12 places in Wales which make you feel like you’re abroad

Summer is fast approaching and with this comes the desire to escape real life and discover an exciting new land. However, with the Covid lockdown not far behind us, the thought of hopping on a plane for hours on end may not be as appealing as it once was. But that doesn’t mean you should go without.

Thankfully there are some glorious doppelgangers and impressive substitutes for those picture-perfect locations around the world – right on your doorstep. Wales has become a hotspot for big Hollywood names to frequent, with celebrities visitng our towns, beaches and historic sites.

With sands to rival the Caribbean, historical sites to contend with Greece and scenes to transport you into Batman and Wonderwoman, aside from the slight temperature drop, why would you ever want to leave? Here we’ve rounded up the delicious destination doppelgangers that’ll make your jaw drop.

Read moreThe Welsh beaches named the best in the UK for the perfect day at the seaside

Portmeirion, Gwynedd – Portofino, Italy



Portmeirion was inspired, achitecturally, by a quaint Italian town
Portmeirion was inspired, achitecturally, by a quaint Italian town



The colorful houses in Portofino's harbor
The colorful houses in Portofino’s harbor

Why would you want to go to the Amalfi Coast when you can get in your car and drive to the stunning, colorful Welsh coastal village of Portmeirion? Designed and built by Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, it was intentionally finished to mirror that of a quaint Italian town (believed to be based on the famous fishing village of Portofino) – complete with Mediterranean features like porticoes, loggias , houses with terracotta roofs and bright, bold colors. And who could forget the Italian staples: statues and sprouting fountains. Remember to take your wallet, however, as adults will need to pay an admission fee – but for an experience that is out-of-this-world, it is well worth the pennies.

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Henrhyd Falls – Madakaripura, Indonesia



Henrhyd Falls, Neath, Brecon Beacons, Wales
Henrhyd Falls, Neath, Brecon Beacons, Wales


Madakaripura falls in Indonesia is the next best thing
Madakaripura falls in Indonesia is the next best thing

When arriving at Henrhyd Falls, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this magical mossy waterfall as Indonesia’s stunning Madakaripura Falls. Towering at 90ft, the Welsh falls is based just a short walk along the Nant Llech River in the Brecon Beacons National Park and, alongside the stunning tropical feel, has a tourist-favorite feature: you can take a stroll behind the glorious falls (although , if you don’t want to get soaked remember to bring your raincoat!). This particular walkway is more than just a waterfall, however. If you are a fan of the Batman franchise, you may recognize it as the cover for Christian Bale’s Batcave in The Dark Knight Rises.

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Traeth Llyfn Beach, Pembrokeshire – Praia Do Camilo Beach, Portugal



Steps leading down from the dramatic steep cliffs to Traeth Llyfn Beach in Pembrokeshire
Steps leading down from the dramatic steep cliffs to Traeth Llyfn Beach in Pembrokeshire



Steps down to Praia Do Camilo
Steps down to Praia Do Camilo

To get to Praia do Camillo in Portugal, you have the small price to pay of climbing down more than 200 steps to reach the idyllic beach. With only 125 steps (approximately), Pembrokeshire’s very own paradise beach, Traeth Llyfn – which is situated between Porthgain and Abereiddy – has a lot less leg work (although it is steep, so hold onto the rails) with waves and views that rival the Algarve, in our opinion. What’s more is that these steps down to the secluded Welsh beach have Mediterranean roots. Thought to date back to the Second World War, they are believed to have been carved into the cliffside by Italian prisoners of war. And although in recent years these have been reinforced by metal steps, their charm remains fully intact.

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Castell Coch, Tongwynlais – Dracula’s Castle, Transylvania



Castell Coch's conical roofs make quite an impression
Castell Coch’s conical roofs make quite an impression



Bran Castle in Transylvania
Bran Castle in Transylvania

Hidden in the trees above the village of Tongwynlais is a castle which would make Count Dracula feel very much at home. Built in 1875 by William Burges for the Marquess of Bute (on the remains of a medieval castle site), Castell Coch’s gothic-style conical roofs can be spotted peeping out of Fforest Fawr for miles and are a sure match for that of the mysterious Bran Castle in Transylvania – more fondly known as Dracula’s Castle. Although it has no history of housing such beings, if you have a particular penchant for vampires and mysterious happenings, this stunning fortress will no doubt take your fancy – who needs Romania when you’ve got Tongwynlais?

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Snowdonia National Park – Aoraki Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand



Snowcapped mountains in Snowdonia, taken in Capel Curig
Snowcapped mountains in Snowdonia, taken in Capel Curig



Winding road leading to Mount Cook in New Zealand
Winding road leading to Mount Cook in New Zealand

It may be three times smaller than New Zealand’s highest peak on Mount Cook, which stands at 3,724 meters, but Mount Snowdon is just as breathtaking and can be visited at a fraction of the price (and journey). With luscious colorful vegetation, flowing rivers and views that won’t take half as long to get up to, Snowdonia’s vast landscape is a sight to behold and well worth the hike to the top. But it’s not just the view that is a strong contender with mount cook. The road to both sites are unbelievably similar. Snow-capped mountains? Check. Long winding road? Check. Spectacular views? Check. Regular rainfall? I think we’ve made our case.

