Backpackers: Top Destinations and Tips

by Leonardo Rinaldi

Backpacking is a thrilling way to see the world. You get to roam freely with only what you can carry. Where should you go for adventure and affordability? Recent data tells us that Southeast Asia, Europe, Central and South America, Oceania, and North America are hotspots for backpackers. Check it out here.1

Living as a nomad, backpackers meet others like them. They find hidden treasures and soak up new cultures. I’ll guide you through the top destinations for backpacking. Plus, I’ll share tips to make your trip unforgettable. It’s all about backpackers, hostels, budget travel, adventure travel, solo travel, hiking gear, packing light, travel blogs, nomadic lifestyle, and off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Key Takeaways

  • Backpacking offers the freedom to explore the world with minimal belongings
  • Top backpacking destinations span across Southeast Asia, Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and beyond
  • Backpackers can immerse themselves in diverse cultures, meet fellow adventurers, and discover hidden gems
  • This guide will provide practical tips and strategies to plan an unforgettable backpacking journey
  • Backpacking allows travelers to embrace a nomadic lifestyle and experience budget-friendly adventures

Southeast Asia: A Backpacker’s Paradise

Southeast Asia is a top choice for backpackers. It has vibrant cultures, breathtaking scenes, and it’s affordable.2 This area is about 450 million km2 big. It’s much cheaper for travel, stays, food, and fun than the Western world.2

Vibrant Thailand: From Bangkok to Beautiful Islands

Thailand is loved by backpackers for its lively Bangkok, stunning islands, and friendly people.2 You can see beautiful temples, enjoy tasty street food, and join famous parties. From the north’s jungles to the south’s beaches, Thailand has so much to offer.

Vietnam: A Culinary and Cultural Feast

Vietnam’s energy draws backpackers in.2 Cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi show off the country’s history and great food. Backpackers can take the Ho Chi Minh Highway on a bike or see Ha Long Bay by boat. With its rich culture, delicious food, and pretty landscapes, Vietnam is perfect for backpackers.

Mystical Myanmar: Unveiled Treasures

Myanmar is a hidden gem for backpackers. It gives a unique experience. Despite some hard times,2 the people are welcoming. Backpackers can enjoy Myanmar’s ancient temples, do scenic hikes, and learn about local life. The country offers big rewards for those who like adventure.

Laos: Adventure on Two Wheels

Laos, surrounded by mountains and rivers, is great for backpackers.2 Moving around by motorbike lets explorers find special places. Laos has cities with French charm and hidden villages. It’s ideal for those seeking adventure and cultural experiences.

Europe’s Allure for Backpackers

Southeast Asia is classic for backpacking, but Europe is also a big draw. Spain, especially, is a great pick for those traveling on a budget. It’s a mix of old and new, from the south’s Moorish influences to Barcelona’s Modernista wonders.3 The country is filled with lively cities, quaint villages, and beautiful nature. Here, backpackers can enjoy tasty tapas, watch flamenco dances, and dive into Spain’s colorful history.

Spain: Tapas, Flamenco, and Diverse Landscapes

Spain offers much to backpackers with its variety of landscapes, lively urban scenes, and deep cultural roots. They can explore cities like Granada and Córdoba, rich in Moorish history. Or get lost in Barcelona’s unique architecture, a city full of art and innovation. But adventurers will find more than cities to discover in Spain. Think of the striking Pyrenees or the sunny Balearic Islands.

It’s not just about the sights; Spain’s food, music, and hidden spots add to its allure. It’s a place where cultural depth meets affordable travel.3 Its blend of various terrains and architectural styles promises a rich journey for those on the trail.

Spain landscape

Central and South America: Lush and Captivating

Central and South America are fantastic for backpacking, offering a wide range of experiences. From Peru’s ancient Inca ruins to Colombia’s lively cities, there’s something for everyone. Peru is known for Machu Picchu and the Amazon rainforest. Plus, it has relaxing beach towns. Backpackers enjoy hiking in the Andes, canoeing the Amazon, and soaking up the culture.4

Peru: Ancient Wonders and Amazonian Adventures

Peru welcomes backpackers to explore its Inca history and the wild Amazon. Machu Picchu, a famous Inca site, is a highlight. Besides this, Peru has rainforests and calm coastal areas perfect for adventures.4

Colombia: Vibrant Cities and Coffee Culture

Colombia stands out with its lively cities, varied landscapes, and rich culture. In cities like Medellín, you find vibrant streets. Colombia’s Zona Cafetera is famous for its coffee. And, one should not miss the colonial charm of Cartagena. The mix of adventure, beautiful nature, and friendly locals has made Colombia very popular.4

Backpackers in Africa: Unexpected Delights

Backpackers are finding Africa to be full of surprises. Morocco stands out for its mix of Berber, Arabic, and European culture. In places like Marrakech, they dive into lively markets. They also visit old cities and the Sahara Desert for adventure.5

