Wales is known as the adventure and outdoor capital of the UK. From the spectacular mountains and craggy peaks of the Snowdonia National Park to the north, long sandy beaches and scenic coastal paths to the west, and the moorland and lakes of the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons National Park to the south, Wales is well equipped for intrepid explorers who want an active holiday. Whether you are a couple seeking an activity break, a solo traveller wanting to learn some new skills or a family searching for fun days out, Wales boasts outdoor holiday activities to suit everyone.
This huge adventure playground is waiting for visitors to come and play, so if adventure is your game, there are a wealth of thrilling activities to get your blood racing. Why not take a leap and ride, climb, walk or even kayak your way to happiness with our guide to outdoor adventure activities in Wales? Do you fancy a weekend of activities in North Wales, Mid Wales, West Wales or South Wales. Read our guide to active holidays and some of the sporty options open to you. Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in Wales too in locations close to all these beauty spots and activity centres in Wales.
Surfing on the Gower coast
There is an abundance of fantastic surfing spots on the Gower coast, from gentle swells in the broad bays of Llangennith to challenging reef breaks in Langland Bay. With waves that are relatively modest in size, the conditions are suitable for all levels, and there are plenty of surf schools offering board hire and tuition dotted along the coastline. One little tip is to take a stroll along the Wales Coast Path before jumping in the sea to check out the waves first and see whether the tide has hit the right spot. Surfing is a brilliant family-friendly activity in Wales that can be enjoyed all year round and definitely gets the adrenaline pumping.
Walking the Wales Coast Path
The picturesque 870-mile Wales Coast Path, which runs along the entire coastline of Wales is a must for amblers, explorers and ‘meanderers’-alike. The path includes two National Parks, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, dramatic towering headlands, charming coastal villages, and extraordinary castles and lighthouses. As nature goes, it’s pretty action-packed with a vast array of interesting wildlife, flora and fauna to see along the way; if you’re lucky, you might even glimpse blue whales and dolphins. The walks vary in length from one mile to an entire day trip, and the spectacular clifftop views are simply mesmerising.
Climbing in Snowdonia
Snowdonia offers some of the best climbing in the UK with more styles of climbing and types of rock than any other rock climbing area. From scaling the iconic Llanberis Pass, which features a myriad of cliffs with incredible routes to the steep and adventurous sea cliffs of Gogarth, or the extreme Llyn Peninsular (not for the faint-hearted), experienced climbers will be in their element. For beginners, the escarpment at Ogwen Valley is far more suitable as the routes are clean and well protected, although whichever crag or mountainside you choose to ascend, you are guaranteed magnificent views.
If you fancy a real challenge, visit Snowdonia during the winter when the National Park is at its most spectacular and learn the skills of ice-climbing. Expert guides from an accredited mountain operator can demonstrate the use of crampons and ice-axes - it’s no coincidence that Edmund Hilary and co. spent the winter prior to climbing Everest in Snowdonia.
Coasteering in Pembrokeshire
The rugged coastline of Pembrokeshire offers the perfect location for adrenaline junkies who fancy trying the invigorating sport of coasteering. With an experienced guide by your side, explore hidden coves, shallow coastal caves and little islands as you partake in cliff jumping, bouldering, swimming and climbing, with the rough waves swelling around you. It’s a great way to get up close to curious wildlife, perhaps even swim with dolphins and is the ultimate way to enjoy the astonishingly beautiful Welsh coast, creating unforgettable memories.
Kitted up in a wetsuit, flotation jacket and helmet, the options are plentiful for suitable locations to traverse the rocky coastline, from cliff jumps at Abereiddi to the white-water obstacle course around St David’s Head.
Pony trekking in the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons
Experience life in the saddle and explore the beauty of the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons National Park by horseback. Suitable for all ages and abilities, this outdoor adventure in Wales will lead you walking through lush valleys, trotting into rolling hills and cantering along dramatic cliffs. There are over 600 miles of bridle paths and tracks criss-crossing the National Park, and the spectacular scenery and wealth of wildlife to spot creates some of the best riding experiences in Europe. Stop for a picnic and soak up the breathtaking views or indulge in a pub lunch while your mount grazes outside.
White water rafting in Cardiff and Snowdonia
If the sun’s hiding behind dark clouds yet you’re still craving adventure on your Welsh holiday, head to the Cardiff International White Water centre. Here, you can partake in the thrills and spills of a fun-filled white water course. Don your wetsuits and scream with delight as you and your friends or family descend the rapids; they can tailor the experience to suit all ages. If that’s not enough, the centre also boasts an indoor FlowRider machine where you can have a blast riding the jets of water using a bodyboard, a high ropes course with zip wires, river boarding, paddleboarding, kayaking and gorge walking.
