I remembered when I first heard about Snowdonia, and I was convinced that it was some kind of imaginary country in a story, or something similar. It sounded like some kind of country of eternal snow, with icy mountains, valleys, lakes and forests. Well, as it turned out, I was not that far from the truth. Snowdonia is a magical place indeed, although not as ice-covered as I thought when I was a kid. Visiting it is rather surreal though, like seeing a place that doesn’t really fit into the reality you’re used to. A truly unique place, Snowdonia National Park is a great destination for those who like hiking and trekking in unusual (or unusually beautiful) places, and if you ask me, if the Lord of the Rings hadn’t been filmed in New Zealand, Snowdonia would have been an equally inspired choice.
Unlike in most national parks, people actually live in Snowdonia, leading a very much enviable existence in this 2,142 km² piece of heaven. Snowdonia is Wales’s first national park, dating back only a meager half a century. Another distinguishing mark of Snowdonia is that in addition to mountains and lakes, it also has cultivated areas. If you’ve never thought that a field of wheat looked beautiful, Snowdonia will change your mind. The name of the park comes from Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, dominating the entire park with its majestic presence.
Snowdonia has been compared to the Lake District in England, and it takes no genius to see why. Lakes are an integral part of the landscape, and in fact there is so much water in the park (due to the frequent rains), that it is routinely being exported to England (almost the entire water supply of Liverpool comes from here). Snowdonia is a paradise for water sports, like boating, sailing, canoeing and windsurfing. It also provides an excellent location for hiking and hill walking and mountain biking. There are several designated trails for each of these activities, and you can easily enjoy a few days outdoors without having to book a tour.
The most interesting attractions in Snowdonia are its namesake, Snowdon, the Glyderau mountains whose highest peaks, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr are absolutely amazing, and Cadair Idris and the Tarrens. On the topic of Cadair Idris there’s quite an interesting legends in those parts. It says that if you spend the night in Cadair Idris, you will suffer one of the following three fates: die a horrible death, go insane, or magically transform into a Welsh bard (some less than courteous people might say that there’s no difference between the latter two).
Since there are settlements in Snowdonia, you won’t have to rely exclusively on camp food during your visit. There are several pubs in the park, and these village pubs serve some surprisingly tasty food. There is an emphasis on using local produce, so the food is almost certainly made of only the best and freshest ingredients. Pubs are also a great place or socializing with the locals, picking up a few tales and jokes, and drinking. Of course, there are no nightclubs or such, but you can find these just outside the park, in the university city of Bangor.