While many popular backpacking destinations are well-loved for a reason, sometimes taking a wander down the beaten track can make for a refreshing change.
Here we’ve picked out five of our top undiscovered gems which are all located in countries that make for a great backpacking trip. If you have time to stray from the main cities and its attractions, then these places that should definitely feature in your itinerary.
Saaremaa Island, Estonia
The Baltics make for a great low budget backpacking trip and it’s easy to make your way from Latvia, through Lithuania and ending up in Estonia. Saaremaa literally means island land and it’s the largest island the country has to offer. It’s not the easiest place to get to but this has helped it remain so unspoilt.
It’s a place of such natural beauty from the pine dense forests to the selection of charming windmills and villages. Largely untouched by time, you will struggle to get a better sense of traditional Estonia anywhere else in the country. When there, be sure to check out the well-preserved Kuressaare Castle, built in the 14th century, and row a boat around its moat if the weather is nice.
Skadar Lake, Montenegro
Montenegro is rather underrated as a travel destination especially given how friendly on the wallet it is. For those that do venture there, the capital city of Podgorica is the usual destination but not too far south you will find the gigantic Lake Sakadr. It’s around a 40 minute bus journey away and just 7km from the Adriatic Sea.
Take a flat bottomed boat through the lily pads on the lake or wander around the greenery which boasts a huge collection of birdlife (over 300 species) and a vast array of flora. The most photographed part of the lake is Pavlova Strana, an incredibly remote part of the lake past Rijeka Crnojevica. While it is a place gradually growing in recognition, you’ll still not stumble across too many people there when taking a hike.
Sheki is a place steeped in history and there is evidence of large-scale settlements here dating back more than 2700 years. It’s partly for this reason why the town is such a gem although it continues to be overlooked by foreign tourists. Here you will find some unspoiled examples of traditional Islamic architecture with its mosaic tiles coupled with superb Azerbaijan cuisine which often focuses on local produce.
Speaking of produce, there is a sizeable Bazaar open during daylight offers which offers some wonderfully unique food, spices and handicrafts. Haggling is a possibility but in many cases the language barrier could be an issue if you don’t have your phrasebook with you. In the backdrop of this small city you will see the forested slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains and trekking possibilities here are endless.
You will struggle to find anywhere more off the beaten track than Umphang which still remains way off the radar for most backpackers. It lies close to the Burmese border and is the southernmost distract of Tak Province. The UNESCO World Heritage site was handed protected sanctuary status in 1989 and it’s one of the best place for a sensational view of what South East Asia can offer when it comes to exotic birds, plants and animals.
For any nature lovers out there, here is an utter paradise and you can spend many days wandering around the tranquil surroundings. Walk deep enough into the forest and you may stumble across Thi Lor Su Waterfall which is the largest waterfall Thaialand has to offer at around 250m tall. It’s a truly stunning site for both eyes and ears and nearby are some exciting rafting opportunities down the Mae Klang River.
Quy Nhon, Vietnam
The reunification express that runs the length of Vietnam several times a day stops off at Dieu Tri, just a few kilometres from Quy Nhon. If getting the night service from Saigon, you’ll arrive here at a convenient time in the morning, making it an ideal stopping point for any northbound journey. Tourists here tend to be local and the lack of foreign visitors helps keep this part of Vietnam refreshingly authentic.
Although the country as a whole is friendly and welcoming, this is especially true of Quy Nhon where people will be keen to take a special interest in an outside tourist. Aside from the delicious food and charming locals, this coastal city offers some glistening beaches where you can often see local fisherman in circular boats looking to make a catch.