Trying to decide where to go on your next vacation? Well, that will depend on what you want to do. Looking for extreme adventure? An eco-friendly island? Somewhere to get away from the world? Read on for information on some of the world’s best destinations depending on your mood.

If you want to…

Go On A Budget-Friendly Holistic Retreat

Vilcabamba, Ecuador – While going on any type of health, yoga or holistic retreat will usually cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, Vilcabamba provides everything you need to detox, relax and purify – for less than $20 a day. In fact, the area is known as the “Valley of Longevity” due to its emphasis on health and locals who tend to live past 100 years of age. The two recommended accommodations are Izhcayluma and Madre Tierra Eco Resort. While both provide world-class spa experiences and natural mineral water pouring from the tap, Izcayluma is set in the mountains with stunning views of the landscape (pictured above). Waking up early to see the sunrise here is a very spiritual experience. Moreover, Madre Tierra Eco Resort focuses on sustainability and farm-to-table dining. Throughout the town, hiking trails abound, as do yoga studios, meditation centers and spa, all for less than $20. If you’re interested in practicing Andean Medicine in the mountains – which often involves the taking of hallucinogenic teas – stop into the turquoise joyeria in the town square and ask for Santiago.


Feel Culture Shock In A Safe Place

Ghana, Africa – Ghana is one of my favorite places in the entire world. Is so different than anywhere else I’ve ever visited. When you first get off the plane in Accra, it can be quite overwhelming, the loud streets, the shouting hawkers banging on your window as you drive by, locals shouting “obruni!” (foreigner) at your every five seconds; however, it’s such a great place to learn and experience a unique culture. The country is very poor, yet the people are very happy, dancing, playing the drums, or kicking a soccer ball around. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of problems with the government that people are unhappy about, but they make it work, especially since most of the country are religious and put their faith in God and that he’ll give them the things they need. I definitely recommend taking some drum lessons, attending some reggae festivals, and trying natural palm wine. To really get to know the culture, I would recommend doing a homestay.

bungy jumping interlaken

Experience Nonstop Adventure

Interlaken, Switzerland- Bungy jumping, hiking, canyoning, rafting, parasailing – this lively backpacker city is full of adventure. The great thing about Interlaken is you’ll be immersed in the beauty of the Swiss Alps. Moreover, the options for hiking are endless. I would also highly recommend Interlaken if you’re a backpacker and/or you like to party.

Banos, Ecuador- For a more budget-friendly adventure option, this fun mountain town about three hours south of Quito gives offers opportunities for bungy jumping, ziplining, canyoning, parasailing, biking waterfall routes, hiking to small villages and lookout points and taking tours to the Amazon Jungle. Not only does its proximity to the Amazon make this city unique, but also its relaxing thermal baths and the fact that everything is dirt cheap.

Queenstown, New Zealand- Possibly the most famous of all adventure destinations, if there’s an extreme sport to be had, there’s a good chance you can find it here. What makes Queenstown special is it’s unique landscapes – like relaxing on a beach while simultaneously viewing glaciers.

Cairns, Australia- There’s a special place in my heart for Cairns, since it’s where I popped by extreme sports cherry with bungy jumping. What makes Cairns unique is its seaside location and its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, where you can snorkel and scuba dive.

death road bolivia

Do Something Crazy And Out Of The Ordinary

La Paz, Bolivia- Bike the Death Road. While bungy jumping and skydiving can be done all over the world, there’s no where else on the planet you’ll be able to bike the world’s most dangerous road. While there have been an extraordinary amount of deaths here, the last biker to fall off the road was a Japanese tourist in summer 2011, whose bike didn’t have good brakes. Go with a reliable company, like Vertigo Biking Co Bolivia, and you’ll have a great time and feel very accomplished once you’ve finished.

Vang Vieng, Laos- Tubing. Drunkenly tubing from bar to bar, ziplining and mud wrestling was one of the most fun days I barely remember. Every few feet down the river is a new bar, where you’ll take shots and socialize before ziplining back into your tube to go to the next bar. I wouldn’t leave Laos without trying this unique, fun and slightly dangerous activity.

thailand teaching

Volunteer Abroad

Thailand- There are so many great projects being done in Thailand. When I was there, I volunteered with International Volunteer Headquarters teaching English to the Chiang Rai hilltribe village children. I got to participate in a homestay, work on a dam-building project, attend community cultural nights and work in schools from levels preschool to college. It was such a rewarding experience, and all the activities really helped to immerse me in the culture. There are also projects like HIV/AIDS work, outdoor work, community development, combatting sex trafficking, helping animals, orphanage work and more.


