The Best Places to Backpack in Middle East and North Africa
When it comes to traveling, especially the independent kind, wariness to venture outside the well-worn routes of Western Europe and Southeast Asia means that there’s a lot of unexplored space on the map, especially for the regions of Middle East and North Africa.
It’s understandable, but also unfair. The countries in those areas are probably several of the most misunderstood in the world. Things are slowly looking up, however, as they gain popularity as off-the-beaten-path destinations. With a heady mix of culture, history, and natural beauty, when they beckon, adventurous backpackers will find it hard to resist.
Due to a combination of low exposure and general cost of living, most countries here won’t break your bank, some are even among the cheapest countries in the world to backpack. If you’re careful with your accommodation and dining choices, you can definitely dive freely into experiences that you can only find in this corner of the world.
Here are 6 of the best countries to visit in the Middle East and North Africa.
There’s been plenty written about the experience of seeing the rose-red ancient city of Petra for the first time. The chorus of praises should tell you the obvious: when in Jordan, you have to go to Petra. But when in Jordan, you have to visit the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, Jerash, and Mudi Wajib as well, because there really is more to discover here.
Jordan’s fame as a travel destination has been magnified by pop culture, which makes it slightly expensive for budget travelers and backpackers. But decent accommodation can still be found, especially in Amman. For best deals, you can compare hotel room prices on Wego, top travel search website in the Middle East.
Cairo and Dahab, Egypt
Egypt has long been a traveler’s delight, teeming with cultural and natural wonders; pyramids and museums in Cairo, in particular, capture the world’s imaginations and inspire wanderlust. But bonus: it’s also one of the cheapest places for backpackers; here, you can live off as low as $24 per day.
Over at South Sinai, you’ll find Dahab, a small town that has been charming backpackers and hippies for years. The serene, relaxed vibe gets a lot of mentions, but if you’re looking for marine adventure, the town is also famous as a popular diving destination. Make sure to check out The Blue Hole, a curious sinkhole that’s perfect for thrill seekers.
Marrakech and Taghazout, Morocco
With vibrant colors and exhilarating atmosphere all over the city, there’s no denying Marrakech’s charm. Souks and palaces beckon tourists, but backpacking circuit is also thriving here. Budget hotels and hostels at different price point can be found in abundance.
Meanwhile, laid-back town Taghazout is a haven for surfers. Book into surf hostels to enjoy packages that include affordable accommodation, meals, surfing lessons, and a slew of other activities like yoga and day trips. But even if you’re not keen on riding the waves, taking a trip to Paradise Valley or simply lazing on the beach are great options, too.
Brush up on your French for a trip to Tunisia, a country hugged by the Mediterranean. Its efficient and cheap public transport makes it easy to move around, which is a good news because Tunis is only your starting point.
When you have Carthage and El Djem for history lovers, and Hammamet and Djerba for sun worshippers, the Sahara desert, and the friendly people, there really is no way you won’t want to stay a little longer here.
Lebanon is considered one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East, which means backpackers with fun and party in their minds will be (wildly) entertained here. The neighborhoods have pretty distinct flavors: hip Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh, diverse Hamra, and so on, each offering something for everyone.
The tumultuous modern history, however, is still etched in buildings and minds of the people, so there are also plenty of contemplative moments when you roam around.
Istanbul and Fethiye, Turkey
Turkey’s close geographical proximity to other countries in Middle East makes it a staple on to-go lists in the region—and for good reason. There are so many unique places to see in Turkey. See for yourself, as you go from The Blue Mosque to Hagia Sophia to Topkapi Palace, and you’ll understand why.
Istanbul lures travelers with its architectural beauties and unique blend of cultures. But to enjoy the natural, Oludeniz Beach in Fethiye is unbeatable. Despite often being a bit overcrowded with tourists, the port city is still a must-go, if only to visit Butterfly Valley. Home to a lush beach and exotic butterflies, it’s as picturesque and as enchanting as the name suggests.
Have you been backpacking in the Middle East and North Africa? Which was your favourite place?