Indie Travel Take Down – The Final Four

The inaugural Indie Travel Take Down Tournament is nearing the end.  What was once 64 countries vying for the title is now down to 4.  Four countries, each with their own special set of highlights to offer.  Which is going to come out on top when it’s all said and done?

Read on for a breakdown of each match-up, including why each country should be considered for the title of Indie Travel Champion.

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Voting for the Final Four ends Thursday, March 29, 11:59p PST. Be sure to vote for your favorites! You can click on the “Rate It” button on each flag to give your Indie Travel Rating to your pick for the best country for indie travel in each match-up!

#1 Peru vs. #8 Portugal

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#1 New Zealand vs. #4 South Africa

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Breaking down the Final Four countries

Peru

The #1 seed in the Americas region, Peru, was one of the top vote-getters during preliminary voting and has continued to impress as the tournament has gone on. They’ve dispatched some very tough opponents on their way, including neighboring rival Bolivia and the #2 seed in the region, Argentina. But what is it that makes Peru such an indie-friendly travel destination? What are the highlights of traveling to Peru that would make it worthy of taking the title of Indie Travel Champion?

Indie travel possibilities

Peru is chock full of indie travel possibilities, with a wide variety of outdooor activities available and plenty of culture. Having one of the world’s most famous sites in Machu Picchu doesn’t hurt either, and giving travelers a multitude of ways to get there – taking a train, hiking the classic Inca Trail, or taking any number of alternative treks – makes seeing these amazing ruins all the more impressive for the indie traveler.

But there is much more to Peru than Machu Picchu and Incan ruins. Lima is a highly underrated city, situated on the rugged coastline with a mild year-round climate, tasty, fresh food, hang gliding, surfing, and a rowdy nightlife. In addition to the Andes and all the exploration that can be done there, you also have the second deepest canyon in the world in Colca, the Amazon jungle and the wildlife to come with it, deserts, giant sand dunes, and even volcanoes. Peru really is an indie traveler’s dream destination, and with the low prices of traveling here, it’s no wonder it’s in the Final Four and a strong contender to take the title.

Budget

Backpackers can get around in most of Peru for as little as $25USD/day (hardcore budget travelers may even be able to do it for less). Keep in mind that any activity you take part in – hiking to Machu Picchu, a Colca Canyon trek, a trip into the Amazon – is going to make that budget number higher, but it’s still much cheaper than similar activities in western countries. It’s not difficult to find a dorm bed for around $10/night or a private room in a nice hostel for $25/night. Set meals in local restaurants can be had for a few dollars, and a nice meal out still will only cost $10-15. If you want to step it up a bit and live in a little more luxury, it’s easy to travel on $50-$100/day depending on how much luxury you desire.

Check out the following articles and resources on traveling in Peru:

 

Portugal

Portugal is the definite underdog in this match-up, and as the #8 and lowest seed remaining, they’ve been the Cinderella story of the tournament. They will have their hands full taking on Peru, one of the strongest remaining countries, but Portugal has plenty to offer and could eventually be crowned champion of the entire tournament.

Indie travel possibilities

I was honestly a bit surprised to see Portugal in this position, or any western European country for that matter. Western Europe typically isn’t known as a highly sought after indie travel destination because of the massive popularity and high costs of travel there. But Portugal bucks that trend a bit as it sits so closely to mega-popular country Spain, so it often gets overlooked.

Because of this, Portugal has dug out a bit of a niche for itself. The costs are a bit lower than other countries in the region, there aren’t quite as many tourists as Spain, France, and the UK, and it offers plenty to see and do. There are a variety of beaches worth visiting, interesting, diverse, world class cities in Lisbon, Agarve, Coimbra, and Porto, and it has a relaxing and beautiful countryside where travelers can while away the time sipping wine and seeing parts of the country that many travelers never make it to.

