Top Ten Backpacking Countries for 2010
It goes without saying that backpacking is one of the most incredible, challenging and rewarding forms of traveling. Freedom, the scent of adventure, the sense of achievement - it all comes in a package, or, actually, a backpack. Whether you follow typical tourist routes or choose to stay off the beaten track, backpacking is a life changing experience for every independent traveler. Have a look at our selection of the best backpacking destinations for 2010 and choose your option for the days to come.
Ladakh in the Himalayas. India. By Magda & Maciek
India. Some love it, others hate it. It is the country of contrasts and many dimensions. The marvels of the Himalayan peaks, steppes, exotic beaches and magical tea plantations blend with over-populated, dirty, and far too noisy cities. Still, this huge country located in the Southern Asia is a magnet for hundreds of backpackers. Adventurous travelers will not be disappointed. India is simply fascinating and addictive. And yes - it's also super inexpensive. Backpacker lodgings are a bargain, food is extremely cheap, and even cheaper in the local restaurants and eateries.
Among main attractions are the Taj Mahal mausoleum, beaches of Goa, Darjeeling hill station, Varanasi holy city of Shiva, and the Himalaya regions such as Ladakh and Leh. Although these are popular tourist tracks, the vibe, beauty and charm of these places is well worth experiencing.
The country has a great rail service, which is quite inexpensive, but the huge distances between the cities and major attractions make the journeys very long and tiring. There are also plenty of public and private buses that run very frequently. Planes are also an option; if you book in advance you can get a good price.
Khajuraho Temple. India. By Tati@.
Ananuri Church. Georgia. By onbangladesh
Georgia seems to be a forgotten land. This tiny Caucasian country inhabited by only 4.4 million people is one of the most spectacular and worth-visiting spots in Eastern Europe. It is a paradise for backpackers as most of Georgia still remains unspoiled and untrodden.
Most travelers start their Georgian adventure in Tbilisi, the country's capital, where the main international airport is located. The city is one of the oldest European capitals with history dating back to the 5th century. Among other amazing sites are Kazbegi village, the most accessible mountain destination in Georgia and a home to the symbol of the country - the Tsminda Sameba church. Among other Georgian highlights are Gori, the town where Joseph Stalin was born, and Uplistsikhe - a huge cave town founded around 1,000 BC and one of the oldest settlements in the Caucasus.
Above all, Georgia is famed for its good humored, hospitable and high spirited people. Georgians are considered to be one of the friendliest nations in the world.
The best, the cheapest and sometimes the only option to travel around Georgia is Marshrutkas, minibuses that run even to the remote mountain towns. The main routes are also covered by a train service (that runs West/East) and buses, which are a bit more pricey than Marshrutkas.
A view of Tsminda Sameba Church (Church of the Holy Trinity) in Kazbegi, Georgia. By GoGap
Lake Mutanda. Uganda. By JulioGonzalez1
Uganda is Africa's best kept secret. The natural sights of this amazing country are one of the most stunning highlights in Africa: the Mountains of Moon- the highest mountain range in Africa, Murchison Falls, or Rwenzori National Park. Backpacking in Uganda is not as cheap as in Asia or South America, but still, an ultra-budget traveler can get by on US$ 20 per day. Visiting Uganda's cities is inexpensive, but being an active tourist raises the costs. By the way of example, seeing Murchison Falls costs around US$100 per day, while rafting the Nile is at least US$120 per day.
Among the country's main attractions is Gorilla trekking in the Bwindi National Park. The rich jungle of the park is inhabited by half of the world's population of the endangered Mountain Gorillas. The popular gorilla trekking activity involves walking in the forest in search for these amazing animals. Unfortunately, the cost of the trip is at least US$ 500.
Buses cover all main routes in Uganda, they are inexpensive, though quite crowded and slow. Getting to the country's national parks tends to be more expensive as you have to hire a private car or jeep.
Murchison Falls National Park - Uganda. By God is all over
Old Town in Torun. Poland. By janusz l
While backpacking the old continent, you cannot miss Poland, one of the most fascinating countries in Central and Eastern Europe. It is a country of intriguing history, amazing cultural treasures, medieval towns, hundreds of castles, spectacular mountain vistas and strings of sandy beaches.
Of course, most backpackers end up in Kraków, one of the most amazing towns in Europe that can easily rival Prague, Budapest or Vienna in terms of charm, cultural offer and prices. Due to its growing popularity, the prices in Krakow have gone up significantly, but it is still much cheaper than other European cities - a pint stands at US$ 2.5, while accommodation in a hostel ranges between PLN 40 and PLN 60 per night (US$ 14 and US$ 20). Another superb Polish city is Wroclaw, the capital of Lower Silesia region, which sits on 12 islands of the Odra River connected by over 130 bridges.
The country's nature is as stunning as its cities - if you want to escape crowds head for Słowiński National Park filled with lakes, peat bogs and shifting sand dunes, or Bieszczady, the largely forgotten region of the country, dominated by mountains and wild forests.
The best way to move around Poland is by rail. The train system covers the entire country and it is reasonably priced. However, the Polish trains are definitely not fastest in the world, so keep some extra time in reserve for getting from one place to another.
Niedzica and Czorsztn Castles, Poland. By janusz l
Backpaking in Patagonia. Argentina. By andysternberg
With its mountains, glaciers, steppes, lakes, cosmopolitan cities and
affordable prices, Argentina is a heaven for backpackers. This huge
country, almost the size of India, is a glorious destination for
independent travelers. It has it all: superb landscapes, truly untouched
regions and amazing food.
