Going on a backpacking trip to Europe can mean countless options for itineraries. There are so many different places to go and things to do that it can be hard to narrow it down. Before you start narrowing down your top choices of places to visit. Take a look at these suggestions from travel bloggers about how they would spend their time in backpacking Europe.
Sweden is a country that many people wish to visit, but many choose not to since they’re afraid of the rumors about it being an expensive destination. And sure, it can be expensive as a tourist in Sweden, but if you go local it’s actually surprisingly cheap and convenient.
First of all, pick your destinations before you go. If you want to travel to several places, consider renting a car. It’s cheap and you get to see many places + the roads are great. Most tourists visit the capital of Stockholm, and it’s a beautiful city, but if you want to see nature and castles, I suggest visiting the Northern and Southern part of Sweden.
Some great hikes include the High Coast trail and “Skåneleden”. These offers amazing scenery where you get the chance to camp in nature or stay at charming little guesthouses and “vandrarhem”, which is the Swedish equivalent to a hostel, but with better standards.
To make the most out of your trip I suggest befriending a local before you travel to Sweden. There are groups on Facebook where Swedes help out foreigners and answer their questions. This will be really helpful and rewarding. Because again, planning beforehand and knowing about the hidden gems and ways to save money, will give you a better experience!
Some of my favorite attractions and destinations include Gripsholms Castle, Kalmar Castle, Trolleholm Castle, Sandhammaren Beach, High Coast, Gotland, Öland, Stockholm’s Archipelago, Canola fields in the South, Northern Lights in Abisko and many more!
-Alex – The Swedish Nomad
Norway is a beautiful and sparsely populated country in Scandinavia, and it offers backpackers breath-taking trips and stunning scenery. It is one of the most beautiful countries we’ve ever visited! This, however, comes at a price, as Norway is expensive to travel in, but there are ways to backpack more economically. Camp instead of staying in hostels and hotels, as camping in most places is free.
Limit yourself to an area rather than traveling large distances, as transport is expensive and Norway is beautiful wherever you go. Cook for yourself as eating out is very expensive. Lastly, the best things to do in Norway are free. Give the shopping and nightlife a miss and concentrate on the beautiful landscape. Hiking is free and a great way to see the countryside.
Norway is an outdoor playground and the highlights are definitely the mountains, fjords, and beaches. Everywhere is beautiful but we especially loved the areas around Stavanger and Bergen, and the Lofoten Islands much further north.
Hiking is definitely the way to see the country. There are a number of well-known hikes, but equally, there are many lesser known, but just as beautiful hikes. Hike Pulpit Rock and Kjerag near Stavanger, Trolltunga near Odda, and Reinebringen and Kvalvika Beach in the Lofoten Islands. These hikes offer some of the best scenery you’ll have ever seen!
-Nicky – Go Live Young
Most people start their journey around Iceland by flying into Reykjavik and then making their way around the ring road. This takes in the whole island, except the wildest and perhaps the most beautiful section of the Westfjords, where things become remote and at times you’ll need a 4 x 4.
In general, the southern semi-circle of the ring road contains the bigger tourist attractions, but the northern section is a great way to see a more realistic view of life in Iceland.
The first thing to know is that, if you’re backpacking and saving funds, it’s completely possible to hitchhike the whole ring road for free or to simply pay petrol costs and book rides through samferda.net.
My impression was that there weren’t many hostels, outside of the biggest cities, in Iceland. So when it comes to saving money on your accommodation, you need to get creative.
Pick up a budget tent in Reykjavik and glam it up with some camping. You can choose between paid campsites, which have facilities such as toilets and showers or free wild camping spots which are harder to find. You’ll usually need to read blogs to find free options or hunt for signs along the road.
Another option would be guesthouses, where you stay two to a room and these are plentiful across Iceland.
-Danielle – Livein10countries.com
Medieval cities, good beer, and breathtaking nature. Oh, and a lot of rain. That’s what I found when I backpacked around Ireland in the winter of 2015. Since then I went back a couple of times because I completely fell in love with the country.
From the sweet Galway to the majestic Cliffs of Moher, or even the offbeat Slieve League Cliffs, Ireland is a tiny island jam-packed of awe-inspiring places.
Visiting Dublin is a no-brainer, of course. But be sure to also stop by Limerick, Cork, and Kilkenny to experience the Irish culture in different ambiances. I will stop here, otherwise, I’ll name the whole Emerald Island.
Needless to say that pubs are a strong characteristic of local life. So, have some cold pints of Guinness in pubs along your way while you listen to traditional Irish songs.
Besides drinking your way through Ireland, try some Irish stew and Shepherd’s Pie to warm up a wet and windy day.
If you’re into hiking, head to Glendalough valley in the County Wicklow. The hikes around the lakes there are fairly easy and offer a breathtaking view of the region. The medieval monastic settlement in the area is a must-see, by the way!
The takeaway: pack a raincoat and go explore these fantastic Irish towns and landscapes. You will have the time of your life!”
