So you’re in your early 20’s, have an adventurous spirit and are hungry to fit the most travel possible into these precious years? If this sounds familiar then I have the ultimate list of places to start a new adventure before you reach the other side of 25.
I’m Sarah, a travel-crazy adventurer who is currently planted in Hostelworld’s London office. When I’m not in the (online) world of hostels, I take every opportunity to set out on my own and I want to share my favourite destinations with you! I visited the majority of these places at the beginning of my twenties after finishing university, but some are still on my pre-25 bucket-list! From wild party islands to alternative big cities, how many of these epic places to travel before 25 have you conquered?
1. Lisbon, Portugal
Try to imagine the ultimate backpacking location. Does it feature any of the following: culture and art, alternative places, other like-minded people, Instagram-worthy architecture and colourful tiles? I bet it does! Throw in some unbelievable coastlines and even more incredible sunsets and add a splash of pastel de nata into the mix, and voilá, out comes Lisbon! This city is the perfect place for a cool backpacking trip and can be one of the cheapest places in Europe for young travellers.
2. Hoi An, Vietnam
Much like moths, travellers in their early twenties are attracted to light – especially when it comes in the form of sweet lanterns and colourful fairy lights. There is no better place for chasing lights than in Hoi An. Every evening the city lights up in an array of wonderful colours and offers an incredible backdrop. Hoi An is not short on culture either! Many of the houses are well preserved and now belong to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby, you’ll find an incredible beach for relaxing days and if that’s not reason enough to visit, we’re sure we can tempt you with one more draw! In Hoi An, you’ll find some of the best Vietnamese food ever!
3. Hampi, India
India offers travellers uniquely special experiences at any age, but it is a country that can make an incredible impact on you in your early twenties. Ancient temples, Indian culture and one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever experienced make Hampi a spot to visit off-the-beaten-track. There is a strong yoga and hippie community and infinite courses on offer, from beginners yoga to advanced deep meditation, to get your inner middle back on track. Don’t worry, if you’re actually looking for action, you will not miss out! In addition to finding your ultimate Zen, you can climb big rocks or jump from cliffs into refreshing cool lakes (which I highly recommend). Check out the ultimate road trip from Bangalore.
4. Sydney, Australia
If you think of Australia, you think of Sydney, and if you think of Sydney, you think of casual surfer dudes, some of the best and most famous beaches in the world, crazy road trips, and a great backpacker scene! Oh, and the awesome hostels and bars of Sydney’s bustling social scene. Well, with Sydney, you get what you imagine! As well as all the above, there is an awesome music and cultural scene, endless festivals and everything that makes the young backpacker’s heart beat faster. Is there a better place for almost-adults to gain unique travel experiences?
5. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is THE dream backpacker destination and everyone has that one friend (or friend of a friend), who visits so much they practically live there! It’s no wonder, as the island contains everything that our generation dreams of. Perfect beaches? Check. Detoxing in the lush jungle? Check. A cool, unparalleled backpacker scene? Check. Instagram-worthy hostels? Double check! But, beware… everyone who gets a taste of island life in Bali may suffer from recurring dreams of quitting work and moving to this paradise!
6. Georgetown, Malaysia
Georgetown is a little off the trodden path, as many travellers only visit Kuala Lumpur when travelling to Malaysia. The capital of the island of Penang is a backpacker’s dream with Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences present on every corner. The buildings are built in colonial style and decorated with a variety of street art works, the markets offer some of the best street food you’ll ever try and the streets come alive at night with live music and colourful lanterns. With so many influences, Penang is considered a foodie’s paradise and it is said that in Georgetown in particular you can find some of the best dishes in Southeast Asia – which also happen to be perfect for the backpacker’s budget. As well as stunning food, you’ll experience exciting national parks, treks, waterfalls and beaches.
7. Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Phangan is one of Thailand’s most picturesque islands and will immerse you in a different, paradisaical world. Tropical and idyllic by day, this island turns into a crazy party at night, especially on a full moon. Full Moon Parties are a unique experience that especially attracts the younger backpacker crowd, who fill out the island’s many hostels. Koh Phangan is the perfect place to dance with new hostel friends, roll in the sand and leave your responsibilities behind.
8. Berlin, Germany
Wander through the alleyways adorned with graffiti, get to know Germany’s turbulent history, grab a typical German big city kebap (probably the best far and wide), sip a black coffee or a Späti beer (why not, you’re still young). Don your edgiest outfit and head out to an alternative bar, before diving into the most notorious nightclubs after hours. Berlin is one of the world’s party hotspots and definitely worth a visit. You’ll meet people from all over the world, and there are endless opportunities to experience cool things, discover quirky markets and broaden your horizons.
9. London, England
If there’s one city in which history nerds, young backpackers, fashion icons, rock-n-roll fanatics, party goers, art lovers and foodies all thrive then that city is London. There’s something happening in London 24 hours a day, from the best brunch spots to crazy museums, fancy markets and the coolest bars and clubs (and of course, pubs). Cheers!
10. Shanghai, China
Shanghai is China’s international metropolis and a great starting point in this huge, crazy country. The futuristic skyline is a unique sight to behold, the markets are big and offer everything you can imagine and the food scene serves you a selection of delicious culinary delights. Think of Shanghai as China’s answer to NYC, which means you have some of the best nightlife in the world boasting an endless selection of bars and clubs. Get ready to experience a whole new party culture!