In comparison to nearby Brazil and Chile, the country is a bargain. After the economic crisis in 2001/2002 Argentina became super cheap for travelers. At present the prices have increased, but you can easily get by on ARS 70 (US$ 20) per day, if sleeping in hostels and eating in local inexpensive restaurants. While in Argentina, you just cannot miss the steaks. Not only are they best in the world but also reasonably priced.
Among the most amazing places in Argentina is Patagonia, a wild, vast and beautiful region, where you can easily escape crowds. For crazy nightlife, head for Buenos Aires, the country's bustling and vibrant capital, filled with great clubs, bars and restaurants.
While backpacking Argentina the major cost is, of course, transportation. It gets more expensive when you have to pay for flights, but if you are not short on time, try buses, which are rather inexpensive and the quality of service is quite high.
Perito Moreno. Patagonia. Argentina. By Mel Toledo
Melbourne. By Linh rOm
Australia is filled with backpackers. It is smooth and easy to travel around this amazing continent, though huge distances make the trip a bit more costly. Australia does not belong to cheap destinations as the prices of food, transport and accommodation are high in comparison to the countries of Eastern Europe or South America. Still, visiting Australia is a great experience. From bustling cities of Sydney and Melbourne, filled with superb clubs, restaurants and cultural highlights, to the remote outback, magnificent Great Ocean Road, magical Uluru, and the famed Great Barrier Reef, the country is a must for every traveler.
Moving around Australia is super easy. The rail, buses and mini buses cover the entire country; there are also several budget airlines such as Jetstar or Virgin Blue. If you stay longer and travel with several people you can split the costs and buy an old car or campervan.
Australian Coast. By Andrew Hux
The Erg Chebbi Dunes, Morocco. By Robbie's Photo Art
The country of scents and colors, wild desert, superb coast, fabulous mountain vistas and of course excellent food, Morocco is a paradise for an independent traveler. The vibe of the country comes from a unique blend of Europe, Africa and the Middle East cultures. In contrast to other African states where backpacking can be more challenging and expensive, Morocco is a perfect destination for independent voyagers. A budget traveler can get by on between US$ 20 and US$ 30 per day, the cities brim with hostels, and a convenient train network links the country's main cities: Marrakesh and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat.
While in Morocco, try one of the best African cuisines: couscous that comes in hundreds of varieties, pastille (meat pie), and a vast array of Moroccan pastries. The best time to visit Morocco is spring (mid-March to May), and autumn (September to November).
Chefchaouene. Morocco. By rytc
North Ireland's coast. By sgirolimetto
Backpacking Ireland is one of the most rewarding experiences you can get as a traveler. The republic that occupies about five-sixths of the island of Ireland is home to the world's most spectacular vistas, super nice people and a great travel infrastructure. From the breathtaking coast to the bustling pubs of Dublin, Ireland will not disappoint any independent traveler. Its vastness, wildness and unspoiled natural sights combine with hospitable locals, rich history, well-guarded tradition, and a pint of Guinness to guarantee loads of fun and relaxation.
Don't leave without seeing Connemara, a spectacular remote coast, magical Aran Islands, and the misty mountains of Killarney National Park.
Relatively short distances are a big advantage of traveling around Ireland. Still, the public transportation services are quite expensive when compared to other backpack destinations. There is a good network of roads so hiring a car can be a good option, especially if you travel in a group.
A hostel in Glencolumbcille, Ireland. By bertishki
Butterfly Valley. Turkey. By Jason Tabarias
Turkey's uniqueness is a magnet for many backpackers and adventure lovers. This giant country, a melting pot of European and Asian cultures is extremely fascinating, culturally rich and jaw-droopingly beautiful. The list of Turkey's highlights seems never-ending: from the stunning scenery of Nemrut Dağı Milli National Park, ancient ruins, historical towns such as Ani or Ephesus, to hip Istanbul, the array of Turkish attractions is unbeatable.
Turkey is also good value for money. It is becoming more expensive as more tourists visit the country and the value of the Turkish currency has been gradually increasing over the last years. Still, the country is a bargain in comparison to other Mediterranean destinations such as Greece or Italy. The most expensive areas are Istanbul and the coastal tourist cities, while in the eastern part of the country and in less visited areas you can travel on as little as US$ 35 per day.
Turkey has a great bus system which covers the entire country and is much cheaper and faster than trains. Ferries to Greece and Italy are quite expensive (about US$ 500 to Italy).
A mosque in Istanbul. By Minamie's Photo
Altiplano. Bolivia. By Andras Jancsik
Bolivia has everything a backpacker could wish for. It is the cheapest country in the region (unfortunately the poorest), but also one of the world's richest destinations in terms of spectacular vistas. Truly, Bolivian landscapes are considered to be the most stunning on the entire continent, if not in the world. The country's jewels such as Bolivian Altiplano, Salar de Uyuni (the world's largest salt flat), amazing old towns such as Sucre or La Paz, and many Inca Trails are magnets for independent travelers from around the globe.
You can easily live on less than US$ 20 a day, especially if you eat like locals. Hostels cost around US$ 10 per night or less. Again, transportation is the biggest cost - especially getting to Bolivia. Traveling by buses is cheap and faster than trains.
Backpacking Bolivia. By dckf_$êr@pH!nX'
Are you an experienced backpacker and want to share your opinion with others? Go ahead! Or perhaps you're just dreaming of getting away from it all and preparing for the trip of your lifetime. Let us know where you go and why...