-Bruna Venturinelli – Maps ‘N Bags
Backpacking Northern Ireland
My first trip to Northern Ireland was the very last leg of my three-month solo European adventure. Before visiting, I didn’t know much about Northern Ireland. It wasn’t until one of my best friends hopped the pond and got her master’s abroad at Queens University (worth a visit on its own!) in Belfast did I have the opportunity to explore Northern Ireland. By my fourth visit (yes FOUR visits, it’s that awesome), Belfast became like a second home to me. Why is it so great? A cab driver one time said it best, “Belfast is a big city with a village feel.” That was the most accurate description I could ever think of. Not only are the people so genuinely friendly, but the serene natural beauty of places like Cave Hill, Crawfordsburn Country Park, and Lagan Meadows are breathtaking. Some of the best hiking trails are within the Mourne Mountain range, just outside of Belfast. With 26 miles (42 km) of walking paths and trails, the area offers spectacular landscape panoramas of Northern Ireland. From low-lying pastoral land to snow-capped mountain peaks, you’ll see it all hiking along these paths. If the weather is kind, you can even see Scotland in the distance! If you’re visiting Northern Ireland, especially Belfast, for the first time it’s important to read up a bit on the history and the very recent period deemed as ‘The Troubles’. It’s tumultuous story with a violent past, and one that locals still remember vividly. Although many locals will tell their side of the story – whether they align with the Nationalists or Unionists – be cautious when bringing this up. As a rule of thumb only talk about the ‘The Troubles’ if someone else does. -Alex – The Wayward Walrus
Backpacking in Wales
Located in the South of the United Kingdom, Wales is known for its rugged coasts and fluffy sheep, for its rolling meadows and strong beer, for its roaring sea and the heartfelt Welsh – a land that brings down the pulse with its many facets while it pushes the Adrenaline to the max.
You only really experience Wales when you become part of it yourself. Namely, if you, just like the 3.1 million inhabitants, drive along the winding and narrow streets, if you feast your way through the traditional pubs and eat a hearty plate full of Welsh lamb and right in between people who speak a language that you probably will not learn so quickly.
Wales is best to travel by car – whether by caravan, van or rental car. You’ll drive through one sleepy village after the other, drive past lush green meadows and sleep in places where you are the only non-Welsh. Traveling through Wales for a week means finding untouched nature, listening to untold stories and drinking a cool pint of beer in the perfect atmosphere.
Clemens – Travellers Archive
France is one of our favorite countries to visit in Europe and backpack around. Sebastien (one half of the Nomadic Boys) is originally from Lyon, France’s 3rd city, and together we always enjoy discovering more of his home country.
The main highlights and stops in France include the capital city, Paris – the city of lights. It’s hands down one of the most beautiful cities we’ve ever visited, with cultural highlights like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Pompidou Centre and more. Lit up at night, the city skyline is stunning. Paris also has a fun café atmosphere and nightlife around the “Le Marais” area and along the Champs Elysees.
Paris is an excellent base to visit Disneyland Paris which you can’t miss.
Close to Paris is the Palace of Versailles commissioned by the lavish King Louis XIV in the 1600s, and the dramatic Mont-St-Michel gravity-defying medieval monastery island.
Just a few hour train ride from Paris is Lyon, famous for being France’s gourmet capital, with some of the best restaurants (called “bouchons” in Lyon) in the country. The region around Lyon called “Rhône Alpes” is notorious for having some of the best wines and cheeses. If you take a flight, there are plenty of ways to get from Lyon airport to the city center.
Other must-see highlights in France include the French Riviera, the Mediterranean southeast corner of the country, famous for its beach resorts, in particular, Cannes, Saint-Tropez, Nice, and the microstate of Monaco.
There are several day trips from Nice or Cannes so if you base yourself there you can easily explore the French Riviera.
For us, the best hikes in France we’ve done are in and around the Ardèche region, which is perfect for backpackers due to the abundance of excellent campsites.
Finally, one tip to get the most out of your travels to France is to try to learn as much of the language as possible. The French are proud of their language and knowing a little will get you a long way. Outside the main cities, English is not that widely spoken anyway. In addition, if traveling extensively around Europe, an InterRail pass will benefit you massively as it will enable you to use most trains within France to get around.
-Stefan and Sebastien – The Nomadic Boys
Backpacking the Netherlands
Although the Netherlands isn’t exactly a budget destination, backpackers will find plenty to enjoy for free with a bit of creativity. My first trip to the Netherlands culminated in me eating hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) on bread after running out of money, but with over three years of living in the Netherlands, I have some advice on how to visit Amsterdam on a budget.
Most backpackers flock to Amsterdam, however, backpackers can save up to 50% from Amsterdam hostel and hotel rates by heading to charming cities just a day trip from Amsterdam, such Leiden and Utrecht. These cities offer the same amount of charm as Amsterdam, however, you’ll miss out on the crowds and elevated prices found at touristy restaurants in Amsterdam. Even if you choose to visit Amsterdam, you can always stop off at “tokos,” cozy Indonesian restaurants that offer affordable and delicious take-out food for dinner. If you’re ready to splurge for a beer, ask for a “biertje,” a small beer on the bar’s tap that won’t break the bank!
