Backpacking is becoming more and more popular with the number of cheap flights to remote destinations around the globe. However it seems that many people are choosing to follow the same routes around the world. This is great if you want to come across more backpackers – which when travelling alone or for the first time can be important – but there are so many unexplored places off the tourist trail. Experience real indigenous culture, indulge in local cuisine that you won’t find on Khao San Road in Thailand for example. This is a guide for experienced or adventurous backpackers who want to see the world’s beauty away from the hordes of gap-year students and ‘safe’ backpackers. There is nothing wrong with the standard tourist trails, however the world is vast and this guide intends to show you ten destinations that you should not miss out on. What are you waiting for? There is a lot to see so get those backpacks packed!
10. Wisteria tunnels, Japan
Situated in Kawachi Fuji Gardens is one of the fairy-tale-esque places. Tunnels of purple, pink and blue wisteria flowers cover a huge area which you then walk straight through. With nothing to look at but flowers the beauty of the place is extremely surreal. Bring a loved one as this place is about as romantic as it gets!
Don’t miss the rest of the gardens whilst you are there, they are stunning and if you are backpacking through Japan it is definitely worth stopping to experience this spectacle!
9. Barra de Potosi, Mexico
Fancy laying on a 10km white sand beach with no one else around? Well this is the place to be. During the religious holidays locals visit the beach as a holiday destination, but for most of the year it remains deserted. Sleepy Mexican beach cafes are situated further up towards the next beach so if you want a refreshing drink or some tasty Mexican cuisine you don’t have to look so far.
Did I mention that swimming is safe here and that Whales and Dolphins frequent the water off the beach almost daily? Don’t miss out!
8. Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Dog-sledding, Ice-fishing and snowmobiling – but the sun never rises. Welcome to Jukkasjärvi, roughly 90 miles north of the arctic circle and visiting in winter is something I highly recommend. The area is becoming more developed as the Ice Hotel is nearby, however there are plenty of heated stugors (small cottages/huts) for the lower budget backpacker. Temperatures do drop below minus thirty Celsius so bring warm clothes!
Spending time in an area with little to no daylight might not sound like fun – but how about watching the northern lights with a loved one? It doesn’t get much more romantic than that!
If this is not appealing to you why not come in the summer when the sun never sets! The snow has melted and the weather is stunning. There is something magical about the little know area of Jukkasjärvi and every backpacker should feel it for themselves.
7. Isaan Province, Thailand
Millions of tourists flock to Thailand each year stopping in Bangkok, Chang-Mai and the islands in the south. Very few ever venture into the poorer areas of Thailand, the most unique and special of these being the Isaan Province.
No fancy hotels here, however the hospitality of the locals is what makes this place special. The area is still tribal so many languages are spoken other than traditional Thai – English however is very heard in this remote area of Thailand. For some reason this seems unimportant, the locals will welcome you to stay with them and offer to feed you – and if you like Thai cuisine, then the Isaan food will come as a welcome treat to your taste-buds, just be warned that they like their chillies even more than most Thai’s.
The region is vast so spending at least a week if not longer here is recommended, there are huge rice paddies and secret springs where you can swim under waterfalls where it is possible no foreigner has ever actually been before. Befriend the locals, they are your key to enjoying your stay in Isaan and you will never forget them or your time in the area.
6. Ibo Island, Mozambique
Although gaining in notoriety, Ibo island is still not toured by many backpackers. The island is home to stunning architecture built for defence, much of it dating back to around 600AD! Spend a couple of days and nights around the town as the ancient buildings take on a vert surreal feel during the dark hours of night. The sunset from this point is also one of the best in the world. It will not disappoint.
Once you have had enough of buildings and sunsets grab a tent or just a sleeping bag if you are brave and make your way to the far side of the island. Here you will find untouched white sand beaches where it is likely you will the only people there. Relax and watch the stars for a night or two before you continue your backpacking around Africa.
