Alternative Backpacking Destinations
So you’ve finished your exams, school’s finished for good and you’ve got some time on your hands before you enter the world of university or work. You’ve got your backpack, arranged your gap year travel insurance and you’re ready to see some of the world, but you fancy something a little different from the usual Asian routes. Where should you go?
Close to Home
If you can’t spare the time or cash for a long-haul flight, that’s not a problem. Backpacking doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cross the planet, so why not head for Turin?
Famous for the Turin Shroud, Fiat cars and for hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics, this Italian city has more of a French flavour than you might expect, with its baroque architecture and cobbled streets filled with cafes. One of the best times to visit is in the spring when the city hosts a nine-day chocolate festival, but at any time of year you can visit the many world-class museums.
Turin is also reputed to be a centre for both black and white magic and there are several quirky tours on this subject, including an evening underground guided tour.
Bucharest is one of the biggest cities in south-east Europe and still growing. The capital of Romania, it is an exciting and eclectic mix of old and new architecture and has a thriving nightlife of clubs, restaurants and bars.
Once known as ‘Little Paris’, Bucharest even has its very own Arc de Triomphe. But the city has witnessed some dark times, as you will see from the bullet marks still visible at the Piata Revolutiei, where the demonstrations took place in 1989 that brought about the fall of the Ceausescu regime.
Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, is a relative newcomer to tourism. This is surprising as it has been likened to Prague, with its old quarter full of medieval buildings and cobbled streets still lit by gaslight.
Ban Jelacic Square is the city’s main square and it is packed with cafes and within walking distance of all the main sights, including Zagreb Cathedral, parts of which date back to the 13th century. Just outside the city is the Mirogoj Cemetery, reputed to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe.
Most visitors to Africa go on a safari, but there is much more to this continent. You could visit Dakar, the capital of Senegal, the most westerly African city and the end point of the famous Paris to Dakar Rally.
This is a vibrant, busy and noisy place, full of street markets, traffic, hawkers and drummers. Learn African drumming or take a trip to La Renaissance Africaine, a bronze statue larger than the Statue of Liberty.
Because it is situated on a peninsula, there are plenty of beaches around when you feel the need to relax. Or you could take to the water with a boat ride to Goree Island just off the coast, which once had strong links to the slave trade but is now more famous for its quiet colonial ambience.
For a destination that really is remote, visit the Tierra del Fuego region of Argentina where it meets Chile. Literally translating as ‘Land of Fire’, this is paradoxically as close to Antarctica as any tourist could wish for.
It can be cold and stormy, but don’t let that put you off as with more fjords than the whole of Scandinavia, you can take part in kayaking, sailing and some spectacular hiking.
Nearby Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world and can offer you any number of hostels and hostelries in which you can warm yourself up again.
[Image via Sobrecroacia.com]
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