Hi guys, in this post, I would like to share with you our 3-day itinerary for North Wales and Snowdonia. We went to North Wales from London on a long weekend road trip. Because it was a Bank holiday weekend, you can imagine that Snowdonia was pretty busy, so in case you want to avoid crowds, I would recommend going on a quieter weekend or taking a day off instead.
Last year, Snowdonia was all over the news because the parking lots near Mount Snowdon were already full by 8 am. This year, the Pen-y-Pas parking lot was already full by 8:30 am; however, in Llanberis, we could find a parking spot even at 8:45 am. Nevertheless, I can imagine that by 10:30am, it must have been busy as well.
Here is what you can expect to find in this post:
Without further ado, let’s get started!
So here’s a short overview of our three-day road trip around North Wales and Snowdonia.
Day 0: Departing London after work (5:40pm in our case), a night at Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis
Day 1: Day of hiking Mount Snowdon, a night at Bryn Coed guesthouse in Colwyn Bay
Day 2: Exploring Llandudno, Conwy and Caernarfon, night in Pwllheli (Rooms at Marta Jones)
Day 3: Portmeirion and Beddgelert. Driving back to London
Some frequently asked questions about exploring North Wales and Snowdonia by car:
Do you need a car to explore North Wales and Snowdonia?
It is possible to explore North Wales and Snowdonia without having a car; however, it might take significantly longer because you would need to wait for trains and buses. Either of them doesn’t operate that frequently, especially the buses within Snowdonia. If you’re coming to Snowdonia for just a day hike, in this case, it is possible to travel to a larger town like Blaenau and Ffestiniog and take a taxi to town from which you can start a hike (for example, Pen Y Pass). A scheme called “Park and ride” was created mainly for people who didn’t find a parking spot in a place they wanted, so they had to park further away and take a taxi to the start of the hiking route.
However, if you have a car, it would make this trip significantly less complicated, and you would be able to see the highlights of North Wales in just three days. So your short answer is yes, you need a car to explore North Wales and Snowdonia in three days; otherwise, you might have more time to be able to commute between all the places mentioned in this post. Alternatively, you can skip some places in this 3-day itinerary.
What’s the best time of the year to travel to North Wales and Snowdonia?
You can travel to North Wales any time of the year; however, the best time to visit Snowdonia is from May to September.
This is because if you want to hike, it’s more likely that the weather is going to be much nicer from May to September. During other months, the weather might be much more unpredictable. It could be raining every day, so hiking in Snowdonia might be a little dangerous, especially if you’re not an experienced hiker. There is a higher chance of slipping or falling, and besides, there is often snow on top of Snowdon, which makes hiking even more complicated.
Do you need special gear to go up Mount Snowdon?
If you’re wondering whether you need some special equipment to hike Mt. Snowdon, well, not really. However, if you decide to take the harder path (Rhyd Ddu), I recommend bringing sturdy hiking shoes like these ones, a waterproof jacket, a waterproof backpack and maybe even some walking poles. Don’t forget to bring loads of water with you as well! E.g. THIS water bottle holds over 2.2 litres of water!
Finally, there is also a train that goes 2/3 of the route, so if you don’t feel like you’re able to climb Mount Snowdon or if you are just simply feeling a bit tired – you can totally take this train up and down. Sometimes it even goes all the way up to the top of Snowdon; however, when we were there, the train station on top of the mountain was closed, so people still had to hike a third of the route.
Alright, I hope I answered some of the most frequently asked questions, so let’s start with our itinerary for a 3-day road trip around North Wales and Snowdonia, including hiking Snowdon.
3-day itinerary for a road trip around Snowdonia and North Wales
Day 0 – departing from London and arriving in Llanberis, staying overnight at Royal Victoria Hotel.
I’m counting the first day of our road trip as day zero because we didn’t need to take any days off. We actually departed London just after work – around 5:45 pm. If you have an opportunity to depart earlier – go for it! Breaking such a long drive into two parts is actually a great idea.
Because of relatively heavy traffic to exit London, it took us around 5.5 hours to reach Llanberis.
We picked the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis because it was open 24 hours. That allowed us to arrive relatively late (around 11:30 pm). Another reason for picking Llanberis as our overnight destination was the fact that Llanberis was really close to Mount Snowdon, and it was actually possible to hike to Mount Snowdon right from there.
If you’re interested in taking a train up to Mount Snowdon, it also departs from Llanberis. You can find out more as well as buy the tickets here.
While we were not able to use our hotel’s parking to leave our car to go for a day hike, there were quite a few parking spots in Llanberis, so finding one at 8:45 am was not a problem. However, if you are arriving in Llanberis after 9:30am or 10am, it might be a little complicated to find a parking spot, so I recommend arriving as early as you can.
