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18 Places You Need To Visit While You're Young

18 Places You Need to Visit While You're Young

Are you ready to travel the globe, to get out of your comfort zone and find your place in the world? It’ll change you forever - as you explore different cultures, tackle new adventures, tick-off world wonders and meet incredible people who’ll challenge you and open your mind to different ways of thinking and living. Travel is one of the most life-altering things you can do as a young person.

Because you’re setting your own course in life, make sure it’s one that has a positive impact. You can go beyond typical travel by actually giving back to the communities you visit. And, while traveling is going impact you as a person, adding volunteering to the mix will change you even more. As the world’s leading and most affordable volunteer travel organization, we know the best places to visit while you’re young, after all, we’ve been there and done it! Between our team of volunteer travel experts, we’ve explored 100+ countries around the world and we can tell you the places you won’t find on your average must-travel list, and maybe a few of those iconic ones too!

Here we’re sharing the top budget-friendly places you need to visit while you’re young and the best part is that you can visit them all as an IVHQ volunteer! Keep in mind that this list isn’t just the best places for young adults to travel, or the best places to travel as an 18-year-old - it’s for the young at heart, the adventurers that are ready to see the world and give back to it, regardless of their age!

Here are the 18 best places to travel in 2018/2019, now get out and see them!

1. Maasai Mara, Kenya

“Vast rolling grasslands, dotted with trees and massive herds of zebra and wildebeest, the Maasai Mara is an iconic African savanna that goes beyond what you expect to see! This authentic safari experience will leave you with a feeling - pure wonder at the natural world and the welcoming, heartwarming people that call it home! There’s a reason Kenya is one of East Africa’s most popular destinations for volunteering and almost all IVHQ volunteers in Kenya take advantage of the natural wonders at their feet by going on a weekend safari. On my visits to Kenya and Tanzania, I’ve been lucky enough to go on a number of safaris and would rate a safari through the Maasai Mara as a must-do for anyone traveling to East Africa. If you want a real adventure that’s unique, goes beyond the typical tourist experience and has a positive impact on the Maasai community, you can provide teaching support within small Maasai communities as an IVHQ volunteer in Kenya.”

- Will McBride, IVHQ Kenya Program Manager

Visit the Maasai Mara as a volunteer in Kenya

2. Monteverde, the Cloud Forests of Costa Rica

“This is the place of your tropical dreams! As a volunteer in Costa Rica, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the world’s most biodiverse locations! And, the cloud forest set high in the mountain tops of Monteverde is one of the most unique natural environments you’ll see! The lush setting provides a welcome retreat from the heat of the Pacific coast beaches. You’ll have no shortage of eco-adventures to make the most of in your free time! At some 4,662 feet (1,440 meters) above sea level, having a raincoat is a must as you explore the area. The views are breathtaking and there is plenty of wildlife to see. The area also boasts plenty of adrenaline-rushing activities, including the highest bungee jump and also the longest zip-line in Latin America.”

- Clover Stiles, IVHQ Team Leader of Latin America & Pacific Programs

Zip lining during an IVHQ weekend in Costa Rica

3. Penang, Malaysia

“Malaysia is a country that puts the focus on incredible food, kind-hearted people and a kaleidoscope of cultures! Penang simply take it to another level with an intensified, island version! You’ll want to pack in as much as possible during your time here. Get ready to eat until you’re almost bursting - you have to try the spicy flavors of a Penang Asam Laksa, the best noodles you’ll ever eat with a plate of Char Koay Teow, and the bizzare combination of shaved ice, rice flour jelly noodles, red beans and coconut milk that is Penang Teochew Chendul! Now hit the slow-paced roads of Georgetown on your old-school bike and explore the street art tour, take in the elegant colonial buildings, learn the history behind the intricate Chinese temples and wander down the clan jetties and watch the sunset from the edge of the water. It’s an awesome weekend adventure from Taiping, where the IVHQ Malaysia volunteer program is based.”

