The best places to travel in the world

Where are the best places to travel in the world? Below are some suggestions. Please note that all these suggested backpacking destinations given below include a few countries and you may need at least a couple of months to explore them in depth. If you don’t have enough time, you can always travel part of it and then come back again later. Also, all these regions have different difficulty levels and some of them are not for complete beginner backpackers.

I didn’t include Europe, since it is already known well and widely traveled by backpackers. Latin America is not on this list either. I will be embarking on a year long backpacking trip in Latin America on March 1st, 2012 and will be traveling from New York to the southern tip of South America¬† overland (without flying), covering most of the continent. Hence, I hope to update this list with more suggestions soon.

#1 – Thailand – Myanmar – Laos – Cambodia

Hmongs

Hmong hill tribe in northern Vietnam

This is an easy to travel, safe and inexpensive region in South East Asia, and you don’t need any previous backpacking experience to enjoy your time here. You can usually get by speaking English. It is easy to travel alone, however, you will run into many other backpackers and can easily find a travel companion, if you want to.

Bangkok (Thailand) is a hub for cheap flights and a good place to fly into and start your trip. Thailand offers great beaches and Buddhist temples as well as friendly people. If you have time, you can include Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia in your trip as well. Especially Indonesia, with its friendly people and great scenery, is highly recommended.

#2 – South Africa – Zimbabwe – Botswana – Namibia

I found this part of Africa the easiest to travel in the whole continent. The infrastructure is well developed and you will run into many white people that are locals. English is widely spoken and getting around is usually not hard. Safety may be a concern in some parts, however, you shouldn’t have any major problems with proper planning and using some caution. Although it is not as easy to travel as it is in Europe or in South East Asia, you can backpack alone in most parts alone with some previous backpacking experience.

Johannesburg (South Africa) is a hub for cheap flights and usually a good place to fly into and start your trip – use some caution for safety in Johannesburg. This region offers great nature and wildlife (safari opportunities), desert scene (the world’s highest sand dune in Namibia), friendly people and some colonial architecture. If you are into nature, Garden Route in South Africa is highly recommended, and Cape Town is one of my favorite cities.

#3 – Kenya – Tanzania – Uganda

This region in East Africa offers great wildlife (safari opportunities), culture (indigenous people, tribes), hiking opportunities (Mt.Kilimanjaro) and great beaches (Kenya and Tanzania). Language is usually not a problem, if you speak English. This region has a higher difficulty level to travel than that of all other regions on this page and previous backpacking experience as well as a travel companion are recommended. Also, violent crime may be a concern in some parts, especially in Kenya.

Nairobi (Kenya) is a hub for cheap flights and usually a good place to start your trip. Although safety is a concern in Nairobi, especially after dark, rest of Kenya is usually safer. Serengeti or Masai Mara National Parks are ultimate places for safari enthusiasts and Uganda is the place to spot gorillas. Also, both Kenya and Tanzania offer some scenic beaches – Zanzibar Island off Tanzania is one of my favorite islands and is highly recommended for beaches and local culture.

#4 – India – Nepal – Tibet

This region in Asia offers colorful cultures, hiking opportunities, beaches (Goa, India) and some hardcore travel, especially in India, for backpackers. Although they are geographically close, each country, especially Tibet, has a distinct culture and thus, I had a different experience in each country. Getting by using English would be no problem in India and Nepal, although less so in Tibet.

Flying into New Delhi or Bombay (Mumbai) may be a good idea, if you would like to start your trip in India and then make your way into Nepal and Tibet. India is a very interesting and colorful place to backpack. It is very intense and yet rewarding. Most backpackers either love or hate traveling in India, depending on their tolerance and adventurousness level. Previous backpacking experience and a travel companion will definitely make life easier in India. Although there is no violent crime, theft or pickpocketing may be an issue as well as hygiene conditions. India offers backpackers a very diverse scenery from Hindu temples to beaches (Goa), but more importantly an unforgettable adventure.