Get Away From Life

Gimmelwald, Switzerland- Located high up in the Swiss Alps, away from cars, stores and nightlife, is Gimmelwald, one of the most peaceful destinations on the planet. When I was here, my life consisted of hiking, reading, drinking wine and eating cheese – which I didn’t buy from the grocery store, since there isn’t one, but from a woman named Erica who lived down the street. I loved the feeling of getting away from the world and just being in a peaceful, beautiful place.

peru food

Stuff Your Face On Delicious Food For Cheap

Peru- Peru is one of the cheapest countries I’ve ever been to, and one of my favorite for food. For $.75 to $3, you’ll be able to have a huge soup, filling entree, juice and sometimes dessert in local restaurants. Heaping bowls of cream of mushroom and chicken noodle are followed by sauteed beef with rice and vegetables, crispy shredded chicken cooked in spices, walnuts, and cheese and fried trout served with potatoes and vegetables. Even cuy, also known as guinea pig, turned out to be delicious, tasting like a mix of chicken and pork.

sea lions

Go On A Truly Eco-Friendly Trip

The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – While you’re probably thinking this is way to expensive, it is absolsutely within your budget. The pricey part about the Galapagos is actually getting there – the flight and $100 admission fee to the park. Once you’re there, however, you’ll be able to book budget-friendly hotels and tours and eat delicious and filling meals for less than $8. If you want to checkout other islands, the ferry is affordable. In fact, I was able to go from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz for $25. Moreover, those looking to do a cruise can get them super cheap by booking last-minute deals in Puerto Ayora. For example, my friends scored an 8-day cruise on a first class vessel for $1,200.

The Galapagos Islands are full eco-friendly activities, and you’ll learn a lot about ecology, flora, fauna and how to respect nature. My favorite part of the trip was doing a $50 snorkeling and diving tour on San Cristobal that went to Isla Lobos, Leon Dormido/Kicker Rock and Puerto Grande. The group was able to swim with sharks and sea lions, which were abundant in the areas we went to. Giant tortoises, nature hikes, volcanoes, lakes, lava tunnels, blue-footed boobies and other natural wonders made up the rest of the trip.

south molle island

Party All Night Long

South Molle Island, Australia- For a completely uninhibited party experience, head to South Mole Island in Australia. Want to get completely wasted, take off all your clothes, slide down a stripped pole, then sprint across the island naked and have sex on the tennis courts? Here, that’s totally acceptable. I’ve never seen so much nudity and drunkeness in my life. There’s nothing on the island aside for the resort – no police, hospitals or shops – meaning there’s nobody to really patrol the area.

Ios, Greece- From sun-up to sun-down, the techno music never stops on this crazy party island. Everyone is drunk 24/7, dancing on the bar, near the pool, on the beach, in the street – pretty much anywhere there’s ground. I especially love this lively place because it is pristine and beautiful, with everything seeming to radiate turquoise.

torres del paine

See The Most Unique Landscapes Of Your Life

Patagonia, Argentina/Chile – I cannot put into words the landscapes I saw traveling through Patagonia. There were colors, shapes, textures and terrains I’d never experienced in my life, all swirling together to create patterns like looked like abstract art. Hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier, make your way through unworldly national parks like Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego and take in the vibrant landscapes at Fitz Roy Mountain.

Soleli Desert, Bolivia – Crossing the Soleli Desert in Bolivia, which you can do by taking a 3-day 4×4 tour from Uyuni, Bolivia, to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, or vice versa, offers bizarre scenes right out of Dr. Seuss or a Salvador Dali painting. In fact, you can see Dali’s Rocks in this very desert. Hot pink lagoons littered with flamingos, silver lakes that act as mirrors, deadly geysers, unwordly stone formations, abandoned train cemeteries and glistening salt flats that seem to stretch for miles are just some of the sights you will see on this trippy trip.

Start A Riot

La Paz, Bolivia and Buenos Aires, Argentina – I have never seen as much protesting as I have in these two cities. These people are passionate, and will do anything to get themselves heard. When in La Paz, I was constantly sitting in traffic due to the many protests taking place in the streets. Moreover, you can’t go to the Pink House, the official executive mansion and office in Buenos Aires, without seeing some form of civil action taking place. In fact, porteños, or locals in Buenos Aires, riot so hard, they caused former President Fernando de la Rúa to resign from office and exit the building via a helicopter from the roof in 2001.


Experience The Real Meaning Of “Quaint”

Bacharach, Germany – I know, I know, it’s a deadly sin in travel writing to use the word “quaint”, because, really, what does that even mean? To me – and I think to most people – quaint is more of a feeling than a description. You can go to a certain place and just know the place is “quaint”. That’s the feeling you get in Bacharach, Germany, a tiny, hillside town situated on the Rhine River. You’ll find cobbelstone streets, half-timber buildings that look like dollhouses, boutique shops, lush vineyards and family-owned restaurants where you can sit outside and enjoy a glass of locally-made vino.


Island Hop

Fiji- While Greece has some of the world’s most gorgeous islands, it is extremely expensive to visit them all. However, Fiji offers beautiful and diverse pieces of land that are easy and cheap to visit. Many backpackers start out on the party island of Beachcomber, and then make their way to other islands from there. One tip: Stock up on alcohol at the airport when you arrive into Fiji, because buying it anywhere else is extremely expensive.

Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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