With an amazing planet to explore but only so much time and so many resources to go around, backpackers are looking for the best destinations to invest their money and energy into visiting- all while expecting great adventure in return.
The best backpacking destinations will have various terrain, remarkable views, an opportunity to engage with the local culture (food, cuisine, music, etc.), and will be ideal for your level of strenuous or moderate adventuring. Plan wisely and you can hit more than one destination on this list.
While some backpackers will prefer a destination that has strenuous hiking trails, others prefer locations that are not quite as high-adventure. Still, whatever your pace might be, and depending on if you are traveling solo or with a friend, there are beautiful destinations all over the globe for backpackers. Let’s dive into the 11 best backpacking destinations in the world!
1. New Zealand
Whether you are up for a high-adventure backpacking trip or prefer to pack everything in your backpack but stay in a hostel overnight, you can find what you are looking for in magnificent New Zealand.
First, if you are looking for a hiking adventure, you can opt for the Kepler Track in South Island for a real adventure. Along with this, you can keep Fiordland in your mind as you plan to hike from one location to the other- taking in the breathtaking views along the way.
You will also find, in your planning, that there are “9 Great Walks” in New Zealand- perfect trails for backpackers to make their way across. Be sure not to miss these as you plan your backpacking trip to New Zealand.
Then, if you are looking to surf, check out Raglan. If you are looking for nightlife, various terrain, and a multitude of activities, you can check out the ever-popular Queenstown. Regardless of what you are after, the “Kiwis” of New Zealand can show you the ropes in various locations throughout this beautiful country.
Nepal has so much to offer backpackers. If you are looking for a hiking trail, head towards the Annapurna Circuit- a trail through the Annapurna Massif that is filled with beautiful mountain views. Then, at the Base Camp, look for the “Fish Tail” for a view that will truly blow you away and astound you with how big and remarkable the world is.
Also found in Nepal, backpackers can enjoy hiking near wild monkeys in the rainforests, hiking across suspension bridges in the Himalayas, or taking a trip to Kathmandu Valley (which has 130 World Heritage Sites with monuments ready to be explored).
You can also head to local Pokhara to receive amazing hospitality that is incomparable given the simplicity and yet profound nature that this country and Nepalese people bring to the world. Truly, if you are looking for a backpacking adventure that will make you take your breath away, head to Nepal as soon as you can.
Backpackers love the thrill of the Peruvian Andes- not only for their beauty but for some incredible hikes that create lasting impressions for years to come. Even further, you can head towards Cordillera Huayhuash- a subrange of the Peruvian Andes that is snowcapped and absolutely stunning.
Along with that, you can find the ever-popular Machu Picchu, a truly impressive site to visit, especially if you choose to follow the Inca Trail to get there. Of course, you can enjoy your time in the rural town of Pisac, nearby Cusco, as you explore the luscious green and beautiful mountains and volcanoes that Peru has to offer.
Still looking for more mountains and volcanoes? You can head to Arequipa- a beautiful mountain town filled with rich history and culture. And, if you are more in the mood for the oceans, you can hit the coastal Pacific ocean side of the country.
Vietnam is increasing in its popularity as backpackers realize the stellar beauty that comes in the simplicity of the Vietnam countryside, hills, and cliffs. If you are looking for a backpacking trip that is relatively slow-paced, Vietnam could be a great destination for you.
Included in Vietnam, you can head to Ho Chi Minh highway if you want to meet the thrill of the open Vietnamese air via motorcycle. Then, if you are looking for beautiful water and an area to explore the countryside, Ha Long Bay is an incredible place to relax and take in all that this country has to offer.
Further, you can head to Hà Giang, a smaller town away from tourists. Here you will find gorgeous scenery, trails, and the simpler life that is embraced by many who live in this country. Whether you are headed to Vietnam alone or in a group, you will appreciate the jungles and various terrain that you will find here, and the culture native to the people of the land.
There is one reason that it stands out and made its way to the top backpacking destinations list: the Japanese Alps. The Japanese Alps are worth a trip for anyone- especially the adventurous backpacker.
Not only will there be a chance to set up camp and truly embrace the countryside and simple living while backpacking throughout the mountains, but there is so much that can be found among the countryside of Japan that you can explore alongside (or after) you tour through the Japanese Alps.