Morocco: Spices, Souks, and Saharan Sands

Adventure seekers love Morocco for its rich culture and beautiful places. They explore Marrakech‘s busy souks and the vast Sahara Desert. It’s a journey full of cultural experiences and natural wonders.6

In Marrakech, backpackers enjoy getting lost in markets. They bargain for spices and unique crafts. The city’s historic sites add to the charm. After, they can head to the Sahara for quiet and amazing views.7

South Africa: Wildlife and Coastal Beauty

South Africa is a must-visit, offering wildlife, beautiful coasts, and adventures. With places like Cape Town‘s Table Mountain and Kruger National Park, there’s much to see. Adventurers will love exploring here, thanks to great tourism.6

In South Africa, backpackers enjoy safaris where they see the “Big Five.” The country’s coasts are also amazing, perfect for hiking, swimming, and relaxing. Cities offer their own excitement, but the wilderness is just as inviting.7


Oceania: Island Hopping and Outdoor Pursuits

Oceania is a dream for backpackers who love outdoor adventures. It’s full of beautiful islands and wild landscapes. This region is unique because it’s all about water, not land connections.8 When you backpack through Oceania, you can do a lot. Imagine visiting Aussie pubs in the outback or trading for coconuts in Vanuatu. It’s perfect for anyone who loves different experiences.

Australia: From Outback to Reef

Australia is a land of contrasts, from the hot, dry Outback to the stunning Great Barrier Reef.8 Oceania’s large areas, like Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands, offer many activities. You can visit beaches, hike mountains, and see unique places.8 The east coast of Australia has a lot to see. There are beautiful beaches, high mountains, and trails for hiking. It’s great for backpackers who want to see cities, meet interesting wildlife, and do road trips along the coast and through the country.

New Zealand: Adrenaline and Natural Wonders

New Zealand is what a backpacker dreams of. It’s famous for amazing landscapes, lots of outdoor things to do, and thrills like bungee jumping.8 Oceania, with countries like Australia and New Zealand, is perfect for adventure-seekers. You can visit the snow-capped Southern Alps or the peaceful Milford Sound. It’s a great place to see different cultures and landscapes. Backpackers can bungee jump, skydive, hike, and enjoy the country’s nature. New Zealand has everything a daring traveler needs. It’s a top choice for backpackers because it’s well set up for tourists and really beautiful.


Asia Beyond Southeast: Hidden Gems

Asia offers hidden gems beyond Southeast Asia, perfect for adventurous backpackers.9 Nepal, for example, is a top choice. It’s great for those who love outdoor adventures and want to dive into new cultures. The country is known for its Himalayan peaks, which offer amazing trekking routes. These allow backpackers to see stunning landscapes and meet local people.

Nepal: Trekking in the Himalayas

Nepal is a paradise for those who seek adventure. It boasts some of the best trekking routes globally. Here, backpackers can take on challenging hikes, experience the local culture, and meet friendly communities. Places like the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp trek are popular for their beauty and local interactions. Nepal is a diverse and warm country, making it ideal for adventurous travelers.

Japan: Ancient Traditions and Modern Marvels

Japan stands out with its mix of ancient customs and modern life.9 Its cities, like Kyoto and Tokyo, are full of serene temples and bright lights. Here, backpackers can discover Japan’s deep cultural roots and its technological advances. The country is rich in historical value, innovative spirit, and natural beauty. It’s a top spot for those curious about the world and eager for new adventures.

Asia adventure

Asia’s vast territories hide countless gems for backpackers. Whether it’s the Himalayas in Nepal or Japan’s mix of old and new, this continent has something for every adventurer.

Backpackers in North America: Diverse Adventures

North America is packed with adventures for backpackers. The United States stands out, with its mix of nature and cities.10 Backpackers can see stunning parks in the West, and visit bustling cities on the East Coast.

In Canada, nature lovers will be thrilled. Its diverse landscapes are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.11 There, you can also explore lively cities, mixing different cultures and traditions. This creates a special experience for travelers.

USA: From National Parks to Vibrant Cities

11 The US is a dream for backpackers. It has famous parks like Yellowstone and vibrant cities such as New York. Backpackers can enjoy the great outdoors or dive into American culture in the cities.

Canada: Rugged Wilderness and Cultural Mosaic

Canada is huge and full of wild beauty and rich culture.11 It has everything, from the towering Rockies to the quiet Arctic. In Canadian cities, backpackers will find a mix of cultures that’s truly one of a kind.

North America adventure

Planning Your Backpacking Adventure

When planning your backpacking adventure, think about your budget first.12 Search for cheap places to stay, like hostels. Look for affordable ways to get around and eat. This will help you save money and enjoy your trip more. Learn about local prices, plan everything early, and stay open to changes. Doing this will make your trip better and easier on your wallet.

