5 Affordable Countries Every Outdoor Explorer Can Afford to Visit

By Amanda Gokee on 5 June 2017 0 comments

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Exploring the great outdoors is a wonderful way to spend a vacation, yet it's not always cheap. Many countries have expensive national park fees, camp fees, and general high cost of travel.

Check out these inexpensive destinations for your next outdoor adventure.

1. Canada

Canada is an incredible destination for nature lovers. With a population of 35 million people spread over a vast 3.85 million square miles spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and north to the Arctic Ocean, opportunities for outdoor recreation in untouched wilderness areas abound.

Plus, as a part of the country's celebration of its 150th birthday, this year you can take advantage of the fact that all national parks in Canada are free with the 2017 Discovery Pass. With more than 40 national parks throughout the country, there is plenty of outdoor exploration to be done in expansive forests, tundra, and mountainous regions.

Canada's well-known highlights such as Vancouver Island, Banff National Park, and the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort are well worth a visit. But you should also consider some lesser-known gems, like going on a polar bear and narwhal safari in the far northern province of Nunavut.

Highlights in the east of the country include Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Highlands, where you can take in spectacular coastal views and may even glimpse minke or pilot whales breaking offshore. In the winter months, you can ski in Quebec, north of Montreal.

Head to the Great Lakes region for an epic canoe or kayak trip in the warmer months. Some of the diverse wildlife you could see along the way may include moose, bears, and loons, just to name a few.

As an added budget bonus, the U.S. dollar currently trades around 40 percent better than it did five years ago, so Americans can save some serious money on a trip to our great northern neighbor.

2. Kyrgyzstan

Between its rugged mountain ranges, extensive pasture lands, and high-altitude lakes, this rural country has no shortage of outdoor activities. Seminomadic peoples still live in the mountains here, with yurts dotting many mountainsides.

Landing in Bishkek, the country's capital, you can head to Issyk-Kul, the world's second largest alpine lake, which is located at the foot of the Tian Shan Mountains. The area is a great base for an outdoors-oriented vacation, with swimming, hiking, camping, and trekking all available.

Other trekking destinations include Lake Song Kol and Lenin Peak on the border with Tajikistan. For those who aren't interested in walking the whole way, horse treks in Kyrgyzstan are a fun way to get around.

Kyrgyzstan is an affordable destination overall. We calculate the cost of traveling there at $63 per day for two people sharing accommodations. Plus, you won't have to add visa fees to your travel budget, since no visa is required for Americans visiting for up to 60 days.

Discover Kyrgyzstan, the government's official tourism arm, is currently planning new sustainable tourism options around Issyk-Kul and hiking opportunities in the Jyrgalan region, so it's likely that the country will soon be on the radar of all outdoor enthusiasts.

3. Nepal

Nepal is an internationally renowned destination for adventurers, boasting the famous Everest and Annapurna peaks, and lesser-known areas for trekking, such as the Langtang region north of the capital city, Kathmandu. While summiting Everest is a highly technical and expensive undertaking, there are many other treks in the country that are accessible to hikers of nearly all levels.

Planning a trek to a mountain base camp is one good option, enabling you to hike in the vicinity of the world's greatest peaks without spending tens of thousands of dollars to summit them. These are still challenging hikes that should not be underestimated, but with training and proper preparation, they are certainly manageable.

Most hikes can be easily planned out of Kathmandu, the country's vibrant and busy urban center. Here you can acquire the required permits for your trek, which usually cost around 2,000 Nepali rupees, or about $20. Farther west, the charming tourist town of Pokhara is a common base for travelers preparing to do the popular Annapurna circuit trek.

Not only does Nepal boast stunning landscapes, but it's also a very affordable place to travel, with cheap transportation and meals costing as little as $1. Lonely Planet estimates you can travel for as little as $30 a day, including budget accommodations, two meals, and a trekking porter/guide. A midrange organized trek costs $60–$80 per day.

4. Chile

Chile is a country of abundant natural beauty, from its extensive coastline to the impressive mountains of Patagonia — a breathtaking trekking region at the southern end of Chile and Argentina.

Torres del Paine National Park, in the heart of Chilean Patagonia, is replete with glaciers and crystal clear mountain lakes. You'll want to plan a trip between mid-September and early May, which are the southern hemisphere's warmer months.

Overall, Patagonia is not a budget destination, but it is quite possible to do one of the famous treks in Torres del Paine without breaking the bank. The entrance fee is around $30, but if you plan to do the W Trek (four days) or the O Trek (around eight days), this fee is minimal given the amount of time you'll be spending in the park.

There are also numerous free campsites in the park that can help you save money as well. Pack your own food, stay in as many free campsites as you can, and you can end the entire O Trek in Patagonia spending very little. Even if you do have to pay for campsites, they're only around $15 per person, so it's pretty affordable accommodations!

Unless you have a lot of time for a road trip, you'll want to fly into the Patagonian towns of Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales. Be sure to reserve your flight far ahead — Travel and Leisure recommends booking six months in advance — to ensure you get a seat on one of these in-demand flights.

Other impressive sites in Chile include the Atacama Desert, which is one of the best places on earth for stargazing, given its high altitude and the near absence of humidity in the air. (See also: 6 Things That Will Make Your Next Flight More Comfortable)

5. Thailand

Long known as a budget traveler's paradise, Thailand was recently rated as one of the world's 20 cheapest countries to visit by The Telegraph newspaper. Lonely Planet estimates travelers here can get by on as little as $29 a day, with delicious street meals costing less than $2 in many cases.

Known for its beautiful beaches, Thailand is actually a fairly diverse outdoor destination. There are many jungle treks in the north of the country where you can explore the country's rich cultural heritage and visit some of the many impressive temples. Most of these treks depart from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

For shorter hikes off the beaten path, check out Sri Phang Nga National Park in southern Thailand, which features spectacular waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and huge parasitic rafflesia flowers.

Interested in water activities? Head to islands like Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao, where you can complete your scuba diving certification without breaking the bank. An open water certification costs 9,800 baht (or around $285). There is no need to book ahead, since the island is full of dive shops that offer certifications, and you can comfortably shop around for the best price once you arrive.

If you're not a diver, you can explore the islands by scooter or foot, stopping to snorkel and swim along the way.

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5 Affordable Countries Every Outdoor Explorer Can Afford to Visit

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