In this day and age, social media is an inextricable part of our travel experience. With the prevalence of apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, it is easier than ever to share our adventures with family, friends, and followers.
Unfortunately, some of the most beautiful places in the world are some of the most expensive to visit. But if you know where to look, you’ll find that there are just as many places that contain the same amount of beauty for a fraction of the price. The Caribbean still has some islands that haven’t been completely overrun by tourists, while a few countries in Europe have somehow kept under the radar and, therefore, kept their prices down as well.
You can take your Instagram followers on a trip through history with snapshots of haunting ruins, grandiose tombs, and awe-inspiring places of worship. There’s also, of course, the natural beauty that exists in every national park and waterfall as well. If you’re looking to light up everyone’s Instagram feeds without taking a hit to your wallet, here are some spots where you can plan your next vacation.
Highly underrated as a European destination, Albania offers a sunny Mediterranean vacation for a fraction of the price you’d pay in Italy or Spain or even neighboring Croatia (see below). Accommodations come at unbelievably low prices, and excursions to neighboring islands are more than affordable, too. You can relax on beautifully blue beaches or take a more active approach; Albania offers opportunities to go rafting, sea kayaking, paragliding, hiking, and more. If you’re more of an architecture or history buff, Albania also has multiple castles and ancient ruins to take great snapshots of.
With 365 beaches, Antigua and Barbuda offers photo opportunities for every day of the year. If you’re not feeling up for a swim, the island also has colorful architecture and ruins of forts left behind by the British. Antigua and Barbuda is also much more affordable than most other European-influenced islands in the Caribbean. Summer is the low season in the Caribbean, so it’s the best time to get a great hotel deal or have a beach all to yourself. Make sure to make a visit to Shirley Heights Lookout, a historic hilltop military complex with stunning views and a restaurant and bar known for its Sunday Barbecue party, at which live music and delicious food are featured every week.
Belize is growing more and more popular every year, so take advantage of its affordability before prices rise along with tourism. With 240 miles of coastline, the shores of Belize are gorgeous as well as plentiful. Explore caves and waterfalls with your camera, and take a leap to try zip-lining or sportfishing. History has also made its mark, as Belize’s biggest land attractions are its old city and its Mayan ruins. Unlike most ruins, you can climb and walk on these, which means you can get really up close with your camera. Winter is peak season in Belize, and the rainy season starts in June, so book a vacation in late spring or early fall for a good deal.
Although the city of Cannon Beach has a population of only around 1,700 people, over 750,000 visit every year to enjoy an affordable vacation. Photos of its shore often feature the 235 feet tall Haystack Rock, the third largest monolith in the world. Low tide reveals the starfish and other marine life living near the base of the rock. You can also find even more natural beauty at Ecola State Park, a favorite of many hikers and campers with great views of the coast. The nearby inns and beach houses aren’t too expensive, especially if you don’t stay right on the water, and many have special rates for Sunday through Thursday bookings.
The renowned biodiversity of Costa Rica is not only an ecology geek’s dream, but it also makes for a beautiful destination. The country’s national parks and protected areas cover over 23 percent of its land, which accounts for only 0.03 percent of Earth’s landmass but approximately 5 percent of its biodiversity. Tickets to get there are cheap, and once you are there, public transportation is super-affordable as well. Costa Rica provides an entire array of accommodations to fit any budget, from hotels to the less expensive condos, hostels, vacation rentals, and cabinas. Food is cheap too; you can easily get a good local meal for under $5.
Flights to Zagreb and Dubrovnik can be relatively cheap if you book at least at least six to eight weeks ahead of time. Getting around within Croatia is affordable too; a cheap ferry takes you around the coastline and car rental is inexpensive as well. Not only do you have the usual photo opportunities at its beaches and national parks, but Croatia’s architecture is also a sight to behold. Dubrovnik, in particular, has become a popular sight-seeing attraction after its Old Town was featured multiple times in the hit HBO show Game of Thrones.
