10 Best Backpacking Routes Around The World

Looking for some of the best backpacking routes?

You’ve come to the right place as I’m a full-time backpacker and I’ve travelled on a budget all around the world.

Backpacking is one of the best forms of travelling, but naturally, since you are on a budget, there are parts of the world which are better suited.

As a result, there are common backpacking routes which have become popular across the world. But if you don’t know about them, you won’t know to travel there!

So I’ve put together a list of my favourite budget travel routes for you to check out.

Backpacking Routes

1. Banana Pancake Trail

The Banana Pancake Trail takes you through Southeast Asia, with the base route including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It is one of the most popular travelling routes across the world.

Some people extend the route to include more countries such as Indonesia and Singapore.

Thousands and thousands of backpackers are travelling along the Banana Pancake Trail at any given moment. It’s popular all year round, but the best time to start is in January as it works out best in terms of dry and wet seasons.

Most people spend about 3 months minimum backpacking the countries, but the more countries you visit, the longer you will need. The route has some of the best countries for backpacking, no doubt about it.

There are lots of reasons the route is so popular, one of the biggest is obviously how affordable it is. If you’re on a shoestring budget, Southeast Asia is one of the best places you can be. An average budget along the Banana Pancake Trail would be $1000 a month.

By backpacking along the trail, you will experience an abundance of culture, visiting tons of temples along the way. Southeast Asia is also an amazing place for food, street food really helps to keep the price down.

Natural beauty is also one of the biggest selling points. The endless number of beaches, mountains, jungles, islands and National Parks are unbelievable. Some of the best views I’ve ever had have been in Southeast Asia.

So if you’re looking for the best backpacking route to start out, the Banana Pancake Trail is the best one to choose, as it’s really easy to travel on a budget, and its popularity makes it really easy to meet other backpackers.

The imposing golden statue of Lord Murugan at Batu Caves, a spiritual site and a scenic stop on Southeast Asia's Banana Pancake Trail backpacking route.

2. Gringo Trail

The Gringo Trail has two different routes within one, but many choose to combine them into one larger route.

The first half takes you through Latin America, through 8 countries in Central America, and the second half takes you through 5 countries in South America.

In Central America, the route takes you through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

And in South America: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Some backpackers extend the route to include Mexico at the start, and Brazil and Argentina at the end.

The Gringo Trail is one of the most outdoorsy backpacking routes, as pretty much everything to do involves nature somehow. Whether it’s a hike up a volcano, a trek through a rainforest or swimming with sea lions, the Gringo Trail is the perfect route for nature lovers.

One of my personal favourite things is to swim with flamingos in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.

Of course, the route is also very budget-friendly, with an average backpacker spending also around $1000 a month.

Pink flamingos standing in a tranquil lake, a vibrant wildlife spectacle along the Gringo Trail.

3. Silk Road

The Silk Road takes you across the world horizontally, rather than vertically like the previous two. It’s a pretty long route which begins in Istanbul, Türkiye (Turkey) and finishes in Beijing, China.

In between, you visit Georgia, Armenia, Azerbajan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Some travellers also choose to visit Iran, Mongolia and Tajikistan.

It’s a slightly more difficult route to backpack as the countries are less exposed to tourism, especially budget travellers.

But in my opinion, it’s one of the most underrated parts of our world. In these countries, the people are so hospitable. They always invite you for meals, give you gits and show you around, and refuse to take anything in return.

And the countries themselves are also beautiful. The mountains of Kyrgyzstan are shown below, and they’re breathtaking if you ask me.

The Silk Road originated as a trading route, so it’s definitely possible to do. It just takes a little more working out.

If this is your first backpacking trip, I wouldn’t recommend the Silk Road. Try the Banana Pancake or Gringo Trails first.

A panoramic view of a serene high-altitude lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks, a natural wonder along the ancient Silk Road backpacking route.

4. Hippie Trail

Another ancient trading route which has since turned into a backpacking route is the Hippie Trail. It was extremely popular in the 60s and 70s and pretty much led to the birth of backpacking as a form of travel.

There are some overlaps between the Hippie Trail and the Silk Road, so it would be possible to combine the two.

