World-renowned beaches, dramatic cliffs, multiple national parks, and mountainous terrain — besides providing beautiful scenery, these are all indicative of a country with a strong sense of adventure. And that’s definitely the case for Wales, which offers plenty of activities to satisfy all thrill-seeking visitors.
Unlike other popular (and more crowded) adventure hotspots like New Zealand or South Africa, Wales is a relatively untapped destination for people traveling in search of an adrenaline rush. It offers travelers the chance to have adventures they might not find elsewhere. Take, for example, coasteering, a sport that originated in Wales and is only practiced in a handful of other countries.
From the city center of Cardiff to the Pembrokeshire coastline and Snowdonia National Park, you’ll find plenty of activities to fulfill your sense of adventure—here are the top eight to try on a trip to Wales.
Explore the beaches, cliffsides, glacial valleys, and even evidence of human life from the Neolithic period along Wales’s first National Trail, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. You can choose a particular section of the path to explore for a day (here are 15 suggested one-day walks to use as a guide) and use the Coastal Path Bus service as your transportation to and from the stretch you choose. Or if you’re ambitious enough to tackle the whole thing, plan up to 15 days for the trek—the path is 186 miles from St. Dogmaels to Amroth. The entirety includes several ascents and descents that can be challenging, but the scenery you’ll encounter (including 58 beaches, 14 harbors, and several small towns) will be well worth your effort.
A mix of rock climbing, swimming, cliff jumping, and cave exploring, this native Wales sport is the best way to get up close and personal with the scenic coastline. What it’s not: scuba diving, snorkeling, or similar sports that require sport-specific gear. The only gear you need while coasteering is a wet suit, a helmet, and a life vest. Those pieces, plus the expertise of guiding you through the waves and off the cliff sides, are provided when you book an instructor-led excursion with a local company.
You’ll typically start by swimming out into the water toward a cave to explore or a cliff where you’ll jump off into the water. Along the way, you’ll have views of the gorgeous coastal scenery, surrounding blue water, and possibly wildlife sightings (people have spotted seals and dolphins while coasteering).
If it’s any indication of why coasteering is a must-try in Wales as opposed to anywhere else, the annual World Cliff Diving Championships are held in one of the most popular coasteering locations, the Blue Lagoon in Abereiddy in Pembrokeshire.
The fastest zipline in the world (and the longest one in Europe) can be found in North Wales at Zip World. The Velocity 2 zips you along the wire at 125 mph (that’s about the same speed you freefall when skydiving) at a height of about 1,600 feet. Oh, and you’re flying headfirst — unlike other ziplines where your harness essentially becomes your upright seat once you’re in the air, this adventure sends you headfirst with your arms back at your side. Also unique to this location, Zip World is located within Snowdonia National Park, so you’re flying high over views of the national park and also directly above Penrhyn Quarry, which used to be the the largest slate quarry in the world.
Jump Around in Underground Caverns
Also part of Zip World in the national park is Bounce Below, an underground trampoline inside Llechwedd Slate Caverns, the site of a former slate mine. Made up of six nets (suspended from 20 to 180 feet high), three slides, and several ladders and staircases all, this is a truly unique adventure. Visitors are given a helmet and 75 mins within the caverns to jump, bounce, and slide while music blares and colorful lights strobe and flash across the walls of the cavern to create a pretty trippy trampoline experience. This underground playground is fun and suitable for adults and children.
Surf the Waves
The coastline of Wales offers several areas that are ideal for surfing, including popular options of Whitesands and Freshwater West in Pembrokshire, Oxwich Bay and Llangennith in Gower, and more. Use this site to check live surf conditions to choose the best area based on weather, ability, and more.
Beyond natural options, however, there's also a unique opportunity that’s suitable for first-timers or those looking to practice on bigger, controlled waves. Surf Snowdonia in Dolgarrog offers lessons for various levels, and practice is held in their artificial wave lagoon. The lagoon has a “shore,” and from there, the water gets gradually deeper. A wave machine gradually creates waves and pushes them out toward the shore, starting with larger ones at the deepest point that eventually dwindle in size by the time they reach the beginner zone. Because the waves are consistent in size and timing, it's especially great for newbies to the sport to learn the technique.
Go White Water Rafting
Wales offers several spots for white water rafting that range from peaceful to challenging. Those looking for an easier to moderately difficult experience can head to River Wye in the Wye Valley in South Wales (book with the local company Black Mountain Adventure)—these rapids are dependent on rainfall, so the river typically offers more of a moderate intensity (class II to III rapids) than a high-speed thrill ride. If you are looking for more of an adrenaline-rush, head to the Tryweryn River in northwestern Wales (book a session at the National White Water Centre). Rapids here are rated as class III or IV usually, and the river is controlled by a dam, so it’s more of a reliable thrill than other rivers that might dry up.
There’s even an option for visitors to Cardiff to find a rafting adventure within an urban setting—Cardiff International White Water is a center located near Cardiff Bay where visitors can practice rafting through controlled rapids. The center also offers other activities, such as kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, a ropes course, and a climbing wall.
Ride a Jet Boat Through the Cardiff Bay
If you’re spending the day exploring Cardiff, you can get your fill of adventure right there on the Cardiff Bay in the form of a high-speed, jet boat thrill ride. Book your Bay Island Voyage, and then show up a few minutes beforehand to put on your life vest (not the bulky kind you might be used to, but rather a much more comfortable and thinner version) and board the boat. Then, hold on as the boat takes off into the Cardiff Bay, whipping you around tight turns, bouncing you through the current, and zipping along the perimeter of the bay. You typically won’t get too splashed or wet from the ride (unless it’s raining, of course—rain won’t cancel your session), but if you prefer to stay completely dry, the company also has waterproof layers you can throw on over your clothes.
Mountain Bike Through Scenic Trails
Home to multiple mountain ranges (comprising 15 peaks that reach higher than 3,000 feet), it’s no surprise that Wales is also a popular destination for mountain bikers.
For beginners: Elan Valley offers a variety of trails, including some intermediate and expert trails, but it also has a valley trail suitable for novices or families that offers great scenery on your ride.
For mid-level riders: Head to Antur Stiniog in Snowdonia where you’ll find seven downhill, freeride trails, ranging from blue to black in difficulty, that are serviced by a lift to the top (you can book lift tickets online). There’s also a cafe and bike maintenance on site.
For advanced riders: Test your skills at BikePark Wales. The trails here are mostly rated blue, red, and black (intermediate, advanced, and expert, respectively) with a few pro ones as well (there’s only one beginner trail).