One completely free and wonderful activity beloved by foreigners and Dutchies alike is getting lost along the beautiful streets and canals. Be sure to stop at an Albert Heijn, a popular Dutch supermarket, to pick up supplies for a picnic to enjoy along the canals or within a beautiful park. Although there are no mountains in the Netherlands like elsewhere in Europe, the Dutch shoreline is filled with beautiful dunes that can be enjoyed on a scenic walk along the North Sea on a nice day.
-Karen Turner – Wanderlustingk
Belgium is one of the smallest countries in Europe, but you will be surprised at the number of great things to see and do there. Before you travel to Belgium, you ought to know that the country is a mixture of three different worlds: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, all 3 with a different identity and character.
Flanders is the Flemish-speaking region in the country, and it’s famous for the beautiful historical cities you get to visit there. For instance, you will need a couple of days to get visit all the beautiful things to see in Bruges, one of the most romantic medieval towns in Europe, but Ghent or Antwerp are equally precious and rich of historical heritage. These towns are well communicated between each other by train, and you will move around quite easily.
Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, has a much more rural character, and although there are beautiful towns like Mons, Liege or Dinant, to visit, the main highlights are the natural sights. You can drive through beautiful wine routes, kayak in the Lesse Valley, and the best of all you can find great hiking routes in the forests of the Ardennes. Public transport is scarcer here; the best thing to do is to rent a car.
Of course, when you visit Belgium, you can’t miss out on its capital, Brussels, which has a character that incorporates both national identities with an additional international flavor.
A good thing to know before visiting is while accommodation in Bruges is cheaper at the weekend, the opposite is true for the rest of the country, especial the popular cities like Bruges or Ghent.
-Gábor Kovács – Surfing the Planet
Rolling green hills, incredible history, rambunctious pubs, and lots of sheep… that’s what you should expect when backpacking England! Before visiting this country back in 2017, I’d only thought about London; the rest of England never crossed my mind. Man, was I missing out! While London is an amazing city to explore, with its long-standing history, beautiful architecture, the Queen (!!!), and its many museums, it’s definitely a small tidbit of what England has to offer. So, if you’re visiting England for the first time, consider checking out cities like historic Bath, the Roman city of Chester, beachy Brighton, and beautiful Oxford. But don’t forget about the off-the-beaten-path destinations! Like the White Cliffs of Dover, the breathtaking Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the coasts of Cornwall. If you’re more of a hiker, rather than a city-goer, definitely visit the Lake District. With an abundance of stunning hikes, you won’t be disappointed! Even better, once you’re done taking in the views, head down to the small town of Keswick and eat your heart out at one of the many delicious cafes. Tip: When visiting England, make sure to try one of the Cornish pasties! A mouthwatering, flaky pastry filled with things like savory meat or veggies. And don’t forget to end the day with a nice cold pint at a traditional English pub ? -Sophie – The Wanderful Me
Scotland is the perfect place to visit when backpacking around Europe. I studied abroad in Edinburgh and Scotland holds a special place in my heart after visiting 115 countries. Scottish people are known for being friendly and polite and helpful if you need directions or help. Start your Scotland Itinerary by visiting Edinburgh. Next, I recommend getting out of the city and into the Scottish Highlands as part of you. Scotland is known for its gorgeous lakes, lush green hills, idyllic Outlander locations and hair coos (cows). It is very easy to get around in Scotland and visit the stunning landscapes of the Highlands including Loch Ness and Urquart Castle or Eilean Donan Castle – the most famous castle in the world. I would also recommend a trip to Isle of Skye which is just west of Dornie and Eilean Donan Castle. This is the place to go to get away from everything and do some famous hikes such as Old Man Storr. You can also hike to the Fairy Pools there or visit Dunvegan Castle. Scotland really has something for everyone from beaches to castles to amazing landscape and nature. Nicole – Nicole LaBarge
Backpacking in Denmark can be a great experience as there is a lot to see in this country full of happy people (Denmark has been ranked as one of the happiest countries for several years). It should be said, though, that it is very expensive to travel in Denmark, and if you want to keep your spending down, a good advice would be to stay out of Copenhagen. Instead, spend time in Jutland and on Funen. Here you will also find some of the most spectacular natural sights Denmark has to offer. In Jutland, you should visit Råbjerg Mile, the largest migrating sand dune in Northern Europe, and while you are there, why not stop by The Sanded Church Saint Laurence. The church was built in the 14th century and used to be a functioning church, but today you can only see the tower. Sand has simply overtaken the church. The church Is located close to Skagen, a beautiful town close to the sea – this place should also be on your list. At the top of Denmark, not far from Skagen, you find Grenen. This is where The North Sea and Kattegat meet. It is a pretty cool experience to have one foot in each sea and see how the waves crash into each other. Funen, also called Denmark’s garden, can be experienced by foot via The Archipelago Trial – a 220 km long hiking route, encircling the South Funen Archipelago. Funen and the small islands around it are all about beautiful castles, orchards, romantic villages, beautiful beaches, and slow living. Arø, or Aaroe, one of the small islands close to Funen, is known for being a place people from all over the world come to get married because of the beautiful surroundings. Line – Nordic Travellers
