Solo travel is a rapidly growing trend nowadays, as more and more people are discovering the joys of traveling alone.
Some solo travelers love going it alone simply to have the freedom of making their own choices, all day, every day. Some like the opportunities for engaging with locals when they travel, and meeting new people on the road. Others (and women especially) really appreciate the self-confidence boost that comes from successfully navigating a new country and culture on your own.
But of course, there’s nothing new about solo holidays. Many people have always preferred solo vacations, especially those with an adventurous spirit or who identify as “seekers.”
For true, dyed-in-the-wool solo travelers, the destination is often secondary to the experience of traveling alone, and they don’t let stories about challenges stop them. They know that people are people and, although the cultural inflections may change, most people are good, friendly, and helpful. This is true almost everywhere, though avoiding war-torn countries is just common sense.
However, some places are more conducive to solo trips than others, for various reasons. And some are better for those who are new to solo travel. In almost all cases, taking a small group tour to a destination you’ve never visited is a great way to get your feet wet and meet other like-minded travelers in the process. As a long-time solo traveler, I often recommend that people take a group tour for the first week or two, and then travel alone afterward.
Here, we’ve outlined more than a dozen of the world’s best solo travel destinations and are offering some specific reasons why these destinations could be an especially good option for traveling solo and getting accustomed to how to travel alone.
Canadians are famously polite and friendly, but the people of Eastern Canada are especially known for these qualities. These are the type of people who would literally give you the shirt off their backs if needed.
Newfoundland is the easternmost point of Canada. “The Rock,” as it’s locally known, sticks out into the frigid North Atlantic. Many Newfoundlanders (sometimes referred to as “Newfies” in Canada) are of Irish descent, and you can hear a twinge of this in their distinctive accents. In Quebec, many people are of French descent and speak French as their primary language.
These regions are known for being extremely hospitable, and the small towns and rural regions welcome visitors and “come from aways.” Solo travelers will quickly fall into the slower pace of life here and enjoy these unique local cultures of North America.
Most of Eastern Canada is rural, and the hospitality, fresh seafood and produce, rugged beauty, and bracing climate will all make for an unforgettable experience. One of Canada’s most beautiful national parks, Gros Morne, is in Newfoundland. There are places on the St. Lawrence River, such as Tadoussac, that are ideal for seeing whales and other marine life.
Taking a group tour of Eastern Canada is a great way to cover some of the country’s vast distances. Zegrahm’s Path of the Vikings expedition offers solo travelers a chance to explore many of these areas, as well as some of Europe’s most beautiful countries.
Alaska is the most northern part of the United States of America, known as the last great wild frontier. It is bordered by the Canadian Arctic to the east and the Bering Strait to the west, which separates it from Asia.
The rugged landscape, Arctic climate, and remote location make Alaska a great choice for an adventurous solo travel destination. Those who are into hiking, fishing, kayaking, boating, and other forms of nature-oriented travel will love it, and the broad variety of Alaskan animals make it a great destination for wildlife photographers.
The state has great roads, stunning scenery, and notoriously friendly people who are always ready to help out a stranger in need. There are also some incredible national parks in Alaska, including Denali, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, and more.
However, a lot of the tourism-related activities in Alaska are remote, which make this a good destination for solo travelers taking a group tour. You can go bear or whale watching, rafting, or explore the countless glaciers and fjords of the southern part of the state.
CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA
The Amazon is a vast, mysterious, and impenetrable rainforest that spreads across nine South American nations and is more than 2.1 million square miles in size. Sometimes referred to as “the lungs of the earth” for its countless trees, the Amazon rainforest produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen.
It’s an immensely beautiful and incredibly biodiverse ecosystem with some 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 types of fish, 430 mammals and a staggering 2.5 million different insects. The Amazon is also home to about 400 to 500 indigenous tribes, some of which have never had contact with the outside world.
For all of these reasons, visiting the Peruvian Amazon is a completely different solo travel destination, as there’s nowhere else quite like it on the planet. In Peru, the Amazon covers about 60% of the country, and there are two distinct regions: the lowlands and the highlands.