Budget

If you were basing this match-up on costs, we all know Peru would win hands-down, but low costs don’t automatically equal a better indie travel destination. It’s going to cost more to travel in Portugal, that’s a fact, but compared to other countries nearby, Portugal does pretty good on the budget scale. Backpackers who camp or stay in shared dorms, cook their own food, and take advantage of free or cheaper activities like lying on the beach can get by on about $40USD/day. If you actually want to do something, stay in a private room here and there and eat out for some of your meals, then you should probably plan on closer to $60-75/day. And it certainly wouldn’t be difficult to spend $100+/day depending on your style of travel.

Check out the following articles and resources on traveling in Portugal:

 

New Zealand

It shouldn’t be a surprise to many travel lovers to see New Zealand in the Final Four. They are primed and ready to take the crown as they have been a heavy favorite since voting opened several weeks ago. There aren’t many better places in the world for independent travel than New Zealand, with stunning natural beauty, super friendly locals, and a bounty of activities available.

Indie travel possibilities

New Zealand makes it pretty easy for indie travelers to take advantage of their beautiful country. For those on a tighter budget, they have cheap buses that make it easy to explore the entire country. For those with a bit higher of a budget, then there’s no better, or more indie, way of seeing this country than by renting a camper van and seeing it on your own terms. The camper van culture, with immaculate campgrounds scattered all over the country, make it easy to go at your own pace while meeting plenty of other travelers, both locals and international travelers alike, along your journey. Throw in rugged mountains, beautiful beaches, pristine lakes, volcanoes, glaciers, geothermal sites, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and it’s hard to vote against New Zealand.

Budget

The one thing that New Zealand has going against it is cost. If you decided to bungee jump, skydive, climb a glacier, and take guided tours of the Sounds, then yes, it’s going to cost you. But if you want to travel slowly, sleeping in a tent or camper van, comple one, some, or all of its Nine Great Walks, you can do New Zealand for much cheaper. You also have to think about worth vs. what you’re spending. Many of the activities on offer in New Zealand aren’t offered anywhere else in the world, so it may be worth that extra cost. Backpackers can get around New Zealand for about $75-100USD/day. If you want to step it up a notch by actually eating out here and there, having a beer or two, staying in hotels, and taking part in some activities, then plan on closer to $150/day. If you want to go hog wild and do all the things you’ve read about, then the sky’s the limit!

Check out the following articles and resources on traveling in New Zealand:

 

South Africa

New Zealand is known around the world for its beauty and diversity, but South Africa is no stranger to either. If you ask most travelers what comes to mind when thinking of S. Africa, you’re likely to get one answer – a safari. And while safaris are an important part of what this country has to offer for independent travelers, it doesn’t even come close to encompassing all that South Africa has to offer. Safaris are a very small part of travel in Africa’s southernmost country, which is why South Africa sits here in the Final Four with a very real chance of winning the whole thing.

Indie travel possibilities

Yes, you can and hopefully will see lions and tigers and hippos while visiting South Africa. But did you know that you can also see penguins? And mountains? And dolphins? Did you realize that South Africa is a great wine-tasting destination? What do you know about the cuisine?

The thing about South Africa is that many travelers who have never been there simply don’t know as much about it as they should. It’s a great indie travel destination because of the variety of landscapes and activities. Even safaris, which are viewed by those who have never done one (including me) as a tour-only kind of thing, can be done independently. If guided tours just aren’t your thing, then it’s possible to rent a car and drive it around Kruger National Park if you so choose. Add in a couple of fantastic cities in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and this country really does have it all and then some. Can it knock off a giant in New Zealand? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Budget

Traveling around South Africa is not as cheap as most of the rest of the continent, but you can get by on a budget if that’s your style. Backpackers have gotten around on about $25-30/day, but camping and cooking your own food will be the norm. And you won’t be able to take part in many of the activities that makes South Africa what it is. The mid-range budget is probably closer to $50-70/day, and like most other destinations with lots to do, that number can climb higher and higher depending on what you want to do and how you want to do it.

Check out the following articles and resources on traveling in South Africa:

 

Remember that voting for the Final Four ends Thursday, March 29, 11:59p PST, and the championship match will be set!

Photo credits:  Portugal: Daniele Testa, South Africa: Mark Peacock, all other pictures belong to the author and may not be used without permission.

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