If you are new to backpacking, then Germany should be one of your first stops when backpacking Europe. The train and bus system are easy to navigate, and you will find that most people speak English in the major cities. From Frankfurt to Berlin and down to Munich you will find it is very easy to get around. There is a plethora of hostels to choose from that are all clean and well taken care of, it is very rare to find a hostel in Germany that is not up to hotel standards. If you are backpacking through Munich during Oktoberfest however, just make sure you book your hotel at least six months in advance. To save money, eat from the street vendors selling sausage and sauerkraut or buy some groceries at the local supermarket and cook at your hostel kitchen. This will also help you to meet other backpackers and possibly tag along to see the sites. With over 200,000 kilometers of accessible, well- maintained trails, Germany is one of the best places to hike also. You can choose from climbing high peaks or traversing scenic valleys, Germany has everything you could want for a hike-able country. Gina – Jet Set & Forget
Although centrally located in Europe, Hungary feels like a world away. It has a uniquely unrelated language to its neighboring countries’ languages, rich history, and culture and unforgettable sights that are like no other in Europe. Its capital, Budapest, is the obvious stop in Hungary. While it is easy to see why it is considered to be one of the prettiest cities in Europe, Budapest offers many touristy things to do, such as the castle and classical thermal baths. If you are not a fan of the obvious attractions, there are also many other unique things to do in Budapest: cave diving or a spelunking tour in the subterranean capital, to the uniquely do-it-yourself Budapest Makery – the first restaurant of its kind in the world. Or, if you are up for a unique party – join in for a splash at the Budapest Pool Sparty! Although it is a part of the European Union and the Schengen Area, Hungary does not use the Euro as its currency. The Hungarian Forinth can easily throw you off with how much things cost in Hungary, relative to the rest of Europe – but generally speaking, Hungary is a cheaper country to visit. While there, don’t forget to get a Budapest Card – it is easily one of the best deals to help you explore the city. Halef and Michael – The Round The World Guys
Located right in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is a small country that offers a fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and amazing landscapes. Being one of the most expensive countries in the world, it’s no surprise that it’s not a popular backpacking destination. However, there are a lot of promotions on online train tickets, backpacker hostels, and campsites all over the country. In addition, in Switzerland, you are allowed to wild camp as long as you do it away from populated areas. If you are into traditional architecture, you should travel to Bern to enjoy beautiful old streets and great cathedrals, all surrounded by rivers and mountains. The city of Lucerne is even more beautiful as it’s located by a majestic lake, right in front of the spectacular Mount Pilatus. Zurich and Geneve combine tradition with modernity, so they’re also great places to visit. For the most adventurous, just head up to the mountains and enjoy the magic of the Swiss Alps. I recommend that you don’t miss the Walker’s Haute Route. This is considered one of the most beautiful hikes in the world thanks to its huge peaks, turquoise lakes, green valleys and picturesque villages. The Haute Route has it all! -Miguel – Travelsauro
Its central position in Europe, its immense natural beauty, and its rich cultural history make Austria a compulsory stop while backpacking Europe. Backpackers in Austria are spoiled by a well-connected train and bus network taking them from the cities to remote valleys and mountain villages. Austria is landlocked by no less than eight bordering countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, and Slovenia. Polishing up on your German is a good idea especially if you’re planning to visit rural Austria. Must-visit Austrian cities are Vienna, Salzburg, and Innsbruck while the lakeside town of Hallstatt is one of the prettiest villages in Europe. But it’s hiking in the Alpine regions that attract many backpackers. The Tyrol is an excellent base for day hikes from Innsbruck as well as high Alpine hut-to-hut trails. If you tire of hiking, Austria is one of the best destinations for adventure sports in Europe. You can try paragliding, mountain climbing, and whitewater rafting in one of the many beautiful valleys. Of course, there are many cable cars in Austria helping you to reach Alpine peaks without much effort but those can be pretty expensive. Look out for special deals like the Salzburg or Innsbruck Card which is really good value for money and include cable car trips. Backpacker accommodation in Austria can be found in hostels, Couchsurfing opportunities, private rooms, and small country hotels. Many restaurants, businesses, and private room hosts accept cash only, so always keep some handy. By Linda from Travel Tyrol
Italy has captivated travelers for centuries, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular addition to itineraries for backpackers exploring Europe! First-time visitors should consider hitting up Rome (so much world history is here, but it’s also a thriving, modern city), Florence (the art! the food! the Tuscan countryside!), and Venice (popular, but utterly unique) if they’re looking for a quick overview of the country’s most popular points. For those with a bit more time or a desire to see beyond the most popular cities, consider traveling to Emilia-Romagna for the impeccable food, South Tyrol for the breathtaking Dolomites (great hiking in the summer, great skiing in the winter), Lake Como for an idyllic lakeside getaway, and either Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast for that classic beachside Italian vacation. Looking to save money? Head south–in Italy, southern destinations are almost always less expensive than those in the north. Puglia (the heel of the boot) and Sicily both offer fantastic food, history, and beaches at a much lower cost than, say, hitting the touristic highlights in Venice. If it’s your first time in Italy, are some random but effective tips: the train is almost always the best way to get between destinations, book ahead for long distances and same day for short ones, always validate your train ticket (there are exceptions to this, but you probably won’t be one of them), drinking your coffee standing at the bar is cheaper than sitting at a table, order food based on regional specialties, not national reputation (and yes, it really is that good), you may come across the occasional squat toilet in a train station, and walking is half the fun–when you’re in a city, avoid the metro and walk everywhere you can–the views are virtually always worth it.” Kate – Our Escape Clause
