An Antipodean travel compa ny serving World Travellers since 1983.
Cymru am byth! Wales Forever!
Though the ancient Welsh language is notoriously tongue-twisting, don’t let that scare you away from visiting this beautiful country.
A long human history has shaped the land – from stone circles laid out in prehistoric times to the over six hundred castles dating from medieval times. Meanwhile, the landscape remains stunning – all mountains, river valleys, and lush meadows. The coastline – which is now virtually entirely lined by paths, perfect for a (bracing) walk – is cruelly underrated. Surrounded by this rich history and natural beauty, perhaps you’ll end up experiencing what the Welsh call ‘hireath’ – or longing for the green, green grass of your temporary home.
Odyssey usually travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Because Wales’ geography is fairly rugged, the transport paths are largely confined to the most populous areas. As with the rest of the UK, its railway network was developed during the nineteenth century, and provides travel between most major centres. The only urban rail exists in Cardiff. There is also a bus network that provides transport, mainly around South Wales.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our long stay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, environment & weather
On the western coast of Great Britain, Wales covers only 20,000 square kilometres. Like most of the UK, the geography in Wales is variable, with valleys, coastal plains and mountain ranges. In fact, most of Wales is mountainous, reaching its apotheosis in the area known as Snowdownia or Eryri.
Wales’s climate is above all distinguished by its changeability and variation. Because of its geography, the mountains can shape the weather in swift and unexpected ways. Travelling in Wales, you’ll always need to be prepared for rain and wind, especially in the autumn and the early winter months, and whenever you’re walking hilly areas. In winter, the temperature averages around six degrees Celsius, but can head up to 24 degrees in summer!
World Heritage Sites
The United Kingdom boasts 31 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, many of which are located in Wales. You can view the official list of the sites here https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/gb. It is well worth visiting every site, if you are able. But here’s a few highlights from the bunch:
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal – Built over 200 years ago, this acqueduct holds 1.5 million litres of water. The structure itself comprises 18 arches, and is the oldest and longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain.
Caernarfon Castle – This 13th century castle, build by Edward I, is a stunning site and contains some fantastic exhibtions rooms in which you can discover its history.
Blaenavon World Heritage Site – This town was originally built up around an ironnworks, and is now home to the Big Pit: National Coal Museum. It is an extraordinary place to discover in detail how the industrial revolution came about and changed everything.
Festivals & events
As with all countries that suffer through harsh winters, summer is the season for festivals in Wales.
The Hay Festival occurs around late May to early June, in Hay on Wye. It is a world renowned literature festival that takes place in the Brecon Beacons National Park, attracting guests and visitors from around the world.
The Gwyl Greynog Festival is a long running classical music festival with a new them each year.
And the Wales Airshow is a free annual airshow which features aerobatic displays from vintage and contemporary aircraft.
- The Owl Service by Alan Garner
- On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
- A History of Wales by John Davies
- The Matter of Wales by Jan Morris
Eating & Drinking
The Welsh fiercely protect their customs and traditions, and this is reflected in their cuisine, too. For a time, traditional Welsh food was difficult to come by, but an initiative call “Wales, the True Taste” was introduced in the 2000s and led to something of a renaissance in the industry. This particular initiative was scrapped in 2013 as concerns over business growth and development arose. But there remains a proud passion for sharing Wales’s signature dishes, and it is well worth seeking them out on your travels.
Welsh lamb and beef feature prominently in this cuisine, along with local caught seafood including salmon, brown trout and lobster. A very traditional dish is cawl, a soup from a base of bacon, leek and cabbage that varies according to region and season.
Look out for laverbread: it is made from edible seaweed, sprinkled with oatmeal and served warmed with bacon for breakfast or supper.
There is an abundance of soft cheeses made with goats’ and sheep’s milk from local farms.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will be pleased to learn that the Welsh observe “teatime”, and serve various cakes flavoured with honey, cinnamon, caraway seed or fruit.
Traditional spiced Welsh cakes or bakestones are similar to scones, but cooked on griddle plates and served with just a dusting of sugar, hot or cold.
Health & safety
While much of Wales is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Also, you will often see signs warning of pickpockets in areas popular with tourists, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply runs at 230V, 50Hz. British plugs have three flat, rectangular pins which form a triangle. These are shared by Ireland, Malta and some former British colonies, but Australia is not one of them.
Wales, home of the Castle
Mt Snowden, Wales
Wales has a single time zone, Greenwich mean time. The nation observes daylight saving time from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. It’s customary to tip 10-15% of the bill at restaurants, or 1 to 3 GBP at a more casual establishment. It’s polite to round a bill up to the nearest whole figure or leave the change when buying drinks. It’s also customary to tip 10% in taxis, and leave a note or two with hotel porters and concierges.
Internet access is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Wales. Many providers will offer a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible Travel Tips for Wales.
- If sightseeing in rural areas, remember to be respectful of residents and locals. As well as being tourist attractions, these are peoples’ homes!
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although everyone speaks English, the more you know of the native Welsh language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.