Ten hot backpacker destinations

Though the backpacker scene feels more hipster than hippie these days, the same formula remains: young travelers plus a small budget plus a long trip. While individuals certainly differ, the stereotype of a budget traveler toting a bedraggled pack to cheap destinations is there for a reason.

So where are the kids congregating these days? Here are our top ten backpacker locations (in no particular order):

Thailand A long-time favorite, Thailand’s low costs, relative ease of travel, and scenic beaches are obvious draws. Add to those hill tribes, jungle and elephant trekking, and some awesome grub, and you have a nearly perfect combination – which is probably why the country also hosts a number of expats.

Amsterdam Need we say anything more? Laws are loose, and for those American kids who never had the chance to experiment, the freedom is heavenly. Oh, and there are sex shows.

Guatemala Travelers learning Spanish flock to Antigua, where language schools and home stays are offered in the picturesque colonial town. Jungles, volcanoes, lakes and Mayan ruins round out the offerings.

Goa “Buddha Lounge” music drifts across Palolem Beach, an impossibly cheap swoop of sand on India’s west coast. It’s easy to drop out for a while here, renting out some small, rickety beach hut and bobbing around in the warm sea.
Nepal “Backpacking” takes on a literal meaning (as does “getting high”) when you’re trekking across the Himalayas. Long on the backpacker circuit, Nepal’s appeal is in cheap prices and natural wonders.

Bali An Indonesian island of volcanoes, jungle, beaches and, thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert, 30-something divorcees…. The backpacker hotspot here is Ubud, a smallish town in the center of the island that is a center for dance, music, and arts.

Australia Though Australia seems to churn out backpackers like Orcs from Mordor, the country itself is a sweet spot for extended travels. Big enough to explore for years, wild enough to satiate nature lovers, and warm enough for beach and surf fanatics, Australia has a broad-range appeal. Plus, the language and the culture are familiar, making it a nice introduction to travel for newbies.

Argentina Good wine, and Italian influence, a vibrant capital city, and budget prices: what’s not to appeal to a backpacker? Whether it’s club-hopping in Buenos Aires or working on an organic farm in the countryside, this South American country appeals to a spectrum of budget travelers.

New Zealand Another country that nails it all: great surfing and countless other outdoor activities, friendly folks, and the Flight of the Conchords.

Greek Islands A haven of sun, sand, and souvlaki, the Greek Islands have always been a favorite. There’s ritzy Santorini, mountainous Crete, party-time Ios, and dozens more. Take an overnight ferry, make some new friends, and party your holiday away.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Rene Ehrhartdt]