5. Mt. Kelimutu, Indonesia
Mt. Kelimutu is growing in popularity as tourists begin to realise what a wonder it really is, for the time being however it is still too far off the tourist trail to be over-crowded. The top of the mountain holds three lakes, you arrive before sunset (Wear warm clothes!) and as the sun rises the lakes appear out of the mist. This is not all. As the sun continues to rise, the three lakes each take on a unique colour due to the different mineral content in the water – the spectacle is quite breath-taking and the atmosphere in the early hours at the top of the mountain is one I can almost guarantee you will feel no-where else. The three coloured lakes of Mt. Kelimutu should not be missed by any serious world backpacker!
Two short flights from Bali with to the city of Ende on Flores and you are nearly there. Grab a local bus to the mountain town of Mone. The drive is not for the faint hearted, mudslides have cause the roads to collapse each year – do not fret though as your journey is worth the the perilous drive!
4. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Situated in West Papua, Indonesia, the Raja Ampat archipelago is one the stunning places in the world. Hundreds of small volcanic islands have created a paradise which is so difficult to access that is has remained unspoilt. The waters in the area have the highest biodiversity in the world so jump in with a mask and see what amazing creatures you spot – or have a competition of who can spot the most turtles in ten minutes! If you are interested in SCUBA diving this is the highest rated place in the world to do so – why not try it out?
Fly into Sorong airport and then take a boat to whichever island you want to start your adventure on – remember to bring water though as most of the islands are completely uninhabited!
3. Dahab, Egypt
Situated on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba lays a hidden gem. Dahab (Which translates as gold from Arabic) is one place that backpackers should squeeze into their travels. Fabulous sunsets, beautiful clear water for swimming and snorkelling and an atmosphere which will make you never want to leave!
The town is situated about eighty miles north of Sharm-el-Sheikh, the once bustling epicentre of the Sinai – recent events may have made the area seem less than desirable, but don’t let the media deter you. You are a backpacker after all and adventure is what backpacking is all about. In our opinion anyway, Egypt is safe – at least no more dangerous than London or New York!
You can spend your days doing nothing lazing by the sea in the beachfront cafes or you can go off into the desert on camel treks, see ruins that are six-thousand years older than the pyramids or swim in inland oasis where only the local Bedouin’s will be able to take you. Just try not to miss your flight out, it is an easy place to lose track of time!
2. Los Glacieres National Park, Argentina
Feel like taking a trip into the frozen world of Narnia? Well we can’t offer that but Los Glacieres national park certainly feels like it! A strange world of sea-ice, glaciers and bright blue skies makes this a must see for all serious backpackers! The Perito Moreno glacier covers more than 120 square miles – and with the snow-topped mountains in the background it becomes a very special place. Viewing platforms have been places in what we assume are safe areas where you can see the glaciers terminus at lake argentine – bring your camera.
1. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
The area is developing quickly but still holds many charms. I imagine in the next five years it will no longer be so ‘off the grid’ so to speak. Access is relatively simple with cheap flights running daily from Denpasar Bali to Komodo International Airport (Don’t let the name fool you, it is NOT an international; airport.) The airport is less than ten minutes from the town of Labuan Bajo. Although a few higher end resorts have opened, prepare to be underwhelmed by the town itself. Labuan Bajo is a portal to one of the most picturesque marine and nation park in the world. Komodo Nation Park.
Once settled we would advise to get into the park as soon as possible. Dolphins frequent the boats as you travel, and we have even been lucky enough to see a blue whale migrating through one in December 2014! Scuba Diving is the thing to do here – but don’t fret as snorkelling also offers an equally amazing experience. Manta Rays with six meter wing spans come in huge numbers in shallow water year round, huge schools of tuna and Jack fish play in the currents and the reef in one of the most pristine we have ever come across!
For those who are not so keen on water the main attraction of course is the Komodo Dragons. Found only on two islands, both within the national park. You can’t miss a trip to see the largest lizards on the planet! The national park also has one of the biggest daily fruit bat (flying fox) migrations. About two hours by boat from Labuan Bajo every evening at sunset a huge number of roughly 100,000 fruit bats leave a tiny island and fly into Komodo and Flores islands to feed. Bring a camera if you have one, it is an experience that I still think about today.
This is a place you will never forget!