Discover the Best Backpacking Destinations Around the World
Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime? From the misty jungles of Nicaragua to the remote beauty of Fiji's East Coast, we've handpicked the best backpacking destinations around the globe. Get ready to traverse the Inca Trail in Peru, discover hidden gems in Cambodia, immerse yourself in the colorful culture of India, and so much more. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie, a culture enthusiast, or a nature lover, this article is your ultimate guide to the most captivating and unforgettable destinations for backpackers. So, grab your backpack and let's embark on an exhilarating journey through some of the world's most awe-inspiring places!
On my first trip around the world in 2008, I embarked on a journey through Central America without a clear destination in mind. I was aware that there were many countries to explore in this region, and Nicaragua stood out as one of the most affordable options. Taking a leap of faith, I booked a ticket to Mexico and eventually made my way to Nicaragua after traveling through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala for five weeks.
During my time in Nicaragua, I stayed at one of the most budget-friendly hostels I have ever encountered. I only paid $1.50 for a bed, although there was no air conditioning. However, the fans provided sufficient relief from the heat. Additionally, the cost of doing laundry was only $0.30 per kilogram, although I did lose a few clothing items, including two expensive swimming pants worth each. Despite this setback, I managed to purchase a new pair for just $1, and they served me just as well. It was a humorous experience!
One night, while I was out at a bar in Antigua, I ran out of cash and had to withdraw from the ATM. However, I received two notes worth $30 each. When I tried to pay using one of the $30 notes, I was informed that it wasn't acceptable. As the only foreigner in the club, the bartender kindly offered to keep a tab for me. At the end of the night, when I needed to pay for my approximately 8 rum and coke drinks, they requested a smaller note as the total amount was less than $10. It reminded me of the situation in the Philippines, where the more rum you consume, the cheaper the drink becomes. Countries where alcohol is cheaper than water should definitely be considered the best backpacking destinations in the world! It's quite amusing!
This Central American country gained attention in January 2017 as the location where Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank got engaged. Not only does Nicaragua offer luxury eco resorts, but it also has budget-friendly backpacking accommodation. One of the highlights of Nicaragua is the volcanic island of Ometepe, which provides opportunities for hiking a volcano, swimming under waterfalls, and relaxing on the beach.
This is a personal recommendation of mine! Colombia has long been associated with drugs, corruption, and crime, which can be attributed to the portrayal of the country in US anti-communism media since the 60s. However, those who have traveled to Colombia to escape the higher costs and tourism in Peru and Ecuador can attest to the contrary. Piers, a legendary figure among hostel managers with a magnificent head of hair that demands the purchase of a beer, taught English in Colombia's capital city, Bogota, for three months. He describes Colombians as some of the friendliest and most curious individuals he has ever encountered. The country's diverse landscapes provide endless opportunities for exploration and photography. From the relaxed Caribbean coast to the passion for football, as well as a rich political and morbid history that still resonates today, Colombia offers everything.
Considered one of the top backpacker destinations in the world, Colombia offers an unparalleled experience in its capital city, Bogota. Much of the backpacker accommodation is centered around the La Candelaria district. Here, you'll find trendy bars and eateries within easy reach of the city's major landmarks.
The Granada Hostel is a centrally located option that offers a fantastic terrace for mingling with fellow backpackers and an energetic, sociable atmosphere.
Few destinations can boast having it all, but Peru is certainly one of them. A trek to Machu Picchu should be on every backpacker's bucket list, but the country offers so much more. Exploring the Amazon in a dugout canoe and immersing oneself in the vibrant culture of the Andes are experiences not to be missed.
When it's time to recharge, head to the backpacker hangouts on the Pacific coast for surfing, sunbathing, and laid-back beach parties.
Lima © Shutterstock
Inca Trail, Peru
Peru is an extraordinary destination for backpacking. While exploring its capital city, Lima, and the beach town of Máncora can be rewarding, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world, is a truly special experience.
The Secret Garden in Lima is the highest-rated hostel, offering a vibrant barbecue area and even its own nightclub!
