5 Countries You Should Really Visit

Australia, SE Asia, Fiji, USA – these are on the backpacking trail because they’re tried and tested. You’re guaranteed an awesome time, your guidebook can lead the way and you’re all set. But what do you do after your round-the-world trip, you’ve already hit up all the major backpacking nations, where next? These 5 countries may not be as easy to travel through but, like the other places, you’re guaranteed an awesome time so take a deep breath and set yourself free:

 

Kenya: Africa is the final frontier for backpackers. It’s full of countries which haven’t been significantly altered by hordes of tourists. Admittedly Kenya isn’t the most obscure of African countries but traveling here offers so much. Home to Maasai tribe and the Maasai Mara game reserve, Kenya is extremely rich in natural beauty.

kenya masai

Masai tribe in Kenya

Nairobi is not the dangerous crime zone that people make out and people are so friendly, cheap guesthouses are available for under $10 a night and, with the right bargaining skills, you can get a 3 day for safari for around $300 including food and accommodation. If you time your trip right you can catch the annual wildebeest migration from July to October where 1,300,000 wildebeest chase fresh grass further north (not to mention 500k gazelles and 200k zebras). This mass migration means that the big cats have to follow to so your chances of seeing cheetahs, lions and leopards multiply considerably. In fact, a 3 or 4 day safari and you’re almost guaranteed to spot the big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and black rhino). The migration was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and I’d go back in a heart beat.

Wildebeest Migration in the Masai Mara

Wildebeest Migration in the Masai Mara

Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru is a common stop on safaris in Kenya

Mombasa, Kenya’s second city, is almost on the coast so if it’s a beach you’re after – Kenya can provide that too. It also maintains a lot of it’s heritage, counting Arabs, Portuguese and British as former rulers, Fort Jesus and the Old Town are a real blast from the past.

Mombasa beach

Mombasa beach

 

The Philippines: Asia’s most underrated backpacking destination? Probably. If it wasn’t for Thailand, I’d be living here now – this place is simply brilliant. It’s cheap, great weather, amazing sights, good food, people speak English and everyone lives their life with a smile on their face. Think of Bali, Goa or Koh Samui before the tourist hordes and resorts – that’s what this Asian archipelago represents.

100 islands philippines

100 islands on Luzon, Philippines

With over 7000 islands, from UNESCO world heritage sites like the Banaue Rice Terraces to beach paradises in Boracay and Cebu, the Philippines has everything. I really think that within the next decade, this little gem is going to feature more and more on the SE Asia tourist trail, and rightly so. Find travel deals online now and try to get there before the crowds!

banaue rice terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces

 

Boracay Beach

A Beach in Boracay

Sri Lanka: The civil war finally ended in May 2009 when the Tamil Tigers were finally defeated and the countries tourism industry has been decimated by the war. I visited last year and stayed in a 5* hotel for $20 per person per night (2 people sharing a room), whilst tourism is gradually healing there are still huge bargains to be had so jump in quickly – it’s safe, cheap and awesome, truly a winning combination!

Kandy Sri Lanka

Kandy Sri Lanka, home of Buddha’s Tooth

Sri Lanka offers backpacker a lot. Here are a few sights you’d be crazy to miss:

Colombo – The capital and a good introduction to the country, nice to walk around and much more relaxed than India.

Kandy – The cultural capital, a UNESCO site and home to a temple built due to the presence of Buddha’s tooth! There are a host of other temples to visit and a day or two here will fly by. Accessible by a great day train ride from Colombo.

whale watching at Kalpitiya

Whale Watching at Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya – North of Colombo, this a great spot for diving or for whale watching, an awesome experience indeed..

Udawalawe – Sri Lanka’s most famous national park, full of wildlife and a great spot to watch elephants.

Anuradhapura – About 5 hours from Colombo by bus, this place is packed full of temples!

Anuradhapura temples

Anuradhapura temples

 

Jordan: Any Indiana Jones lover knows Petra, if not by name then certainly by the pic. It’s even more breathtaking in real life and I can honestly say it’s one of the few sights that I have seen that exceeded its reputation. Petra is a huge complex so take a couple of days to explore, and arrive for sunrise and you’ll have the place to your self.

