Airfares to Europe are at crazy lows. But once you buy a ticket — where to?
First, where not to: according to the seventh annual Europe Backpacker Index, you're going to want to skip perennial favorite Reykjavik. Low-cost fares have made the Icelandic capital more accessible than ever, but the resulting influx of visitors has run up prices on tours and accommmodations — so it's cheap to get to, but pricy once you're there. Zurich, home of the $15 Big Mac meal, is also to be avoided if you're on a budget, as is Venice, where limited space (and tons of tourists) drives up prices.
On the other hand, there's plenty of cheap to choose from. Top on their list? Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, where the city's five-star Grand Hotel can be booked for around $80 per night. In second place on the index — and our favorite of the top three — is Krakow, Poland, which is beautiful, historic, and incredibly cheap (Airbnbs from $16 per night). The food scene is excellent as well, with an inspired food truck scene and innovative fine dining at the other end of the price spectrum. In third place, another Eastern European capital: Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Wait to hit Romania until spring, but once you're there, the country's national parks offer some of the continent's densest, oldest forests and best hiking.
The Europe Backpacker Index rated destinations based on a basket of purchases: a night in a hostel, three cheap meals, drinks, public transport costs and entry to a cultural attraction. To check on your preferred destination, see here.