10 Backpacker Havens EVERYONE Is Talking About This Year

One thing travellers pretty much all have in common is a desire to explore, to conquer the unknown and expand their experience. That’s why when it comes to predicting future travel trends, often YOU are already blazing the trail to the best off-the-beaten-path locations and wonders. We crunched a few numbers, specifically looking at booking increases in different locations around the world, to find out where YOU are heading next. Stand by for 10 of the fastest emerging travel destinations for 2017:

1. Myanmar

Fastest Emerging Travel Locations

📸: Steven J Williams

Anyone who has explored this beauty of a country will tell you how incredible it is. Often overshadowed by its more famous Southeast Asian counterparts Vietnam and Thailand, Myanmar is quickly emerging as one of THE best places to visit in 2017. Part of its appeal is its general aura of unexplored-ness, and ton of off-the-beaten-path beauty to discover. Natural wonders and history are around every corner.

Top festivals/events in Myanmar during 2017

  • Mahamuni-Pagoden-Fest: Jan 28 – Feb 11
  • Golden Hilltop Festival: Feb 6-12
  • Pindaya Cave Festival: Mar 6-12
  • Thingyan Water Festival: April 13-16
  • Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival: Sep 21 – Oct 8
  • Elephant Festival: Oct 4-6
  • Balloon Festival: Oct 28 – Nov 3

What to do in Myanmar

Some of the most popular things to see in Myanmar are visiting the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, Shwenandaw Monastery, Anada Temple etc. Our travelling friend @Laura_Davers recommends: “It’s a touch touristy, but the pilgrimage to the Golden Rock in Kyaiktiyo is such a unique experience. Beautiful views and an epic drive! The night market in Mawlamyine has such amazing food, and check out the world’s largest reclining Buddha whilst your there!”

Where to stay in Myanmar

In the former capital city of Yangon, the Little Yangon Hostel stands as a testament to the very best of what it means to be a backpacker. The atmosphere is incredible, with a social vibe and wondrously relaxing chill out areas. They offer free breakfast, guitars to play, a steam room and even international plugs for all your electronic needs. It really is the little things…

2. Cook Islands

📸: @charlottepiho

Off to the South Pacific’s paradise Cook Islands. This pearl of tropical heaven lies northeast of New Zealand, and is quickly becoming one of the hottest new travel destinations. The beaches are pristine, and the locals are delightful.

Top festivals/events in the Cook Islands during 2017

  • Ra O Te Ui Ariki: Jul 6
  • Te Maeva Nui – 52nd Constitution Celebrations: Jul 28 – Aug 6

What to do in the Cook Islands

Paradise can be found in the form of Aitutaki Lagoon, One Foot Island, and Muri Beach. Cross Island Walk is an great way to adventure across some of the most luscious scenery on earth. For something a little more off the beaten path, try the Rima Rau burial cave on the island of Atiu, or the village of Vaipae, on the island of Aitutaki.

Where to stay in the Cook Islands

Believe it or not, even the tiny Cook Islands have awesome hostels! A particular fave is Tiare Village, Rarotonga. It’s conveniently located, and has an authentic island feeling! You can even pick fresh pawpaw, bananas, mangoes, avocados, guavas and chillies in the hostel garden!

3. Nepal

Fastest Emerging Travel Locations

📸: @wiwa_b

Nepal was devastated by earthquake back in 2015. The country is still recovering, and amazingly, one of the reasons Nepal has grown in popularity since then is due to the efforts of non-profit organisations and incredible travellers who head there with the purpose of giving back. The mountains are stunning, the people are incredible, and the history is fascinating.

Top festivals/events in Nepal during 2017

  • Holi Festival: Feb/Mar
  • Bisket Jatra: April
  • Indra Jatra: September
  • Diwali: October
  • Mani Rimdu: November
  • Kathmadu Film Festival: December

What to do in Nepal

Of course one of the very best things to do is to volunteer your time and energy to help out with an earthquake recovery project. But that’s not all: Boudhanath, Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath and Kathmandu Durbar Square Temples are all mind-blowing. One of the most popular things to do in Nepal is trekking. There are tons of off-the-beaten-path treks, like Manaslu, Kanchenjunga and Upper Dolpo Trek. Make sure to do your research so you know what to expect!

Where to stay in Nepal

In a city like Kathmandu, many backpackers want to get straight into the heart of the action, and that’s exactly what you get at Shangrila Boutique. It’s right in the centre, and perfect for relaxing after a long day of trekking and adventuring. They even have a lively rooftop garden terrace, complete with restaurant/bar and the entire place is eco-friendly!

4. Iceland

Fastest Emerging Travel Locations,Nepal,

📸: Lola.Photography

This beautiful little European nation is top of many bucket lists. It’s seemingly all the rage right now, and for good reason. Iceland is one of the most naturally beautiful countries on earth, and manages to lure backpackers from all over the world to see its earthly treasures. It really is like stepping into a new dimension; one of flickering northern lights and shimmering waterfalls.

