Backpacking Far Off the Beaten Track

Top 10 Alternative Destinations for Your Round the World Trip

Getting ‘off the beaten track’ means different things to different people. To some, the phrase means trekking solo through a combat zone in the Congo. To others, it just means crossing over the street to the bar that isn’t listed in the guide book. For us, it’s about acknowledging the awesomeness of certain destinations, but recognising that nearby might be a lesser travelled alternative or additional place worth checking out. Here is our list of amazing places that are well visited in their own right, but often missed by travellers on their round the world trips.

1. Malaysia

Pier at Mabul Island, Sabah, Malaysa.

Thailand is one of the most popular gap year countries to travel to on a round the world trip, especially for those aged 18-24. But what about Malaysia? Malaysia can draw many parallels with Thailand. Both have huge capital cities; both have amazing weather; both have amazing cuisine. There are draws to both countries. However, one of the major differences between the two is Malaysia doesn’t have the crowds of backpackers and travellers that Thailand has. Malaysia is a lot quieter, a lot more relaxed, and in many ways offers a more idyllic lifestyle. For example, Perhentian Islands offer pristine beaches and some of the best snorkelling in the world. It’s not completely off the beaten track, but it’s certainly a little off the standard backpacker trail. Bliss.

2. The Pantanal

While its Amazonian big brother grabs all the attention and online retail domains, this tropical wetland is an amazing alternative to explore some exotic nature on your trip to South America. Straddling Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, the Pantanal is home to jaguars, alligators, anacondas, piranhas, buffalo, capybaras, otters and hundreds of other species of fish and birds. This is genuinely well off the beaten track, and because the flora is less dense than the Amazon, you’ve got a much better chance of seeing some cool wildlife. Trips are easy to do, with many leaving Camp Grande, the state capital of Brazil’s Mato Grosso region.

3. Annapurna, Nepal

mountaineers trekking to top of thorong-la, annapurna, nepal

When most people think of trekking in the Himalayas, they think of Mount Everest and climbing to Everest Base Camp at 5,364 metres. However, trekking in the region of Annapurna is just as good, if not better. Even though Annapurna Base Camp is over a kilometre lower at 4,130 metres, the trekking is by no means easy, yet far less people do it, meaning it’ll be just you and the mountains. For entry level mountaineering, this is a great idea to get off the beaten track. Also, the nearest town to Annapurna is Pokhara, one of the most beautiful towns in all of Nepal and worth visiting for a few days.

4. Albania

A long-time destination for InterRailers, Albania has often been overlooked by long-haul travellers when they think about Europe. Well, they’re going to have to think again, because Albania is mightily rising up the backpacking league table. Its capital, Tirana, is a bustling city buzzing with activity, and the nightlife is a pleasant surprise. Albania is home to two UNESCO cities, Berat and Gjirokastra, in which you could easily get lost in each for days. And for real isolation, you can swim between the four Ksamili Islands just south of Sarandë in Albania’s extreme southwest. It’s so close to Greece you could walk over the border, but with everything at your fingertips, why would you?

5. The Australian Outback

Australia is famous for its wide open spaces, yet most backpackers and travellers rarely stray away from the East Coast and its surrounding cities. On your gap year make sure you take the trip inland and check out Australia’s outback, especially the cattle ranches. Some of them are the size of European countries (one ranch is the size of Belgium!). They offer a very different way of living and a window into the true Australian spirit. After all, what’s not to love about driving quad-bikes and flying helicopters to round up cattle? It’s so far off the beaten track, well, there is no track!

6. Lesotho

The highest waterfall in Southern Africa at 180 metre. Guiness record highest commercial abseil at 200m

South Africa is beautifully set up for travelling. It’s got the backpacker trail, the hostels and the Baz Bus – a great hop-on/hop-off shuttle service. But none of these pass through Lesotho, the small independent nation completely surrounded by South Africa. Bordering the famous Drakensberg Mountains, Lesotho has long been called the ‘Kingdom in the Sky’ and is properly off the beaten track as far as backpacking goes. It’s one of those places that doesn’t have any killer sights, but is just amazing to experience, with a fascinating history, stunning scenery and welcoming people. Instead of bypassing it, head to Bloemfontein and get a minibus taxi across the border. Adventure awaits.

7. Tonga and Samoa

No round the world trip would be complete without a stop-off to Fiji, but while you’re there why not check out Tonga and Samoa? Often seen as Fiji’s little brothers, both have a lot to boast about. The Pacific Islands are famous for their beaches and Tonga and Samoa are no different. There are beaches that stretch for as far as the eye can see, the landscape only changing with the occasion beach bar. If it’s paradise off the beaten track you’re looking for, then search no further. The only downside to seeing these two islands is you’ll want to see all other 30,000 islands that the Pacific Islands have to offer.

8. Silver Star, Canada

There’s more to Canadian ski resorts than Banff and Whistler. Silver Star in British Colombia shreds. It’s been voted ‘best small resort in North America’ and has won countless other awards, including an award for being a ‘top 10 wine spas worldwide’. With the Okanagan Valley on your doorstep, you’ll be treated to some of the most stunning views in all of North America. If you’re looking for powder without the punters, then head to Silver Star. Not only will you be off the beaten track, you’ll be well and truly off-piste.

9. Sri Lanka

India is one of the largest and most travelled countries in the world, but most backpackers completely miss its relatively tiny island neighbour. And they shouldn’t, because Sri Lanka is packed with enough experiences to tick off all the travelling checkboxes several times over. History? Take in the ancient cities of Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa. Religion? Visit the beautiful cave temples of Dambulla. Sights? Scale the monstrous Sigiriya rock fortress. Culture? Stop off in the cultural capital, Kandy. Food? There is curry. Lots of curry. Sri Lanka is incredible, a proper multi-cultural, multi-experience jewel, and there’s more off the beaten track beyond what we’ve mentioned here. There’s more to your ‘Indian stop’ than India.

10. The Overland Route

While the overland routes might be well worn in their own right, they get you further off the beaten track than most tours and public transport, and way further than you could yourself. Whether it’s traversing the African bush from Nairobi to Cape Town or exploring the lush nature of Asia through Nepal and India, overlanding is an awesome way to taste some adventure within the safety of a group. The concept has got a lot more organised compared to its early days, but there’s still plenty of excitement and adrenaline to be savoured.