Llanberis is also a lovely town in the heart of Snowdonia. There are plenty of things to do in Llanberis, including short walks around the town to explore the slate mines. In case you have a chance to leave your work or take half a day off (or you’re visiting Snowdonia from East Midlands or The North), you would be able to explore a little bit more of Llanberis.
Where to stay in Llanberis in Snowdonia:
Llanberis is quite a large town in Snowdonia and definitely one of the best places to stay if you want to hike Mount Snowdon. There are a few large hotels that almost always have availability, even if you were booking last moment. We stayed at a hotel called The Royal Victoria – it’s a lovely hotel that has large parking and a hearty breakfast. Alternatively, you can also consider Padarn Hotel. Also, there is a hostel YHA Snowdon Llanberis that provides very affordable accommodation.
Day 1: Hiking mount Snowdon, staying overnight in Colwyn Bay
On the first day of our North Wales road trip, we woke up around 7am and had a very nice breakfast at our hotel Royal Victoria. Then, we packed, checked out and moved our car to up the parking spot very close to the hotel. Leaving your car for a day costs around £8, and you can pay with cash or via an app.
We also bought some snacks for our hike from a local SPAR. I would definitely recommend buying snacks in advance, as there is no place to eat anywhere on the route. Also, hiking Snowdon takes a lot of effort – you need to boost your energy level with a few fruits, protein bars and perhaps even sandwiches.
Choosing the route to hike mount Snowdon
Initially, we wanted to take the most popular route to go up man Snowden that starts from Penn-Y- Pass, but at around 8:30 am there were no spots left anymore, so we decided to return to Llanberis and start our hike from there.
The most popular hike from Llanberis is an out and back route via the Llanberis path. However, we wanted to take a circular path. This was the 25km circular route that included going up Snowdon via the Rhyd Dda path and going down via the Llanberis way. If you want to read a bit more about our hike, see our route and read some practical tips about hiking Snowdon, head to this post about the best first-timer’s hike to Snowdon.
Overall, I must say that the hike was pretty challenging, and our legs were absolutely dead after the hike. At the same time, hiking Snowdon was also really rewarding as it was on our UK bucket list since a few years ago.
Here are some of the views we enjoyed during our very long hike.
In total, it took around 7.5 hours to complete this hike, and we walked over 40,000 steps. My Apple Watch also indicated a total elevation of around 1.3km.
Staying overnight at Colwyn Bay
Our next destination was Colwyn Bay, where we were staying overnight. It took us around 45 minutes to get there from Llanberis. We picked Colwyn Bay because it was located very close to Llandudno (and there were no hotels available there anymore). Also, it was very close to a restaurant we found on the Michelin guide that was included in the Bib Gourmand list – Bryn Williams at the Porth Eirias. This restaurant wasn’t expensive, and many dishes were great!
Overnight, we stayed at a guesthouse called Bryn Coed and our host, Diane, was the friendliest host ever. The guesthouse was very lovely, included a home-cooked full British breakfast and was a very good value for money!
Day 2: Llandudno, Conwy, and Caernarfon. Staying overnight at Pwllheli
Exploring Llandudno – a “French” resort in Wales
We departed Colwyn Bay early and arrived in Llandudno by 9am. Having visited a lot of resort towns in the UK, we never expected that Llandudno would be so beautiful. A lot of buildings reminded us of Nice in French Riviera and overall, they were very well kept and nicely taken care of!
I also liked the fact that all the arcades and attractions were located on the pier rather than between the hotels and the beach (like in Hastings or Brighton, for example), allowing better views and a wider promenade!
It was also a perfect warm and sunny day, so a lot of people went there to spend a day on the beach. We spent around 2.5 hours in Llandudno, walking the promenade, sipping an ice coffee and enjoying the beach.
Conwy – home to the prettiest castle in Wales
Our next stop was Conwy – a small fisherman town in North Wales, located around 10 minutes driving from Llandudno. It is home to perhaps the most impressive castle in Wales – Conwy castle looks stunning. The old town of Conwy is located within the castle walls, and it’s very small (it’s home to only about 4000 people). Nonetheless, there are plenty of things to do – from exploring the smallest house in the UK (it was inhabited until 1900 when it was turned into a museum) to visiting the Merchant’s House – a very old medieval building in the heart of Conwy. I recommend going for a walk around the old town, exploring the beautiful streets and post-card worthy views. And of course, you can also visit the castle. You can pre-book your tickets here.