Petra at Sunrise

Petra at Sunrise, all to myself!

Jordan also shares half of the Dead Sea with Israel, Earth’s lowest point is so salty you almost literally float on the surface. A very strange experience, just make sure you don’t shave the day before – the salt burns a lot!

Reading a book in the Dead Sea

Reading a book in the Dead Sea

Wadi Rum is Jordan’s third draw, the seemingly endless desert was the scene for Laurance of Arabia and a night or two with the desert dwelling Bedouin tribe will send you back in time.

Wadi Rum desert

Wadi Rum desert

 

Iceland: They STILL haven’t recovered from their currency crash so it’s now literally twice as cheap as it was 3 years ago, jump on the bandwagon before their currency revalues!

Iceland is an awesome country and there loads of stuff to see and do there. If you find yourself thinking “what should I see in Iceland” then here are a couple of nudges in the right direction:

The Blue Lagoon – Iceland’s biggest tourist draw and regardless of the outside temperature the geothermal pool maintains an amazing 40 degree average. The waters are rich in minerals so make the most of this sky blue oasis and jump in.

blue lagoon iceland

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Aurora Borealis  / Northern Lights –  From October to March the skies dance in various colours thanks to charge particles emitted from the sun, just head north anywhere away from city lights and if you preserver for a couple of days, you’re very likely to be rewarded with a sight like no other

Northern Lights Iceland

The Northern Lights in Iceland

Golden Falls  (Gullfoss) – over 30 metres tall and summer rain makes this magnificent sight the highest volume falls in the whole of Europe. Found in the south of Iceland and access by bus is as easy as can be.

Golden falls iceland

The Golden falls in Iceland

Ok guys, so jump out of that comfort zone and try to factor one or two of these into your next trip. They will give you a whole new perspective of what the world has to offer, but be warned – one trip to any of these places and you’ll never stop traveling, ever. You have been warned. Happy travels!

 

 

 

99 thoughts on “5 Countries You Should Really Visit

  1. Barry

    Kenya lol load of shit. Worst place on the planet. Your reviews are bull. Been to 124 different countries. If you want advice I can give.

    Reply
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  3. João Leitão TRAVEL

    Great article about your personal insight on 5 TOP destinations to travel. On this list I only visited Kenya, Iceland and Jordan. All 3 are unforgettable and I actually want to go back again. thanks. Greetings from MOROCCO!

    Reply
  4. Teresa Roberts

    Interesting selection. I would add the tiny Isle of Saba and the equally enchanting isle of Malta. Saba is in the former Dutch Antilles and is a true delight, small, intimate and wildly tropical.

    Reply
  5. Carlo

    Hey Johnny!

    Thanks a lot for featuring the Philippines. You are right! The country is the most underrated destination, and I think it does not deserve that. As a Filipino, I am hoping that we will be a top-of-mind destination in Southeast Asia, but I also hope the onslaught of mass tourism won’t affect much of what makes the Philippines an attractive place to visit–it’s being unspoiled.

    Love reading your articles buddy!

    Reply
  6. suryani

    Hai john.

    I love reading your travel blog! I wish i could travel like you.

    Have you ever been to brunei? You should! I would love to read your post about brunei. Have agood dy john :-D

    Reply
  7. Z

    Inspiring! so much to see and explore…

    Thank you for including Philippines! When you come back – explore more North Luzon from Banaue go straight to Sagada (if ur keen for a mountain life),Zambales – beach/islands. Palawan (Coron is amazing!) don’t missed it.

    Happy travel!
    @jadeyjungji

    Reply
  8. Laurie

    I do thank you – It looks like it may have to wait until next holiday then, I will make my way home from OZ through that way. Thanks for the heads up.

