The area now offers much more than beaches and walks, Lonely Planet said. Picture: Kris Williams, flickr.com

London - Few will be shocked to hear that the ancient ruins of Peru or the beautiful mountains of New Zealand have been rated among the best places in the world to visit.

But some Britons may be pleasantly surprised to learn that a destination much closer to home is giving far more exotic locales a run for their money.

For North Wales has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten holiday regions in the world.

The travel experts ranked the area fourth – more desirable than South Australia, the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia or Aysén in Chile.

For many Britons, North Wales means childhood holidays in Victorian seaside resorts such as Llandudno and Prestatyn, or hiking through stunning mountain scenery around Snowdon.

But the area now offers much more than beaches and walks, Lonely Planet said.

They singled out North Wales because it had managed to transform its former heavy industrial landscape, of slate mines and quarries, into a mecca for white water rafters, surfers and other thrill-seekers.

It boasts Zip World, the fastest zip line in the world – a terrifying 100mph descent over Penrhyn Quarry, near Bethesda, as well as Surf Snowdonia, a man-made wave lagoon, which allows surfers to master six-foot swells at Dolgarrog in the Conwy Valley.

 

 

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It is also home to the ground-breaking Bounce Below giant trampoline centre, which is based in the caverns of a 176-year-old disused slate mine beneath the village of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

And Lonely Planet also praised North Wales for being great for gourmands as well as adventurers – as it is fast becoming a destination for “in-the-know foodies”.

The authors said the opening of the acclaimed Bodnant Welsh Food Centre several years ago and the proliferation of gourmet food festivals has led to a surge in quality restaurants.

Anglesey, which won the hearts of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they set up home together on the island during Prince William’s time with the RAF, boasts its own seafood festival. And earlier this month, Sosban And The Old Butcher’s, in Menai Bridge, became the second restaurant in the area to win a coveted Michelin star.

Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s editorial director, said of North Wales: “It deserves to be recognised on the global stage. It’s a stunning area with a vast array of activities on offer to keep travellers entertained.”

 

 

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The Skellig Ring, a coastal route in Co Kerry, Ireland, which made it onto the list at number ten, is described in the guide as “perhaps Ireland’s most charismatically wild and emerald stretch of coastline”.