You can head to Thailand or Indonesia and some would say it’s almost a millennial rite of passage, but if you’re not into being a cliché twenty-something traveller, there are so many other worthwhile destinations. From Mozambique to Iran, head off the beaten track and explore some of the less discovered places.
Bustling, chaotic Istanbul should be on every twenty-something’s list of places to visit. Exotic, but accessible, go for the awe-inspiring mosques, smoky shisha bars and friendly locals. If you have the time, Turkey has so many other beautiful sites as well. Make sure you add a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia to the ‘must-do’ list.
Tucked up closer to Burma than to India, these tropical islands are as off the beaten track as it gets. Peppered throughout the Bay of Bengal, the islands have the white sand and blue waters, but without the tourist masses of Thailand. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Galapagos of the East’, you can see some unique wildlife in the Andaman Islands both above and below the surface of the water.
Ever felt like you were born in the wrong decade? Havana, Cuba is suddenly on everyone’s bucket list as it opens its borders a little wider. Pulsing with salsa and traffic, the devil is in the details with Havana. Get lost in its pastel streets, busy plazas, and hip bars that serve up rum in every form. If you’re a keen Hemingway fan, visit Finca Vigia and give one of the six-toed cats a good scratch.
Travellers to Costa Rica almost always come back a little lighter than when they arrived. And who doesn’t want to throw caution and care to the wind when there are waterfalls to swim under, jungle paths to follow, and beaches to lie on. Sharing a border with Nicaragua to the North, and Panama to the South, Costa Rica is also known as being an easy country to travel around. Pack your swimsuit and not much else.
Spend any time on the backpacker scene, and you’ll hear whispers of how the Balkans is the place to be. While not as famous as its neighbours, Serbia has one major drawcard - its nightlife! Belgrade is known for its wild nightlife and love of strong (often homemade) liquor. Cruise down the river on a party barge, people watch from one the lively al fresco cafes, or if you’re looking for something more hard-core, head to one of the city’s nightclubs. There’s a lot to do in the daytime too. For an artsy scene, head to Skadarlija which is the Belgrade’s answer to Kreuzberg or Montmartre.
Chances are you’ve seen a picture of the beautiful green lakes in Plitvice National Park, Croatia. Emerald green, like someone accidently dropped a packet of green jelly upstream, there are 16 terraced lakes in the National Park to explore. If you’re looking for even more waterfalls, you can head to Krka National Park on the Dalmatian coast. Krka, unlike Plitvice, allows visitors to jump into the clear water for a swim.
Having just introduced a new tourist visa which makes it easier to visit this special part of the world, Iran is about to get swamped with travellers. Why? Because ask anyone who has been, and they will sing its praises from the rooftops. It’s even been called the friendliest country on earth. If you can tear yourself away from drinking tea with friendly locals, there are snow-capped mountains, deserts, and beautifully designed cities to explore. For a unique travel experience in Iran, head to Yazd. Encircled by mountains and with charming streets and plazas, you won’t want to miss it.
Known for its artsy scene, partially due to being a famous hangout for the old rockers of the 70s, the chilled vibe and seaside location will make you want to stay way past your departure date. For Game of Thrones fans, the old fishing port will look familiar - it was the set for Astapor, the home of the ‘Unsullied’. If you have the time, head down the coast the surfing village of Taghazout. The drive along the coast is spectacular.
Head to Africa and you’re guaranteed to come home with plenty of stories. Explore miles of untouched coastline in Mozambique where you will have the beach all to yourself, or head inland to experience the colourful heart of the country. If you’re looking at ticking ‘Swim with whale sharks’ off the bucket list, Mozambique has its own set of the big friendly fish.
If you’re looking for a party, some smooth jazz and enough intriguing sites to keep you occupied during daylight hours, New Orleans has all three. Best at Mardi Gras, but fascinating all year round, backpackers and twentysomethings finally realise there is fun to be had in America’s South. Don’t leave without devouring a fresh bag of beignets and if you’re a lover of jazz, spend at least a week exploring the city’s freshest jazz clubs.
Whether you’re getting the backpack out of storage to head to New Orleans or Morocco, remember there are a few things you can do to avoid being a cliché. Respect the local culture, avoid wearing or doing anything that constitutes as cultural appropriation, and try to socialise beyond the other travellers at your hostel. Remember to put the phone down and have fun!
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