Many of today’s savvy travelers are finding that the world’s most popular cities may not be the most relaxing vacation spots, and they’re definitely not the most affordable. But that doesn’t mean you have to go somewhere totally random, either. Consider one of these unique destinations that has the perfect combo of beauty, fun and affordability.
1. Sofia, Bulgaria
Budget travelers continue to flock to what USA Today has called “Europe’s most affordable capital.” From historical ruins to mountain views, there’s a lot of variety in Sofia.
According to the European Backpacker Index, you can backpack in the city for just $24.04 per day, including a hostel, meals and an attraction. If you want something a little fancier, three-star hotels only average $44 according to Google.
Flights are typical for a European destination, with options certainly available under $1,000.
2. Oaxaca, Mexico
According to Money, Oaxaca is the No. 1 international destination that won’t drain your wallet. They compared more than 200 spots around the globe using criteria like the price of airfare, lodging and food, attractions, weather, crime rates and more, finding Oaxaca the best in Mexico.
Airfare is typically a bit higher than the most popular beach resort towns in Mexico, reaching $600 in some cases according to Google Flights. However, you’ll save enough on accommodations to make the airfare worth it, according to the Money team’s calculations. They found an average night in Oaxaca , in the southern part of the country, will only set you back around $78.
With temperatures around 80 degrees year-round, you’ll be comfortable while you explore the museums and try the cuisine. Lonely Planet has also compiled a menu of day trips and activities starting around $30.
3. Barcelona, Spain
Spain is one of the most affordable destinations in Europe and it boasts a rich culture. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Lucas Peterson, who writes the Frugal Traveler column weighed in on his favorite budget destination in Europe with good food:
“Spain is heaven for anyone who likes to eat and drink cheaply — from the tapas to the pintxos of Barcelona, you simply can’t beat the food culture — small bites of cured fish, peppers, olives, and smoked ham and chorizo for a very reasonable price, and the wine… flows freely like a mountain stream.”
U.S. travelers can often find airfare for under $1,000 by avoiding summertime travel. According to Google, three-star hotels average just $144 per night, and it’s possible to enjoy a lovely meal for under $30 if you stay off La Rambla, the bustling, touristy street.
Other big destinations include the Sagrada Familia, the magnificent temple that still isn’t finished (construction began in late 1800s) and Park Guell, a whimsical park area originally intended to be a neighborhood. You can get admission to both attractions for $25 total.
4. Krakow, Poland
Poland is one of the countries you’ll have the most buying power, at least according to The Economist’s Big Mac Index, which compares how much a Big Mac would cost in a variety of countries. Many people come to Poland to tour sites of historical significance from the Holocaust.
Airfare tends to be a little higher than some other European destinations, but you may be able to snag a flight for close to $1,000 in the winter, according to Google Flights.
The European Backpacker Index reports a budget day in Krakow, including a hostel, meals and an attraction, is possible for $25. Of course, you can get a little more luxurious, as a three-star hotel averages around $70 according to Google. Money reports a week for two people could be done for $3,200 U.S.
5. Xi’an, China
Head to the Silk Road to see the Terracotta Warriors during your historical visit to Xi’an. Using their methodology that considers factors like flights, hotels, attractions and weather reports, the editors at Money determined Xi’an to be the best value in China. They calculated that a week’s vacation for two people is possible for $2,828.
According to Google Flights, airfare from the U.S. typically hovers around $1,000 if you avoid holiday travel. Hotels are incredibly affordable, though, at less than $50 per night on average for a modest three-star hotel, according to Google.
6. Andros, Greece
As Greece’s economic struggles continue, tourists are still finding the islands a beautiful destination to spend a little money. Skyscanner recommends you consider a smaller area like Andros, which is still accessible from Athens yet boasts hotel prices closer to $70. It’s serene and calming, and you can head there after a couple of days in a larger city if you want both atmospheres.
Flights to Athens hover around $1,000 from many U.S. destinations, according to Google Flights.