The town with the longest name in the UK – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
Just after visiting Conwy, we also drove to a very unusual destination – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This small town in Wales has the second-longest name in the world (the first spot belongs to a small town in New Zealand). It’s located just around 25 minutes driving from Conway (and it’s sort of on the way to Caernarfon), so we decided to not miss the opportunity and visit this town. There is nothing to do in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch besides taking some photos in front of the train station that has its full name and visiting the one and only souvenir shop located at the train station.
Our final sightseeing destination for the day was Caernarfon. Caernarfon is home to another spectacular castle which you might have seen if you watched the famous series “The Crown”. This was the castle where the Prince of Wales gave his famous speech in 1969.
Apart from that, Caernarfon castle was featured in the famous Netflix documentary about the greatest and most important castles in the UK.
The town is built around the castle; however, it also has a few very, very beautiful and photogenic streets and a very interesting bridge that opens to let some small boats pass. If you cross this bridge, you can see a marvellous view of the castle.
For us, Caernarfon was also a very late lunch destination, as we actually went to have lunch right away upon arrival. We picked a place called Blackboy Inn – which is a historic pub is in the heart of the town. It’s 499 years old and will be turning 500 in 2022. The food was good, and the atmosphere was joyful, so there was absolutely nothing to complain about! If you’re looking for a place to eat in Caernarfon, the Black Boy Inn is the place to go. I can definitely recommend it.
In order to visit the castle, you also need to pre-book tickets in advance. You can do it here.
In order to be close to Portmeirion, which we wanted to visit on our last day in North Wales, we found a room in Pwllheli just 25 minutes away from Portmeirion.
We stayed at the place called Rooms at Martha Jones and the place was lovely, however, it was a bit noisy at night. If you’re booking in advance, you can potentially find a hotel right in Portmeirion – Portmeirion Village and Castell Deudraeth or stay at Abergafren Lodge or Taliesin.
Day 3: Portmeirion, Beddgelert and the way back
On the last day in North Wales and Snowdonia, we headed to Portmeirion – a very beautiful private “village” built-in Italian style by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis from 1925 to 1975. Sir Clough always wanted to open a hotel in his “village”, but it was only opened a few years after he passed away.
As it’s a private village and it’s home to a large hotel and a few restaurants, you need to pay to enter, or you need to have a reservation at the hotel or at a restaurant. If you are choosing just to pay for an entrance fee, it costs £15 for adults and £9 for kids. You can see the most recent fees and book your tickets online here.
We spend around one hour and a half exploring the village, as it’s actually very small. If you want to take photos, it makes sense to arrive close to the closing time, so the village is almost empty, and the light is great.
Our next destination was one of the most beautiful villages in entire Wales, and definitely, the most beautiful village in Snowdonia called Beddgelert. Actually, on the way there, we stopped next to a beautiful mountain river – there was a parking spot for 6 cars, and this place was absolutely stunning! It’s located just 4 minutes before Beddgelert.
Parking in Beddgelert is big, but it gets very crowded, as it’s a popular village and also a popular spot for hiking – a lot of trails pass through the village.
Driving back to London
Finally, after Beddgelert, we embarked on a journey back to London. Since it was again a 5.5-hour journey back to London, we decided to cut it by half and stop in a beautiful city called Shrewsbury.
I will definitely be writing a separate blog post about Shrewsbury because I haven’t heard much about it before, and I was blown away by the city. It’s beautiful and has so many stunning medieval buildings from the 15-16 centuries. I was much more impressed by Shrewsbury than I was by Chester!
Summary of our three day trip to Snowdonia and North Wales
To summarise, I really enjoyed our 3-day road trip around North Wales and Snowdonia because we managed to see most of the highlights in North Wales and cross Snowdonia out of our UK bucket list. [That doesn’t mean that we don’t return there – I would love to return many times]. Not only we were able to hike the tallest mountain in England and Wales, but we were also able to see some of the most beautiful castles in the UK. We also visited a very beautiful beach town, Llandudno and the artificial Italian village Portmeirion.
This itinerary for North Wales is actually quite busy, so it’s not a long relaxing weekend in Snowdonia and North Wales! The hike was so challenging that it that was probably the toughest hike we have ever done in our lives. However, it was also extremely rewarding, and the views were absolutely beautiful. The second part of the trip around North Wales was more relaxing, yet it included visiting many places, so we didn’t get to spend too much time in each other locations.
We also really enjoy hiking in Snowdonia, and I am confident that we will be back soon to hike other routes. There are also other things to visit in Snowdonia, for example, the fastest zip line in the world, which we didn’t have a chance to visit this time.