Palawan, the Philippines
Looking for an adventure? Look no further than Palawan in the Philippines. This island has so much to offer thrill-seeking backpackers, from zip-lining to shark diving. Prepare to tick off some bucket list experiences during your visit.
Siargao Island - The Philippines
Siargao Island is a paradise for surfers and one of the most beautiful islands in the world. It offers a plethora of natural wonders, including waterfalls, lagoons, caves, and lush jungles. Moreover, it is an idyllic destination for nature lovers. Don't miss the opportunity to witness the captivating sunset over the ocean from the pier on Cloud 9 beach with a cold beer in hand. It's a truly magical experience.
Mad Monkey hostels have gained legendary status among backpackers, and Mad Monkey Siargao is no exception. With a spacious social area centered around a swimming pool, a tiki bar, and a restaurant, this hostel provides a lively atmosphere for travelers. They are renowned for their lively events and bar crawls, and once their bar closes, the staff leads guests to the best parties on the island.
India is another incredible budget-friendly destination. Despite the stories and cautionary tales surrounding travel in India, this country has so much to offer that it cannot be ignored as one of the most amazing places in the world. Yes, India can be intimidating, but it is undeniably one of the cheapest countries to explore.
Traveling in India won't strain your wallet, and in return, you'll have the opportunity to savor incredible cuisine, witness breathtaking landscapes, and experience unforgettable moments. Personally, I find India to be one of the best countries for food exploration. While many advise caution when consuming street food and local dishes, I choose to embrace these culinary delights. I have always tried street food, dined at local restaurants, and indulged in delicious fruit juices without any ill effects. India is a captivating travel adventure!
Bolivia, South America
© Photo: iStock
A trip to Bolivia guarantees an unforgettable experience. This South American country is a popular destination for backpackers due to its affordable accommodation, stunning architecture, and, of course, the famous salt flats, where you can capture epic photos to cherish for years to come.
Surat Thani - Thailand
You may be surprised to learn that Surat Thani is one of our top recommendations for backpacking destinations. While it has previously served as a starting point for travelers heading to the eastern Thai islands, backpackers are increasingly discovering the authentic Thai experience it offers away from tourist crowds. Start your day by exploring peaceful temples in the city center, such as the majestic Surat Thani Pillar Shrine. Then, join locals for a relaxed evening with Chang beers at the laid-back Ban Don Pier. From there, you can hire a longtail boat to navigate the surrounding canals, observing rural life and even encountering monitor lizards. And, of course, make sure to indulge in the mouthwatering Thai food available at the vibrant night market.
Just two minutes' walk from the market, you'll find Boundary Hostel and Cafe. This rustic, family-run establishment exudes local charm and offers comfortable dormitories, along with unrivaled hospitality and a complimentary breakfast. The staff are more than happy to recommend unique local experiences, and they can assist with arranging transportation to the nearby islands when you're ready to move on.
Koh Lanta, Thailand
© Photo: iStock
Thailand has long been a go-to destination for backpackers, and it's easy to see why. With its great weather, rich culture, and lively nightlife, it offers an affordable and enticing experience for budget travelers. Instead of flocking to the overcrowded beaches of Koh Phi and Maya Bay, consider visiting the quieter islands of Koh Lanta or Railay Bay, where you can immerse yourself in Thai lifestyle and enjoy the stunning beaches.
If you're looking for accommodation in Koh Lanta, Hub of Joys Hostel receives rave reviews and is a favorite among backpackers.
Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a hidden gem among backpacker destinations in Southeast Asia. It may not be as frequented as other countries in the region, but it offers unspoiled beaches, a rich culture, and incredible experiences. Unawatuna, in particular, is a favorite among many backpackers due to its laid-back atmosphere and a wide range of comfortable beachside hostels and resorts.
Scandinavia may have a reputation for being expensive, but don't let that deter you from visiting Copenhagen. This Danish city offers plenty of activities to keep you entertained, from exploring the art scene in Christiania (Freetown) to ascending the Round Tower for panoramic views. And, of course, you must indulge in some delicious Danish pastries or sample the famous cheesecake at Bertels Salon Kompagnistæde!