- Rose Cawley, IVHQ Community Manager

Visiting Penang during an IVHQ weekend as a volunteer in Malaysia

4. Nile River, Uganda

“Are you ready to float calmly down the River Nile… For about 2 minutes? The rest of the ride will be heart-pounding whitewater rafting excitement, getting soaked in the Nile River, paddling furiously down rapids, and enjoying the beautiful scenery, bird life and river life during the calmer stretches in between. The raft guides are great and very experienced, and the buffet lunch (located on an island in the middle of the river!) is brilliant. The guides pick you up from Kampala in the morning and drop you back off in the evening. It’s an awesome day, easily done at the beginning or end of your volunteer program in Uganda, or during a weekend in between. It makes for a great memory and story to share with friends and family back home. When else will you white water raft on the longest river in the world?!”

- Will McBride, IVHQ Uganda Program Manager

White Water rafting down the Nile as a volunteer in Uganda with IVHQ

5. Rainbow Mountain, Peru

“You’ve all seen the photos from Machu Picchu, but what about Rainbow Mountain? It’s the up-and-coming hiking option, where you’ll see with your own eyes one of the most incredible landscapes in the Andes. The aptly named mountain is covered in layers of colors ranging from a captivating maroon to a turquoise blue. At approximately 17,000 feet above sea level, it is a hard hike that you need to prepare for but all the good things in life require effort, so lace up the hiking boots, do your research and get ready to explore the breathtaking Andean landscape. If you’re volunteering in Cusco with IVHQ, our expert team can help you set up your trek and will be able to provide you with local knowledge to get the best out of this experience!

- Clover Stiles (IVHQ Head of Latin America & Pacific Programs)

Visit Rainbow Mountain during an IVHQ weekend in Peru

6. Northern Thailand

“Northern Thailand: it’s an incredible adventure waiting for you to explore! First, you’ll get to discover the hot hustle of Bangkok as it’ll be your starting point - thanks to it being a hub for cheap flights from around the world. Then the laid-back, relaxed feel of Northern Thailand will be a welcome retreat. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya by bicycle and find quaint local villages and sights not listed in your travel guide. Take in Chiang Mai with its buzzing night markets, endless temples and intense flavors! And, all your exploring will come in under budget, it’s a super affordable destination! Don’t miss a truly authentic experience in Chiang Rai - here you can immerse yourself in local life as a volunteer, work with local hill tribe communities and even have the opportunity to spend time living in a homestay deep in the hills.”

- Samuel Headey, IVHQ Thailand Program Manager

Visit Ayutthaya during an IVHQ weekend in Thailand

7. Kerala, India

“Southern India is famous for its laidback vibes, tea-lined hills, sun-drenched beaches, house boating and tranquil backwaters. And it’s home to IVHQ’s newest volunteer program in India! This mellow slice of India is the perfect option for travelers wanting to dip their toes into India for the first time. Settle into Kochi and make it your home base for exploring the best places to visit in Kerala. Head to the tea-lined hills of Munnar and recharge in the fresh mountain air. Trekking through this emerald green landscape is a must. Then drift down the rivers around Alleppey, or if you’re wanting a more authentic house boating experience, watch kingfishers dart through the overhanging forests on the backwaters north of Kochi. Or you can even head to Wayanad to spot wild elephant! If you’re interested in volunteering in India but not sure if Kerala is right for you, read this article and find out how to make your adventure trips in India mean more.”

- Samantha Pigott, IVHQ India - Kerala Program Manager

Make your adventure trips in India mean more as a volunteer in Kerala

8. The beaches of Belize

“Belize is a melting pot of adventure set on the Caribbean Sea. Think crystal blue waters and palm trees swaying in the breeze. With the second largest barrier reef in the world, the diving in Belize is on a whole other level - you’ll be brushing shoulders with tropical fish and whale sharks on a daily basis, while enjoying the relaxed island living. Life above the waves is just as fascinating - start the day with a heavenly coffee, explore ancient Mayan ruins, wander through one of the many wildlife sanctuaries and finish the weekend off zip-lining through the jungle. If you’re searching for an island experience unlike any other, you can join IVHQ on a private island in Belize and work alongside Marine Biologists to gather data, conduct surveys and remove invasive species on a scuba-based Marine Conservation project. If you don’t have a dive certification yet, you can even learn to dive as part of the program!”