“Tourist travel” by Americans is prohibited in Cuba, which has a list of 12 approved reasons for visitation, such as family visits, freelance journalism, humanitarian work, etc. This doesn’t mean you can’t experience and enjoy Cuba if none of these apply to you. Instead, the requirement for American travelers is that you actually interact with the country’s people in what are known as “people-to-people” tours. It’s actually more of a bonus than a chore, as locals are the key to finding out all the best spots for music, culture, nature, and history. Cuba has multiple Instagram-worthy national parks and beaches, for you to enjoy. Flights to Havana are super affordable, and hotels aren’t too bad either, but your best bet is to stay at government-licensed private homes with lodging called “casas particulares.”
One of the oldest cities in existence according to legend, it is said that Delhi is over 5,000 years old. With the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to Indian rupees, you can save a lot on your hotel stay and the delicious cuisine. Its history is apparent in its amazing architecture, such the Lal Qila, or Red Fort, a sandstone structure built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame. Other sights you have to make sure to post to your Instagram feed include Humayun’s tomb, the Qutub complex, and India Gate, a monument dedicated to the fallen Indian soldiers of World War I. India’s religious diversity is apparent here as well, with stunning sights such as Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque), the Bahá’í Lotus Temple (shaped like a lotus with 27 petals), Chattarpur Mandir, and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. You can even go on a Delhi Photo Tour to ensure that you’ll hit all the Instagram-worthy spots that’ll make your friends back home jealous.
Yet another underrated Caribbean destination, Haiti offers a trip with affordable flights and hotel stays. Historic churches, forts, and other French colonial architecture dot the map, as well as multiple beaches. Haiti’s combination of mountains and beautiful shores makes for a stunning juxtaposition, and boat tours to better explore the area are just a few dollars per head.
Kiev’s gold-domed churches are famously stunning, and the city provides fantastic sights for lovers of art, history, and culture. Monasteries and museums make for beautiful snapshots, as well, but we recommend hiring a tour guide to help you navigate the city. Flights and hotel stays are also surprisingly cheap in Kiev.
Far too many travelers don’t seem to realize just how affordable Portugal is. Cheap flights and hotel stays are easily attainable, as long as you book about a month or two in advance, and food and drink won’t hurt your wallet either. Portugal’s beaches have the same Mediterranean sun as destinations like Spain or Italy, without the over-saturation of tourists. If you’re not a beach person, there are always the fantastic views of Lisbon and the romantic charm of castles such as the Pena Palace in Sintra.
San Luis Potosí’s Centro Histórico alone is worth the trip. You can get tons of amazing shots of colorful stalls, Mexican street food, and gorgeous architecture. White-water rafting is a must, as it’s the best way to witness the unbelievable waterfalls and beautiful scenery. Local food can come extremely cheap, and both taxis and trolleys are more than affordable, so a visit to San Luis Potosí is a budget-friendly visit to paradise.
Flights to Bangkok don’t have to cost an exorbitant amount if you keep an eye on travel deals and ticket prices. As long as you stay away from overly-commercialized areas, you can get great deals on accommodations and travel within the country can be cheap if you take the bus. The Chiang Mai region in northern Thailand is particularly inexpensive, as you can lay your head down not far from beautiful Buddhist temples for anywhere from $5 to $30, depending on your needs and budget.
Flights to Ho Chi Minh City are quite affordable, especially considering how expensive trips to many other Southeast Asian destinations can be. While its capital city is mesmerizing itself, the beauty of Vietnam really shines in ancient Hoi An and the beaches of Halong Bay. You don’t need to shell out too much cash to afford a nicer hotel, either, and Vietnamese cuisine is not only inexpensive but healthy. In fact, you would be remiss to not take advantage of a street food tour of Hanoi for only $20 per head. Outside of that, you can have a stay at a guesthouse, transport, and local food and drink for as little as $12.
Although it’s not a country or even a city, The Wave is such a stunning natural phenomenon that it deserves a place on this list. A rock formation in Arizona, the Wave is made of sandstone. It’s part of the Coyote Buttes, a section of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness of the Colorado Plateau. Although it requires a difficult hike — and a permit to make it — to explore, you only have to shell out up to $12 per person. Considering the sheer magic of the place, that’s quite a steal.