Gallery: The UK’s best underground attractions (Love Exploring)

Seven of Wales’ top tourist spots have made it onto the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List.

Thirty four of the UK’s best travel experiences can be found on the world list of 500, and seven of those are in Wales.

Wales’ best-loved experiences range from outdoor adventures on the Wales Coast Path, Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia to enriching cultural attractions Festiniog & Welsh Highland Railway, St David’s Cathedral, St Fagans National History Museum and Portmeirion.

The Coast Path, which traces the entire coastline of Wales, is not only top of the Welsh experiences, it is the highest ranking new UK entry, straight in at No 82.

The book also describes Snowdonia brimming with “beauty and myth”, and says that Portmeirion is both “captivating and slightly unnerving”.

The travel experts describe the list as “500 most thrilling, memorable and interesting travel experiences in the world – ranked in order of brilliance.”

A spokeswoman for the publisher said: “We’ve all got a list of places that we want to see for ourselves: places friends have enthused about, places we’ve read about, dreamed about.  This is our list.

“It is the second edition and contains over 200 new entries.

“With 34 UK experiences featured, it makes the UK home to more of the world’s best experiences than any other country.”

According to Lonely Planet the experiences and destinations are “a mix of knock-out new openings, sights that have upped their game, or places more relevant to the way we travel now”.

“We also changed the way we calculated the list,” says the vice president of publishing Piers Pickard.  “For this edition we rewarded extra points to sights that are managing tourism sustainably.”

Events going on near you here:

Here are the experiences that made the list in Wales and where they ranked:

Wales Coastal Path (82)

a bench next to a body of water: The Coastal Path at Long Hole Cliff, near Overton

© South Wales Evening Post
The Coastal Path at Long Hole Cliff, near Overton

What the book says: “This little Celtic country’s biggest hit on our list is the long distance path that traces the entirety of its coastline, the 1,400km (870 mile) Wales Coast Path.

“As a result of its completion in 2012, linking up already successful trails such as the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and Anglesey Coast Path in one wondrous sea-hugging route, Wales became the world’s first country to have a walking trail all along its coast.

“Highlights on such a breathtaking trek are harder to pick than the path is to walk.

“But Wales is a candidate for the most densely castled place on earth, with fortresses standing sentinel along a seaboard featuring some of the most beautiful beaches and cliff scenery anywhere.”

Brecon Beacons (153)

a view of a canyon: A view towards the black mountains

© Daily Mirror
A view towards the black mountains

What the book says: “With its hundreds of square kilometres of beguiling peaks and moors and a Unesco World Heritage site (the ironworks town of Blaenavon), the rugged landscape of Wales’ Brecon Beacons National Park may look wild, but it has been shaped by 8,000 years of human settlement.

“Outdoor-lovers may just as likely chance upon Roman burial chambers and medieval castles as on waterfalls and caves. In its market towns, buzzing events such as the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts promise to continue the Brecon Beacons’ rich cultural legacy.”

Snowdonia (161)

a sunset over a body of water with a mountain in the background: View from Snowdonia towards the Nantlle Ridge

© Daily Post Wales
View from Snowdonia towards the Nantlle Ridge

The book says: “Snowdonia National Park in North Wales brims with beauty and myth. Snowdon itself is a mountain for anyone – those who don’t want to walk up can take a train, while hikers can follow numerous trails.

“But there are several other ranges in this extensive upland: try craggy Tryfan, with invigorating scrambling routes, or Cader Idris, home to legends of bottomless lakes and giants.

“Then there are the swathes of sandy beaches, the world’s fastest zip line (Penrhyn Quarry) and a cutting-edge inland surfing lagoon (Adventure Parc Snowdonia).”

St David’s Cathedral (296)

a castle with a clock at the top of a rock: St Davids cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Wales

© Getty Images/iStockphoto
St Davids cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Wales

The book says: “Raised in purple Welsh sandstone, perched on a lovely limb of Pembrokeshire where Wales looks across the Celtic Sea to Ireland, St Davids Cathedral is immense, its scale way out of proportion to the tiny town surrounding it (the UK’s smallest city).

“This is thanks to the miraculous performances of the local man who became St David – his bones are now behind the High Altar.

“It became one of Europe’s most important Christian sites by the 12th century, prompting Pope Calixtus II to decree that two pilgrimages to St Davids were worth one to Rome.”

Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway (369)

a steam engine train traveling down train tracks: Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway

© Daily Post Wales
Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway

The book says: “There is a sedate, stylish way to see Snowdonia, North Wales’ mountainous massif, and this is it: by a vintage steam rail ride festooned with blockbuster scenery.

“Watch the beauty spots unfold from Snowdon itself, to picturesque Beddgelert and mighty Caernarfon Castle.” 

St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff (437)

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Traditional Folk Dancing on the Gwalia Green at St. Fagans

© Peter Bolter
Traditional Folk Dancing on the Gwalia Green at St. Fagans

The book says: “For a lesson in Welshness, St Fagans provides a microcosm of life in Wales like no other.

“Boring history lesson this is not. In this living museum of more than 40 original buildings, you can sneak inside still-smoke-scented 16th-century farmhouses, time-travel through miners’ cottages, marvel at an ancient church moved here stone by stone and behold the reconstructed 12th-century court of Welsh titan Llywelyn the Great.

“The display is anchored by a medieval castle worthy of its eclectic dominion.”

Portmeirion (476)

a church with a mountain in the background: View of iconic Portmeirion

© Ian Cooper/North Wales Live
View of iconic Portmeirion

The book says: “If you’ve ever watched the kooky 1960s TV series The Prisoner, you might find yourself looking over your shoulder for giant bouncing balls as you explore curious Portmeirion in Wales, where the cult show was filmed.

“This collection of colourful Italianate buildings overlooking a vast sandy beach was created by Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who lived by the maxim that beauty in life is a necessity.

“It was also the former home of the Portmeirion pottery factory, whose florid tableware graces untold British dining tables.

“It’s all rather captivating and slightly unnerving, given this is a village with no permanent residents. Something you would find nowhere else but in Britain, for sure.”

* Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet © 2020

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List 2 Ed, 19.99. To purchase the book visit here.

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