- Clover Stiles, IVHQ Team Leader of Latin America & Pacific Programs

Visit Belize as a volunteer with IVHQ

9. Sumatra, Indonesia

“A tropical blend of off-the-beaten-path adventures, exotic landscapes and incredible culture, Sumatra is the kind of destination that pushes you out of your comfort zone and quickly becomes an addiction! There is a wealth of things to keep you busy here, from the calm waters of Lake Toba to the jungles of Bukit Lawang, where you can watch Orangutan swinging through the trees! Make sure you make the trek from Banda Aceh across to Pulau Weh and another gem is the island of Simeulue, where our Indonesia volunteer program is based. This is the perfect destination for travelers who are looking for a meaningful island getaway, where you can support conservation initiatives, including sea turtle preservation efforts. In your downtime, there’s world-class surf breaks and free yoga classes to make the most of.”

- William Rowland, IVHQ Team Asia Leader

Visit Sumatra during an IVHQ weekend in Indonesia with IVHQ

10. Bamboo Island, Cambodia

“It’s not just a place from the Legend of Zelda - it’s a small island off the coast of Cambodia, a beautiful boat ride from Ream, which is less than 4 hours from Phnom Penh. It’s one of the closer islands off Sihanoukville and the white sand and turquoise water is enough to draw any beach lover. This is an awesome place to relax after discovering Angkor Wat, or for a weekend getaway while volunteering in Cambodia. Spend hours snorkeling and spotting fish in the crystal clear waters, or venture beyond main beach to uncover the untouched spots of island. This is where you’ll find me on a weekend in Cambodia!”

- Samuel Headey, IVHQ Cambodia Program Manager

Visit Bamboo Island during an IVHQ weekend in Cambodia

11. Huaraz, Peru

“Huaraz is a hidden treat for the intrepid traveler. High in the central Peruvian Andes, Huaraz bristles with culture and geographic beauty - remaining true to itself with only the slightest glimmers of tourism persuasion. Take a weekend trip when volunteering in Lima to experience Huaraz’s highlights - the stunning glacial lakes of Laguna 69 and Laguna Paron, as well as the Pastoruri Glacier, which are all within the mountainous region of the Cordilleras Blanca. Huaraz is a hidden treat for the intrepid traveler. “

- Aydan Mitchell, IVHQ Latin America Program Manager

Visit Huaraz, Peru as a volunteer in Peru with IVHQ

12. Ilha Grande, Brazil

“Ilha Grande is close to Rio de Janeiro (and relatively easy to access), but it offers a break from the bustling city scene. The majority of the island is protected state park (Parque Estadual da Ilha Grande) with ample hiking trails in the native rainforest. Beach dwellers have their choice of snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and diving. The main settlement is a small village, Vila Abrão, in which no cars are allowed - it has unpaved roads for foot traffic only and guesthouses, restaurants and bars with thatched roofs. Gatherings at night tend to be spent on the docks or beaches, as the clubbing scene is left in Rio. Make sure you save a weekend for a trip to Ilha Grande while volunteering in Brazil.”

- Charlotte Verry, IVHQ Brazil Program Manager

Visit Ilha Grande in Brazil as an IVHQ volunteer

13. Table Mountain, South Africa

“You probably already know about Table Mountain, but it’s just such a breathtaking spot that it has to be mentioned again! This mesmerizing backdrop to Cape Town is an absolute must-see for volunteers in South Africa. If hiking isn’t your thing, don’t fret - you can take a cable car to appreciate the impressive views over Cape Town. Once you’ve stood at the top of this flat-topped mountain, there’s plenty left to explore. Beneath the mountains, you’ll find stunning beaches (one even is filled with penguins), amazing restaurants, a bustling cafe culture, bright colored neighborhoods and don’t leave without experiencing a braai (a traditional South African barbecue). “

- Claire Chambers, IVHQ South Africa Program Manager

Climb Table Mountain during an IVHQ weekend in South Africa

14. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

“The ruins of Angkor are a must-see while you’re volunteering in Cambodia]. Getting up before dawn to cycle to Angkor Wat for sunrise is breathtaking - it’s one of those places that will give you a travel bug for life. The temples dotted throughout the area are best explored on foot or by peddle-power and being in amongst the local people helps to give you an appreciation for different cultures that will shape how you view travel forever.”