For backpacking within Europe, Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is the perfect destination. With its affordable accommodations and fascinating culture, exploring the major sights on foot becomes an enjoyable and cost-effective experience. Make sure not to miss the opportunity to climb to the top of Linnahall, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and the Baltic Sea.
© Photo: iStock
Embarking on a backpacking adventure in Budapest, Hungary, promises a memorable experience. Not only is it an affordable destination, but it also offers a diverse array of attractions. From exploring UNESCO World Heritage sites to visiting the Széchenyi Medicinal Baths, the largest spa bath in Europe, where you can indulge in some well-deserved pampering, Budapest has something for everyone.
Planning a cheap weekend getaway? Flights to Budapest can be found for just £8 through Skyscanner - perfect!
Maybe Iran isn't the typical backpacking destination for beginners, but why not give it a try? Traveling in Iran is an incredible experience and offers a more authentic budget travel experience compared to Southeast Asia. You don't need to go off the beaten path in Iran because you're already off it!
Welcome to the Middle East, a region that is still relatively undiscovered by backpackers! Traveling to Iran was a pleasant surprise for me and gave me a glimpse into a world that is not often portrayed in the media. With its beauty, relaxed atmosphere, and budget-friendly accommodations, Iran is one of the best places to travel on a budget.
How much do you think a 2-week itinerary for Iran costs? Click on the link above to find out how I managed to do it all for as little as $300.
Hà Giang - Vietnam
Hà Giang is the northernmost province of Vietnam, a stunning area that is often overlooked by backpackers due to its distance from the usual hotspots. But don't let that discourage you! Hà Giang offers untouched scenery and a unique adventure. Start your journey in the provincial capital of Hà Giang and rent a motorbike to explore the region's winding roads. Along the way, you'll encounter rural communities, small towns, and ancient traditions, all against the backdrop of the breathtaking green mountains that make Hà Giang unforgettable.
NoMadders Hostel is the perfect base on the outskirts of the city. Their dorms are affordable, starting at £4 a night, and you can also opt for a private hut for a bit more luxury. The hostel offers an outdoor pool, a patio surrounded by jungle, a bar, and even a hot tub, ensuring that you'll have the best backpacker experience.
Gijón - Spain
Once a quiet fishing port, Gijón in Spain's Asturias region is now a hot spot for surfing, eating, and partying. Solo travelers will feel right at home here, as the city has a vibrant and social atmosphere. Don't miss the opportunity to try the traditional cider, poured from a great height in the bars of the Centro district. And before you hit the town, make sure to visit Playa de San Lorenzo for some beach yoga and surfing. Gijón's relaxed vibe is irresistible!
If you're looking for a lively place to stay in Gijón, check out Gijón Surf Hostel. They offer affordable board rentals, lessons, and a convenient location close to the beach. The hostel is housed in a large building and features a garden, a bar, and even free yoga classes every night. It's the perfect place to experience the chilled spirit of Gijón.
Liège - Belgium
Liège, Belgium's fourth largest city, is often overlooked in favor of more popular destinations like Bruges and Brussels. However, Liège has so much to offer! With its incredible architecture, cultural gems, and delicious food, it manages to maintain a laid-back small town vibe that will make you feel right at home. Don't miss the chance to try a Liège waffle, famous for its exploding sugar grains, and take a leisurely walk along the Meuse River. For a local tipple, head to Place du Marché, where you'll find an array of traditional bars and pubs that come alive in the evening.
For a lively place to stay in Liège, look no further than Liège Youth Hostel. Not only is it stylish and chic, but it also offers great social spaces, including an on-site bar with pool tables, an outdoor area with ping pong tables, and a colorful café where you can enjoy your complimentary breakfast. Meeting new friends is a breeze here, and it's only a 5-minute walk from Liège's best nightlife.
