20 Places to Travel in Your 20s

Whether you're trying to find yourself or just experiencing a healthy dose of wanderlust, get inspired by some of the best places to travel in your 20s.

20 trips for your 20s
Photo: UIG via Getty Images

Your 20s are for rich dishes, late nights, and lazy, hazy mornings after. Sure, you could do all of this in the city or town you’ve chosen to spend your early adulthood. Or, you could do it on the beach in Tel Aviv. 

There’s nothing like traveling in your 20s. You’ve got a good amount of freedom and flexibility in your schedule, and (hopefully) the financial support of your first “real world” job. And as someone who’s stepping out into the world for the first time, you probably need a good point in the right direction.

Here, we've compiled a list of trips that every 20-something should consider taking, from the eye-rollingly obvious to the off-the-beaten-path obscure. We based our selections on factors of safety and accessibility, as well as on personal experiences and input from well-seasoned travelers. Some of these destinations are better suited for slow travel over the course of weeks or even months — they're best experienced in between life phases, jobs, or semesters of college — while others can be conquered in a long weekend. 

Consider this your new travel mood board. We’re taking you from New Zealand for skydiving to Peru for its cevicherias to Goa for all the spicy foods. This list is a source of wanderlust that may spark your curiosity about a part of the world you've never considered before. 

From street tacos in Mexico City to volcanic springs in Iceland to classic cocktails in Louisiana, these experiences are perfect for any 20-something’s next trip.

01 of 20

Go Backpacking in Southeast Asia

20 trips for your 20s
UIG via Getty Images

From Thailand to the Philippines, Southeast Asia has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. And one of the best ways to see these sights is on your own two feet. Southeast Asia is incredibly welcoming, particularly for young backpackers. 

Activities here are plentiful, from breathtaking volcano hikes in Bali to world-class scuba diving in Malaysia. Explore small villages like Pai, Thailand, or crazy, sprawling cities such as Bangkok — and almost everything in between. Make time for dragon boat rides in Vietnam, temples in Cambodia, and an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site in Myanmar (the ancient city of Bagan).

For English speakers, the language barrier is better than in other common backpacker circuits like South America or even Western Europe. And while flights to and from may be on the pricier side, once you arrive, you can live like a king for a fraction of the cost of a single night out in New York City. It’s also easy to country-hop on budget airlines for shockingly low fares. 

02 of 20

Drink the Original Cocktail in New Orleans

French 75 at Arnaud's French 75
The namesake drink at Arnaud's French 75 in New Orleans.

Denny Culbert

Legal drinkers, here's a place that appreciates your newfound pastime as much as you do.

For a city with international appeal without having to renew your passport, head down to the Big Easy for culture, cocktails, and Cajun cuisine. Laissez les bons temps rouler in the city known as the birthplace of the first cocktail (the Sazerac, if you don’t know — you can order one at the Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone). You'll certainly have your fill of hurricanes, French 75s, Ramos Gin Fizzes, vieux carrés, Pimm's Cups, brandy milk punches, and daiquiris (did we mention the city is known for its mixed drinks?).

Bar hop on Bourbon Street before a late-night, live jazz session at Preservation Hall, then recover with coffee and beignets at Café Du Monde the next day. Even beyond parades and Mardi Gras, New Orleans’ laidback energy and out-of-this-world food mean it’s a good time all year long.

03 of 20

Explore Tokyo's Many Neighborhoods

Mt. Fuji and Tokyo Skyline - stock photo View of Mt. Fuji, Tokyo Tower and crowded buildings in downtown Tokyo

yongyuan/Getty Images

Tokyo could be called the city with 1,000 faces because, in addition to being the most populated city in the world, it’s an eclectic blend of past, present, and future with a variety of unique neighborhoods. Spend the day sampling ramen and touring ancient temples before bellying up to a bar for genuine Japanese whisky and Michelin-starred cuisine.

The extensive train system makes Tokyo easy to navigate (as long as you don’t get lost — Google Maps is a necessity for any first-time tourists!), and you’ll want to take advantage when exploring the city’s various neighborhoods, like Shibuya and Shinjuku. Eat your way through the sushi and seafood in Tsukiji Market, or head to the Land of the Rising Sun in the springtime to experience the famous cherry blossom trees in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.     

