These days backpacking is more popular than ever and has become pretty much a rite of passage that every millennial has to do at some point before they reach 30.
Many countries now have a pretty robust backpacking infrastructure in place with hostels, hangouts, and well-established trails. Thailand and Australia, of course, remain firm favourites and remain the obvious starting point for countless scores of backpackers.
But what about the rest of the world? The countries, routes and places that are not so well established? Well, there is far more to this big wide world and adventure can be found at every turn.
Here are 7 countries you never considered backpacking in.
Whilst India remains perhaps the all time quintessential backpacker destination its little brother Pakistan (they were one and the same country until 1948) receives hardly any international tourists whatsoever. This is perhaps not surprising when considering the country’s reputation as hotbed of terrorism and the frankly difficult visa application process, but those who do brave the danger and paperwork are in for a treat.
Pakistan is a real adventure, it has some of the biggest mountains in the world (including K2), the legendary Karakoram Highway and offers backpackers the chance to test fire an AK47. Plus the locals are unbelievably hospitable.
Reciprocal sanctions between states make backpacking in Iran somewhat difficult for citizens of the UK and US who are only allowed entry on the condition they be shepherded around on a guided tour which is not exactly our idea of fun. However, there are workarounds (such as getting an Irish passport) and most nationalities shouldn’t have too many issues anyway.
Iran is completely worth the effort and as the country is backpackers paradise. Hitchhiking is easy, the locals curious and friendly and there is a thriving underground scene that you won’t believe. Tehran is cool, the ruined city of Persepolis epic and there is even a rainbow colured volcanic island which is like an untouched desert eden.
For most backpackers the Gringo trail ends at Venezuela but that really is there loss. The country is beautiful and bountiful with the world’s highest table top mountain and waterfall, steaming amazonian jungles and an all night lightning show which is just otherworldly.
There’s also a booming black market for dollars making it the cheapest country on earth right, the best rum in the world and a record number of Miss World winners. Venezuela is by far our pick of latin america so please don’t let the negative press deter you.
Sub-saharan Africa remains something of a “Heart of Darkness” for backpackers and there is pretty much no established trail whatsoever. This makes it perfect for the adventurous spirit and Nigeria in particular is a cocktail of booming parties, afro-beat grooves and some very cosmopolitan cities. The country is growing and progressing rapidly and may well surprise you with how modern it is.
The highways are ideal for some challenging motorcycling and there are also gorgeous savanna’s and amazing safari and wildlife spotting to be seen at a fraction of the price of the more established parks in Kenya and Tanzania.
It’s odd, countess scores of backpackers make the flight from South East asia towards Australia flying over Samoa without even realising that the county is there. Samoa remains well of any tourist trail
The islands offer an abundance of dense jungles, pristine beaches and tribal villages. In rural Samoa life is simple, help the natives speer hunt for fish and then cook it in a fire. Some of the islands largely remains untouched by 21st century innovations and you can expect to be the first foreigner some of the natives people have ever seen.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is still emerging from a difficult modern history of political oppression. It was pretty much closed to the world until the last decade which largely accounts the untouched, real old Asian feel of the country. Whereas Cambodia and even Vietnam has now fully embraced tourism and Myanmar is still taking only tentative steps and one questions how long the stability might last.
Myanmar is a land of deep jungles and ancient Buddhist temples. In the words of Kipling;
“This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about.”
That was true 100 years and it remains so now.
7. The ‘Stans
Ok so this is not one single country but a whole strip of off the track, weird and wonderful lands whose names all end with stan! Where Europe meets Asia, modernity meets Soviet Chic and two centuries collide. For a real adventure, you can motorbike through endless miles of steppe in Uzbekistan and check out the former Soviet nuclear test sites in Kazakhstan. The hospitality of the locals in Kurdistan is also pretty awesome.
There are amazing mosques, Orthodox churches and some truly quirky Soviet architecture. This represents a real adventure in lands so remote and off the beaten track that some natives may not even know that USSR ever broke up! Even Afghanistan now seems to be opening up to the truly adventurous backpacker.