You don't need to leave the UK for an exciting trip! London is a must-visit destination for backpackers, with plenty of attractions and free things to do. From iconic landmarks like the London Eye, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace to exploring different neighborhoods such as Camden, Chelsea, and Shoreditch, you'll never run out of things to see and do.
Portland (Maine) - USA
Trendy Portland, Oregon may already be on your radar, but have you considered Portland, Maine? This small East Coast city offers a unique experience that shouldn't be missed. With its cobbled streets, boutique shops, and vibrant arts scene, Portland has a quirky charm that sets it apart. Don't forget to visit the oldest public art museum in the US and explore the city's famed farmers' market. And of course, make time to sample the local craft breweries. You'll wonder why more people aren't talking about Portland's cool credentials!
For a funky place to stay in Portland, check out The Black Elephant Hostel. This cozy and cool hostel has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with colorful and mismatched interiors. It's conveniently located next to the Old Port, making it the perfect base for exploring the city. After a day of adventures, you can relax in front of the fireplace in the communal lounge.
Arizona offers incredible opportunities for wild camping, and the Grand Canyon should be at the top of your list. One popular route is trekking from the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park to the South Rim, allowing you to take in the stunning scenery and even visit Ribbon Falls, a unique waterfall within the desert landscape.
Guess what? We can't forget about New Zealand! It's our second home and an amazing destination for backpackers. New Zealand offers something for everyone, from its unique culture to its stunning landscapes. Whether you're hiking through mountains, learning to surf in Raglan, or skydiving over its picturesque landscapes, you'll have unforgettable experiences in New Zealand. Don't miss iconic attractions like Hobbiton and bungy jumping. It's a country that will leave you wanting more!
We absolutely love Fiji! Many of us at Base have traveled there in recent years and have fallen in love with the country. The main island, Viti Levu, offers a mix of culture, history, rainforests, southern surf beaches, and incredible snorkeling and scuba diving spots on the northern coast. And then there are the islands off the coast of Nadi, each more beautiful than the last! Manta Ray Island and Beachcomber Island are must-visit destinations. The Fijians are the happiest and friendliest hosts we've ever encountered, making Fiji one of our top backpacking destinations.
East Coast, Australia
© Photo: iStock
Embark on the trip of a lifetime along Australia's East Coast. Start in Sydney and take in the famous sights before making your way to Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, Fraser Island, the Whitsundays, and finally, the Great Barrier Reef. It's an unforgettable journey that will make you fall in love with Australia.
Laos, South East Asia
Laos is the perfect addition to a backpacking trip through Thailand and Vietnam. This inviting country in Southeast Asia offers adventure and culture at every turn. One of the most popular activities in Laos is tubing in Vang Vieng, where you can float down the river and take in the stunning surroundings.
Indonesia is a must-visit country for backpackers. With affordable meals, cheap beer, and a diverse landscape, it's a budget traveler's paradise. While Bali is the most popular destination in Indonesia, there are so many other islands to explore. If you want to get off the beaten path, head to Java and Sumatra, where you can enjoy delicious and affordable food, visit local markets, and discover amazing waterfalls. And if you're up for adventure, Sulawesi offers unique experiences, like exploring the fascinating Tana Toraja region.
When traveling around Bali, renting a scooter is a must. It's the best way to explore the island and discover hidden gems. And the best part? Scooter rental in Bali is incredibly cheap, starting at just $3 a day.
Ready to swim with manta rays or explore the rugged coastlines of Nusa Penida? Check out my Nusa Penida blog for all the amazing things you can do on this beautiful island. And for the adventurous travelers, a trekking adventure to Mount Rinjani in Lombok or trying magic mushrooms in Gili Trawangan are truly unforgettable experiences. Bali may be popular, but there's so much more to discover in Indonesia.
Nusa Penida - Indonesia
Move over Bali, Nusa Penida is the top backpacking destination for 2020! This Indonesian island is located southeast of the popular backpacker haven and is known for its breathtaking cliffs and stunning Kelingking Beach. But there's so much more to Nusa Penida than that! From sacred caves halfway up a mountain to abandoned treehouses turned lookout points and swimming with giant manta rays, every moment on Nusa Penida is an adventure. And of course, don't miss the legendary sunsets and delicious local food available at affordable prices. It's no wonder Nusa Penida is our number one destination for 2020.