04 of 20

Eat Your Heart Out in Mexico City

Mexico City Street Food
UIG via Getty Images

Come for the gorgeous weather and stunning architecture, stay for the tacos al pastor. Mexico City is one of the most walkable, culturally stimulating, and refreshingly cosmopolitan cities in the world. And it’s a foodie’s dream, with cheap, delicious street food options around every corner. Think tamales, elotes, chicharrónes, churros, agua frescas, and, obviously, tacos, tacos, tacos. Maybe you're even daring enough for chapulines: the Mexican delicacy of roasted grasshoppers seasoned in chili powder and lime.  

The city is also home to attractions like the Frida Kahlo Museum and the giant city park, Bosque de Chapultepec. Either the Condesa, Roma Norte, or Polanco neighborhoods make a great home base for your stay. There’s a lively nightlife scene spread throughout Mexico City, as well as tequila and mezcal tastings that easily count as “cultural exploration.”  

05 of 20

Take a Food Tour in Peru

20 trips for your 20s
Oliver Foerstner/Getty Images

Getting a selfie at Macchu Pichu isn’t the only reason to head to Peru. Peruvian cuisine is known throughout the world as some of the best — and healthiest — on the planet.

You haven't tasted ceviche until you’ve been to one (or more) of Lima’s cevicherias. Whether you embark on an organized food tour or simply hop from hole-in-the-wall joint to five-star restaurant, it’s hard to go wrong with any meal choice. And it’s not just fresh fish: Even self-declared carnivores will find the quinoa in this country delectable.

06 of 20

Tango in Buenos Aires

20 trips for your 20s
Chris Coe/Design Pics/Getty Images

Buenos Aires is a 20-something's paradise — and not just because of the astonishing selection of affordable Malbecs. Neighborhood hopping around Buenos Aires, from Palermo Soho to Recoleta to downtown, is an ideal way to explore the city’s multifaceted offerings.

Go on a street art tour. Visit the San Telmo market. Buy yourself a mate gourd, learn how to drink the traditional tea properly, and hang out in the park to people watch. Eat dinner at 10 p.m. like a true Argentinian, and then stay out on the town dancing until sunrise on a Saturday. Or a Tuesday.

If you can swing it, take a flight down to Patagonia and gape in slack-jawed wonder at some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world.

07 of 20

Get Sporty in New Zealand

20 trips for your 20s

New Zealand isn’t the easiest or cheapest destination to reach, but it’s an adrenaline enthusiast's dream. Both Auckland and Queenstown have emerged as a popular travel destinations for young people.

Whatever your thrill-seeking heart desires, New Zealand offers it bigger and better than most: Bungee jumping, sky diving, sea kayaking, or wildlife hikes are only a few of the adventurous activities available in the land of the Kiwis.

And not to mention, New Zealand is almost painfully beautiful. It has everything from mountains to rainforests to tropical beaches. We’re talking about a part of the world where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed, so you know the scenery is eye-poppingly epic at pretty much every turn.

08 of 20

Explore Israel on Your Own Two Feet

Sailboats In Sea Against Buildings In City - stock photo Photo taken in Tel Aviv, Israel

Roman Krykh / EyeEm/Getty Images

Whether you’re winding through the old streets of Jaffa, soaking up the lively culture of Tel Aviv, or floating in the Dead Sea, Israel provides an experience like no other. The entirety of Israel is approximately the size of New Jersey, which makes it easy to explore from top to bottom.

To the north, luscious waterfalls cascade through a verdant landscape. In the South, huge craters in the desert give off the appearance of an otherworldly planet. Here, camping and stargazing are prime summertime activities. There’s also an extensive hiking trail that spans the entire country, which may appeal to the more adventurous traveler.

09 of 20

Get Away From the Crowds in Portugal

20 trips for your 20s
MadrugadaVerde/Getty Images

The capital city of Lisbon looks exactly like what you imagine when you think of quintessential romantic European getaways: narrow cobbled streets, stunning architecture, and fresh, authentic cuisine that holds true to its cultural roots. Although the city has no shortage of charms to capture your attention, travelers in the know won’t regret renting a car and heading out of town to explore the less-frequented parts of Portugal

The northern region of the country is an unexpected delight and an ideal location for outdoorsy activities. Porto, famous for port wine, is easily worth a visit, and to the southwest, beaches and national parks provide optimal sunset-watching opportunities. Backpackers will find the party in Lagos, while couples seeking quieter surroundings will find the region just outside of Lagos dotted with romantic bed-and-breakfasts.

The Madeira Islands are another hidden gem in the Atlantic full of gorgeous beaches, cable cars, and (what else?) flowing Madeira wine.

10 of 20

Ride a Bike Through Amsterdam

20 trips for your 20s
Sergey Borisov/Getty Images

Sure, Amsterdam has a bit of a reputation to uphold, but there’s more to this city than its famous coffee shops.

First and foremost, Amsterdam seems to contain more bikes per square meter than it does people. It’s one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, and exploring via two wheels opens up a world of possibilities for tourists. There’s art, culture, food, and music galore, and a quick conversation with a local will point you in the direction of a spot to hang for whatever floats your boat.

In the warmer months, travelers will want to visit the beautiful parks smattered throughout the massive city, including Vondelpark, the largest and arguably most famous park in all the Netherlands.

11 of 20

Navigate the Colorful Sites of Morocco

20 trips for your 20s
Frans Lemmens/Getty Images

Morocco is a once-in-a-lifetime destination with sweeping, cinematic sights, delicious cuisine, and an energy all its own. If there’s one word for this country, it’s vibrant: vibrant culture, vibrant flavors, vibrant markets. Marrakech is a sensory smorgasbord you'll never forget, alive with unfamiliar, enticing aromas, and visual splendor. Hit the beach in Agadir, explore the Sahara, wind through markets in Marrakech, dine on couscous at Casablanca restaurants, and head to the oyster capital of Oualidia on the coast.  

12 of 20

Go Lion Spotting on the Savanna in Africa

20 trips for your 20s
NAMNING/Getty Images

On the costlier end of experiences on this list, African safaris are nevertheless well worth the price tag. A tableaux of natural beauty and menageries of wildlife abound in this part of the planet. In Botswana, you’re likely to get up close and personal with lions. In Kenya, the diverse landscape of the savanna is like something out of a childhood storybook. In Rwanda, trek among gorillas and get an unparalleled peek into the majestic world of these awe-inspiring, intelligent creatures.

In addition to costing a pretty penny, these safaris tend to be a minimum of five to seven days, so they’ll require more of a time commitment than something planned on a whim. And it goes without saying, this is one excursion you’ll definitely want to book with a reliable, trustworthy tour company.

13 of 20

Get Spicy in Goa

20 trips for your 20s
Skouatroulio/Getty Images

India can be overwhelming, particularly for young travelers in their 20s, but Goa, on the western coast along the Arabian Sea, is a solid place to start. The cuisine is resplendent in local flavors like chili, clove, cinnamon, and cardamom, as well as coconuts, pineapples, and mangoes.

Whether you’re eating your way through the hip local food scene or relaxing on palm-lined beaches or bird-watching in the Western Ghats, you’re guaranteed a tranquil, meaningful trip. There’s a wide range of accommodations in Goa — anything from cheap backpacking hangouts to luxury villas — so whatever your tastes may be, it’s likely you’ll find somewhere to hang your hat.

14 of 20

Take a Road Trip on the Best Coast

Coastal road of Big Sur

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

There's nothing more classically American than traveling with the top down and the sun in your eyes. And there’s no better drive than the Pacific Coast Highway. California is rife with scenic routes — be it San Francisco to L.A. or a trip through wine country.

Take Highway 1 through Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur for some of the most beautiful sights in the country, or hit the beach in Malibu. Or, opt for a wine country romp through Napa Valley. Of course, there are plenty of lodging options along the way — be it breathtaking campsites or luxury hotels, but if you’re headed toward Palm Springs, spend a night or two in Joshua Tree National Park for a true West Coast experience.  

15 of 20

Hop Around Eastern Europe

20 trips for your 20s
Vasiliki Varvaki/Getty Images

Eastern Europe is often stereotyped as Western Europe’s less hip sibling, but it’s home to some of the most culturally interesting and architecturally compelling cities in the world. Not to mention that the cost of living (and visiting) is generally lower than in London or Paris.

Prague and Budapest are prime hot spots for college students and young people, particularly in the summer months. Thousands of hostels, bars, clubs, and cafes run the gamut from dive-y to luxury. (Note: The Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than any other nation in the world, which means that beer is frequently cheaper than water.)

A few other cities to hit on this circuit include Belgrade, Serbia; Bucharest, Romania; and, Varna, Bulgaria. And the cities are really only about a third of the real attraction: Venture into the countryside for scenery that feels like stills from Planet Earth.