A great way to experience the Peruvian Amazon is to join a small-ship cruise into the interior and get completely off the grid, far away from roads, Wi-Fi, and electricity. You can stay at an eco-lodge and join all kinds of amazing activities, such as catching piranha for your dinner, making cultural visits to local villages, and watching for wildlife in the canopy.
Costa Rica is a relatively small Central American country, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Pacific on the other. It’s a remarkably lush and tropical destination popular with people who enjoy the gorgeous beaches, pristine rainforests, rich biodiversity, and other natural and cultural attractions.
Costa Rica is known for its admirable commitment to sustainability, and the country is considered one of the world leaders in ecotourism. There are many outdoor-oriented activities to explore: you can go trekking in rainforests or cloud forests, climb active volcanoes, travel to remote sanctuaries and national parks for wildlife viewing, and much more.
Many eco-resorts also host yoga and wellness retreats in Costa Rica, which are perfect for solo travelers who want to combine travel with self-care.
Sicily is the southernmost region of Italy—a sun-drenched island surrounded by the blue waters of the Mediterranean. It’s the most remote and wild part of Italy, with its own dialect and culture, quite different from the rest of the country.
Some experienced solo travelers to Italy have found Sicily to be a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort if you want to experience the region’s rich culture, sumptuous food, and pastoral landscapes.
One popular option for visiting Sicily is to stay in an agriturismo, which is a farm that doubles as a guesthouse. There you will get a chance to relax outdoors, eat farm-fresh food, and even try your hand at gardening or farming if you want.
Though in the summertime it occasionally crosses the line of overtourism, Iceland is currently one of the world’s “it” countries.
Stunning stories and images of Iceland’s incredible landscapes—turquoise hot springs, jagged fjords, monumental waterfalls, and foreboding volcanoes—have captivated the imaginations of travelers ever since the Viking era.
Add to the mix a low crime rate, friendly populace, and never-ending opportunities for adventure, and you have an almost-perfect solo travel destination. Many visitors say that Iceland makes travel easy even for novices, as the country is largely English-speaking, has great infrastructure, and crime is virtually nonexistent.
The Emerald Isle is divided into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, each of which have their own capital. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, while Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland was plagued by violence in the late 20th century, but today the entire island is world-renowned as peaceful and welcoming.
There’s nothing quite like having a pint in an Irish pub if you want to feel the warmth and hospitality of the Irish people. All ages gather, live music and sing-alongs are common, and everyone enjoys spending time together, telling stories and spinning yarns.
Once you get out into rural Ireland’s wild, ancient areas, you’ll really feel the famous cordiality of the locals. Cycling holidays are popular here, and the train system is very good. There’s a network of bed-and-breakfasts, small inns, and guest houses that are very welcoming to solo travelers. In short, Ireland is an easy country to navigate and a very easy country to fall in love with.
The Philippines is a tropical archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean consisting of about 7,000 islands. It’s known for vibrant cities and great beaches and is a perfect place to go island-hopping. One of only two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia, the country was actually named after King Philip II of Spain.
The friendly people of the Philippine islands are generally respectful and helpful and even protective towards solo female travelers in particular. Like people in many traditional cultures, they do tend to wonder why a woman would travel alone, especially if she is married. But the solo female travelers I know report that cat-calling and unwanted attention is not a problem here.
The Philippines is a great place to enjoy beautiful beaches, snorkeling/scuba diving, and spectacular landscapes. You can opt for lively beach parties in Boracay, enjoy a luxurious eco-resort in Palawan, or get away from it all in remote Batanes. The archipelago is also home to five of the world’s largest shopping malls, and spa treatments are more affordable there than many other places.
At first glance, India may not seem like a great choice for solo travelers due to the country’s reputation for safety concerns.