Part of Italy but a world apart, Sardinia is a fantastic destination for backpackers. The island, at the heart of the Mediterranean, received lots of tourists in the summer months thanks to the amazing beaches, but it is a great place to visit any time of the year. In fact, while the beaches are certainly one of the highlights of visiting Sardinia, there are many more things to do there. Fall is the season of festivals. The best ones are those of Autunno in Barbagia, where each weekend, for 28 consecutive weeks, a different village of Barbagia, in the mountains of Sardinia, hosts a festival to celebrate local culture, music, food and costumes. Another one is Su Prugadoriu of Seui, Sardinia’s very local version of Halloween, taking place in Seui, a lovely mountain village, over the course of 3 days between 31 October and 2 November. This ancient festival is a very traditional, local way to celebrate the day of the dead with food specialties such as culurgiones (a homemade pasta filled with potatoes, pecorino cheese and mint and served with just grated pecorino); local wines; music and costumes. Nature in Sardinia is incredible: the mountains call for hiking, and the Gorroppu Gorge, one of the deepest in Europe, is a paradise for climbing (and home to several hiking trails). Coastal hikes offer the best of both worlds: nature, the challenge of walking and the views of the most beautiful coastline. Hiking is definitely one of the top things to do in Sardinia. Sardinia is also blessed with unique archaeological sites: the most famous one is Su Nuraxi of Barumini, the only UNESCO site on the island. There’s also a bunch of Roman and Phoenician sites. One of them is Nora, at around 45 minutes drive from Cagliari, the island’s main city. Speaking of cities, other than the beautiful Cagliari, other must-sees are Alghero, Bosa, Castelsardo. Let’s also not forget the fabulous wines (don’t forget to visit Cantine Argiolas in Serdiana for the ultimate wine tasting experience); the delicious food and the many music festivals taking place year round! -Claudia Tavani – My Adventures Across The World
Its myriad landscapes, historic cities, and pretty villages make Spain a dream destination for any traveler. With numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the big three cities of Barcelona, Madrid and Seville offer loads of art and architecture, culture and history. But they are also places to kick back and just have fun…enjoy great tapas, catch a flamenco show, or watch a soccer game. And when you explore the rest of Spain, you’ll find yourself charmed by the beauty of the land, in big cities and small towns. Explore one of the coasts of Spain: the Costa del Sol offers nightlife in addition to sun-kissed beaches, while the Costa Brava offers natural beauty and a slower pace. Visit the world-famous Alhambra Palace in Granada, where the architecture and the gardens will blow you away with their magnificence. Hike the Sierra Nevada, where you can enjoy the local flora and fauna in the midst of spectacular scenery. Or discover charming pueblo blancos, scattered about the countryside. Walk a section of the legendary Carmen Santiago, in the footsteps of the thousands of pilgrims that have walked the path before you. What you can do in Spain is limited only by your imagination. With reasonably-priced accommodation choices, a solid rail and bus network, and a great choice of inexpensive but delicious tapas available everywhere, there’s no excuse for not including Spain in your Europe backpacking itinerary! -Dhara – It’s Not About the Miles
While most backpackers are keen to visit well-known countries like France, Germany, and the UK, more and more people are making Portugal a destination on their itinerary. And it’s easy to see why as well. Portugal is Western Europe’s most affordable country, it’s extremely open and welcoming to all types of visitors, and it’s home to some incredibly delicious food as well. The good news is that Portugal food is not only delicious but extremely affordable. A meal out in Portugal, particularly at lunchtime, can cost as little as €5-7 and often that includes wine and coffee as well. Other snack foods, like the bifana or prego, only cost a couple of Euros and will keep you going for a few hours while an accompanying glass of beer or wine can cost as little as €1 or less. If you shop at the supermarket or at the market and make up your own food, you can survive on even less. There are plenty of great places to visit in Portugal, and top of your list should be Lisbon and Porto. It’s also worth visiting the Algarve as well, and many people like to finish up here and enjoy a relaxing beach vacation before heading back home. One destination that’s often overlooked, and should be on your itinerary, is The Azores. Located in the Atlantic between Portugal and the US, this is a very beautiful part of the world that’s great for walking, watersports, and whale watching. As this is part of Portugal, it’s extremely affordable to get there from either Lisbon or Porto: you can often pick up a return flight for less than €30. Regardless of whether you stick to the main cities, or head off the beaten path a little, one thing’s for certain: your trip to Portugal is going to leave you itching to return and see what you didn’t get to see this time around. -James – The Portugalist
The island of Corsica was acquired by France in 1768, but because of its isolation in the Mediterranean, its vast, mountainous landscape, and its long history under Genoan occupation, everything about Corsica is uniquely Corsican. The larger cities of Bastia,Calvi, Ajaccio (Napoleon Bonaparte’s birthplace), and Porto Vecchio are surrounded by enticing, clear blue water (don’t miss Lotu Beach and Palombaggia Beach), the architecture is stunning visually and historically, and the food is largely locally produced from the island’s farms and fishing vessels. Corsica is also well-known for the GR20, dubbed the toughest long-distance trek in Europe – hikers will love tackling the beautiful and challenging mountain range that runs the whole north-south distance of the island. Other than a rental car, the best way to get around is by train and bus, but be sure to check the timetables, as running times are limited.