- Samuel Headey, IVHQ Cambodia Program Manager

Visit the temples of Angkor Wat as a volunteer in Cambodia with IVHQ

15. Lisbon, Portugal

“As an IVHQ volunteer, you’ll get to experience the real Portugal while exploring the cobbled alleyways, antique tram line, and bustling city scene during your free time. With a warm Mediterranean climate and surf beaches within easy reach of the city center, this coastal city is a hotspot for travelers to Europe. The seaside position means a dive into the dynamic food scene is a must for seafood lovers - think fresh octopus, tuna and sardines. And you can’t miss the Time Out markets - the massive food hall is a pop-up collection of city’s best restuarants, all under one off! Lisbon’s charm will stay with you long after you return home, so be sure you snap a photo in front of the iconic mosaic tiles as a memento!

- Kaila LeMaitre, IVHQ Portugal Program Manager

Explore Portugal as a volunteer with IVHQ

16. Nusa Penida, Bali

“Escape the hustle of mainland Bali and treat your senses to the idyllic island of Nusa Penida. With its sweeping cliffs that plunge into crystal blue waters, it’s a paradise for ocean lovers. Whether you’ve never dived before or are an experienced and well-traveled diver, the dive sites around the three islands of Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida offer some of the most exciting and rewarding diving for IVHQ volunteers in Bali. Combine that with a water temperature which typically doesn’t drop below 68°F and average visibility of 20 to 30 meters and you have an experience not to be missed!”

- Brigitte Lahmert, IVHQ Bali Program Manager

Visit the island of Nusa Penida as an IVHQ volunteer in Bali

17. A Greek Island that’s not Santorini or Mykonos

“Say hello to authentic Greek living! I’m talking about going beyond the typical tourist experience and actually getting to know the real Greece. Having spent time on our volunteer program in Greece, I know how incredible this place really is! As a volunteer in Chios, the 5th largest island in Greece, you’ll experience the best of the country with ancient and unique medieval villages, monasteries, museums and archaeological sites, breathtaking coastlines and mouthwatering food. You’ll get to uncover all of this while escaping the typical tourist islands and forming genuine connections with the local people. Then, once you’ve had the authentic Greek island experience, you can take a short ferry ride and start discovering Turkey!”

- Jamie-Lee Reynolds, IVHQ Head of Europe & Africa Programs

Visit Chios, Greece while you're young with IVHQ

18. Milford Sound, New Zealand

“New Zealand is the perfect destination for first-time travelers and solo adventurers! One of the highlights of the New Zealand travel experience is the great outdoors, so set aside some time to experience one of New Zealand’s greatest walks. The Milford Track offers 4 days of spectacular landscapes, forest-covered valleys, waterfalls, steep fiords and mountain passes and is a must do for volunteers in New Zealand.”

- Charlotte Verry, IVHQ New Zealand Program Manager

Visit the Milford Sound as an IVHQ volunteer in New Zealand

TL;DR

The ultimate list of best places to travel when young, written by travel experts that have been to 100+ countries around the world!

  1. Maasai Mara, Kenya
  2. Monteverde, the Cloud Forests of Costa Rica
  3. Penang, Malaysia
  4. Nile River, Uganda
  5. Rainbow Mountain, Peru
  6. Northern Thailand
  7. Kerala, India
  8. The beaches of Belize
  9. Sumatra, Indonesia
  10. Bamboo Island, Cambodia
  11. Huaraz, Peru
  12. Ilha Grande, Brazil
  13. Table Mountain, South Africa
  14. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  15. Lisbon, Portugal
  16. Nusa Penida, Bali
  17. A Greek Island that’s not Santorini or Mykonos
  18. Milford Sound, New Zealand

If you’re looking to combine the best vacation spots for young adults with a meaningful adventure, explore an IVHQ volunteer abroad program. It makes traveling for the first-time safe and affordable with 24/7 support and stable year-round costs, so you can travel whenever you want, including in the peak season. We have supported 80,000+ volunteers on their meaningful adventures and have spent 10 years building responsible volunteer programs with a focus on long-term impact. Head to our volunteer abroad programs page to pick the perfect program for you!

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