Popular Backpacking Routes – A quick guide

Looking to travel for an extended period of time or through multiple countries, and not sure how to go about it? Look no further! Here are a some of the most popular backpacking routes used by a lot of experienced or newbie travellers.

I only discovered these popular routes when I started researching destinations for my world tour. As a lover for travel I’m a little disappointed in myself that I hadn’t heard about them. But, I guess we all have to start somewhere! What’s great about these routes is that they take you through multiple countries and have been established over time. Mainly through world of mouth from other travellers. These routes also follow popular geological landmarks or tourist spots and transportation routes. These routes are not set in stone, they are more of a general direction most travellers use.

You don’t have to complete these routes in full, you can use them as a guide to complete short trips or to fit into your itinerary.

This guide does not contain a large amount of detail for each route, as this blog post is meant to be used as a quick guide.

Banana Pancake Trail – Southeast Asia

green crop field
Photo by Ibadah Mimpi on Pexels.com

The banana pancake trail is a popular route for backpackers and budget travellers, mainly consisting of 4 countries; Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. You can travel this route via any direction as it is a not a well defined path, in fact it is ever changing. The essence of this trail is to experience culture, food, music and lifestyle of the Southeast Asian countries.

How did it get its name? There are many stories, some say it came from the cafes along the trail which used to serve free breakfast to travellers (banana pancakes). Another reason is that banana pancakes are easily accessible, cheap and a fulfillable dish, so travellers enjoyed them frequently while on this trail.

Some popular destinations along the trail include:

  • Thailand: Bangkok (where the famous Khao San Road is), Chiang Mai, Pai, Krabi, Phuket, Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan, Koh Lipe, and Koh Chang.
  • Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sa Pa, Dalat, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, and Hoi An.
  • Laos: Vang Vieng, Bolaven Plateau, Si Phan Don, Luang Prabang and Nong Khiaw.
  • Malaysia: Kedah, Penang, Malacca City, Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur.
  • Cambodia: Siem Reap,  Battambang, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Sihanoukville and its offshore islands.
  • Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Myanmar and China can also be included as part of the Banana Pancake Trail Bali.

Gringo Trail – Central America

gray concrete building under blue sky
Photo by Bhargava Marripati on Pexels.com

Central America is made up of 7 countries, 8 if you count Mexico, which is often included as part of this trail. The ‘Gringo Trail’ was named after the local slang word for a foreigner. It looses follows the the Pan- American highway that stretches from Mexico to South America. The Gringo Trail does extend into South America, but we will talk about the Central America section first. It is recommended to spend at least 3 months exploring this trail.

The trail informally starts in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, then takes you to Belize and Guatemala, then through the other countries eventually ending in Panama City.

Some popular destinations along the trail include:

  • Mexico: Isla Mujeres, Tulum, Chichen Itza and Playa del Carmen.
  • Tikal, Guatemala
  • Antigua Guatemala
  • The Bay Islands, Honduras
  • Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Jaco, Puerto Viejo
  • Panama: Bocas del Toro

Gringo Trail – South America

photo of machu picchu
Photo by Chelsea Cook on Pexels.com

As mentioned above, the Gringo Trail continues from Panama, all the way to Chile. It then has a short route which leds into Argentina and Brazil. When travelling through South America you need to remember that is it huge, so travel times can be long. For this reason it is recommended to spend 6 months or longer, exploring the Gringo Trail in South America.

Along the trail you will find heaps of popular attractions such as the Inca ruins, salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia and waterfalls of Foz do Iguaçu on the Argentina-Brazil border. You will also definitely want to spend some time in Amazon rainforest!

Tracing the Silk Road – Central Asia

hot air balloon
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

This is a great choice if you are looking for something a bit different! The route starts in Turkey, moving east into the Caucasus region and further through Georgia, Armenian, Azerbaijan and eventually to Kazakhstan.

I haven’t been able to find much information on this route, as it is less travelled. I have put it on this list for those who are looking for something a bit different. Unfortunately you will have to do your our research if you wish to travel this route.

Golden Triangle – India

taj mahal and the four minarets
Photo by Sudipta Mondal on Pexels.com

Otherwise known as the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur circuit, is one of the most common travel routes in the country. This route can easily be completed in a week and is popular among tour companies.

Some highlights of the Golden Triangle:

  • Delhi: Humayun’s Tomb, street food tour of old Delhi, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh Temple
  • Arga:  Taj Mahal, Emperor Akbar’s mausoleum, Visit Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah – The baby Taj Mahal
  • Jaipur: Amer Fort and the Amber Palace, Pink City, Monkey Temple

Other backpacking routes

  • New Zealand and Australia (the BIG lap): Both NZ and Australia do not have defined backpacking routes, however it is best to complete both of these countries via a road trip. You can find more information about places to visit in Australia here and some itineraries here. For a compact, cheap campervan hire for New Zealand, check out spaceship campers or if you are looking for a tour, check out FlyingKiwi Adventures.
  • Backpacking Europe: Europe is one of the easiest places to get around as a backpacker due to the organised transport system. There are not official routes in Europe, however it is very easy for experienced or beginner backpackers to make their own.
  • Trans-Siberian Express: Moscow to Mongolia or China.
  • Backpacking USA: Similar to Australia and New Zealand, travelling through the USA is best completed via a road trip.

Comments (2)

  • Matt’s Next Steps

    15th December 2022 at 7:42 pm

    Great post! Do you know of any trails/routes in Africa?

    1. beckkyhamilton

      19th December 2022 at 1:53 pm

      Thankyou, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I unfortunately don’t know of any routes through Africa. I would love to hear if you find any though!

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