For a very different experience, the National White Water Centre near Bala in Snowdonia delivers even bigger hits and excitement. Whether you brave the upper Tryweryn’s Olympic-grade rollercoaster of ‘grade 3-4 rapids’ or immerse yourself in nature and delight in a family-friendly expedition descending below a stunning canopy of fresh oak leaves, you are guaranteed adventure that you will never forget.
Mountain biking in Wales
Escape into the wilderness following the abundance of rugged natural and purpose-built single-track trails that wind their way through the epic scenery of the Welsh countryside. Wales boasts somewhere between 500km – 600km of stunning routes through the iconic landscape of the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons with its meandering paths and sharp inclines, to the rocky descents off Snowdon, or down through the Doethie Valley, one of the longest sections of natural single track in the UK – there is something for every pedalling style.
For families, there are some fantastic trails based near visitor centres with plenty of amenities such as changing areas, toilets, parking and cafes to help your day roll a little smoother. If you're looking to ride the best that the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons has to offer, Treads and Trails offer guided mountain biking tours, taking you through stunning scenery and along often unmarked routes. Wales also hosts one of the UK’s few purpose-built trails designed with disabled visitors in mind – the MinorTaur trail at Coed-y-Brenin, where you can hire adaptive mountain bikes.
Sea kayaking in Pembrokeshire
Take to the water and experience a magical adventure gliding past magnificent cliffs, and exploring hidden coves and secret bays. A sea kayak is the ultimate way to explore the Pembrokeshire coast, bobbing past friendly seals as seabirds fly gracefully above in the blue skies. Discover otherwise inaccessible beaches around St David’s Head and paddle through imposing arches near Stackpole; it’s easy to spend hours listening to the echoes within the mysterious sea caves.
Walking Offa’s Dyke Path
If you’re feeling active, a scenic countryside ramble along one of the sections of the 177-mile Offa’s Dyke Path, which stretches along the entire border between Wales and England is a wonderful option. Experience changing landscapes and amazing opportunities to catch a view of wildlife native to Wales. The trail passes through eight counties and three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the Wye Valley, Shropshire Hills and Clwydian Hills). Stride over a windswept moor, explore the enchanting Wye Valley woods, or stile-hop through the Clwydian range, which is especially beautiful in early summer when heather dusts the surface with a shade of deep purple.
Sailing in Abersoch on Llyn Peninsula
Abersoch and the Llyn Peninsula is a mecca for water sports enthusiasts and is ranked as one of the best sailing venues in Britain. If further proof is needed, Olympic silver medal sailor Hannah Mills trained here. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Snowdonian peaks, the minimal tides and a location which is spacious and sheltered makes a great destination for novices and experts alike; you might even find yourself sailing among curious dolphins. The Abersoch Sailing School offers sailing lessons and provides a variety of boats for hire, from Lasers and Darts to a magnificent skippered 7-metre yacht.
Canyoning in waterfall country
Wales is blessed with a plethora of spectacular waterfalls of great beauty. These dazzling cascades are not only mesmerising to view but are the source of some immense fun. Equipped with a wetsuit, buoyancy aid and helmet you can experience the extreme adrenaline of leaping from them into the chilly water below on a guided trip. The best way to describe canyoning is white water rafting but without the raft. Descend steep-sided gorges, slide down rapids, float down fast flowing chutes and waves, and walk behind a curtain of racing water as the waterfall pours into its natural plunge pool below.
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Caving in the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons
Delve underground and explore the fascinating underworld of the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons. This part of Wales boasts one of the most exciting and varied caving areas in Britain encompassing four of the five longest limestone cave systems. Alongside an accredited operator you can explore some of the substantial lengths of passages and magnificent chambers decorated with stalactites and stalagmites.
The most accessible section of cave system can be located at the National Showcaves Centre for Wales which draws experienced cavers as well as novices. Families can enjoy three different atmospheric caves; Dan-yr-Ogof with its beautifully decorated passageways, Cathedral Cave with 40-foot high waterfalls that cascade around you, and the wondrous Bone Cave where 42 human skeletons were once buried, which now houses some interesting exhibits illustrating the use of the caves in the past. Beyond the public areas, experienced caving club members can explore the mysterious caverns and hidden tunnels further.
If you liked this guide, why not check out:
Guide to surfing in Wales
An Adventure in Snowdonia National Park
Guide to the Brecon Beacons
Things to do in the Brecon Beacons
Uncover the Brecon Beacons with these walking trails
Top things to do in Pembrokeshire
If we have inspired you to visit Wales and take part in some of these fantastic adventures, take a look at our luxurious holiday cottages in Wales and create some extraordinary memories.
Coast Path @ melgarside
Coasteering @ newquayactivitycentre
Rafting @ gabrielle_ridge
Sea kayaking @ cloudninekayak
Canyoning @ Kissuebannan
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.