For a fabulous place to stay on Nusa Penida, check out Nuansa Penida Hostel. This boutique hostel offers beautiful bungalows, a Bali-inspired pool, and outdoor spaces where you can enjoy your complimentary breakfast. Renting a moped from the hostel is a great way to explore the island in style!
These are our top 20 places to visit in 2020. Which one will you choose for your next adventure? And if you've already been to any of these destinations, we'd love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment and let us know! Here's to another year of amazing travels!
If you're traveling on a budget and looking for the cheapest country in the world to visit, consider Central America as your destination. Over the past few years, Guatemala has become one of my favorite places to visit. Recently, I traveled to Guatemala again and found that prices are still very affordable. Getting around Guatemala is easy with public buses and cheap shuttle services available throughout the country.
In 2008, I decided to study Spanish in Panajachel, a breathtaking village on Lake Panajachel. I paid $105 for 30 hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons with a teacher, and for an additional $55, I stayed with a local family for one week, including all meals.
Some hostels in Guatemala cost as little as $5 per night, and the standards are good. I didn't participate in any tours and traveled through Guatemala on my own. Tikal, an ancient Mayan city and one of the best places to visit in Guatemala, was easy to reach using public transportation.
A cinema ticket in Antigua only cost $2, but I remember a fellow traveler saying it was expensive. At first, I laughed, but then I realized he had a point because he paid the same price for his hostel bed.
One of the best things to do in Guatemala is an overnight trip to Acatenango Volcano. From the top of Acatenango, you'll have breathtaking views of Volcan de Fuego, an active volcano that erupts around three times per hour. The hike is challenging, but the reward is incredible.
Central America is undoubtedly one of the best backpacking destinations in the world. Guatemala is my favorite place, but I can also recommend the best places to visit in Honduras and the best places to visit in El Salvador.
Central Asia (tracing the Silk Road)
Intrepid travelers have been rediscovering this part of the world recently. While not as popular as other backpacker regions, it's a great choice if you're looking for something a bit different.
This route begins in Turkey and then heads east into the Caucasus region, passing through Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. It then crosses the Caspian Sea into Kazakhstan, potentially reaching as far as Mongolia and remote Western China.
In terms of travel logistics, the route starts off easy but becomes a bit challenging in the middle. Crossing from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan across the Caspian Sea requires catching a ferry that operates only once a week. Not everyone can obtain visas for Iran or Russia to bypass this, but overlanding via either of these countries can provide an interesting variation of this route. The "-stan" countries are still rarely visited, though they have recently seen more interest as developing ecotourism and adventure travel destinations.
I have already traveled through Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia as part of this route, and I look forward to exploring the rest in the future.
One of my latest additions to this list of cheap countries to travel to is Georgia. Some people consider it part of Europe, which would make it the first European country on the list. As you all know, I love traveling in Asia because it offers the best value for money for backpackers. However, in Georgia, you can take a 4-hour train ride for just , and going out for food won't cost you more than . Even buying a lift ticket for skiing is affordable at $15.
The two biggest cities in Georgia, Tbilisi and Batumi, are full of world travelers and nomads, making it easy to meet people. If you're wondering where to go and what to do, check out my Batumi Travel Guide and Tbilisi Travel Guide.
When you book an Airbnb in Georgia, there's a good chance you'll receive some free bottles of wine, as Georgians love making their own wines. Another reason why Georgia deserves a spot on this list of the best places to backpack in the world is its easy-going visa policy. Europeans, Americans, Australians, Koreans, and others can obtain a visa for 365 days. Isn't that amazing?
If you want to explore multiple countries in Africa, consider focusing on the southern part of the continent. South Africa is a convenient starting point with good international flight connections and a more familiar Western vibe, which can help you settle in.