    Reply
  9. Mai

    great stuff there. I am a Filipina lone traveler travelling around Philippines. I read the tread about Philippines, and it makes me feel goosebumps with the pride you are stating about Philippines. I guess for a champion traveler like you, I recommend to experience the Southern part of Philippines- Camiguin a small island with hot springs, falls and great white sand beach, Siargao- the surfing capital, Bukidnon with the rich cultural heritage, and tawi-tawi with its pinkish powdery beach. Don’t worry mate, Mindanao is a safe place, pretty much far from what’s in the news. By the way, try Batanes as well, it is located in the northern tip part of Pinas. Enjoy your travels. :)

    Reply
  10. Ada | Adaphobic Travelogue

    Awesome list Johnny. Kenya seems to be an interesting place to be. And thanks for including Philippines, you are correct about Philippines being an underrated destination for travelers. I’ve seen lot of backpackers blog and most of them haven’t been to Philippines yet, maybe because of the archipelago. Banaue is slowly disappearing, visit it before it disappear!

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      i loved Banaue, i can’t wait to come back to Philippines actually :) Kenya is cool too, completely different to most backpacking spots

      Reply
    1. Dimal

      yes Sri Lanka’s attributes are many. Few places have as many Unesco World Heritage Sites (eight) packed into such a small area. Its 2000-plus years of culture can be discovered at ancient sites filled with mystery. Legendary temples boast beautiful details crafted by artisans through the centuries
      Best in Travel 2013 – Top 10 countries ‘ number 1 Sri Lanka

      Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/themes/best-in-travel-2013/top-10-countries/#ixzz2C6r6bcKW

      Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/sri-lanka#ixzz2C6qsxf2a

      Reply
  11. Katy

    Having lived in Nairobi for a month so far (2 more to go) I can’t recommend it enough! The Giraffe Centre, Elephant & Rhino Orphanage, Mamba Village, Ostrich Park, Snake Park, National Museum, Carnivore restaurant (to name just one of the thousands of great restaurants in the city), safari walk in the national park (only national park where you can see skyscrapers in the background), Karen Blixen museum & cafe, walking tour of the kibera slum (largest slum in Africa), visit the bead factory and bargain for gorgeous jewellery, the Maasai markets held weekly .. It goes on an on! I am in shock that Lonely Planet says Nairobi can be done in 2 days! Been here a month and am yet to be stabbed, raped, knifed or murdered and actually honestly feel safe here. Not that I want the place flooded with ‘mzungus’ (white people)I honestly think more people should come!

    Reply
      1. Katy

        Am actually yet to go – Other volunteers at the Home are planning to take me on my A-level results night … Which could be great if I have got what I want, and could result in me crying into a plate of crocodile meat all night long!

        Reply
  12. bernie

    Hi Johnny.. Yeah i went to the Philippines about 3 years back and yeah loved it as much as Thailand last year! went to hundred Islands stayed in Lucap but didnt think it was that cheap to stay there! but drink sure is! lol would love to go back and also se other parts of the country!

    Reply
      1. bernie

        No not as such yet! sadly! But i hope to return to Thailand, maybe with luck later this year.. And it would be nice to go over from there! would also like to get over to Macau to see my mate who just got a job there, and maybe see something of Hong Kong!

        Reply
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  16. Zethu

    I stumbled upon your blog after googling backpacking to Zimbabwe and Zambia, I’m inspired next to you I’ve clearly haven’t done much travelling but am inspired. Your tales on your trips are also quiet funny though educational as well thanks.

    Reply
  17. Micamyx|Senyorita

    Hundred Islands sighted! I am from Pangasinan and i’m glad to read your comments about my beloved country :D If you want to go in a mysteriously beautiful place, i suggest you go to Camiguin on your next trip to the Philippines :D

    Reply
  18. April

    Awesome! :D Thank you for featuring my home country, the Philippines. New Zealand is beautiful, too, especially the South Island. I’m sure it will be a good addition to your list. Happy traveling!

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      Hey April, I can’t shout about my love the Philippines loud enough! It’s such an awesome country :) NZ, i’m planning on going next year, so i may add it to the list after that. Thanks for the tips!

