Imagine seeing some of the most spectacular sights this world has to offer, not through the grimy glass of a tour bus from miles away, but standing on a mountain trail with a pack strapped to your back. As nature intended.
Take deep gulps of some of the freshest air imaginable while standing at the top of the world. Feel like trying out your yodel? Go ahead. The mountaintops won’t tell.
Backpacking appeals to travelers who want to experience the sense of freedom they can’t get from a tightly packed tour bus. They enjoy a special kind of confidence that comes from knowing that you can carry everything you need to survive on your back – no wheelie bag necessary. And there’s not a clock or appointment book in sight.
Backpacking may be the answer to your perfect summer trip whether you are looking for a budget-friendly vacation, a way to challenge yourself, or a way to get out and take in some natural beauty with or without family and friends in tow.
We’ve come up with an eclectic list of some of the best backpacking destinations and trails the world has to offer.
Most Spectacular Views
This heading is slightly misleading. Most of the locations in this article could have been filed under it. One of the many benefits of backpacking is the abundance of pretty things to look at. These, however, were chosen because of their unique beauty.
Tour du Mont Blanc
This iconic trail circles the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc. At 105 miles long, it can take backpackers seven to eleven days to walk along fields of wildflowers, dramatic exposed rock formations and breathtaking glaciers. The idyllic villages you’ll pass through along the way are worth exploring, as well.
John Muir Trail
The John Muir Trail is arguably one of the most beautiful hikes in America. The trail begins in Yosemite National Park and winds through 211 miles of stunning natural beauty to Mount Whitney, the highest point in the United States. As a bonus, this is also a great trail for solo backpackers.
By Peretz Partensky
Torres del Paine
Chile’s Torres del Paine (also known as “the towers”) offers 62 miles of moderate to strenuous backpacking for the adventurous. The trail loops through vistas of granite monoliths that twist 10,000 feet into the heavens. The landscape has often been called surreal and it’s not difficult to see why. Exotic wildlife like condors, guanacos and the occasional puma are mere distractions from the jagged cliffs, blue glaciers, subpolar forests and stretches of wildflower fields.
Most Budget Friendly
Aside from being easy on the pocketbook, Nepal may be one of the most peaceful destinations for backpackers looking to get away from it all. Explore your way to Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley, touring ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples such as Pashupatinath, Budhanilkantha, and Manakamana along the way.
Aside from the low cost, you can frolic your way from golden beach to rainforest to volcano in either Corcovado or Palo Verde National Parks, two premiere backpacking destinations in the country. Don’t forget your bathing suit! Between the blue ocean, the waterfalls, various swimming holes and tempting natural hot springs, you’ll have plenty of chances to swim in paradise.
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia sits Turkey. With a heady blend of eastern and western cultures and traditions, this still affordable destination is a popular one for students and backpackers. Once the capital of both the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, Istanbul is the perfect place to begin your vacation. Explore the Hagia Sofia, Old Town and the Grand Bazaar before heading out to visit the countryside and places such as Ephesus and Saklikent Canyon.
Best for Solo Travelers
Alberta, Canada and Jasper National Park are home to the Wilcox Pass trail. A fantastic way to take in the natural beauty if you prefer to be on your own for a while. You’ll see the unbelievably gorgeous Columbia ice fields as well as the Athabasca glacier and stunning Mount Andromeda. Wildlife such as bighorn sheep and open meadows offer shutterbugs endless opportunities to capture the perfect shot.
Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park
In Moab, Utah you find a hiker-friendly town and two beautiful national parks with a multitude of excellent backpacking opportunities for solo travelers. You’ll have plenty of solitude and breathtaking scenery between these two parks. Don’t miss seeing the world-famous Delicate Arch.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Nova Scotia, Canada is home to the outstanding Cabot Trail. Consistently rated as one of North America’s top destinations, the 185-mile Cabot Trail extends across the northern tip of Cape Breton Island. Once you’ve backpacked the Cabot Trail and decided that you aren’t ready to depart, go ahead and check out some of the islands 25 other trails.
There is no shortage of fantastic backpacking destinations in this world. Whether you prefer moderate hikes and beautiful views alone or with friends or a full-fledged backpacking tour through historically rich cultures, you can’t go wrong with any of these destinations. How will you spend your summer?
By: Vincent Stokes