However, traveling in this part of the world can be a bit frustrating at times. Public transportation in Africa is often limited and can be unsafe, making it less convenient to get around.
One option is to take the Baz Bus in South Africa, a hop-on hop-off backpacker bus service that can take you from Cape Town all the way to Johannesburg. While it involves sticking to a schedule, it is easier than taking regular buses.
South Africa itself offers a variety of experiences and can easily take six weeks to explore thoroughly. From there, you may consider adding trips to nearby destinations such as Swaziland, Lesotho, the beaches of Mozambique, the deserts of Namibia, or even Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border.
South Africa has been a popular destination for several years, and international tourism has grown significantly recently. Simon, our marketing guru and the face of Base, was born and bred in South Africa. According to Simon, "Head to the southern tip of Africa for great food and wine, beautiful beaches, or get lost in Kruger National Park while spotting animals in the wild. It's an absolute must-do for your bucket list."
Elephants in South Africa.
A Grand Tour of Europe
Traveling through Europe is relatively easy, but it can be expensive, especially in Western or Northern Europe. There's no specific route that everyone follows, as you can pretty much go anywhere from anywhere, and the geography doesn't force a particular path. There are numerous ways to explore Europe instead of a single route.
One of the best ways to navigate Europe is by train, occasionally supplemented by buses. The rail network in Europe is among the world's best. Consider taking some overnight trains to enhance your travel experience. Another great option is purchasing a European rail pass, which offers unlimited travel on the continent for a fixed price (with some conditions, of course).
Don't forget about the central and peripheral parts of Europe. Countries like Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are more affordable and receive fewer tourists. The same goes for the Balkans and the Baltic states. You can have an incredible time backpacking through the Balkans and spend only a fraction of what you would in Western Europe.
One tip for backpacking in Europe is to not limit yourself to just the cities. It's tempting to only visit capitals, but try to explore the countryside within each country for a more diverse experience.
Learn more: Jump to the Europe region page or read about backpacking Southeast Europe.
While no longer part of the Middle East, Turkey is an Islamic country with a significant European influence. It offers a great mix of cultures and is highly underrated. Traveling to Turkey is always a good idea, and there is so much more to see besides Istanbul and the coastal areas.
Check out my list of the most beautiful places to visit in Turkey and discover hidden monasteries, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Maldives-like beaches in the middle of the country, the rugged Black Sea coast, Ottoman Empire cities, majestic mosques, ancient Greek cities, and unique landscapes. Turkey is a fantastic backpacking destination with affordable prices for food, drinks, accommodation, and tours.
Renting a car in Turkey for two weeks costs just $400, and the price of a liter of gas is less than $1. These conditions make it perfect for an ultimate road trip and to experience some of the best things Turkey has to offer. Check out my ultimate 2-week Turkey itinerary for more information about the costs of traveling in Turkey.
More affordable, exotic, and wilder than other Western European countries, Spain stands out as a favorite among our readers.
Spain is vast and incredibly diverse, offering a world within itself. From Moorish cities in the south to Barcelona's Modernista landmarks, and from hip districts in Madrid to tiny mountain villages frozen in time, Spain is much more than just a beach vacation destination.
In our tips for backpacking through Europe, you'll find useful ideas for your backpacking trip in Spain.
Cadiz and its famous cathedral © Sopotnicki/Shutterstock
Many travelers have told me that China wasn't as cheap as they had hoped for, but it all depends on what you do and how you travel!
I spent one month traveling around China, from Beijing to Tibet, Chengdu, and back to the East coast. I took multiple bullet trains, a domestic flight, experienced three 24-hour train rides, went on a three-day tour to a secluded National Park, saw the biggest Buddha, met the Terracotta Warriors, explored the Great Wall, and took a boat tour on the Yangtze River in Yongsue. And all of this cost me just 0.
That's why I believe China is one of the cheapest places to travel in the world!
