Though perhaps not as well-known for romantic cultures of yesteryear as its neighbors Ireland and Scotland, Wales is perched on the ragged coast of western Europe and sports its own unique personality. The Celtic roots have endured here unlike anywhere else in the British Isles. The Welsh language, one of the oldest in Europe, is still heard on the streets, in quaint cafes, and in the pubs where locals take their rugby-watching seriously.

Britain’s Industrial Revolution signaled a renaissance for the country, and though the coal mines have since been reclaimed by nature, the enterprising population remains to create contrast between the rugged countryside and the ever-growing cities. Wales remains brittle and brutal enough to be real, and diverse enough to keep even the most seasoned travelers intrigued.

Wales is mostly a color scheme of green and grey. Rays of golden sunshine peek through brooding, dark clouds, focusing a spotlight on the hills of Brecon Beacon National Park where wild Welsh mountain ponies stride along. Though the country is compact, it packs in so much natural beauty. There are many pockets that feel remote and unchanged. Mountains soar into the endless skies and rivers run through magical valleys. There are many golf courses to explore too, but the challenge is to not be distracted by the unbelievable views.

Nearly-pristine medieval castles trace back to the Middle Ages, sitting like sentinels strewn about the rugged countryside. Some lie in elegant ruin, while busy streets have been built around others. Step into a fairytale at the 13th century Beaumaris Castle with its spiral towers and stone passageways. Embrace the serenity of the cathedral in St. David’s where the Welsh patron saint is buried. Go even further back in time by visiting one of the many stone circles that mysteriously dot the land. Similar to the world-renowned Stonehenge, these formations stretch back thousands of years and are a reminder of the ancient cultures that thrived here.

Splash along the chilly surf that crashes into battered, windswept shores. The Wales Coast Path goes along the country’s entire length. Gower’s Rhossili beach is one of the most beautiful with soft sand backed by rolling, verdant hills. Take a boat trip around the small islands to see basking sharks, orcas, dolphins, and whales that call these waters home. Puffin Island is home to a large sea bird colony and grey seals lay on its rocky shores.

Carpets of flowers, towering cliffs, and endless beaches are ready to be explored in Anglesey. Savor fresh seafood pulled from the sea or wander through farmers markets. Ride the heritage track that starts at the harbor of Porthmadog and winds along through Snowdonia National Park. Climb to the top of Snowdon for beautiful views across the sea to Ireland. Trek through the network of trails, admiring the glassy lakes and craggy peaks.