-Christa Rolls – Expedition Wildlife
South Eastern Europe
If you are looking for a unique, off the beaten path destination to backpack in Europe, you shouldn’t miss the Balkans and in particular, you should definitely consider visiting Serbia. Serbia is a country with so much to offer that it is truly a shame that it is one of the least visited countries in Europe. Serbia is incredibly safe to travel around, with low crime and low prices. Belgrade is the most popular destination in Serbia and with good reason – there is an insane amount of fun things to do in Belgrade from partying on floating house clubs called splavs to sampling third wave coffee at the trendy cafés around town to exploring Kalemegdan Fortress. If you are looking for nature, Serbia has that in abundance too. If you want to go on a short hike around Belgrade, then head to Fruska Gora National Park, which has beautiful hills, a small mountain, and tons of vineyards and monasteries to visit while you’re at it. People who want more hiking adventure should definitely head to Tara National Park or the Uvac Canyon, where some of the most impressive landscapes in Serbia can be found. Other points of interest in Serbia include Subotica, an Art Nouveau city in the north, Novi Sad, a capital of culture, and Nis, a historic and beautiful smaller city. Be sure to give yourself time to see more than just Belgrade on your trip to Serbia, and don’t rush Serbia. The country deserves at least a week if you can manage it, and the more time you have, the better. It is an undiscovered paradise for nature and history lovers, so there is something for everyone in Serbia.
-Allison Green – Sofia Adventures
Bulgaria is still an unknown gem to most travelers, but it is a country filled with beauty and adventures waiting for you! After spending 10 days in the region, we’re convinced that it is the perfect country for backpackers. On one hand, there is plenty to explore, which means you can (and should) move a lot around the country. Even though train lines are lacking in the country, there are plenty of buses to take you to some of the most amazing places. On the other hand, Bulgaria is one of Europe’s most affordable destinations, making it perfect if you’re backpacking on a budget. There is really so much to see in the country, but the highlights and main stops are Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv, and the Black Sea Coast (we really enjoyed Nessebar). One of Bulgaria’s most stunning features is the nature, from the beaches in the coast to some of the Balkan’s highest mountains. There are many beautiful hikes to choose from, some of which start in the capital, where the Vitosha mountain is located. However, the one hike we absolutely recommend is the one to see the seven glacial lakes in the Rila Mountains. The hike is perfect if you are backpacking because it doesn’t require any special equipment if done outside of the Winter season. If you’re looking for inspiration or want to start planning your time in the country, check out the Bulgaria itinerary from Two Find a Way Maria & Rui – Two Find a Way
Backpacking Bosnia and Herzegovina
This gem of Europe located in the Balkans has yet to be fully discovered by tourists and is quite the bargain when compared to its neighbors in western and central Europe. Filled with beautiful nature, historic cities, and a culture that is a diverse mix of east and west, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a little bit of something for everyone. The jewel among them all is most certainly Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo. With a history that has crossed paths with both eastern and western empires, there is no other city truly like Sarajevo. On one street you can hear the call to prayer resonate from the many minarets that are sprinkled around the city and at the same time the chiming of church bells. Depending on where you are in the city, you might feel like you are in Vienna while another street you will feel like you are in Istanbul. Down south is the country’s other main drawcard Mostar. Set along an emerald blue river, the old town and its famous Stary Most bridge will have you wanting to linger here for more than a day. Add on the many day trips that are around the city and you could easily spend a few days here. If you want to get off the beaten path you should consider venturing out into Bosnia’s west where ancient towns and castles await you. Making stops in Travnik and Jajce are the easiest side trips to make from either Mostar or Sarajevo. Both have ancient castles in addition to the stunning scenery. Best of all, you will most likely have these places all to yourself. Traveling around Bosnia and Herzegovina is cheap and easy. Claire and Eric from Once Upon a Backpack traveled the country for less than $22 a day per person. If you’re looking for a European country that hasn’t been overrun by tourists yet, then look no further than Bosnia and Herzegovina! Below is the link to my site that I would like included. Eric – Once Upon A Backpack
Backpacking in Slovenia
