From gap year students to seasoned explorers, backpacking is the one outdoors activity that truly crosses the boundaries of age, experience and interests. An intoxicating blend of diverse cultures combined with stunning scenery, unfamiliar terrains and a sense of untouchable freedom mean that travelling in this way continues to inspire and delight people from all reaches of the globe. These are the five backpacking areas that here at Mountain Warehouse we feel you just can't miss; we've provided the rucksack, the tent and now some fantastic destinations...so pack your bags and book those flights!
From the crowded, colourful bustle of the cities to the contemplative calm of the Himalayan peaks, India has something to offer from all angles. Cheap food and accommodation make this is an ideal backpacking destination, and the sheer culture shock you'll experience upon arrival is reason alone to visit. The beaches of Goa, Varanasi and Kerala are all must visit spots, with neighbouring Nepal also proving a popular destination. Don't attempt to experience this country quickly; it's huge, far reaching and demands your full attention, so immerse yourself in its spirituality, colourful history and take the time go get to know its people. The sweltering weather can notoriously make mince meat of the inexperienced traveller, so it might be an idea to invest in a water bottle or flask, or even a hydration pack if you want to be extra cautious!
2. South East Asia
Whilst South East Asia is rapidly becoming an obvious backpacking destination, it is not without reason. Beautiful scenery, accommodating locals and incredibly cheap living costs make it a veritable backpacker haven. Party animals would be best suited to the tourist destinations of Thailand's' Ko Samui or Ko Phangan, notorious for their wild Full Moon beach parties. If you're after something a little more chilled out, the well kept secret of Rai-Lai would be ideal; a secluded headland full of relaxed reggae bars and gorgeous beaches makes it perfect for whiling away a pleasant afternoon. For a dose of nature and to meet a few of your hairy simian ancestors, try Malaysia's lush Langkawi rainforest, and Vietnam's Hanoi and Hoi An are both popular with backpackers looking for something a bit different. With the cheap prices you'll inevitably pick up some goodies along the way, so make sure you set off with a rucksack that will be able to accommodate this, like our Puma 60-85L rucksack.
3. China and Japan
From the Great Wall of China to the lesser known Urumqi and Guilin areas along the Li River, China presents a wealth of opportunities for exploration and discovery. Merging beautiful scenery, like that found along the Yangtze River, with the unapologetically westernised ostentation of cities like Shanghai, China is a true meeting of worlds. The rail service is relatively effective and cheap, so travelling to different areas shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Beijing is definitely worth a visit, and history buffs will find themselves satisfied here; there is much evidence still remaining of a fascinating ancient civilization that continues to permeate the landscape and culture even to this day.
For stunning natural scenery, look no further than Japan. Often overlooked in favour of more popular backpacking hotspots like Thailand, Japan has much to offer the intrepid globe trotter. The bubbling volcanic springs and ancient temples that this country is famous for form a fascinating juxtaposition when viewed directly after visiting the neon glow of a major city like Tokyo. The city of Kyoto is perfect for discovering the 'old' Japan, and for history buffs, visiting the famously obliterated Nagasaki is a must for a thought provoking day trip. Grab a handy Japan Rail Pass for £150 for seven days; this is only available to foreign tourists and will make getting around that much easier. While you're there, why not try out the bullet train; invented in Japan and reaching speeds of up to 300km/hr, it's sure to make your daily commute back in England seem that little bit slower!
Whilst Brazil is more expensive than some other South American destinations, it's worth every penny. Backpacking here is a true eye opener; colourful, exotic and busy, once you've experienced the hospitality and excitement of the Brazilian culture you'll never want to leave! Rio de Janeiro is the capital city, and is packed to the rafters with fun things to do, but there are other cities that are well worth a visit like Salvador de Bahia and Sao Paolo. The Iguacu falls are breathtaking, and for a seriously special trip into the wild the Amazon Rainforest should be on your to see list. If you're trying to decide when to arrive in Brazil, aim for when the carnivals are in town; a riot of colour and noise and always a visual spectacle, these are just one long party - the best are Salvador, Recife-Lolinda and Rio. It's always wise to book your accommodation in advance for these events as they are very popular with locals and tourists alike. Tip: don't let tired dancing feet ruin your fun, instead of your usual flimsy flip flops why not grab a pair of our sturdy trekking sandals for happy toes?
5. Australia and New Zealand
Australia is one of the most popular backpacking destinations around; and with good reason. Cheap, huge and incredibly accommodating to the backpacker community, it is the ideal location for the young and the restless. Sydney, Fraser Island, the stunning Gold Coast and the Great Ocean Road are all key hot spots. Australia combines the gorgeous rural scenery of the outback with the cool urban vibe of cities like Melbourne and Cairns and it is this contrast that makes it such a backpacker's haven and ensures that travellers just keep coming back for more. There is a thriving English community as well, as the lure of great job opportunities in the sunniest of climates evidently proves difficult to leave behind!
New Zealand is famous for its breathtaking landscape; the sweeping vistas and long panning scenery shots of the Lord of the Rings Franchise were filmed here, and with good reason. Places of interest are the Fjordland, Lake Taupo for skydiving, the Tamaki Maori Village and Kaikoura for whale watching. Queenstown is the one stop destination for extreme sports and the South Island scenery is notoriously beautiful. The locals are generally very welcoming and friendly, and backpacking here shouldn't cost too much if you do plenty of research beforehand. Surrounded by such beautiful scenery you're bound to want to get out and explore, so make sure you've got some great trekking and hiking clothes, like some breezy zip off trousers or a climate control t shirt.
There's an entire world out there so get yourself out into the wilderness... Just make sure that you let us know how it goes!