I know China may not sound appealing to everyone, but have you been there? It's worth giving it a chance! Yes, we all complain about Chinese tourists around the world, but what is it really like to travel in China? Go and find out for yourself, you'll be surprised! Plus, as I mentioned earlier, there are endless amazing places to visit in China, offering culture, history, stunning nature, and plenty of super cool adventures. I truly believe China is one of the best places to backpack in the world!
It's no wonder Cambodia is a favorite destination for backpackers. Like its neighboring country Thailand, Cambodia offers beautiful beaches, jungles, and rich culture, along with historic sites like the ruins of Angkor Wat. And the best part is that accommodation, food, and travel are budget-friendly.
Whether you're planning to visit Phnom Penh, Kampot, or Siem Reap, make sure to book a stay at the immensely popular Mad Monkey Hostels, where a good time is guaranteed.
Very recently, I had the honor of being the first international travel blogger invited by the Ministry of Tourism Bangladesh to visit the country. If you're looking for cheap and unique travel destinations, Bangladesh is a must-visit. Traveling to Bangladesh will be an experience you won't regret.
This country offers incredible adventures for those seeking authenticity. Everywhere you look, you'll see something you've never seen before. Click on the links above to get a feel for what I experienced during my trip to this amazing country and see how I sat on top of a moving train!
And here's another tip from Tom. It's been a while since he was in Jerusalem, about six years, but he absolutely loved his time in Israel. It's one of the most fun and exciting countries he has visited during his travels. Jerusalem is the clear historical and cultural capital, with winding streets in the old city that are home to exciting landmarks. The city is incredibly diverse, with different cultures coming together. Tom recommends taking a bus from the Damascus Gate to the West Bank city of Ramallah. During his time in Ramallah, he met some of the friendliest people and enjoyed trying Taybeh, the Palestinian beer, and sitting with locals for hookah and a game of Shesh Besh. However, please note that tensions and violence have escalated recently in Jerusalem, so always check safety cautions with your local government.
Jerusalem - one of the best backpacking destinations.
One of my favorite countries to visit is Nepal. Not only is it incredibly affordable, but it also offers stunning landscapes and incredibly kind people. The Nepali people truly enhance your backpacking experience. Additionally, the call of the majestic Himalayan peaks is irresistibly enticing.
During my first trip to Nepal in 2013, I never expected to become a hiking enthusiast. However, I fell in love with it. Although I don't have hiking boots hanging off my backpack like some travelers, I believe that hiking boots are highly overrated as a travel product. For a recommended packing list for Nepal, check out my guide to make sure you have all the essential gear.
In 2013, I conquered the Annapurna range wearing nothing but my Nikes and Havaianas sandals. Surprisingly, my total expenditure during my 15-day stay in the mountains was only $180 USD, averaging to just $12 USD per day. In return, I gained some of the most cherished travel memories of my life.
Hiking in Nepal is a life-changing experience that everyone should try. The stunning mountains serve as a reminder of how insignificant we humans truly are. The cost of accommodation in the mountains is as low as $1, while meals start from $1 at lower altitudes and increase to $4 at base camp, which is located over 4,000 meters (13,000 ft) above sea level.
Trekking in Nepal brings travelers together. With no internet or electricity, everyone eats together at the same table. You'll have the opportunity to interact with random strangers who share the same goals and mindset. That's why I highly recommend Nepal as an amazing place for solo travel. If you're looking for a budget destination that offers great value for your money, Nepal should definitely be at the top of your list. Don't miss the Poonhill Trek or the Langtang Valley trek that takes you towards the Chinese border.
We'll defer to Tom, the heart and soul behind Australia's most Instagrammed hostel. A seasoned traveler, Tom describes Tibet as an incredible country amidst the political unrest between the Chinese government and Tibetan natives. The stunning landscape alone warrants a visit, but the experience of visiting small towns between the capital Lhasa and the Nepalese border is unique. These towns are filled with jovial individuals who enjoy cabaret bars and beer. However, poverty and fear due to the current Chinese rule are evident. Yet, the people you meet will display an undiminished contentment. If you have the chance, visit a small western town called Lhatse to savor the best Momo's (Tibetan dumplings) you'll find.