11. El Nido, Philippines
El Nido is a place like no other, on one of the most beautiful islands in the world, Palawan. Despite its popularity, El Nido still offers a peaceful, unique, and authentic experience. The lagoons and cliffs that you can explore on various boat and snorkel tours are something from another world. There are beachfront hostels where you live with young backpackers, away from the worries and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, in the midst of paradise while sipping cocktails or enjoying beach volleyball. This place is the perfect starting point to discover rice fields, small villages, jungles and local nightlife.
12. Barcelona, ??Spain
With its unique architecture, Barcelona is a work of art in itself, flooding you with photo opportunities as far as the eye can see. Here you will find culture, a tempting music scene, restaurants that will make your taste buds happy and a laid-back atmosphere that perfectly combines siesta and fiesta! Is it any wonder that this Spanish metropolis attracts so many young people to enjoy its tapas, city to beach life, sangria and markets? Si, vamos!
13. Dublin, Ireland
Ireland is the perfect place to make young travellers happy, offering great landscapes, old architecture and lots of charming pubs! In Dublin you can explore the Guinness factory or venture out to cool bars and pubs dotted across the city to taste the black stuff for yourself. You can also experience exciting events and festivals throughout the year, such as Music in the Park or, of course, the legendary St. Patrick’s Day.
14. Budapest, Hungary
If you have not been to Budapest before, you’ve been missing some truly wild nights out! Why? It’s quite simple: Budapest is a place of ruin bars, the spas become party hotspots at night and the city’s hostels host unforgettable pub crawls that simply must be experienced. Famous DJs from all over the world regularly visit the clubs or the famous Sziget Festival, where almost 500,000 visitors on the island of Óbuda annually celebrate culture, music and dance. This amount of fun may sound pricey AF, but Budapest is one of the cheapest travel destinations in Europe – or even the world! During the day you can look forward to history, culture, architecture or relaxation in the hot springs that will keep you as young as you feel!
15. Prague, Czech Republic
A trip to Prague means one thing: cheap beer! The city is particularly suitable for young backpackers who not only want to chase after the legendary hostel pub crawls, but also want to get to know a city full of culture. Prague is a world heritage site, so stroll through the old town, discover old castles and learn more about the history of the city in the Communism Museum. After all that you’ll certainly have earned a beer!
16. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is a small but mighty picturesque travel hotspot. The relaxed atmosphere is contagious, the asymmetrical houses tell stories, the cafés invite you to relax and the beautiful canals lead you through the streets. In this little backpacker hub you’ll find that people from across the world always return with pleasure. You’ll spot crazy vintage fashion, quaint bars, quirky hostels , a creative scene, interesting museums and some pretty lively nightlife. P.S. you cannot leave Amsterdam without tasting the incredibly good Dutch Gouda cheese. It’s a must!
17. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is full of energy. Think you can climb mountains, walk for hours through colourful towns, hunt down one beach at a time, embark on an epic road trip, rummage through bustling markets and surf in challenging waves without running out of steam?! Did you say yes? Then it’s off to Cape Town for you!
18. Ios, Greece
Greece is worth a trip at any age. While some islands tend to be of a higher price and quieter style, Ios’ wild party scene makes it the perfect spot for backpackers. The island in the Cyclades is an insider tip for which I was very grateful: during the day you can stroll through the typical Greek white streets and discover unique photo opportunities, before you start the night with a cocktail in the hostel.
19. Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng is ideal for young travellers. Get ready to party on the riverside! The famous tubing allows you to go down the stream in a cosy rubber tyre with other backpackers, while you all just enjoy life. There are also the famous blue waterfalls here. You know the ones I mean!
20. Rome, Italy
With some of the oldest (and most impressive) monuments in the world, Rome is a must-see when exploring Europe. Not only can you gain an exciting history lesson, Rome also offers a cool atmosphere in its many hostels, interesting neighbourhoods and lots of pizza and gelato. Oh, and remember to bring your wish list to the Trevi Fountain!
21. Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne is Sydney’s alternative little sister, and a must see on any trip to Australia! The city is a land of plenty for anyone who loves an edgier scene, with lively bars and clubs, countless festivals, colourful street art and casual life – have I convinced you yet? With many universities, tons of hostels and an abundance of awesome events, Melbourne attracts an especially young crowd to the city. There are festivals and other events throughout the year that are free for everyone, so adventurous backpackers and people from all over the world tend to stay a while to discover this crazy, awesome city.
22. Los Angeles, USA
This Hollywood hotspot is definitely a star in terms of beaches, weather and lifestyle. It’s time to stop searching Instagram for LA pictures while “California Dreaming” plays in the background, and get out there and explore this awesome city. LA is a place that you have to see at least once in your life – and why not make that before you turn 25?!
23. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
@ Agustín Diaz on Unsplash
With so much to see and experience in Rio de Janerio, you better start early! The joie de vivre of the Brazilians is infectious, nature will take your breath away and the festivals will captivate you. Visiting Rio is a unique experience where you’ll get to know new cultures, leave your comfort zone and gain valuable life experience.
24. Bangkok, Thailand
One night in Bangkok means a world of possibilities. The capital of Thailand enchants you with culture, culinary masterpieces, great street markets and cheap rooftop bars, as well as acting as the backpacker gateway to South East Asia. It’s no wonder, as the infamous Koh San Road teems with travellers 24 hours a day. New friends, unforgettable experiences and the start of a great new adventure are waiting for you.
25. Minca, Colombia
Casa Elemento Hostel @creatifartiste
Do you ever get too old for moto-taxi rides through the jungle, cliff jumping, chocolate farms and hostels with gigantic hammocks? Minca is so magical that it has firmly earned its place as a backpacker haven. Even the incredible Tayrona National Park is not far away if you want to swap your hostel bed for a hammock for the night.
Which countries have you already visited? Tell us about it in the comments!