International trips are often seen as luxurious and expensive, out of reach for most people except for once every few years. But this doesn’t have to be true! You can travel the world on shoestring budget if you’re willing to trade luxury for a few personal items and a backpack.
Backpacking can refer to those hiking and camping while carrying everything they need for the trail on their back. It can also refer to a low-cost form of travel, often staying in inexpensive accommodations like hostels, while carrying all necessary possessions in a backpack. Both are wonderful ways to see cities, as well as the natural world.
Of course, you can technically go anywhere if you’re backpacking, however there are cities and parts of the world that are particularly welcoming to travelers who are backpacking. To help you choose here to take your next adventure, we’ve put together this bucket list of some of the world’s best backpacking destinations…
Taman Negara, Malaysia
Taman Negara is Malaysia’s most-visited national park, strung with Amazonian rope bridges over the untamed wilderness. Your hiking journey starts by boat aboard the Kuala Tembling Jetty and leads you through hidden caves, elephant trails, fields of giant mushrooms, and lush jungle. Don’t make this just a weekend stop-over – plan to spend some time in this tropical rainforest.
Patagonia, Chile and Argentina
Panoramic views are what Patagonia (from the Chilean and Argentinian side) is all about. It truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, only serious trekkers should attempt to traverse this multi-day obstacle-strewn landscape made up of frozen cliffs, glaciers, and azure lakes. You have to be in pretty good shape to hike here, and thorough planning is required, but the vivid, uncultivated landscape is worth the sore muscles.
Glacier National Park, Montana, United States
Up North in America’s Montana is Glacier National Park, which is a stunning park to backpack in, complete with a tent and your food for the duration of your trip. The park preserves more than one million acres of forest and boasts alpine meadows, clear blue lakes, and glacier-carved valleys between rugged peaks. Here, you can see aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, year-round, though springtime is optimal viewing time. There are 65 campgrounds with a total of 203 campsites, so there are a number of different routes you can take.
Porto to Algarve, Portugal
Portugal is a stunning coastal haven for backpackers. Most fly down and begin their trek at Porto, making your way leisurely to the Algarve, at the southernmost tip of Portugal on the border of Spain. The walk is fairly easy; in fact, you can take advantage of the stellar public transport system and stop along the coast for wine tours, gorgeous scenery, lively festivals, delicious seafood, and friendly locals.
If you’re traveling on a backpacker’s budget, but want to sunbathe, dine, drink, and explore like royalty, then a trip to Bali, Indonesia is within reach. Not only are the golden beaches stunning, the accommodations and food are super cheap. However, the laid back surfers, other backpackers, and jubilant monkeys you’ll have for company during your journey will be priceless.
Inca Trail, Peru
The Inca Trail has long been coveted as a prime destination for adventurous backpackers seeking the mysteries of Machu Picchu. However, this South American destination offers more for the explorer than simply the forgotten city. If you trek along the Peruvian coastline, you’ll find rich culture, secluded beaches, lively little towns with festivals, great spicy food, and friendly locals.
Bay Islands, Honduras
Bay Islands in Honduras is a cheap place to explore and lay down your weary head after a long day of trekking. It’s also home to stellar scuba diving in the island’s crystal clear waters that are filled to the brim with a colorful collection of marine life, such as vibrant schools of fish, stingray, and whales.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Backpacking amidst the beauty of Halong Bay is like stepping into a fairytale. You’ll be awestruck by the islands and islets that make up the landscape (over 1,600 in all) to form an extravagant seascape of limestone pillars, hidden caves, crevices, and blue lagoons.
Feel like a sultan in Cappadocia, Turkey’s uniquely gorgeous landscape of windblown rocks and hidden crevices. In this city the locals carve out their little homesteads on the side of cliffs and gutted boulders. This land of colorful painted churches is filled with people that are just as colorful and ready to offer a cozy place for tea and a pit stop along your journey. It’s popular “fairy chimneys” – cone shaped rock formations – alone make it one of our top picks!
Yosemite, United States
This park has some of the best overnight hikes in the country, located in America’s California Sierra Nevada mountains, with majestic peaks like El Capitan and Half Dome and treacherous canyons like Tenaya. You’ll be camping in tents and preparing your own meals outdoors here, so you’ll want to make sure you have the right gear. Be warned – Yosemite backpacking requires experience, and isn’t for beginners, though there are suitable day hikes such as the Mirror Lake Loop (easy) and the Four Mile Trail (strenuous, but beautiful). However, the backpacking trails promise gorgeous giant ancient sequoia trees and jaw-dropping views around every switchback to those who make the climb.
Santa Elena, Costa Rica
Howler monkeys will announce your arrival along the Central America backpacking trek of Santa Elena. The small and rustic Costa Rican town is made up of an environment that is almost as charming as the gracious locals who will take you for a salsa twirl, show you where to get the best seafood, find the most comfortable accommodations that are cheap, or walk among the trees via canopy tour.
Australia’s Tasmania was once a jail for British outlaws, which earned this island its unbridled reputation. You’ll believe it to be true when you witness the untouched beauty, preserved forests, sprawling vineyards, and wide open spaces that lead directly into the Southern Pacific Ocean. Stop along the way for a dip in the ocean, to discover the unique rock formations, and perhaps get a glimpse of one of the world’s rarest species, the Tasmanian devil, itself.