Best Backpacking Countries
Ready to pack your bags and head out to see the world, but don't know exactly where to go? Get inspired with our picks for the best countries for intrepid travelers on a budget.
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Increase your backpacker cred by touring this equally colorful and chaotic country. For all its frustrations, India provides far more soul-stirring moments, like seeing the peaceful birthplace of yoga, in Rishikesh; the spiritually cleansing Ganges River and the grandest monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
While Chile is more expensive than other countries in South America, it is full of dramatic and vastly different landscapes to explore. In northern Chile lies the otherworldly salt flats and driest desert in the world, the Atacama. In southern Chile the massive glacier peaks tower over Patagonia. And for a trip of a lifetime, fly to remote Easter Island from the lively capital Santiago in just 6 hours.
Australians are known for their "walkabouts," the rite of passage for young Aussies to travel the world after they finish school. While young Aussies roam the world, they’re leaving an amazing country behind for tourists to enjoy their own "walkabout." Down Under lures backpackers with the Great Barrier Reef, the rugged Outback and the youthful cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
Seeing the breathtaking Machu Picchu should be on everyone’s bucket list. Trekking the Inca Trail is the ultimate way to see the famous ruins, named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. This incredible 30-mile hike takes 4 days to complete as you trek high up into the Andes in search of the Lost City of Machu Picchu. Share your stories from the trail with other travelers in the nearby town of Cusco, a backpacker’s favorite pit stop filled with fun hostels.
Every tour of Asia should include Vietnam, a dynamic country changing by the minute. If you’re after stunning views, the jade green waters and limestone islands and caves of Halong Bay will dazzle you. For a taste of bustling city life, tour Ho Chi Minh City, with its mouthwatering street food and fascinating museums.
One of the most awe-inspiring sights on earth, Angkor Wat alone is worth a visit to Cambodia. The largest religious architectural site in the world, this complex of over 100 stone temples was known as "Heaven on Earth" by the Khmer kings who built it over the course of 6 centuries. Ancient temples aren’t all Cambodia has to offer, either; don’t miss seeing Phnom Penh, now one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Asia, with its bustling outdoor markets, exotic street food and lively nightlife.
Getting around the Emerald Isle is cheap and easy -- a perfect combination for budget travelers. Travel by bus or rent a car to discover all the natural beauty -- from the Cliffs of Moher to Giant's Causeway -- that’s packed into this little island country. Travel to the remote Aran Islands to see traditional Gaelic language and culture still thrive. Or hit youthful and lively Galway to hear live Irish music in friendly pubs.
This backpacker’s paradise rose tremendously in popularity after The Beach was filmed in Thailand’s Maya Bay in 1999. In the film, young backpackers search for a hidden paradise, inaccessible to tourists. Even though it’s hard to escape the tourists in Thailand, there’s still plenty here for the intrepid traveler to discover. From island hopping to elephant riding and jungle trekking, there’s no shortage of adventures to have here. And Thai food alone is worth a visit. Spicy and cheap, it’s perfect for the adventurous foodie.
A budget traveler’s dream, this Mediterranean hot spot offers ancient ruins and affordable islands to explore. Tour ancient wonders like the Acropolis and the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Then soak up Greek culture with a tour of the islands, from party-beach Mykonos to sparsely populated Gavdos.
If you’re an adventure junkie or simply an outdoors lover, this country is sure to wow you. Cross off a bucket list challenge in South Island’s Queenstown, the mecca for nearly all adventure activities and the birthplace of bungee jumping. If you want to see the spectacular scenery with both feet on the ground, trek through New Zealand's Fiordland National Park on the 33-mile Milford Track.
If you want to backpack in a less tourist-trodden country, this Middle Eastern gem is a great option. Spend a few days marveling at the mosques in Istanbul (which happens to be a major flight hub for scoring cheap airfare). Once you get outside of Istanbul, prices drop tremendously. So you’ll be able to get the most bang for your buck as you crisscross the country, touring the underground caves and rock houses of otherworldly Cappadocia and the ancient ruins of Ephesus.
There’s no reason to leave the good ole US of A in search of adventure. Southwest’s Four Corners region -- Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona -- offers incredible hiking and jaw-dropping scenery. While the Grand Canyon is a must-see, don’t miss other natural wonders, too, like Utah’s Monument Valley, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns.