Experienced backpackers have picked their favourite destinations after seeing (most of) the world and we happen to agree with them, so this is Essential Travel's '7 Wonders of the World!'
1. Italy - All of it!
Italy is voted as backpackers' favourite place and it seems the food, people and culture did it for those who travelled there. Explore the cities; Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan are all uniquely different. Drive around the Tuscan countryside or take in the views of the coastline, just be sure to meet the locals and indulge in the amazing cuisine - it's one culture worth immersing yourself in.
"I had an amazing time in Italy... the fantastic food, amazing architecture, stunning scenery, the passion and the people, (did I mention the fantastic food?) all made it one of the surprising highlights of my gap year." - Female, 18-20.
2. Australia - Fraser Island
Fraser Island is just off the coast of Queensland. Selected as a World Heritage site in 1992, it's the largest sand island in the world and the only place where rainforests grow on dunes. It is also one of the few places where you can spot a dingo in its natural habitat, however most visitors travel to Fraser Island to whale watch. The whale watching industry has grown immensely and there are loads of tours at affordable prices, aimed at backpackers. The best time of the year for this is from August to mid November.
"Fraser Island, Australia - lots of fun, once in a lifetime experience, stunning island and made some very good friends." - Female, 26-30.
3. New Zealand - Milford Sound
Milford Sound is sometimes referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. It is located in the Fiordland National Park where most of the Lord of the Rings filming took place, although nothing was filmed at Milford Sound and in some way that enhances its beauty. Go to see the hundreds of temporary waterfalls that form when it rains and the magical Mitre Peak. Although it is difficult to get there, tours operate regularly and we've heard it’s worth every penny.
"Driving along to your next destination always seemed to breeze by with all the mountains alongside you. At the very south, Milford Sound is an amazing National Park with cliffs and shrubbery and waterfalls that are just awesome. I did my bungee jump and sky dive on the south island too." - Male, 21 - 25.
4. South Africa - Go on a safari
Experience the beauty of South African nature parks and spot some amazing wildlife in their natural habitat - it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. Look out for the big five, which includes lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant. Although you wouldn't be unhappy if you saw a cheetah, zebra or giraffe, the term "big five" actually comes from game hunters who considered these animals the most dangerous when hunted. The world-renowned Kruger National Park is one of many game reserves, and a must on your visit to South Africa.
"It was enthralling watching the African animals in their natural habitat - some days I felt as though I was living in a David Attenborough documentary!" - Female, 31 - 35.
5. Peru - Inca trail to Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu was built around 1450 at the height of the Inca Empire. Located in the Andes mountain range, the Inca trail passes through original Andean environments, tunnels and settlements, until reaching the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu Mountain. The number of visitors each day has been limited due to concern about erosion; it is therefore worth booking in advance as high season gets booked out relatively quickly.
"Machu Picchu -so iconic and worth the exertion of the Inca Trail." - Female, 18 - 20.
6. Hawaii - Spot the volcano and try surfing!
Hawaii is an archipelago and regardless of its mid-Pacific location, is part of the USA. In the southeast region of the archipelago lies the active volcano Kilauea. This area is protected by the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is popular with tourists. Another beautiful sight in Hawaii is watching the Hula, the traditional dance developed on the Islands by the Polynesians, which typically signifies aspects of nature. Hand movements symbolise the swaying of a tree in the breeze or fish in the sea.
Hawaii is also known for its surfing. Take a lesson to pick up the basics or watch the pro's - the northern shores hold some of the best surfing competitions, which take place in November and December.
"The natural beauty was astounding, the beaches amazing and the people were so friendly. I even tried surfing for the first time! I loved the laid back lifestyle and the wonderful nightlife. It was definitely my favourite place on my trip." - Female, 18 - 20.
7. United States of America - Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon has been carved by the Colorado River, which first established its course 17 million years ago and continues to erode and form the canyon today. It exposes nearly 2 billion years of the earth's geological history, making the oldest rock layer 2 billion years old. There are several tour companies offering guided tours that leave from Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and a number of other locations. If you want a truly authentic USA Holiday, whitewater rafting tours ranging from 3 to18 days long are really popular and tours are often booked a year in advance. The Canyon should be on your must-see list if you are travelling around the USA.
"Grand Canyon in the USA - after the madness of travelling in noisy places, the serenity and peace there was amazing...and there were lots of people there but you still felt alone and able to spend time in awe at the size and beauty of the place. To be recommended!" - Female, 21 - 25.more blog posts