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Top 18 backpacking destinations for the ultimate adventure

Tick these backpacking hotspots off your bucket list

Chloe Best
Chloe BestLifestyle Features Editor
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Travel is pretty much back to normal which means going backpacking is back on the cards. There are so many wonderful destinations to explore around the world, whether you want to go completely off the beaten track or see some major cities in a whole new way. While countries like Thailand and Cambodia in South East Asia have long lured backpackers from across the globe, there are a few up-and-coming destinations too that are well worth visiting to immerse yourself in different cultures and perhaps find some dreamy tropical beaches along the way…

1. Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

sri lanka

Sri Lanka is one of South East Asia's lesser frequented backpacker destinations, but will only get more and more popular once word spreads about the unspoiled beaches, rich culture and amazing experiences on offer. Unawatuna is a favourite with many backpackers, thanks to the laid back atmosphere and array of comfortable beachside hostels and resorts.

2. Queenstown, New Zealand 


Queenstown is a backpackers dream, offering everything from affordable and central accommodation to exciting nightlife and water activities on Lake Wakatipu. Thrill-seekers will love skiing at nearby Double Cone, catching a cable car to the top of the mountain and luging with views over the city, or trying the Nevis Bungy jump - the tallest in New Zealand at 134m. If you're thinking of exploring more of the south island, it's a great base to take a day trip over to Milford Sound where you can cruise along the fiord and take pictures of fur seal colonies and dolphins. 

3. Kathmandu Valley, Nepal


With the Himalayas providing a jaw-dropping backdrop, Nepal is a wonderful place for backpackers. Head to the Kathmandu Valley, where you'll find the highest density of world heritage sites in the world, with some 130 monuments waiting to be explored.

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4. Bogota, Colombia


Colombia is considered as one of the world's top backpacker destinations, and there's nowhere better to experience all that the country has to offer than its capital city, Bogota. Much of the backpacker accommodation is centered on the La Candelaria district, where you'll find cool bars and eateries, all within easy access of the city's major landmarks.

5. Iceland




Explore the natural beauty of this Nordic country, which is home to the incredible Blue Lagoon and some breath-taking scenery. If you visit between October and April you may well be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, an experience you'll never forget.

6. Copenhagen, Denmark


Don't be fooled into thinking Scandinavia is too expensive for backpackers. Copenhagen offers plenty of activities that will keep you entertained for days, from seeing the art in Christiania (Freetown) to climbing up the Round Tower for views over the city. And don't forget to taste some delicious Danish pastries or Bertels Salon Kompagnistæde's famous cheesecake!

7. Koh Lanta, Thailand

Koh Lanta© Photo: iStock

Thailand has long been a go-to for backpackers, and for good reason. Not only is there great weather, fascinating culture and a lively nightlife on offer, but it's also an affordable place to stay and travel around for backpackers on a budget. Skip the overcrowded beaches of Koh Phi and Maya Bay for a visit to one of the quieter islands of Koh Lanta or Railay Bay, where you can immerse yourself in the Thai lifestyle and enjoy the beautiful beaches.

8. Palawan, the Philippines


Fancy an adventure? You won't be disappointed with a trip to Palawan in the Philippines, which has much to offer thrill-seeking backpackers, from zip lining to shark diving. You'll easily be able to tick off some bucket list experiences here.

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9. Ometepe, Nicaragua


This Central American country was the location where Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank got engaged in January 2017, and while it is home to a number of luxury eco resorts, you won't be short of budget-friendly backpacking accommodation either. If it's an adventure you're after, head to the volcanic island of Ometepe, where you can hike a volcano and swim under waterfalls before relaxing on the beach.

10. Cambodia


It's easy to see why Cambodia is a favourite destination for backpackers. Much like neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia has beautiful beaches, jungles and culture to experience, along with historic sites like the ruins of Angkor Wat. Better still, you'll find accommodation, food and travel budget-friendly too.

11. Bolivia, South America

Bolivia salt flats© Photo: iStock

You're sure to have a memorable stay in Bolivia, one of the most popular backpacking hotspots in South America thanks to its affordable accommodation, stunning architecture and of course, the famous salt flats, where you and your friends will get epic photos to look back on for years to come.

12. Tallinn, Estonia


Estonia's capital city is the ideal destination for backpacking within Europe. You'll find good-value accommodation and an interesting culture, while it's easy to explore many of the major sights on foot for free. Don't miss out on climbing to the top of Linnahall, where you can get panoramic views across the city and across the Baltic Sea.

13. Arizona, USA

grand canyon america

Arizona is full of amazing places to spend a night in the wild, and the Grand Canyon has to be the top of your list. One of the most popular routes is to trek across from the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park across to the south, taking in the jaw-dropping scenery and a unique waterfall, Ribbon Falls, within the desert tour.

14. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest© Photo: iStock

For a European backpacking adventure, you won’t be disappointed with a trip to Budapest. Not only is it very affordable, but there is a diverse number of things to see and do, such as visiting several UNESCO World Heritage sites and visiting the Széchenyi Medicinal Baths, the largest spa bath in Europe where you can enjoy some well-deserved pampering after exploring the city.

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15. London, UK


You don’t have to venture out of the UK for an exciting trip. London is a bucket list trip for backpackers, with plenty of fun things to see and lots of free attractions. From taking in landmarks like the London Eye, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace to exploring diverse neighbourhoods such as Camden, Chelsea and Shoreditch, you’ll have plenty to keep you entertained.

16. Laos, South East Asia

tubing laos

This inviting country in South East Asia is ideal for tying in to a longer backpacking trip through Thailand and Vietnam. You’ll find adventure and culture everywhere you go, including one of Laos’ most popular backpacking activities – tubing in Vang Vieng.

17. East Coast, Australia

Sydney Australia© Photo: iStock

You’ll have the trip of a lifetime venturing along Australia’s East Coast. Start your adventure in Sydney, where you can take in the sights before hitting Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, Fraser Island, sailing the Whitsundays and diving the Great Barrier Reef before culminating your trip in Cairns.

18. Inca Trail, Peru

machu picchu

Peru is a truly special place to visit for a backpacking trip. While the capital, Lima, and beach town of Máncora each have their appeal, we recommend hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world.

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