      Reply
  19. Usha

    Awesome! I was just thinking of Philippines. The flights there are really cheap. Sri Lanka was amazing. I visited it last summer. They use coconut in pretty much every dish. lol.

    It was of great help. Thanks!
    Happy Travelling, wherever you are now.

    Cheers

    Reply
  20. stave michael

    it gives me goosebumps that you’ve advertised the Philippines as one of the top 5 countries one should visit, and that you’ve described the country and the people with so much positivity. I completely agree! I do wish that our country’s department of tourism can really sell the country well just like Thailand did. “Amazing Thailand” is an awesome slogan that lasted as far as I can remember, but “WOW Philippines” only lasted for 8 years (I think) then they changed it to something forgettable.

    Anyway, thank you! Something like this coming from you (who saw more than 50 countries already) is already an honor.

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      no probs mate, i love the philippines so much i might live there one day! Hopefully see you there in the near future :)

      Reply
      1. TinTin

        Tell me when you’ve decided to live in my home country, Philippines! I might go home too! :) Hahahha… Thank you for advertising it this way, very much appreciated! Philippines is pretty much isolated from the usual track that backpackers go through.. But yes, there’s so much more in the Philippines that has yet to be discovered! :) salamat!

        Reply
  21. kevin

    hey just found ur site earlier today

    just want to say great site and ur living a great life

    im currently saving my money and looking to do something like u

    have almost 2k saved already

    thinking of either starting in Philippines or somewhere in central america or mexico

    not sure yet 19 american btw

    Reply
  22. Alex

    Nice article dude. I met Adam Ramsbottom while in India and he recommended your site to me. Anyway, thanks for the recommendations.

    For me, Indonesia is a country of real mystery.
    They don’t even know how many islands make up the country. There are so many parts that haven’t been explored, and a couple of years ago they found new species of animals and birds up in the Foja mountains of West Papua. There is always an adventure to found there!

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      i love Indonesia Alex, one of my favourite countries for sure. I spent a month or 2 backpacking from Java all the way to Timor – Sumatra up next i think. U spent much time there?

      Reply
      1. Alex

        I spent a month there back in 2009. Sumatra is fantastic mate, definitely go. Lake Toba and Bukittinggi, unmissable. I spent time in Java too, a few volcanic encounters here and there, followed by an epic ferry over to Sulawesi for the 4-day funerals. Bar two days on Kuta Island, it was an awesome part of me trip!

        Cheers,

        Alex

        Reply
        1. Johnny Post author

          Yeah Kuta is AWFUL! Sumatra is right up my list on places to visit tho, can’t get wait to get there. I was in Kalimantan too, but not for too long – I could stay i indo for 6 months solid and still see cool things every day!

          Reply
          1. TinTin

            I agree, Kuta just BAD! I love Bali, but the place I really enjoyed a lot is Ubud and Amed. Amed, isn’t populated at all. Maybe becoz it’s not white sand, but man, snorkeling and diving is amazing! And you can pretty much call it your own, specially at low season, as there’s barely people there. I just went backpacking in Bali for a month last April.. It was amazing! :) I wanna go to Java next.

  23. Joseph

    I’ve been to the Dead Sea, but from Israel, back in 2009. So as you’ve seen, there’s a sign that getting water in your eyes, or even swallowing it is dangerous…well, after frolicking in the water, guess what happened? yeap. got water in my eyes, and burned like the pits of Hell…after some struggle getting to the shore, and washing my eyes, I felt I deserve a cold brew, and suddenly everything was alright ;)
    I really want to see Petra, but I wouldn’t refuse the chance to see the other places either!

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      the water is a killer mate – gotta be careful eh!? once is enough for me i think :P Petra is something else tho, amazing!

      Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      hey, of course it does :) it offers so many things to so many people – i just wanted to hit the mainstream public and raise awareness to one of my favourite countries and a quick google image search on Boracay or Cebu will have people flooding in! Hence its inclusion :P

      Reply
  24. Jaime

    I love this list and am happy that 2 of those countries are on my RTW list. I plan on going 2 the Philippines and Jordan for sure!

