The Backpacker’s Secret – Nkhata Bay, Malawi

Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking – 7/10

Africa is a continent that many travellers are fearful of. There are myths that it is less safe than other continents and carries more risk of disease. This is, as i said, just a myth, as Africa is an incredible place to explore with a huge array of unique destinations ideal for backpacker travel.

One such place is Nkhata Bay in Malawi. Malawi has a reputation as being a steady entry into Africa where you can ease your way in before moving on to the real sights. The phrase ‘Africa for beginners’ is often bandied around. However, it is a beautiful country in its own right with a massive variety of fantastic scenery and super friendly locals who can take your backpacking trip from good to great.

Nkhata Bay sums up these points, a pretty village on the northern lakeshore which has a distinctly Caribbean feel. Its lush tropical backdrop make it incredibly scenic and a very easy spot to kick back by the lake and relax. For those that get itchy feet very quickly there’s also some great activities to keep you busy, in particular when the fish eagle that lives up in the cliff gets to feeding time. The nearby coffee and tea plantations are also well worth exploring and can be done so on foot or even on a bike if you’re feeling particularly energetic. Any of these trips can be organised through one of the backpackers hostels available – there’s plenty of on backpacker accomodation on offer!

And this is what makes Malawi and Nkhata Bay so great; incredible sites, wonderful people and easy travel. Need i say more?

Share your own backpacking tips in the comments for all to enjoy. And click here to discover more destinations in Africa to enjoy on your backpacking trip.

You might even want to pick up the Lonely Planet Guide

Sail into Backpacker Paradise – Cartagena, Colombia

Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking – 8/10

Backpacking is about adventures, experiencing things you would never do at home and living life to the full. One thing that very few people will do in their lives is sail across Caribbean waters and play on an island which only has room for one palm tree and a handful of people. This is the adventure that is on offer when you reach Cartagena on Colombia’s north coast.

But Cartagena is not just a gateway to a sailing adventure, it is a beautiful city, full of character and containing a beautiful mix of South American charm and Caribbean atmosphere. The main town illustrates its colonial history, fully walled with decorative, colourful buildings that will delight any backpacker worth their salt. Whilst its nearby beaches are not incredible, a short trip up the coast will leave you spoilt for choice, whether you go to Taganga, Santa Marta or the myriad of other options. But unless you have been totally starved of the best beaches South America has to offer then you should certainly hang around in the city for a while to savour the incredible feel and take in the wonderful architecture. And that’s not all. Other once in a lifetime experiences on offer include a mud bath in a volcano – and if that’s not enough to get your backpacking juices flowing then you deserve to be on the first plane home!

And then we get to the sailing. If you have just a drip of adventure in your travelling blood then you can’t miss the 5 day trip which leaves from Cartagena and drops you off in Panama with a lovely 2 day stop over in the San Blas islands, miles from civilisation. It’s the trip of a lifetime, and if you’re backpacking around South America it should be top of your list. But more details will be revealed in a blog post all of its own…

Moral of the story, go backpacking to Cartagena and you won’t be disappointed. And dont be fooled into thinking it’s just a gateway to other great destinations, because it’s a top spot all on its own.

Disagree with these tips or have even more beauties of your own? Share them in the comments for all to enjoy!

Want to discover more backpacking destinations in South America?

Or get the Lonely Planet Guide here: Colombia (Lonely Planet Country Guide)

This post has been provided with the support of Readers Digest, providers of budget travel advice.

Backpacker Travel Amongst the Dunes – Huacachina, Peru

Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking – 7/10

For us backpackers, one of the most important things to know when heading to a destination is what activities are on offer. We might want the best beaches to laze around on, bluest lakes to swim in or highest mountains to hike up, but we like to know what we’re getting when we arrive.

This isn’t a problem when you head to Huacachina in Western Peru. Even the drivers of the tuk tuks in the nearest town aren’t totally sure where it is, so it can be a bit of a struggle to get yourself there, but with your Lonely Planet in hand and some broken Spanish to throw around you should just about manage (even if its’s with a few detours!).

People come here for one thing and one thing only: the dunes. It is a tiny town based around an oasis that is perfectly located on the edge of miles of sand dunes. After a quick lap of the oasis (which takes 5 minutes) it’s all about getting yourself on a tour in the dune buggies and heading out into the sandy distance. The dune buggy ride is super exhilirating as the driver throws you around and jumps over the humps in the sand at (seemingly) massive speed, and once you get out to go sandboarding you’re legs will be close to jelly. Try and hold it together though, because the joy of reaching the bottom of a big dune on your sandboard is mightily rewarding (if improbable!). And it’s certainly worth hanging around for the stunning sunset which was like nothing i’ve never seen before.

Once you return to your backpacker accomodation it’s likely you’ll be ready for bed, the harsh sun and the sandboarding takes its toll. And that’s Huacachina. Unless you want to become a pro sandboarder a day should be enough to savour all it has to offer, but you should certainly put that day aside, it’s an excellent place to go backpacking.

A Destination of Natural Beauty – North Yorkshire Moors, England

Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking – 6/10

The North Yorkshire Moors are one of the largest expanses of moorland in the UK and have been named a national park in order to preserve its beauty. Whilst many Brits may not see them as a real backpacking destination due to their proximity, any backpackers of other nationalities are blown away by its beauty when they come to visit.

The moors could be explored for days on end for the backpacker looking to get out into nature and drink in the clean yorkshire air. However, travellers who go backpacking looking to relax on the beach in hot climes might not be quite as entertained.

The moors also surround various beautiful market towns that provide a great getaway if you need to hit the shops and speak to some real people rather than sheep for a while! Towns like Knaresborough and Ilkley have lovely local shops, pretty buildings and Ilkley even has the famous Bettys tea rooms if you want to blow a weeks budget on some tea and scones.

So when you go backpacking to destinations across the globe, don’t forget to include the places that are right on your doorstep.

Go Backpacking in Hippy Paradise – Byron Bay, Australia

Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking – 8/10

Travellers who go backpacking around the world expecting to come back covered in beads and wearing clothes made of wheat will have found paradise when they reach Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia. It is tailor made for the hippy lifestyle with great beaches in beautiful, natural surroundings and activities ranging from surfing, scuba and snorkelling to yoga, nature walks and day spas.

But it is not just hippies that are drawn to this popular backpacking destination. As with most places in Australia surfing is high on the agenda for most backpackers, whether it is their first go on the waves or they’re seasoned pros. And for the less active travellers out there you can always turn to the wildlife, with whale watching a major draw for many visitors who get a rare opportunity to see the most elusive of animals.

Byron Bay has all the amenities you could want, with backpacker accomodation everywhere you look and fantastic food ranging from falafels and fish to bbqs and homemade ice cream. All that enjoyed out on the beach and you’ve got a pretty nice little day (or month) ahead of you.

Byron Bay is tailor made for backpacker travel and is another of those destinations you could find yourself getting stuck. If you need any more evidence of its quality, then how about the fact that Paul Hogan aka Crocodile Dundee has built his mansion there. Even Mr Australia himself has given it the thumbs up!

Why not add your own tips in the comments, we’d all love to hear them! Or discover other backpacking gems in Asia and Australasia.

You might even want to buy the guide to take with you on your trip: Australia Lonely Planet Guides