The Hippie Trail begins in London, England and ends in Bangkok, Thailand. So you could add the Banana Pancake Trail onto the end of it too!

Along the route, common stops include:

  • London, United Kingdom
  • Paris, France
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Munich, Germany
  • Warsaw, Poland
  • Rome, Italy
  • Athens, Greece
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Beirut, Lebanon
  • Amman, Jordan
  • Tehran, Iran
  • Herat, Afghanistan
  • Kabul, Afghanistan
  • Peshawar, Pakistan
  • Lahore, Pakistan
  • Delhi, India
  • Kolkata, India,
  • Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Bangkok, Thailand

As you can see, most of the stops are capital cities and large cities, which makes sense since it is an old trading route. Since it is an old trading route, it also means it is a bit jumpy and all over the place, sometimes going back on yourself and skipping lots of cities worth visiting in between.

If you’re going to backpack the Hippie Trail, I recommend adding to it and not just jumping from the cities above.

It’s one of the longest backpacking routes on the list, as it jumps from Western Europe all the way to Southeast Asia by land, so I would recommend spending at least one year to complete the route.

Just like with the Silk Road, it goes through some countries which are harder to travel in, and it’s not as easy as just booking a bus online. So again, I wouldn’t recommend it as your first rodeo.

But if you’ve been backpacking before and you fancy a challenge and want to visit countries that you probably wouldn’t visit otherwise, then the Hippie Trail is one of the best routes you’re going to find.

A bustling Dhaka cityscape under a stormy sky, reminiscent of the urban exploration part of the historic Hippie Trail backpacking route
Dhaka, Bangladesh.

5. East Coast Trail

The East Coast Trail refers to the east coast of Australia– one of the most popular countries for backpacking.

It’s an incredible backpacking route which gives you an amazing taste of what Australia has to offer.

Most backpackers backpacking the east coast will stop at: Cairns, Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island, Whitsunday Islands, Fraser Island, Noosa, Brisbane, Blue Mountains, Sydney, Canberra, and finish in Melbourne.

Many backpackers also enjoy driving the Great Ocean Road which is a route from Melbourne which takes you to the Twelve Apostles, one of the most famous landscapes in Australia.

Even though it’s all in one country, it’s an unbelievable experience. Australia perfectly summarises the backpacking way of life through their surf culture, so it’s a perfect match. One of the biggest advantages of backpacking is the community, and it’s rich in Australia.

The backpacking community in Australia is one of the strongest in the world, but the downside is it is also one of the more expensive routes, with an average budget of around $2000 a month.

I’d recommend allowing at least 2 months for this route, as each stop has so many things to do. Australia is a backpacker’s dream, no doubt about it, and you don’t want to rush through your dream.

It’s a great place to go for your first backpacking trip too, even though it costs a more. Backpacking Australia is especially popular amongst British people, even though the flight from the UK is so long.

 The iconic Sydney Opera House captured against a bright blue sky, a cultural highlight along Australia's East Coast Trail.

6. Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a Christian pilgrimage to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

But many people who travel along the “Camino” are not religious, and do it for other reasons such as personal fulfilment or to simply spend time with friends.

There are nine main route options to choose from, the most popular is the Camino Frances from France followed by the Camino Portugues from Portugal, but all of the routes finish at the Cathedral in Santiago.

Traditionally, the route would stop at a number of churches and cathedrals along the way, but it’s up to you whether you choose to do this. There are hostels specifically for people travelling the Camino, and you can get discounted stays along the route.

Thanks to the high cost of backpacking in Europe, this is one of the most expensive routes on this list.

One nice touch I really like about this route is you get a special “passport” book where you get stamps along the way to show where you’ve been, and once you reach the Cathedral, you can register as someone who completed the Camino and you are entered into their database.

 Pilgrims and travelers walking up the steps to the grand entrance of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, the culmination of the famous Camino de Santiago route.
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

7. Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is a triangular-shaped backpacking route in India. It goes between the three cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and the name comes from the shape of the route on a map.

It’s one of the shortest routes on this list as most people only spend between a week and 10 days backpacking the Golden Triangle.

India is a country filled with a beautiful culture, so I wouldn’t recommend only visiting the three cities which make up the triangle, but I would definitely use it as a basis, or an introduction to life in India, because it’s pretty hectic, to be honest!