Many people are aware of various Japanese festivals, and one favorite that backpackers like to attend is in Sendai on August 6-8th for Tanabata Matsuri. At this festival, you will get to experience traditional street food, dancing, music, and more. So, if you are looking to embrace the culture of the country you are backpacking through, Japan is a great place to start.
Indonesia is yet another impressive backpacking country, particularly for the amazing terrain that this country can offer. Whether you are looking for somewhere a bit more fast-paced or something more relaxed, you can find what you are looking for in Indonesia.
Specifically, you will find cliffs, beaches, jungles, and bays. If you head to Nusa Penida (and island), you can find Kelingking Beach with the absolutely most impressive bay that your eyes will feast on. Not just that, but you can appreciate all that comes with the island and the mainland of Indonesia- a backpacker’s haven for exploring local culture at a self-paced nature.
7. United States of America
Whether you are looking for a hot, cold, or somewhere-in-between type of adventure, this country will have what you are looking for. Specifically, you can explore the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Here, you can hike, boulder, or simply take in the views as you make your way through the various trails.
Along with that, you can also explore various points of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado (and you have to hike a “14er” if you are able- a hike that summits past 14,000 ft above sea level). You can also head to Utah for some impressive canyons like Glen Canyon with a beautiful view or a place to take in the night sky.
The North Cascades in Washington State offer a beautiful location to appreciate nature and its grandeur. Then, you can head to Tennessee and the Appalachian trails where campsites abound and backpackers dream.
Finally, you can head to Hawaii to the island of Kauai where you will find remote jungles and island trails that are sure to leave a lasting impression.
8. Sri Lanka
Heading over to southeast Asia, Sri Lanka (near India) offers a highly relaxed vibe for backpackers to take in while enjoying the white sand beaches, jungles, mountains, and other various types of terrain.
Sri Lanka has a railway system that will allow you to travel from one place to the other with smaller backpacking outings on your day trips along the way. You can ride in a Tuk Tuk or a scooter, or sit back and enjoy the beauty of nature in this country.
If you are looking for a laid-back city with plenty of places to rest your head and recharge, you can head to Unawatuna to explore the country’s culture up close and personal. If you are wanting to avoid the hustle and bustle of India but are still looking to appreciate a neighboring country, Sri Lanka is highly beloved by many backpackers who have had the chance to visit.
Heading back to Latin America, Columbia is as bright of a spot on our list as the colors that you will find adorning gorgeous architecture in this country will be. Columbia is a highly impressive country that many backpackers love for the high-adventure types of trips.
If you are looking for nightlife, waterfalls, the jungle, and a beach outing, you can find it all in Buenaventura- a location that will impress you with its culture and opportunities to explore. Otherwise, if you are looking for the beach, you can head to the Caribbean coast. Or, if you are looking to make your way into the city after exploring the nature that this country has to offer, head to Bogota for a thrilling night and city life.
Though often overlooked, backpackers who have visited the Philippines cannot stop talking about it, and for good reason. If you are looking for waterfalls, cliffs, lakes, lagoons, beaches, and jungles, you can find this in Siargao. If you are looking for shark diving, caves, and outdoor adventures like rafting and ziplining, you can find this in Palawan.
If you are looking to take a rest or to hike through the jungle or countryside, you can also find this in the Philippines. Plus, with the beautiful culture that is ever-present, you will appreciate what this country has to offer for the adventurous backpacker.
While many people think of Spanish siestas, bullfighting, dancing, cathedrals, and music, they often forget about the beautiful destinations that backpackers can explore. Specifically, if you are a dedicated hiker, you should have heard of the Camino- a trail that will take you to Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage that has many starting points (including through neighboring Portugal or France).
Other highlights of Spain for a backpacker include the northern trails, southern beaches, and small towns like Toledo that are rich with culture that is sometimes hidden away in the hustle and bustle of larger cities like beautiful Madrid or Barcelona.
Or, if you are looking for a real hidden gem, head to Rio de Montanejos for a swim in the hot springs or a trip white water rafting nearby. Either way, backpackers are sure to be pleased with this country.
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