Crocuses in Chocholowska valley, Tatra Mountains, Poland

10 extraordinary destinations for backpackers in Eastern Europe

The Tatra Mountains & Zakopane, Poland

Zakopane town is situated right at the base of the stunning Tatra Mountain range. As I strolled through this charming village, I felt as though I landed within a fairytale.

There’s an endearing charisma here which will surely embrace you (as it did to me), and the warmth from locals will give sustenance for the magnificent Tatra mountain climb.

I’d say that the Tatra climb difficulty rating would be mild to moderate, given they are the smallest alpines in Europe (no need for acclimatisation). With hike paths available at all levels (from the beginner to seasoned climbers), there’s a path for everyone, so don’t be shy.

I booked budget, staying at a picturesque mountain refuge in Polana Chocholowska and enjoyed chats with fellow travellers, hiking routes advice and new flavours of Polish cuisine.

Lake Baikal, Russia

I wasn’t aware until after I left but Lake Baikal is actually the deepest lake on earth! At 5,600 ft, it’s home to the most unique and incredible wildlife on earth. I saw animals and sea life I’d never encountered before, truly a sight to behold.

I took binoculars, boots and headed for the Baikal Mountains trek, to better see the dynamic rift which creates stunning photography.

I recommend seeing this site either alone or with friends, but just be sure to steal a quiet moment to yourself when you can, it’s well worth the sensation.

Lake Baikal, Russia
Cape Burhan and Shaman Rock on Olkhon Island at Baikal Lake, Russia.

Göreme National Park, Cappadocia, Turkey

Ah, the land of fairy chimneys! I first saw this via Instagram, the famous hot-air balloon photos inspired me to research this magical place. UNESCO’s World Heritage Listed, 40km wide park hides amazing ancient towns, villages and remains of a life lived in a different era.

Göreme National Park, Cappadocia, Turkey
The special stone formation of Cappadocia Turkey

As I roamed around, I wondered what culture and civilisation might have been, if it weren’t for volcanic activity.

Not only majestic in sight but delightful to discover in person, this one is a must for history lovers and storyteller travellers alike.

Bigar Cascade Falls, Romania

Anina Mountains play host with the most, to the most brilliant cascading waterfall ever to be witnessed on earth (I promise!).

Bigar Cascade Falls in Nera Beusnita Gorges National Park, Romania
Waterfall Bigar. Located at the intersection with the parallel 45 in Romania

We all have those moments when travelling where emotion gets the best of us. Perhaps we remember a special someone or have a moment of clarity. When I saw water that seems to glitter and cliff moss that shines, I got emotional – too beautiful for words.

Absolutely superb and worth the trip, take a bus on route 57 B for a special occasion, with a special someone.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Bikers be ready (cyclists, that is) because this green, keen, friendly art scene will have you pumped for the local markets.

I spent a few days mingling here, wading the days away with fantastic wine and enjoying foodie nights with free entry to local artist exhibitions.

A walking history revealed that this city was once a Roman outpost, but today, it’s buzzing and modern, fresh with ripe creativity and progressive night life scenes.

Bring a great outfit and dancing shoes – you’re sure to have a ball.

The Crooked Forest, Poland

Crooked Forest in Nowe Czaernowo , Poland
Photo of Crooked Forest in Nowe Czarnowo in Poland

No-one really knows what caused these trees to grow crooked. As I sat in front of them I wondered, was it from the pressure of building snow, farmer abuse and the pressures of war, or other (aliens?). I’ll probably never know the answer, but one thing’s sure, there’s something eerie and mysterious about how they are formed…

Well-worth the trip to inspect, see and imagine a cause!


Home to the famous Rynek Glowny main square, Krakow is the city blending the old neatly with the new. In aspects of living and lifestyle, Krakow’s architecture, night-life and day-time market ventures gave me a uniquely stirring feeling which intrigued me and made me want to stay longer.

Main square in Krakow
Sukiennice, Cloth Hall, in the centre of town Krakow Poland at night

I’ll never forget wandering to Schindler’s Factory. This remarkable museum of stories and monuments attest to the power of human spirit amid war, and with Auschwitz nearby, a sombre visit reminded me too of the spiteful, damaging capabilities in humanity.

Experience the old with pause and human reflection, and then allow a unique charm of this city to carry you into the new.

Meteora, Greece

Meteora, Greece
Meteora, Greece

I’ll never forget when I first saw The Eastern Orthodox Monasteries. Powerfully positioned atop impressive, breathtaking pillars, they’re hard to get to (I took a ferry, 7-hour train and short walk) but it’s a sight to behold for life.

Quaint, unassuming villages rest at the base of Meteora and this is where I enjoyed a welcome stay (meals included). I spent my time soaking up illustrious sun scenes and taking photos, and then I’d head home to a huge meal and fantastic sleep.

I didn’t get time to take a hiking tour to see all six monasteries, but lots of villages have tour guides who’ll do it cheap and with a smile. Book it in!

Travertine Pools, Pamukkale, Turkey (Cotton Castle)

Volcanic lava heats healthy mineral water to natural perfection, so of course, it was only natural I indulge in a little non-spa ‘spa’.

Travertine Pools
Travertine Pools and terraces at Pamukkale, Turkey

The great and beautiful outdoors are forever simple and cheap perfection. Travertine pools add natural glamour but don’t worry, budget hostels remain in sweet existence (despite the commercial aspects of a natural spring).

I packed super light and book ahead before arriving, just to spend a few days resting my tired trekking feet. The views and sensational skin hydration were second to none.



Jules Bukovsky is an independent traveler passionate about budget traveling and foreign cuisines. A year ago she moved to Poland where she loves to explore lesser-known nature refuges, eat shamelessly mountains of local pierogi and get her tongue around Polish words.

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