So you’re basically asking me to give you a list of the most hedonistic destinations for backpackers, correct? Your parents must be so proud of what you’re doing with that shiny new diploma, Carl. But I understand the urge to blow off some steam after those last finals. Here are my picks for the best places to party.
The Best Backpacker Party Towns: Zagreb, Croatia
This city on the Sava River is the true junction of West and East in Europe—though thankfully it mostly maintains Eastern prices. You can party all night at one of its countless nightclubs and stumble back to your room for pennies on the dollar compared to towns in Germany, France or Spain.
Outdoor adventure: A day hike or a mountain bike ride on the slopes of Mt. Medvednica, which is protected by a surrounding nature preserve and towers over the city, is probably Zagreb’s most accessible adventure pursuit. A cable car can drop you off near the peak.
Hostel: The cozy Fulir Hostel Zagreb offers four-, six-, and 10-bed mixed dorm rooms and a private room near the central square. Prices start at $18 per night.
The Best Backpacker Party Towns: Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng is the wrong city to visit if you're looking for traditional Laotian culture, but if you're a party-seeking twentysomething, it's the place to be. Consider that the most popular activity at this tiny farm town turned backpacker refuge is to float on an inner tube down the Nam Song River, past the slew of waterfront bars and guest houses that continue to pop up like mushrooms (an appropriate metaphor).
Outdoor adventure: What originally drew visitors to Vang Vieng is the remarkable jagged hilly landscape around the town in the verdant Nam Song Valley. Cave-filled limestone hills jut from the landscape like shark’s teeth, punctuated by waterfalls and hidden lakes. Local outfitter Green Discovery leads rock climbs on the many routes nearby.
Hostel: Clean, comfortable Jammee Guest House offers dorm rooms for $4 per night, and private rooms with private bathrooms starting at $8 a night.
The Best Backpacker Party Towns: Florianopolis, Brazil
Located on Brazil's southern coast, Florianopolis is arguably the most party-friendly city in a country famous for its festivities. Long known as a surfing hideout, it’s now becoming a booming destination for evening revelers, including everyone from international celebrities to backpack-wearing hippies. Half of the city lies on the mainland of Brazil, but the liveliest section sits on the island of Santa Catarina, the jumping off-point for long, sandy beaches and small but rowdy nightclubs.
Outdoor adventure: The best surfing is found at Barra da Lagoa (for beginners), Galheta (all abilities), and Joaquina (experts), all nearby. All three are blessed with steady breezes and consistent swells. Evandro Santos Surf School rents equipment and offers lessons. Nexus Surf offers surfing lessons and nightlife tours of clubs and restaurants—a true one-stop shop.
Hostel: The Barra Beach Club hostel sits on the water’s edge, has its own bar, lends out beach equipment, and will help arrange surf trips. A 10-bed mixed dorm room costs $20 a night, and a private room goes for $35.