16 of 20

Get Festive in Germany

Heppenheim, Germany. Old german traditional half-timbered houses on Marktplatz square
bbsferrari/Getty Images

With fairytale forests and elaborate celebrations, Germany is one for the books. Rent a car and wind through the forests, countryside, and national parks to see the mythic German landscape and its storybook castles (just be wary of any witches you may meet on the way). Go clubbing in Berlin, or take a train to some of the country’s small towns for medieval history, beer steins, and half-timbered houses.

Speaking of beer steins, of course you'll want to head to Munich for an authentic Oktoberfest celebration in the fall — just make sure you plan ahead, as flight prices skyrocket, the cost of traditional accommodations can be astronomical, and Airbnb hosts are notoriously picky about their tenants. Or, consider visiting in the wintertime for a classic Christkindl market experience.    

17 of 20

Explore Nature in Slovenia

20 trips for your 20s
John Harper/Getty Images

For nature lovers, Slovenia is a country of boundless treasures. From mountain biking to camping on beautiful Lake Bohinj to summiting the daunting Mount Triglav, adventure sport opportunities are around every turn in this quiet corner of the planet. (A word of warning: Beware of the local Slovenians’ definition of the phrase “beginner-level hike.”)

Driving through the countryside is a slightly more serene way to spend a few days exploring the outskirts of Ljubljana, the capital and largest city in Slovenia. The Dragon City, as its sometimes referred to, is a quaint European tourist destination that has perfected the art of riverside patio dining.

Though not exactly a party destination, Slovenia in general is an idyllic setting for a reset or for getting in some quality time with Mother Earth. English is reasonably prevalent in Ljubljana, and locals are quite amiable, but outside of the city prepare to rely on Google Translate to converse with village dwellers.

18 of 20

Jump Around the Greek Islands

The pool and terrace at Grace Santorini

Tryfon N. Georgopoulos/Courtesy of Red Savannah 

Their whitewashed walls and turquoise waters make the Greek Isles feel like stepping into a postcard. There are actually six main archipelagoes to explore, and most people choose to spend their time island hopping within a particular group, made easy with local ferry operators. 

You’ll want to consider the Cyclades, where you’ll get the classic Greek experience (think blue roofs, bougainvillea, and party beaches) in Mykonos and Santorini. There are also the tony hotels on Crete (the largest Greek Island) and the cinematic views of the Sporades made famous in “Mamma Mia!” No matter where you end up, there’s plenty of fun to be found. Tour olive groves and vineyards, indulge in fresh Mediterranean meals, gaze out a deep blue caldera, or just relax on the beach, ouzo cocktail in hand.   

19 of 20

Dip Into the Hot Springs of Iceland

Blue Lagoon geothermal hot spring
Masci Giuseppe/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty

The Blue Lagoon, black-sand beaches, and the northern lights await in this beautifully austere landscape. Iceland is a mythic destination (literally, for the Vikings) where you’re sure to see natural wonders you won’t find in many other pockets of the world.  

Head here sometime between September and March for peak conditions to see the northern lights (read: darkness — there are only about five hours of daylight this time of year). Whereas in the summer months, the sun sets for only three hours and you’ll find better sightseeing weather if you want to tour the glacial lagoons and volcanic islands that make this the "Land of Fire and Ice.” 

Reykjavik makes a great home base and gives you a taste of the local culture (literally, if you slide into a table at one of the city’s many delectable restaurants). Of course, you can also stay directly at the Blue Lagoon (or many of the country’s other hot springs) or hunker down in a prime northern lights viewing destination.   

20 of 20

Camp at the Grand Canyon

National Park Tour of the United States
Michele Falzone/Getty Images

Make the ultimate southwestern pilgrimage to one of America’s most famous national parks for the views and camping of a lifetime. Featuring the gorgeous red rocks that make Arizona famous, the canyon runs for 278 miles with plenty of opportunities for backcountry hiking, stargazing, and whitewater trips down the Colorado River.

Hiking in Grand Canyon National Park takes a good amount of preparation (this is the desert, after all, with plenty of steep cliffs and drop-offs), but the payoff will be well worth it once you’re gazing out at one of the Hermit Road scenic overlooks. Whether you decide to tackle the more accessible South Rim or the less-crowded North Rim, you’ll be rewarded with world-class views and bragging-worthy campsites. If you prefer a less rugged experience, however, Under Canvas does have a Grand Canyon location where you’ll sleep soundly in your safari-inspired glamping tent just 40 minutes from the Grand Canyon Village.  

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles