Hiking Trails

8 Alternatives to Hiking the Banana Pancake Trail

The Banana Pancake Trail is a popular hiking route through Southeast Asia, perfect for first-time travelers. It’s a well traveled path with plenty of other backpackers to meet along the way, plenty of affordable accommodation options and exciting experiences in multiple countries.

It is a must for all avid travelers at least once in their life. But if you’ve done this route before, or you’re an experienced traveler looking for something a little less traditional, these 8 alternative hiking routes are a great choice for your next adventure.

8 Islands of Indonesia, Southeast Asia

Indonesia sits on the edge of the classic Banana Pancake Trail, meaning most travelers on this route spend some time on the island of Bali before heading to mainland Asia. Step away from the traditional trail by planning a backpacking trip exclusively around Indonesia to explore some less-visited islands.

Besides Bali, travelers will find accommodation options and tourist infrastructure on Indonesian islands such as Sumatra, Lombok and Java. When visiting Java, travelers can stay in Yogyakarta or venture to the bustling city of Jakarta. Sumatra is less densely populated and known for its rugged landscapes. Travelers can also take a day trip to Komodo Island to see the native Komodo dragon on a guided tour.

seven The Golden Triangle, India

India is another country on the outskirts of the Banana Pancake Trail that deserves its own trip. It has so many vibrant and exciting cities to explore, and amazing cuisine, and is quite sprawling, covering 3,287,263 square kilometers. India is the 7th largest country in the world by land area, so travelers can easily spend months hiking here and not experience all it has to offer.

A traditional road heavily traveled in India by foreigners is nicknamed the Golden Triangle. The route takes its name from the triangular shape formed on a map between the capital New Delhi, Agra in Uttar Pradesh and Jaipur in Rajasthan.

6 The Silk Road, Central Asia

Adventurous travelers who want an off-the-beaten-track budget backpacking experience can head further west to Central Asia. This part of the continent has a rich history as part of the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that connected China to the Western world. Today, travelers explore this path in awe of the incredible architecture, friendly locals, and affordable prices.

Although it is possible to follow the Silk Road from China to Turkey overland, most backpackers who take this trail tend to stay in the countries affectionately known as “the Stans” in Central Asia. These are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Related: Why Cities Along Uzbekistan’s Silk Roads Are So Special (And Should Be Visited)

5 The Gringo Trail, South America

Gringo is the term used in Spanish or Portuguese to refer to English-speaking foreigners. The popular hiking route through South America earned its name for being frequented by international travelers. The classic Gringo Trail is a string of towns or destinations across the continent that are tourist favorites. Typically, the Gringo Trail begins in Peru where travelers visit Lima, Cusco, and Lake Titicaca before crossing overland into Bolivia. In Bolivia, they explore La Paz, La Salar de Uyuni (salty) and Sucre.

The last part of the trail takes travelers to Chile to visit the Atacama Desert and Santiago before crossing Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. From there they can end their journey in Buenos Aires. Some travelers start their trip from Colombia, explore Medellín, Bogotá, and Cartagena, then stay in Quito, Ecuador, before heading to Peru.

4 The Tokaido Road, Japan

The Tokaido Highway is a historic Japanese highway that connected Osaka and Kyoto to present-day Tokyo (formerly Edo). The road ran along the Pacific coast of Honshu, but today the entire route is no longer walkable. Fortunately, Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are now connected by the Tokaido Shinkansen, a high-speed train that is part of Japan’s extensive rail network.

The Tokaido Shinkansen connects the three largest metropolitan areas in the country: Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka/Kyoto. International travelers can purchase a Japan Rail Pass before arriving in the country to travel this route and see the highlights of the country. A 7-day pass costs 33,610 YEN (about 265 USD) for an adult and a 14-day pass costs 52,960 YEN (about 415 USD).

3 From Cairo to Cape Town, Africa

True adventurers who want to take the road less traveled can embark on a hiking trail across the African continent. It’s not as easy to travel as in Southeast Asia due to less tourist infrastructure, but there is plenty to see and do. On this route, travelers begin in North Africa in the city of Cairo, Egypt. From there, they head south to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and into Kenya. After exploring Nairobi and perhaps going on safari in the Masai Mara, travelers can trek with gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda.

If they’re on a tight budget or time constrained, it’s easy to cut Uganda and Rwanda off their itinerary and jump straight from Kenya to Tanzania. Spend time on the Serengeti or climb Kilimanjaro before relaxing on the island of Zanzibar. It’s worth stopping at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, to witness the ‘smoke rolling’ before ending the trip in Cape Town, South Africa.

2 The Iberian Peninsula, Europe

Western Europe is probably beyond the budget of backpackers looking for comparable alternatives to the Banana Pancake Trail. However, the Iberian Peninsula is more affordable than the rest of Western Europe and offers beautiful beaches, great food and accessible train travel.

The Iberian Peninsula refers to the European region comprising Spain and Portugal. For comparison, Portugal is 36% cheaper than the Netherlands and Spain is 18% cheaper than France. An ideal route through this region is to explore Portugal (Porto, Lisbon, Lagos and Faro) and southern Spain (Seville and Granada) by car or train. Travelers can also choose to focus their time on major Spanish cities like Barcelona and Madrid before taking the train to Lisbon, Portugal.

Related: 10 exciting things to do during a long layover in Lisbon

1 The Balkans, Europe

Travelers who want to stay in Europe for their backpacking adventures while keeping a tight budget will love the Balkans. The route taken by travelers in this region of southeastern Europe generally includes Croatia (from Zagreb), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mostar and Sarajevo) and Croatia (Dubrovnik), Montenegro (Kotor) and ends in Serbia (Belgrade).

Bulgaria is also part of the Balkans and is an extremely affordable destination to add to the itinerary. With incredible architecture and mouth-watering cuisine, exploring Sofia or Plovdiv is the perfect way to end a backpacking trip through Europe.

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