Few destinations can compare to what Peru has to offer. A trek to Machu Picchu is a must for every backpacker, but exploring the Amazon in a dugout canoe and immersing yourself in the vibrant culture of the Andes are also highly recommended.
When you need to recharge, head to the backpacker hangouts on the Pacific coast for surfing, sun, and relaxed beach parties.
Lima © Shutterstock
South America (Gringo Trail)
The Gringo Trail stretches from Panama all the way to northern Chile. Beyond that point, it extends east into Argentina and up into Brazil as a side route.
While the Atlantic side sees fewer travelers, with fewer people visiting countries like Suriname or Venezuela, the Pacific side of South America offers plenty of backpacker infrastructure.
Covering long distances can be challenging as South America is truly vast. Key points of interest can be spread far apart, and budget flights are relatively rare. Therefore, you may find yourself sitting on long-distance buses to cover some ground. I still shudder at the memory of taking a non-stop 20-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Iguazu!
However, it is the sheer size and perceived remoteness that makes South America one of the ultimate regions for travel. Every step of the journey feels truly epic.
Along the loosely defined Gringo Trail, you'll find numerous major attractions, including the Inca ruins in Peru, the salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia, and the breathtaking waterfalls of Foz do Iguaçu on the Argentina-Brazil border. You'll also want to venture into the Amazon rainforest in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, or Brazil.
English is not widely spoken in this region, so it's worth learning the local language, especially Spanish. What sets South America apart from other regions is the opportunity for meaningful interactions with locals, beyond the tourism industry, if you have even basic Spanish language skills.
Learn more: Find detailed information on the South America region page.
Puerto Rico is a small yet diverse country, offering a wide range of experiences within a short distance and without breaking your budget. From rainforests to rocky coastlines, surf beaches to mountains, and Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico has it all. The historic capital city of San Juan is home to 16th-century forts listed as World Heritage sites, with El Morro being the most popular. Backpackers can find affordable hostels, food, and a bustling party scene. For a more relaxing experience, head to the popular island of Rincon off the west coast, known for its world-class surfing, tropical rainforests, scuba diving, snorkeling, whale watching, and beachfront bars.
Explore the natural beauty of Iceland, which is home to the incredible Blue Lagoon and breathtaking scenery. If you visit between October and April, you may be lucky enough to witness the Northern Lights, an experience you will never forget.
Flights to Reykjavik start from just £12 via Skyscanner. March is a great time to start packing!
Uruguay has also made it to our list! Why? It's an affordable destination that is slightly off the beaten path of traditional South American travels. Nestled between Brazil and Argentina, this little piece of paradise is often overlooked by backpackers following the traditional route from Rio to Buenos Aires. La Barra Beach in Uruguay has repeatedly been recognized as one of the world's best party beaches. Need we say more?
If you've seen the hilarious Australian sitcom "Summer Heights High," you may have developed an interest in visiting the remote Pacific island of Tonga. Tom, a German traveler and lover of coffee and beer, describes Tonga as a "hidden treasure" and one of the last remaining unique and untouched kingdoms in the world. The heritage of this little gem dates back to the 12th century. Don't miss the weekly vegetable and fish market in the charming capital of Nuku'alofa or the opportunity to try the best chicken rotisserie in the Pacific. Highlights include a variety of snorkeling spots, whale watching from the beaches, and a memorable public bus experience!
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From lush rainforests to picturesque beaches, ancient ruins to vibrant cities, the best backpacking destinations beckon adventurous souls to embark on unforgettable journeys. Whether you desire the cultural immersion of India, the breathtaking landscapes of New Zealand, or the mystical allure of Tibet, the world is your oyster. Traverse the historic Silk Road in Central Asia, discover the hidden gem of Nicaragua's Ometepe Island, or find solace in the tranquility of Thailand's Koh Lanta. With a backpack strapped to your back and an insatiable hunger for exploration, let these incredible destinations be the backdrop to your extraordinary adventures. So, pack your bags, embrace the unknown, and let the backpacking expedition of a lifetime begin.
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