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Three Cliffs Bay, Gower – Koh Kai / Chicken Island in Krabi, Thailand



Three Cliffs Bay, Gower



Koh Kai, otherwise known as the Chicken Island in Krabi, Thailand
Koh Kai, otherwise known as the Chicken Island in Krabi, Thailand

On stunningly sunny days, you could easily be tricked into thinking you were relaxing on a beach in Thailand when visiting this gorgeous Welsh landmark, when, in actual fact, you’re in the Gower. Both house magnificent limestone rock formations – which are a sight to behold – glorious sandy beaches, and blue seas. It seems the only difference is 6,329 miles and a plane journey.

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Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire – Thassos beach



Barafundle Bay, Stackpole, Pembrokeshire, West Wales.
Barafundle Bay, Stackpole, Pembrokeshire


Psili Ammos beach, also known as Golden beach, in Thassos island, Greece.
Psili Ammos beach, also known as Golden beach, in Thassos island, Greece.

If we were to describe a sweeping shoreline, luscious green borders and surroundings of ancient ruins, it’s easy to be confused over whether we are talking about Pembrokeshire’s Barafundle Bay or Greece’s Golden Beach in Thassos. With golden sands nestled between Broad Haven and Freshwater East, this Welsh hot spot is often listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And though its mildly rugged terrain to get onto the beach may not be for everybody, the final stop is worth the journey.

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Langland Bay – Gold Coast of Australia



Langland Bay, Newton, Swansea
Langland Bay, Newton, Swansea



Currumbin Beach on Australia's Gold Coast
Currumbin Beach on Australia’s Gold Coast

If you can’t quite afford to take a trip to Australia’s Gold Coast this year, suit up for the surf at Langland Bay in the Gower. Sheltered from strong onshore winds and with an offshore reef (a reef closer to the coast than the shoreline), this bay is perfect for surfers of all levels – with no potential for great white shark attacks. If you don’t fancy taking the waves for a spin, set your deckchair down on the shore and marvel at the horizon.

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The Lost City of Trellech, Monmouthshire – Ruins of Rome



The ruins of a medieval Welsh city, discoverd by Stuart Wilson
The ruins of a medieval Welsh city



The Colosseum in Rome
The Colosseum in Rome

It’s not quite the Colosseum – in size or grandeur – but the lost city of Trellech in Monmouthshire is a historical wonder not to miss. Dating back to the 13th Century, it was once one of the largest medieval towns in the entire country. So if your forte is archeology, historical findings or you simply want to learn more about the subject, this is a golden discovery for you. With dedicated experience days, you can even pick up a trowel and get stuck in.

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Sugarloaf mountain – Sugar Loaf mountain in Rio De Janeiro



Sugarloaf Mountain above a field of rapeseed - picture sent in by Anne Phillips
Sugarloaf Mountain above a field of rapeseed



Morning view from Sugarloaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro.
Morning view from Sugarloaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro

There are approximately 450 mountains, hills and peaks worldwide which share the name – or a variant of the name -Sugarloaf Mountain, and the one which usually springs to mind is climbers’ paradise in Rio De Janeiro. However, Wales’ very own Sugarloaf mountain boasts a different and equally as impressive experience, we believe. Standing at 596 meters, it’s one of the highest peaks in the Powys and Monmouthshire mountain range, the Black Mountains. Creating a stunning skyline for the town below – Abergavenny – when you reach the top you will be met with stunning views of South Wales, the Brecon Beacons and even South-West England. A popular spot for keen walkers, heather and bracken outline the mountain’s crooked paths, while skylarks, swallows and red kites soar high into the sky.

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Penarth Pier – Santa Monica Pier in LA



Penarth Pier at sunset
Penarth Pier at sunset



Santa Monica pier can easily be mistaken for Penath, we think
Santa Monica pier can easily be mistaken for Penath, we think

Waves lapping on the sandy shores below and wooden boards creaking as you wander along the pier with an ice cream in hand can both be said for the piers located in Santa Monica and the Victorian seaside town of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan. And while LA’s pier may boast a few more theme park rides and attractions, Penarth’s has history, character, stunning surroundings, a cinema, a cafe, a quaint pebble beach where you can munch on fish and chips, and a beautiful (albeit brown) sea ​​- what more could you want?

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Swap Iceland’s northern lights for Elan Valley’s stargazing site



Elan Valley is equally as magnificent as the views you can get in Iceland
Elan Valley is equally as magnificent as the views you can get in Iceland



Who needs the Northern Lights when you have Elan Valley nights?
Who needs the Northern Lights when you have Elan Valley nights?

If stargazing in Iceland has been on your bucket list for as long as you can remember, but you can’t quite justify the cost, Wales has the next best thing: the Elan Valley Estate in the Cambrian Mountains. Having achieved International Dark Sky Park status in 2015, it possesses an “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights,” according to its website. With nine Milky Way Class Dark Sky Discovery Sites and an International Dark Sky Park, there are many opportunities to get a sparkling experience under the stars that rivals that of the Northern Lights.

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