    Reply
  25. hans

    Hi,

    Gullfoss – Goldenfall – are NOT found in the south of Sweden. Gonna be a h… of of busride to get from Sweden to Gullfoss… :)
    /hans

    Reply
  26. Félix

    Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan.

    Sure, the visa is pricey, the country is landlocked in the center of Eurasia thus hard to get to, and there are bloody conflicts once in a while, but then:
    – 70% of the country covered by mountains;
    – virtually no tourists;
    – awesome friendliness and hospitality displayed by the Kyrgyz cow-boys;
    – so cheap it is hard to believe (especially compared to almost equally awesome Kazakhstan);
    – an underrated capital, Bishkek, with numerous parks, cafés, and a mix of influences from East Asia, Russia, Turkey, and the Middle East;
    – hot chicks;

    … go. Don’t be gay, just go.

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      awesome response and one im seriously interested in – how long would u recommend mate? How about getting there and visas? I’m very very interested, could maybe go next month for 2 or 3 weeks cos i have some free time between other trips!

      Reply
      1. Félix

        I wholeheartedly recommend you make your way there at some point. Kyrgyzstan IS amazing. However, since the country is so far inland, with very poor (and expensive) air connections there, it would be more worthy going as part of a long overland journey through Central Asia (China Xinjiang, and the ‘Stans, and then maybe continuing to Russia or something).

        Alternatively, if you are a power-tourist like I am and can live 5 days in 24 hours, three weeks could do it. You could try to fly to Almaty in Kazakhstan (also a really cool city), enjoy the city a bit, and then go to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan from there, an easy and cheap 3-hour bus ride.

        If you do so, make sure to get visas in advance. Mine cost 100$ (for KG) and 60$ for a double-entry (for KZ). Prices may vary, I paid express. Not cheap, but worth every cent. Let me know if you have more questions!!

        Reply
        1. Johnny Post author

          ok mate – looks like it may have to wait until next summer then, gonna make my way home from Korea through that way. Cheers for the tips, I’ll hit you up when I’m going through the area if that’s cool?

          Reply
  27. Cookie Hart-Thomas

    Oh Johnny, the Northern Lights. When I see them I think I would like to sneak up on the artist that catches no one looking and paints the sky in all that awesome beauty.

    Happy Traveling….

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      i know, they’re are crazy. This should be on the top 10 of everyone’s list, really. I don’t think any natural beauty can genuinely compare (apart from maybe Scarlett Johansson!!)

      Reply
  28. Fidel

    Do you ever fear that the world is running out of places that tourists aren’t flocking to?
    After watching ‘The Beach’ for the first time last week, I’m beginning to wonder if there is a place that we haven’t touched and shared with everyone.
    But I digress. Great recommendations, particularly Sri Lanka. I always hear about how dangerous it is there. Wonder if it’s inexpensive to hop on a ferry boat or plane and go to the Maldives from there.

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      i like your thinking fidel, i always look to boats for the first option. Alas, i have no answer for you :S I’m sure we could always head there and find out… :P

      Reply
  29. Calvin

    awesome post man!! well ‘cept for the philippines part… i mean boracay is overrated. there are other gorgeous beaches that’s cheaper and more apt for backpackers (coron, calaguas, bohol, pagudpud).

    you opened my eyes to the beauty of sri lanka and iceland!

    Reply
    1. T Roach

      I agree; Boracay looks a lot like Ko Samui and Bali. I recommend Palawan, the long island on the West side. My favourite beach there was Sabang.

      Reply
      1. Johnny Post author

        thanks guys :) and i’m in total agreement, Boracay isn’t my favourite place at all BUT it’s massively popular so thought I’d whack it in for the general public! can’t wait to get back to the Philippines, i might even move there next year for 6 months or so

        Reply
        1. Lea

          Thank you for including the Philippines in your list. :) I suggest that you visit Davao City, Samal Island and the East Coast. Amihan in Davao Oriental has white sand beaches and is a great place for surfing. Also, try Siargao Island in Surigao. :) You will not regret it. Thank you.

          Reply
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