If you’re keen on gallivanting around the world but don’t have the funds to leg it across continents in five-star luxury, backpacking is the obvious option. It’s much more of an adventure, you get to see places that are slightly off the beaten track, and it’s a perfect way to travel with your mates. Here’s some of our favourite new locations for an excellent backpacking experience.
Sitting right at the top of Africa, Morocco has everything from lavish cities to vast desert, and its affordability and ease of travel makes it ideal for backpackers. CTM buses – though they might not be luxurious – will take you around the country cheaply and conveniently, and there are plenty of hostels and shared lodgings that welcome backpackers. From the Atlas Mountains to the spice markets and incredible cuisine in cities like Marrakech, Fez and Casablanca, there’s almost too much to do in Morocco.
#2 Bosnia & Herzegovina
Plonked right in the heart of the Balkan region in central Europe, this former Yugoslavian state is steeped in history and culture. It’s in Europe’s incredibly convenient Schengen zone so you don’t even have to think about visas, it’s super cheap (you can get by on less than $40 a day) and there’s plenty to see and do. The country’s multitude of occupiers over the last few centuries have left a trail of many cultures, so you can see everything from Turkish-style cities to Dervish monasteries built onto cliff walls and moving memorials to the Srebrenica genocide. Plus, the mix of influences makes for one hell of a food culture, and the country is rich with fresh fruit, amazing coffee and traditional Balkan dishes.
It used to have a reputation for being a little bit shifty, but this Central American country is cheap, cheerful and actually pretty safe. You can take scuba diving lessons off the island of Utila, hike through the jungles, visit Mayan ruins from the country’s Mesoamerican history and try the local delicacies of coffee, tropical fruit and sugar cane.
Another incredibly under-visited place, the stunning ex-communist country of Albania is definitely about to explode in terms of tourism. It’s another Balkan state (hey, maybe combine it with that Bosnia trip!) but has a completely different culture, having only fallen from communism in 1989. You can fly into the country’s capital of Tirana, which is both youthful and vibrant, or jump on a ferry from Italy or Greece to reach some of the country’s hugely varied terrain, from stunning beaches to Alps complete with wild boars and goats.
#5 Mont Blanc
Look, we know it’s not actually a country per se, but if you’re backpacking in Europe you can’t miss this one. Straddling France, Switzerland and Italy, the Tour de Mont Blanc is considered one of Europe’s best long-distance walks and tends to take around a week. You’ll cover glaciers, wildflower plains and plenty of adorable Alpine villages and chalets – and hey, if all else fails, between French, Italian and Swiss cuisine just think of the carbs you’ll need for all that walking. Did someone say fondue?
Most of South America is amazing for backpackers thanks to its affordability, relative ease of transport and beautiful sights pretty much everywhere – but Peru has to be a highlight. For a start, there’s the Inca Trail towards Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca – the highest lake in the world – and plenty of culturally rich archaeological sites. The food is amazing, unique and cheap, and it’s also the birthplace of the Pisco Sour cocktail if you fancy a tipple.
A pilgrimage for many Australians come ANZAC Day and Gallipoli commemoration times, the only country to sit on two continents (literally separated by a bridge) is pretty special year-Round. From traditional Turkish baths (hamans) to stunning mosques and Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, you can experience a distinct Middle Eastern culture the further east you go, and be surrounded by European-style cities in the west. Also: more kebabs than you can ever dream of.
Again, not a country in itself, but Alaska is definitely an underrated and exciting part of the USA – just don’t forget your coat! With soaring mountain ranges and glaciers, beautifully clear lakes and fjords and some incredible wild animals, it’s a fairly untouched natural beauty and perfect if you’re a strong hiker or lover of snow sports. Its capital city, Anchorage, sits at the bottom of a mountain range and is a perfect base from which to explore the rest of the state – and it also has what is apparently the third best pizzeria in the whole US. Worth a try!
#9 Sri Lanka
Fancy visiting lush jungles, postcard-worthy beaches and authentic cultural experiences in a place that still hasn’t had the high-end tourism footprint planted on it yet? Sri Lanka’s your country, for sure. The small island off the coast of India is easy to travel around by train, and from the beautiful Sigiyira Rock to the ancient ruins of pools and temples at Anuradhapura that are still used as holy sites today, it’s a unique country that’s ripe for a visit just before it becomes too touristy.
More than just pints of Guinness and potatoes (though both are pretty good), travelling through Ireland is full of beautiful surprises. You’ve got amazing mountains to hike, ancient castles to explore and cities steeped in Ireland’s tumultuous and interesting history. With discounts for students and young people on lots of sights, easily accessible public transport systems and affordable B&Bs everywhere, it’s a perfect stand-alone trip or addition to a UK or European adventure.
Matilda is a British-Australian-French freelance writer. She has flat-packed IKEA furniture in London and Melbourne, and no idea what's coming next. She’s written for The Guardian, FasterLouder, mX and Grazia, and really likes hot chocolate.