Snowdonia National Park has a stellar reputation for rugged landscapes, epic hiking trails, Welsh culture and is home to Wales' highest mountain - Yr Wyddfa [Snowdon].
It's a popular place for visitors from all over the UK and beyond who come to explore the mesmerising landscapes and adventure activities. After pictures emerged of huge queues lining the path to Mount Snowdon's summit, you might be forgiven for thinking that the entirety of the National Park is just as crowded.
However, if you head to the green highlands of southern Snowdonia, you'll find peaceful forest walks, biking trails and lakes, as well as charming villages and towns.
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Most visitors head to the northern part of Snowdonia to the areas in and around Snowdon but The Snowdonia National Park extends eastwards and southwards, across to Bala and down to the town of Machynlleth.
Alongside the dramatic ridges of Cader Idris, you'll find softer, greener landscapes of farmlands and forested areas that are lesser-known but are still worth a visit if you want to beat the crowds.
Here are some of our recommendations on where you should visit in southern Snowdonia for a Welsh holiday to remember.
Mountain biking at Dyfi Bike Park
World-class biking can be found on the forested trails of the Dyfi Bike Park near Machynlleth. This impressive bike park is the result of years of hard work by the Atherton family and the local community to create diverse and challenging trails that cut through the Esgair Forest.
Riders can buy an uplift pass from £43 and use the uplift from 10 am to 4 pm to explore long descents over varied terrain. Make sure to swing by their on-site cafe for a home-cooked lunch and a rater excellent cup of gourmet coffee.
Gin tasting at Corris Craft Centre
Corris Craft Centre is a unique collection of nine individual craft studios where visitors can purchase food, drink, crafts and gifts from talented producers and designers.
It's also home to Dyfi Distillery, which creates premium Welsh gins - Dyfi Gin. The multi-award winning gins are perfectly crafted with wild Welsh foraged botanicals. Pollination Gin is one of the few gins in the world produced from mostly foraged botanical ingredients and has a very reasonable price point.
Near to the craft centre, you'll find the former slate village of the same name, as well as the Centre for Alternative Technology, King Arthur’s Labyrinth and the narrow-gauge Corris Railway and Museum.
Boutique shopping in Machynlleth
Affectionately known as "Mach" to locals, this historic market town is the Gateway to southern Snowdonia. It's well known for its comedy festival and boutique shopping, due to its impressive number of independent retailers, you won't find a Starbucks or Superdrug here.
Wander the understated high street to find a good variety of junk shops, a bespoke shoe shop, an apothecary, cafes and MOMA – the Museum of Modern Art, one of only three in the world. Machynlleth lies in the heart of the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere and sustainability initiatives can be seen all over town, everything from seedling swaps, clothing repairs and even 'pick your own herbs' in the local car park.
If you're visiting on a weekend, make sure to book Sunday lunch at the traditional coaching Inn, The Wynnstay. Head Chef Gareth Johns uses local, Welsh produce where possible, including superb, cym dyfi lamb with capers and parsley sauce.
Summit the peaks of Cader Idris
At 893 m (2,930 ft), Cader Idris is the highest mountain in southern Snowdonia and is a challenging trek for keen hikers.
Trek up the distinctive peak of Cader Idris in Southern Snowdonia just before dawn and watch as the Snowdonia National park becomes bathed in the golden sunlight of dawn.
There are three recommended routes to conquer Cader and they are all pretty strenuous routes. so make sure you are adequately prepared to take on these rather serious hikes through the dramatic ridges.
If you are relatively new to hiking, why not take a guided walk up Cader Idris with adventure experts Wild Trails Wales and navigate the mountain safely.
Paddleboard at Bala Lake
Beautiful Bala Lake [Llyn Tegid], is Wales' largest natural lake at over four miles long and a mile wide. Full of local legends, it's located in the 'lake district' of southern Snowdonia and has the most inviting, clear water to paddle on.
The lake is famed for its impressive mountain scenery, rare wildlife and excellent fishing opportunities. As well as being a SUP hub, the lake also offers outdoor lovers plenty of sailing, canoeing and wild swimming.
Looking to hire a SUP? Bala Watersports provide SUP equipment hire for pros and instruction for aspiring paddlers. Don't forget to get your lake permit from the Lake Warden's Centre before launch, the Lake Warden can ask to see permits at any time, so don't get caught out!
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Wander the ruins of Castell y Bere
Castell y Bere is a remote Welsh castle ruin near Llanfihangel-y-pennant in southern Snowdonia. Take a short walk to this stone fort and marvel at the unique Welsh heritage. Built by Welsh ruler Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great), to protect Gwynedd’s southern frontier, construction began in 1221 with the castle remaining in use until 1294.
It's a peaceful place where you can bring the kids to play fort, walk the dog or photograph the jagged edges of this former Welsh stronghold.
Experience the impressive tasting menu at Ynyshir
Ynyshir comprises accommodation and a destination Michelin star restaurant, located near Machynlleth. Chef Patron Gareth Ward serves a bold, and self-proclaimed ‘ingredient led and flavour driven’ tasting menu, using high quality Welsh and British produce.
Make sure you are ravenous when you dine as the tasting menu is roughly 30 courses in length and four hours in duration. It’s a truly memorable dining experience and is highly critically acclaimed.
It’s priced at £300 per person and advance booking is a must.
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Explore the pretty town of Dolgellau
Dolgellau originally developed and grew around a thriving woollen industry. Today it's a fantastic base for exploring the Snowdonia National Park and is near to many biking and hiking trails including the Mawddach Trail.
The dark-stoned market town has a good selection of shops, cafes, local events and festivals, outdoor activities and places to stay. Strap on your hiking boots or jump on your mountain bike to discover the nearby landscape of the forests, lakes, open countryside and mountain ridges and cliffs.
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