Backpacking in India is very affordable for most backpackers, costing only around $500-600 a month. It’s one of the best countries you can visit on a budget, but it’s also a bit hard to navigate, so I would only suggest it to you if this isn’t your first trip.

Nonetheless, it’s incredible, and the three cities offer a great insight into what India has to offer.

The majestic Humayun's Tomb in Delhi, framed by lush greenery and towering palm trees, a historical stop on India's Golden Triangle backpacking route.

8. Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway line in the world. It runs from Moscow in the West of Russia to Vladivostok in the East of Russia.

If you were to stay on the train continuously without getting off at any stops, it would take 7 days to get from one city to the other!

It’s one of the most unique backpacking routes, as when most people visit Russia, they tend to only visit Moscow, St. Petersburg and cities in the West. Obviously, Russia is huge, and there are so many places to check out in Central and Eastern Russia.

But as you can imagine, since these places experience little to no tourism, it’s pretty difficult to arrange things. I would recommend finding a guide in each place to help you out.

You can also take diversions from the main Trans-Siberian Railway and go through Mongolia and/or China.

Note: I don’t currently recommend backpacking the Trans-Siberian Railway due to the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Crowds of tourists and locals enjoying a sunny day at Red Square in Moscow, a must-visit landmark on the Trans-Siberian backpacking route.

9. Safari Circuit

The Safari Circuit is a name I’ve given to a backpacking route taking you through a number of countries in Southern Africa.

A typical Southern African backpacking route might include countries like South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

I think it’s pretty self-explanatory where I got the name from; one of the best things to do in all of these countries is to go on a safari.

And it is actually possible to go on safaris while travelling on a budget. You just need to avoid the tourist trap “safaris”.

Aside from the diverse wildlife and surreal landscapes in Southern Africa, these countries are filled with culture. There are so many cities, villages, and towns which all deserve a good amount of time to visit.

It’s really eye-opening to see how day-to-day life is in countries in Southern Africa. It’s made me want to go and do some volunteer work in Africa.

After all, backpacking is all about having authentic experiences in other countries, and it doesn’t get much more authentic than the Safari Circuit.

A dramatic scene on an African safari circuit backpacking route, featuring a rhinoceros and springboks by a watering hole under the vast, open sky.
Etosha National Park, Namibia.

10. Garden Route

If you want to delve deeper into the countries in Southern Africa, one of the most common backpacking routes is in South Africa, and it’s known as the Garden Route.

The Garden Route will only take you around a week or so, and it focuses on the south coast of the country.

You begin and end in Cape Town, taking a different route in each direction. It’s the perfect blend of natural beauty through landscapes and animals, and the beauty of culture in the towns along the way.

Most people stop at Boulders Beach, Hermanus, Cape Agulhas, Oudtshoorn, Sedgefield, Knysna, Tsitsikamma National Park, Port Elizabeth, Addo Elephant National Park, Jeffreys Bay, Wilderness, Mossel Bay and Somerset West.

If you can only backpack one country in Southern Africa, South Africa is a great option and the Garden Route is one of the best ways to see part of the country.

A group of meerkats standing alert on the red soil of the Garden Route, a popular backpacking route in South Africa, with sparse greenery in the background under a clear blue sky.

Budget Travel Routes: FAQ

Below are some questions related to backpacking routes along with my answers to each question.

Where can I go backpacking for 3 months?

One of the most popular places to go backpacking for 3 months is Southeast Asia. It’s the perfect amount of time to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

What is a good length for a first backpacking trip?

A backpacking trip needs to be at least a month to be worthwhile, especially if you are going on a long flight to a different continent. Most backpackers will go away for three months or more at a time.

What is the best backpacking route in the world?

One of the most popular backpacking routes in the world is the Banana Pancake Trail in Southeast Asia which goes through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Backpacking Routes: Conclusion

And there you have it, some of the best backpacking routes from around the world.

The best ones for your first trips are the Banana Pancake Trail and the Gringo Trail.

But if you’re a seasoned backpacker, any of these routes guarantee a great time.

There’s a whole world out there so make sure you get out and explore it! But first, make sure to use my backpacking budget calculator so you know how much money you need.