Top festivals/events in Iceland during 2017

  • Sonar Reykjavik: Feb 16-18
  • Secret Solstice: June 16-18
  • Merchants’ Weekend Festival: July
  • Iceland Airwaves: November

What to do in Iceland

It goes without saying that the Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights are wonders almost beyond comprehension. But Iceland has a whole host of adventures to be had and gems to be discovered. Our nomadic friend @AlberRom suggests: “Ring Road is a must. Hire a care at Sadcars (cheapest) and find travel buddies on Samferda to split petrol costs. Don’t stay too long in Reykjavik, but if you do, get the tourist 1-2 or 3 days pass to get free buses and museums. Even if it is a bit touristy, try to book some guided tours, especially the glacier walk tour in Vatnajökull National Park.

Where to stay in Iceland

Fastest Emerging Travel Locations,iceland,where to stay

📸: Lola.Photography

You simply can’t go wrong with Kex Hostel. The whole place is packed with flair and personality, not to mention an in-house jazz club, bar and delicious restaurant. If you need a trim, swing by the hostel barber, and unwind after all that waterfall chasing by curling up with a good book in the Kex library.

5. UAE

Fastest Emerging Travel Locations

📸: @Mezzarino

Beauty, sunshine and adventure abound in the UAE, so it’s not hard to see why it’s quickly becoming a hot spot for travellers. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two city gems, but that’s not all. The country is steeped in history, cuisine and gorgeous scenery. Whether you’re a city breaker or a wilderness/desert explorer, the UAE has something for everyone.

Top festival/events in the UAE during 2017

  • Dubai International Jazz Festival: Feb 22-24
  • Art Dubai: March 15-18
  • Dubai Design Week: November 13-18

What to do in the UAE

It’s impossible to totally avoid all of the touristy sites in the UAE, so you might as well embrace the best ones (shhhh don’t tell anyone we said that). Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi are two of the greats, as well as Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) and Dubai Fountain in Dubai. Many travellers also rave about their experiences taking a desert safari, and visiting the cultural hub of Sharjah.

Lots of people don’t know that the metro system is actually great for travellers! Our travel-savvy amigo @mezzarino advises: “Dubai’s Metro system opened in 2009 and is perfect for those who don’t want to use taxis to get around the city to see the sights or to hit the shops. There are currently two lines in operation, and both are useful for first-time visitors to Dubai. The red line connects the airport with sights such as Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa and the Palm Jumeirah resort. The green line connects with the red line and is useful for exploring the Deira (Old Town) area of the city where the souks and the Dubai Museum are located. As a tourist, you’ll need to purchase a “Red Nol Card” which you can load up with credit at any Metro station. The card itself costs 2AED (about $0.55) and single ticket prices start at 4AED for adults (about $1.10).”

Where to stay in the UAE

In a city of lavish hotels and skyscrapers, Dubai’s Marina Dream hostel packs a punch! It’s (of course) right down in the Marina, with easy beach access, shimmering blue water, and an in-house swimming pool and gym. All of the bling without the sting 😉

6. Kyrgyzstan

📸: Mzximvs VdB

Kyrgyzstan might not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking about your travel bucket list, but it’s time to start including it! The former Soviet State is now rapidly growing in popularity among travellers. The country is full of mountains and intricate cities, and now is the perfect time to visit before the inevitable waves of mainstream tourism arrive.

Top festivals/events in Kyrgyzstan during 2017

  • Nauruz (Persian New Year): Mar 21
  • Orozo Ait: 26 Jun
  • National Uzbek Cuisine Festival: Jul 15
  • Kurak and Terme Festival: Aug 5
  • Kurban Ait: Sep 2

What to do in Kyrgyzstan

Some of the best mountains in the world reside in Kyrgyzstan. You can even swim in the second largest mountain lake on earth in Issyk Kul! How about a good wander around Osh Bazaar traditional market, or exploring the ruins of the Tash Rabat Caravansarai in Naryn Oblast!

Our travelling pal @mezzarino advises: “The main sights of Bishkek are easily accessible by foot and with the streets lined with trees and little traffic it makes for a pleasant experience. Ala-Too Square is in the centre of the city and is where the Independence Monument can be found.”

Where to stay in Kyrgyzstan

You certainly can’t go wrong with the awesome Interhouse Bishkek. It’s located perfectly in the heart of Bishkek, just a few minutes from some of the best hot spots in the city. They’re all about your comfort, offering orthopaedic mattresses and a yummy free hot breakfast. Home sweet home!

7. Indonesia

📸: Jelle Oostrom

Oh Indonesia! For a long time, Bali has been a hugely popular stopping point for travellers, especially those from Australia and New Zealand. However, this year, all trends point towards the group of volcanic islands becoming even more popular with the rest of the world. Stunning ancient architecture, natural scenery and of course volcanic adventure awaits!