However, as a female solo traveler who frequently visits India, I’d say that the media has over-exaggerated the dangers for tourists. They may report feeling uncomfortable due to unwanted attention and staring, but most will say they never felt threatened or unsafe. Most will also tell you that exploring India was the most exciting, inspiring, and transformational travel experience of their lives.
Solo travelers to India often head to places where other tourists gather. The country has a vast network of trains, buses, and flights that connect all points, making it reasonably easy and cheap to get around and to follow the weather.
In the warmer months, travelers head to places like Manali, Darjeeling, and Dharamshala in the lower Himalayas, or to Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world. When it gets chilly in the mountains, they traverse the desert state of Rajasthan, enjoying all the ancient walled forts and palace hotels. And in winter, they head down to tropical South India, especially to happening Goa or laid-back Kerala.
Successful solo travel in India requires research, caution, and common sense, but it can be done!
Japan’s low crime rate and fascinating culture make it an attractive solo travel destination. A long, narrow archipelago, Japan is comprised of more than 6,000 islands. The bigger ones are Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido.
There are more than 15 cities in Japan with a total population greater than one million, including the capital of Tokyo as well as Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima, among others. Nevertheless, Japan is one of the safest countries for travelers, especially for women. Cat-calling and sexual harassment are rare except for on crowded trains during rush hour, when you have to be vigilant against groping.
Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world and is crisscrossed with an extensive system of trains and subways. The train system in Japan connects much of the country, making it quite easy to get around (except for the lack of English language signs and speakers).
Eating out by yourself in Japan is a pleasurable activity because the food is so delicious and eating alone is a common occurrence there. Some other things you won’t want to miss are wandering among the temples and gardens of ancient Kyoto, shopping the big department stores in the Ginza, and soaking in a hot spring “onsen” in the mountains.
Like Iceland, New Zealand is one of those countries that rewards visitors with one stunning scenic vista after another.
Rugged, beautiful, and remote, it’s ideal for adventurous travelers who can take advantage of a non-stop range of outdoor activities, from skiing and snowboarding to whale watching and sailing. There are lots of things to do for the less adventurous as well, such as wine tours or hiking the dynamic landscapes made famous by Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Solo travel in New Zealand is similar to solo travel in Iceland or Canada: it’s easy because the crime rate is relatively low, the country is English-speaking, and the roads and infrastructure are excellent. In terms of the Global Peace Index, Iceland ranks #1 and New Zealand is #2!
Papua New Guinea, Melanesia & the Polynesian Islands
Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, and the Polynesian Islands are all located in a subregion of Oceania that lies east of Indonesia. Papua New Guinea is an independent nation that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the western half of which is actually part of Indonesia.
Papua New Guinea is one of the least traveled countries in the world, and also one of the most culturally diverse. There are more than 800 languages in the country, and most people live in rural communities. A group tour is HIGHLY recommended here as, unfortunately, it can be dangerous. Still, it’s a stunning country with a diversity of indigenous tribal peoples. Although the climate is tropical, visitors still need warm clothing for the highlands. Protection against malaria and dengue fever is also a must.
Melanesia is a region that includes four independent nations—Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. It’s home to more than 12 million people, who live on many of the region’s 2,000 islands, which are spread across a total area of approximately 385,000 square miles.
Polynesia is a region located to the east of Melanesia that’s made up of more than 1,000 islands scattered across the southern and central Pacific Ocean. Polynesian islands include Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, French Polynesia, and Easter Island.
These regions are all extremely diverse, and colonial history has resulted in a hodgepodge of English- and French-speaking areas. Most of the tourism in Melanesia is centered on Fiji, which attracts a lot of couples and honeymooners. However, it is possible to travel solo here if you avoid family resorts.
Of course, there are many other amazing places to visit in Polynesia that have solid tourism infrastructure, including Bora Bora, Vanuatu, and Samoa. –Mariellen Ward
BIO: Mariellen Ward is a Canadian travel journalist who splits her time between Canada (summer) and India (winter). She publishes the award-winning winning India travel blog Breathedreamgo, inspired by her extensive travels across India, and is an advocate for solo travel and responsible travel.