history of Snowdonia. A quiet and secluded town, shopping and nightlife options are limited here, meaning that peace and quiet is guaranteed.
This is the perfect spot to explore the heritage of slate mining in Wales. Slate from this region once roofed buildings across the world and local authorities have recently made an application to secure UNESCO World Heritage status to recognise the important role that the industry played has played in the culture and landscape of the region.
As with all of Snowdonia, there is plenty of fantastic walking and cycling in the surrounding landscape. If you really want to soak up the history, the ancient quarry mine of Llechwedd is a must-visit.
Best places to drink: In the village church square, the Pengwern Arms offers a friendly local atmosphere to enjoy a drink. The co-operative owned pub has a range of well-kept ales, wines and spirits and a charming back garden to unwind in.
Best places to eat: The Isallt Coffee House is a charming spot to stop off for some lunch, coffee and homemade cake or simple light dinner. Situated right next to Ffestiniog railway station, the cafe is perfectly located if looking to grab a bite to eat before a day trip or to welcome you back to Blaenau Ffestiniog on your return from one.
Best for: Nature and Photography
Surrounded by the Gwydyr Forest, Betws-y-Coed is a truly magical place to stay. Home to some breathtaking natural beauty spots and not far from the medieval fortress of Dolwyddelan Castle, the village is one of the most beautiful in the whole of Wales.
The nearby Swallow Falls and Fairy Glen are some of the most enchanting natural spots in Snowdonia and can easily be explored on foot. Keen photographers flock here to capture these tumbling waters so don’t forget to pack your camera if you plan a visit!
You’ll also find delicious local produce and a number of independent shops to pick up that perfect holiday gift for family and friends. When you have a chance to share stories of your trip back home, they’ll also be sure to want to visit!
Best place to drink: The Stables bar specialises in celebrating the best local ales from the region. Their busy calendar of events includes a weekly jazz night and the world-famous Moelwyn Male Voices Choir. The perfect accompaniment to a local tipple!
Best place to eat: If visiting Conway Falls, be sure to pop into the cafe at the Forest Park. This splendid house was designed by renowned British architect Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis and offers a great pizza menu, to enjoy in the company of spectacular panoramic views.