How to sum up an incredible place like Wales in just a few words, without using sweeping generalisations and clichés? The truth is that Wales can't easily be categorised or put into a box. It's hard to believe that such a rich, diverse realm of mountains, waterfalls, beaches, historical and spiritual sites, fun, adventure and friendly faces could fit into this small corner of the world .
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Wales is that part of the UK to the west of England which most people drive through on their way to or from Ireland. That's right, it's a gloriously overlooked, off the beaten path destination, ripe for exploration by curious travellers that want to go beyond the obvious, because that's where we usually have the best experiences, right?! Wales is 8,000 square miles (or just over 20,000 square kilometres), and the population is just over 3 million. Official languages are English and Welsh, and the currency is the British Pound.
Wales has exceptionally varied terrain. The mountainous regions of Snowdonia, Cambrian Mountains, and Brecon Beacons, fold up from valleys once rich in natural resources, then roll into the agricultural plains footed by dramatic coastline. Forests, open moorland, rivers, cave systems both natural and man-made; golden sand beaches, rocky islands, wetlands, mudflats, and calm harbours and inlets; all best explored down the winding country lanes leading to tiny hamlets, pretty villages, post-industrial towns, and fast routes connecting Wales' modern cities.
Wales has a rich cultural heritage and all the stereotypical images of rugby, pubs, male voice choirs, poetry, woollen blankets and wooden love spoons are important, but far from the whole story. Music is still important; the best international artists can be found playing at Greenman, Wakestock or Festival No 6 alongside home grown talent. Wales is home to numerous iconic TV series and films; and creative festivals. The annual Eisteddfod showcases the best in Welsh poetry, music & performance; Artes Mundi showcases international contemporary visual art; and Beyond the Border is an unique International Storytelling Festival. Country pubs are still relevant, but since the smoking ban it's true to say that they've become much more about the food & drink, and as such the Welsh menu has undergone a bit of a revival; expect local delicacies and traditional recipes with a flavour uplift! Rugby, football and golf are big business in Wales, but quietly perhaps even more popular are outdoor adventures; surfing, climbing, cycling, coasteering, kayaking, hiking and triathlons are part of many people's vocabulary.
Wales historically and politically
It's believed that Wales has been inhabited by humans since as far back as 250,000 BC, but it isn't until the arrival of Celts in 1000 BC that Wales as we know it today really began to take shape. Later came the Romans, then the Saxons, before the construction of Offa's Dyke in 784 AD forming a border running from north to south between England and Wales. The Normans weren't initially successful at invading; it was Edward I that made huge inroads, building castles across Wales in the late 1200's. The 1400's saw a rebellion led by national hero and self-proclaimed Prince of Wales Owain Glyndwr. Glyndwr disappeared mysteriously and later in the 1400's the Tudors, who originated in Wales, rose to power in England; and in 1536 Wales and England passed an act of union. A National Assembly for Wales, with law making powers since 2006, was created after a national referendum in 1997. The Welsh Government has been a Labour Administration since 2011. The First Minister of Wales is Carwyn Jones.
For practical information about visiting Wales see FAQ.