Although it has a similar culture and the people look almost the same, I found Nepal very different than India. It was way more mellow and had less variety of offerings. If you are into mountains and hiking, you would love Nepal and its friendly people. You can organize days long hiking trips in the Himalayas and to Mt. Everest. It is also one of the best places to enter Tibet. There are several travel agencies in Kathmandu that organize group tours to Tibet – because of Chinese restrictions, you have to travel part of an organized tour group in Tibet and need to take necessary permits before entering the country. Please see my Tibet post for more information on backpacking in Tibet.

#5 – Western Turkey – Greece

This region offers everything a backpacker could want: culture, history, beaches, beautiful landscape and friendly people. Safety is not an issue at all, although you have to use common sense as usual. Getting around by public transportation is pretty easy in both countries and you can get by speaking English in most areas.

Istanbul (Turkey) is a hub for cheap flights and a good place to start your trip. Turkey is the 6th most popular destination in the world with 31.5 million foreign tourists in 2011 and, whether you would like to immerse yourself in a 10,000 year old history or swim in the pristine waters of the Mediterranean, Turkey has something to offer to every traveler. It is a relatively big country and has very diverse regions. Depending on how much time you have and your interests, you can either backpack only in the west and then go to Greece by island hopping or venture into the undiscovered Eastern Turkey and discover a very different part of the country. In addition to the majestic city of Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Fethiye and the Lycian Trail in the south are highly recommended. You can take a boat to beautiful Greek islands from several Turkish coastal towns.

#6 – Eastern Turkey – Iran – Syria

This region covers eastern Turkey, Iran and Syria, and is more for adventure and culture enthusiasts, who are into discovering less traveled places. You will see much fewer backpackers around and may have some language barriers, if you only speak English. However, on the flip side, you will encounter a better preserved culture and more friendly locals. Safety and getting around by public transportation is usually not an issue – Syria had been a rewarding destination for backpackers, however, a trip into Syria is not recommended at the moment because of the ongoing civil unrest in the country. I am hoping that things will calm down soon and the country will welcome backpackers again by the end of 2012.

If you are flying in, Istanbul would probably be the best place to start. Then, you can make your way to the eastern part of the country, either by bus or plane. Both the buses and the planes are safe and inexpensive ways of domestic travel in Turkey. Konya, Cappadocia, Nemrut Dagi (Adiyaman) and Mardin are recommended places in central and eastern Turkey.

Iran has a good infrastructure and a public transportation system. And, backpacking in Iran is easier than you would think. It is safe and inexpensive and the locals are very friendly. The biggest issue is the language barriers. I found out that not many Iranians unfortunately speak English. Especially Isfahan and Persepolis are two recommended places to visit in Iran.

UPDATE: When I first wrote this article a year ago, the civil unrest in Syria hasn’t turned into a full scale civil war yet and there was still hope that it may end soon. However, sadly, not only the important historical centers, such as Aleppo and Damascus, are severely destroyed, but also the war in Syria doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon.

Alternatively, Georgia can be added to this list instead of Syria. The land border crossing to the Georgian town of Batumi is very easy from the Turkish coastal town of Hopa. If you would rather fly, there are cheap and direct flights from Istanbul to Batumi. Georgia is a fairly safe country and its tiny size makes it an easy-to-travel destination. If you are into hiking, you will especially enjoy the countryside in Georgia.

#7 – Egypt – Jordan – Lebanon

Petra in Jordan

Petra in Jordan

This region offers a good glimpse of the Middle Eastern culture. It offers a wide range from history to culture, and is cheap and usually safe – beware of pickpockets in crowded areas. Backpacking around using public transportation is not difficult and you can get by speaking English in most urban areas.

Cairo (Egypt) may be somewhat cheaper to fly into and a good place to start your trip. Aswan and Luxor as well as Sharm El Sheikh, if you are into diving, are highly recommended in Egypt.

Lebanon and Jordan are less chaotic and less time consuming to travel around because of their tiny size. Apart from Petra, one of the highlights of the Middle East, visiting Wadi Rum (desert safari), Beirut (nightlife and friendly people), and Amman (friendly people) are recommended.

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