Top festivals/events in Indonesia during 2017

  • BaliSpirit Festival: Mar 19-26
  • Galungan & Kuningan: Apr 5-15
  • Waisak: May
  • Bali Kite Festival: Jul – Aug

What to do in Indonesia

Once again, you’re definitely not going to regret seeing some of the popular site, as they’re popular for a reason. The 9th century Buddhist temple Borobudur, and Tanah Lot, home of the famous pilgrimage temple also won’t disappoint. The volcanoes of Bandung are haunting and inspiring, and the Sacred Monkey Forest near Ubud will make your soul smile. Our friend @Gypsyheartblog also recommends seeing the regency of Tana Toraja for “culture, rituals, greenery and Indiana Jones type caves full of skulls”

Where to stay in Indonesia

Hostelling in Southeast Asia is an amazing thing, but especially in Indonesia. Captain Goose hostel is an all-star. It’s practically on the beach, has the chilliest atmosphere you could imagine, and even offers airport transfers. Make sure to stock up on the free pancakes. Explorers need fuel!

8. Madagascar

📸: Teza Harinaivo Ramiandrisoa

The African island of Madagascar is racing up the ranks onto many 2017 travel bucket lists, and for good reason. The nation is one of natural beauty, wildlife, art, culture and tradition. Fun fact: most of the creatures of Madagascar are unique to the island!

Top festivals/events in Madagascar during 2017

  • Zegny’Zo Arts Festival: May
  • Donia Festival: June
  • Kabiry Festival Jul – Aug
  • Sorogno Festival: August
  • Rebeke Music Festival: August
  • Lemur Festival: November

What to do in Madagascar

Get ready to embrace the great outdoors! Most people’s list of things to do in Madagascar include visiting the lemurs of Ranomafana and Isalo National Parks, experiencing the stunning Avenue of the Baobabs and seeking serenity at Nosy Mangabe. It’s also definitely worth visiting Antsirabe, where you can try to glimpse the rare Golden Bamboo Lemur.

Where to stay in Madagascar

The very first, and one of the best hostels in the country is Madagascar Underground. You definitely won’t find a better price and the hostel has everything you’d ever need to make your stay in Africa incredible: Outdoor terraces, cinema, games room, restaurant, amazing location etc. And the late 60s post-art deco design will fill your soul with funky retro vibes.

9. Ukraine

📸: @fima_skz

You guys were all about the off-the-beaten-path adventures in eastern Europe in 2016 and this trend looks set to continue. Destinations such as Ljubljana and Dubrovnik are now firmly on most travellers’ radar, and Ukraine looks set to follow this year. The winters may be cold but this emerging hot spot has plenty to offer those itching to explore.

Top festivals/events in Ukraine during 2017

  • Kiev Day: May 26
  • Molodist International Film Festival: October
  • New Year Tree Show: Dec 31

What to do in Ukraine

The country is brimming with culture and history. Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Caves Monastery dates all the way back to 1051, and Saint Sophia Cathedral is equally historic and impressive. Our travelling friend @mezzarino advises: “The ‘Milk Bars’ in Kiev are a legacy from the Communist days and are a great way to get a quick and cheap meal on the go in the city. You will be able to get a filling plate of local cuisine and a drink for under $8.”

Where to stay in Ukraine

DREAM HOUSE Hostel is where it’s at! Since its opening in 2012, the hostel has been a backpacker’s haven in Kiev. The in-house café, organised pub crawls, shooting tour and handy location will ensure you get a real Ukraine experience. Oh and there are laptops to use, comfy private rooms and a 9.5/10 value for money guest rating!

10. Kazakhstan

📸: @Mezzarino

Last but certainly not least on our list is Kazakhstan. Another former Soviet State, the country has flown under most people’s radar until now. But 2017 is the year for exploration, and Kazakhstan is an adventure waiting to happen. Some travellers even get to experience the life of true wandering by hanging out with the actual nomads living there!

Top festivals/events in Kazakhstan during 2017

  • Constitution Day: Jan 28
  • Nauryz: Mar 22

What to do in Kazakhstan

Our wandering buddy @Mezzarino is full of killer tips: “Astana is a city spread over a large distance and with zero public transport, it’s difficult to get about. I recommend hiring a driver and an English speaking guide for the day. They will take you to all of the sights in the city and to a local restaurant to sample the local cuisine.” While you’re there, take a little time to swing by Kyzyl Orda, the country’s ancient capital and the caves of Sufi Beket Ata.

Where to stay in Kazakhstan

Literally walking distance from Bayterek Monument is the brilliant Nochleg Hostel. Your stay is made oh-so-easy as they organise pick-ups from the airport, and even have an in-house mini-supermarket! The staff are full of local tips to help you maximise your time in Kazakhstan.

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