Slovenia is a tailor-made country for backpack lovers, nature, adventurous and outdoor enthusiasts. This country is full of natural wonders that will make you immediately fall in love with it. Thanks to the small size of the country (and so everything is very easily accessible), endless green areas, thick forests, sparkling lakes, and clean rivers, mighty mountains and hills, nice beaches and much more things that will leave you speechless. When arriving in Slovenia your starting point will probably be Ljubljana, the capital city. Take your time to visit this charming city with some main attractions: Ljubljana castle, Prešeren square with the Triple bridge, Tivoli park. Wherever your next stop is, Ljubljana offers good connections to your next destination. There is a wide range of diverse hiking and walking trails, from cultural and ethnological trails, nature-based to sports trails. Choose between short trails (few hours) to longer trails (almost a month), connecting mountain peaks, valleys, and coastal areas. Trails in Slovenia are well-tended and well marked. Some of the most beautiful trails you can pick, of course, depends on your physical condition, are Mt. Triglav – the highest mountain and also a symbol of Slovenia, Velika Planina with shepherds’ huts and pastures, The Logar Valley – one of the most beautiful Alpine glacial valleys in Europe, a picturesque Bled with its island and enchanting surroundings, Bovec region with emerald Soča river and much more. A great option to spend your holidays here is by doing glamping, what is like a popular luxury tent, a camping site but with high-quality services and comfort. The best time to visit Slovenia is the summer months when you can hit the outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature at its best. Leo – Safari Nomad
Croatia is the perfect location to include in a backpacking adventure of Europe. It is a country of diverse landscapes, amazing food and welcoming people. You will see terracotta towns with the Adriatic sea as their backdrop, turquoise lakes fed by limestone enriched waters and huge mountain passes encircled by ancient woodland. This is one country where you can have many different experiences. My highlights were the Dalmatian Coast, Plitvice Lakes National Park and the little town of Zadar. In these places, you’ll see the best Croatia has to offer, awesome coastlines, vast wilderness, ancient Roman settlements, and if you’re lucky, even a bear or two! If you’re into hiking, you simply have to visit Plitvice National Park. here you will find over 40 waterfall-fed lakes cascading down the hillside. The limestone mountains turn the water an almost unbelievable shade of turquoise, and criss-crossed through the lakes are miles of wooden walkways. There are hikes here well over 10 miles, with some serious climbs, and Instagram-friendly scenery. My big piece of advice would be to go outside the main tourist season. Due to Croatia’s huge coastline, it gets very busy. The shoulder seasons, just outside summer, are perfect. I would suggest October, as you will still get weather over 20 degrees, but the forests will be starting to take on their incredible autumn colours. Croatia may not have been top of your ‘must visit’ countries in Europe, but visit once and you’ll realise it’s got more to offer than you could ever have imagined. Ben Reeve – The Sabbatical Guide
Backpacking Eastern Russia
Russia is a fairly easy country for backpacking because of its cheap trains, and affordable hostels. In order to travel around Russia, you don’t need to break a bank. However, what you need to keep in mind is the weather – avoid visiting Russia in November & December and in late February – mid-April because of cold muddy weather and grey skies. I suggest you start your journey in Saint Petersburg, as you can get there by bus from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia or Finland. In Saint Petersburg, it’s worth staying at least 4-5 days to explore the city center and the Royal palaces in the suburbs. You can stay in a hostel for as low as $5 per night. After Saint Petersburg, I recommend you to visit Moscow & getting there in a sleeper train for $15-20. You can also visit a couple of cities of the “Golden Ring” and all of them are even cheaper than Moscow or Saint Petersburg. Liza – Tripsget.com
Embarking on a backpacking trip in Europe, one simply must visit Ukraine, as one of the biggest, yet the cheapest countries out there. Things to know before going to Ukraine:
- People generally speak little English but can converse in both Ukrainian or Russian. Your best chance of finding things out are young people.
- Due to the fact that tourism is still quite new to the country, traveling in Ukraine can be somewhat difficult, especially comparing to its western neighbors, but it is manageable. The best way to get around the country is through the use of trains and ‘marshrutkas’ (minibusses).
- Though Ukraine has a negative connotation in the press these days, the country is generally safe to visit, especially the Western and Central part.
