Backpacking through a new region allows travelers ultimate freedom – you can satisfy your wanderlust without being tied down with strict hotel accommodations and heavy luggage loads. This gives you more flexibility to take spur of the moment detours and explore back roads that your normally wouldn't find in traditional tourist destinations. Get off the beaten path and check out these five great areas for backpackers to explore.
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Want to get a distilled dose of Thailand's natural beauty, cultural heritage, and city life all at the same time? Chiang Mai is a must-see destination for backpackers traveling through Southeast Asia. This city is so compelling, that it has become an expatriate's paradise, and many foreigners have decided to make the move and stay in Chiang Mai for the long term. Thailand is considered to be very affordable for Western visitors, and Chiang Mai can provide backpackers with a high level of comfort for a low price – allowing you to rest those road weary feet. Be sure to travel light and hit up the famous night market, which features an amazing array of local art, jewelry, gifts, and food.
2. Lahaina, Maui
The next time you're in Hawaii, don't forget to cruise over to Maui and visit Lahaina. The laid back atmosphere can be perfect to recharge before or after a long backpacking tour. What could be better than lying on a hammock, swaying in the trade winds, and looking out onto the Pacific Ocean? Lahaina is filled with quaint gift shops and cultural museums, which are sure appeal to even the weariest traveler. This location was once a whaling village, so it is an ideal spot for visitors that want to jump onto a boat and take a whale watching tour. While you're in the area, don't forget to check out the famous 60-foot Banyan Tree, which can be found near the Lahaina Harbor and Courthouse.
3. Lodz, Poland
Urban explorers will love this destination. Lodz is full of parks, national art galleries, cultural fairs, and some of the most intriguing sights – massive street art pieces. These aren't your everyday graffiti pieces or pathetic tag scribbles. The street art in Lotz comes in vibrant colors, often stretching in a panoramic display across multiple buildings. Gaze up at these mammoth pieces of art, many of which have been sponsored by the city's local Urban Forms Gallery and sanctioned by the mayor of Lotz. These dynamic illustrations helping some street artists build their reputation and become household names within Poland, such as Natalia Rak and her immense character portraits.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
East meets West in Istanbul, which is widely regarded as one of the most international cities on the planet. Backpackers should make sure they tour through the city's most vibrant districts, like Bosporus, a location filled with sprawling palaces and stunning natural landscapes, the New City, the main business and retail hub, and the Princes' Islands, a perfect escape from city life featuring tourist shops and galleries.
5. Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts will rejoice upon their arrival in Port Elizabeth. Backpackers will find themselves amidst several animal conservation and marine life organizations in this area, such as the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Center, the Kwantu Private Game Reserve, and the Cape Recife Nature Reserve. Travelers can get an up close look at elephants, giraffes, whales, zebra, and many other stunning species. This area is extremely friendly to backpackers accommodations of all sorts like hostels, lodges, and guesthouses to choose from.
Backpacking can be physically strenuous, so it's important that travelers keep an eye out for locations that offer both non-traditional adventures and a certain level of comfort. Make sure to check out these top destinations and cross them off your traveling wish list.