Budgeting and Money-Saving Tips

12 For 7 years now, the author has been using websites like Skyscanner and Expedia to plan trips. They have found great flight deals by using Skyscanner’s options wisely.12 also offers good deals and a wide range of places to stay. For travel insurance, they suggest World Nomads for adventurous trips.12 When renting a car, they recommend For cool trips and tours, Viator, Get Your Guide, and Klook are awesome choices.

Packing Light: Essential Gear for Backpackers

Packing light is important. It lets you move easily and enjoy your adventure more.12 The author sorts their gear into two lists. One is for general needs, and the other is for hiking. These lists include important items like backpacks and clothes. By keeping your gear simple, you can focus more on having fun.

Safety and Solo Travel Considerations

13 First-time solo trip? Choose a familiar trail to feel safe.13 Keep the hike short, under 10 miles, to lower risks.13 Pack the Essentials and check your gear before you go. This prepares you for any surprises.13 Know the trail and its rules, and join online groups for tips.13 A locator beacon is a smart safety tool. Bringing a water filter guarantees clean water.13 Equip yourself for the trail’s challenges to ensure a safe and fun trip.

14 With over 30 years of backpacking, the writer knows how to avoid common mistakes.14 They stress the need to plan well in advance for safety and fun. This includes booking permits and sorting out where to stay.14 Pick a route that suits everyone and plan a doable schedule.14 Asking an experienced hiker for advice is always a good idea.14 Use good, durable gear for the best outdoor experience.

backpacking gear

Embracing the Backpacker Lifestyle

The backpacking lifestyle is all about meeting adventurous people from across the globe. Hostels are central to this, offering budget stays and a spot to mingle.15 In these hubs, backpackers share travel tales, cultural insights, and make friends for life. It’s the perfect place to feel part of a big, worldwide family.

Hostels and Meeting Fellow Travelers

Hostels are not just places to sleep; they are community hubs for the traveler. Staying in one allows you to plug into a vast network of explorers.15 This connection creates a feeling of unity and a common goal, making the traveling experience richer.15

Immersing in Local Cultures

Backpacking lets you dive deep into the culture and daily life of a place. It’s a chance to find the off-the-beaten-path spots that make a place unique.15 You can do this by staying with locals, learning traditional crafts, or chatting with residents. This way, you truly grasp the diverse beauty of our planet.

Finding Yourself on the Road

Traveling the backpacking way can change you. It’s filled with opportunities to learn about yourself and grow. The road’s challenges teach adaptability and independence.15 Experiencing new places and cultures opens your mind and heart. You come back with a clearer life goal and a wider outlook. The journey is a chance to welcome fresh experiences, explore, and discover your authentic self.15



Backpacking changes how you see the world, mixing adventure, cultural immersion, and personal growth. You can explore dynamic cities in Southeast Asia, Europe’s history, America’s natural beauty, or Oceania’s wild lands. There are countless adventures waiting for you.16

Choosing the backpacking life means discovering more about yourself, making friends, and growing. It starts with careful planning and staying open to new experiences. This mindset opens doors to unforgettable journeys.17

In the 21st century, backpacker hostels are vibrant places full of diverse travelers.16 Their rise has made lodging more budget-friendly and helped the backpacking community grow.16

The world’s love for travel is growing fast, with 1.8 billion visitors expected by 2022. This trend makes backpacking even more appealing as a way to truly experience the globe.17


What are some of the top backpacking destinations around the world?

The best backpacking spots are in Southeast Asia (like Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos), Europe (Spain), and Central and South America (such as Peru and Colombia). Other great places include Africa (like Morocco) and Oceania (which has Australia and New Zealand). You can also explore beyond Southeast Asia to countries like Nepal and Japan.

Why is Southeast Asia a quintessential backpacking destination?

Southeast Asia is a perfect mix of diverse cultures, breathtaking nature, and costs that won’t break the bank. Places like Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos are ideal for adventure, immersing in local cultures, and finding unique spots not many have seen.

What makes Europe an appealing destination for backpackers?

Europe, especially Spain, is rich in cultural experiences, from historic Moorish sites to modern art. It’s a place where backpackers can enjoy tasty tapas, feel the energy of flamenco, and explore an old yet vibrant culture.

What makes Central and South America attractive for backpackers?

Central and South America, home to countries like Peru and Colombia, have a lot to offer. Here, you’ll find the iconic Machu Picchu, lively cities, and rich coffee lands. Backpackers can hike in the Andes, visit the Amazon, and find hidden wonders.

How can backpackers travel safely and manage risks?

To stay safe while backpacking, keep in touch with loved ones, learn local customs, and know the laws of the places you’re visiting. Always have a first-aid kit and think about getting travel insurance. It’s also key to be aware of your surroundings and take extra care in crowded places.

What are the benefits of embracing the backpacker lifestyle?

Choosing the backpacker way introduces you to life-changing experiences, helps you grow personally, and expands your view of the world. Through adapting to new cultures, making friends with other travelers, and stepping out of your comfort zone, you come back with a clear vision and a broader perspective.

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