If it’s your first time in Ukraine, you can’t miss Kyiv with its rich history and busy modern city life, and Lviv with its cultural significance and incredibly cozy coffee shops. If you’re looking for something breezier, head south to Odessa, a pearl sitting on the shore of Black Sea with a chill atmosphere. But for the hike lovers, there is nothing better than the Carpathians, tucked in the South-West of the country. Here, you’ll find not only some of the most impressive landscapes that Ukraine has to offer but a chance to learn more about hutsuls and Lemko ethnic groups who live here. A must try – chany, the steel bowls with hot water, which are the typical Carpathian open-air saunas. -Lena – Travel Monkey
Romania has started to become more and more popular among backpackers. And it’s only natural given its beautiful landscapes, delicious food, and friendly people. So, it is not difficult to understand why travelers easily fall in love with this country. Romania is not a small country, and given the lack of infrastructure in some areas, it might take you more time to get from one point to another than you would expect. Therefore, it is best to decide on which places you want to visit and plan accordingly. If you want to tick all the major tourist attractions, they should make sure to stop and spend some time in the following places. You will most likely start with the capital, Bucharest, as it’s the central hub. While you’re there make sure to visit the Village Museum, probably the best on in Romania. Then you should head to the mountains, in the main city, Brasov. A very charming medieval town in the heart of Transylvania, from where you can explore Bran with its famous Dracula Castle and Sighisoara, a small medieval citadel which is now a beautiful town. Of course, if you want to go further, you should also go to Cluj, which is in the western area of the country. In terms of other must-see’s, you should also include in your itinerary the painted churches in Moldavia, which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Danube Delta, the Turda salt mine near Cluj, the Transfagarasan Road, an impressive curvy road in the mountains, as well as the northern area, Maramures, where you can enjoy an authentic village life. But make sure to spend some time in the mountains, especially in Bucegi, where there are numerous hiking trails, from easy ones to really tough ones. If you were to pick one choose the Malaiesti Hut trail starting from Busteni. It takes to a beautiful hut in the heart of the mountains where you can spend the night. Romania is full of beautiful places. Just try to give it time and don’t try to squeeze too many places in a short trip. Stay longer and enjoy it! Andra – Our World to Wander
Poland is probably not the first backpacking destination in Europe for most people – it’s the same for me. While I was Interrailing Central Europe and the Balkans Poland was supposed to be a quick stop to get to Budapest and Prague from Berlin. Well, it turned out to be one of my favorite countries of my trip! Why? First of all: It’s extremely budget friendly, even if you stay in the biggest city of the country, which is Warsaw. Warsaw was also my first stop – and a big surprise. As most of the historical old town was destroyed during the second world war, I didn’t expect too much of the city. Yet, while visiting various museums I went from emotional and absolutely speechless (Museum of the Jewish People in Poland) to satisfied and thrilled (Chopin Museum). Another great place in Poland is Krakow, which is home to a beautiful old town, interesting museums and two interesting attractions nearby: Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines. While both are worth a visit, Auschwitz is a must-visit if you want to know more about the (sad) history of the region. Please treat this place with the necessary respect though. Unfortunately, I missed some other highlights in Poland, such as Wroclaw, Gdanks or some of the more remote areas with beautiful nature. Overall, Poland is a great place when backpacking Europe. – Michael Gerber- MSCGerber.com
Albania is a great destination for backpacking and if you’ve spent any time in Western Europe it will be a welcome ease on your budget. Albania has so much to offer travellers and still has the blessedly low prices of Eastern Europe which means you can get hostel dorms for €10 and a meal for €5 while still enjoying great cities, old towns, beaches and mountains. There are public buses connecting most of Albania and although they’re the cheapest way to get around they can be limiting in terms of timing and routes. The best way is to hire your own car (also very affordable) and head off on a road trip discovering untouched beaches and UNESCO Heritage towns. Make sure you stop off at Gjipe beach and Himare as well as taking the time to head inland to the Blue Eye and Gjirokaster or Berat (Albania’s unique historical towns). A few days seeing the quirky sights of Tirana is a great way to start or end our Albanian adventure. If you’re into hiking, make sure you head north to the picturesque Albanian Alps to try the challenging but rewarding day hike from Theth to Valbona. The return journey can be done via a stunning ferry trip along the Komani Lake. Rohan – Travels of a Bookpacker
Latvia is one of the overlooked destinations in Europe, what many backpackers do not know is that Latvia is one of the most affordable countries to explore without worrying if this place will give you the “European vibe” that you are expecting. From its castles, cobbled stones alley, Old Town full of history – Latvia is more than just an Eastern European country. If you have decided to backpack through Europe but wouldn’t want to break the bank, Latvia should be added on your list. It’s affordable, you can find hostels in Riga for as low as $8, food for as cheap as $2 or even less, a beer for $2 and day tours that are from free to $10. However, Latvia can be very cold during winter, therefore, you need to plan well when do you want to go. The summer is amazing, the shine is shining, everyone is out on the road enjoying the weather, and its capital Riga is just off the Baltic Sea which can help you cool off when the day gets too hot. While the winter can’t be that bad either, there are many traditional festivities, winter activities, and winter food and drinks to try like the famous Riga Black Balsam. If you have a limited time, I highly suggest you not to miss Riga, where the Old Town is. Many historical events have happened here and there are a lot of attractions that you must not miss. From Riga, you can also head to Estonia, Lithuania, Poland via bus or all around Europe via affordable flights. -Mary – A Mary Road