The capital city of Wales, Cardiff is a picturesque blend of the Victorian and the modern with a nod to more ancient pasts. Among the many architectural wonders are Cardiff Castle at the city center, Gothic in style on a site that was once a Roman garrison, and Castell Coch outside of town, a 19th-century structure designed in the style of a medieval castle. Cardiff Bay is touted as the world’s largest port where the evolution of Cardiff from an industrial town to a center of culture and commerce has been realized in contemporary museums, live performance venues, and vibrant nightlife. The colorful rows of shopping venues in the Victorian Arcade offer a visual feast for both the inner architect and the unabashed fashionista.

Beyond Cardiff, the traces of the mining industry sparked by the Industrial Revolution are all but gone, and the steep valleys of former coal mines are returning to a verdant green. In Blaenavon discover how coal mining once drove the economy of Wales. The inspiring landscape of the Wye River Valley is punctuated by the ruins of ancient castles and cathedrals, many of which are significant sites in the legend of King Arthur.

Today Wales beckons travelers to enjoy its many natural spaces. Pembrokeshire National Park is a coastal wonderland of cliffs and sand, a haven for marine birds and orinthologists alike. More natural beauty is found at the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, populated by wild Gower ponies that roam the coast and wetlands.

Outdoor escape is within easy reach in South Wales. Wander along the many beaches, popular for surfing, sandcastle building, and sunning. Horseback ride through the pastoral landscape. Kayak along the glassy River Wye and watch the mist rise on crisp mornings.

The Wye River Valley is punctuated by the ruins of ancient castles and cathedrals. Feel immersed in the past at Tintern Abbey, founded in 1131, and explore the largest castle in Wales in Caerphilly, a 13th century structure surrounded by two huge lakes. Its stunning location is a perfect marriage of ancient history and timeless beauty.