Biking Bolivia’s Death Road is one of South America’s most challenging solo experiences
The notion of travelling solo can be a daunting one for the first-timer, raising a number of unsettling questions: will I be safe? What route should I follow? Who will take photos of me staring off into the distance atop scenic vantage points?
A major factor in mastering the art of solo travel is selecting the right destination. Whether it be a multi-country trip or a city break, some regions are more suited to the solo-travel experience than others; but with a plethora of possibilities, it’s hard to know where to start.
Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of 10 sure-fire destinations for lone travellers, categorised by interest. So whether you’re into raves, reiki, cycling or sightseeing, these spots are certain to ensure your solo-travel experience starts off on the right foot.
An epic solo adventure in South America
South America is a fantastic continent to discover as a solo traveller, with mountains to climb, rivers to raft, ancient ruins to uncover – and the opportunity to meet other adventurers along the way. Here’s how to do it. Lonely Planet’s Solo Travel Handbook is packed with practical tips and ideas for a safe, fun and fearless trip. An epic solo adventure in South America
Best for adventure: South America
With mountains to climb, rivers to raft, ancient ruins to uncover and jungles to explore, South America is the ultimate adventure destination. Don’t let its size daunt you – South America is more conducive to solo travel than you may think.
The well-worn Gringo Trail, which encompasses the continent’s most popular destinations along a vertical path, promotes recurring rendezvous with fellow adventurers and, for those inclined, provides ample opportunities to buddy up with travellers heading in the same direction. This, paired with the general warmth of local people and the continent’s premium hostel network, makes travel relatively simple, leaving you to focus your anxieties on the likelihood of long-dormant El Misti erupting during your morning.
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Best for self-reflection: Ubud, Indonesia
Whether you loved or loathed Elizabeth Gilbert’s seminal solo travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love, there’s no denying it: Bali’s artistic and spiritual centre – where the author found love (and presumably ate and prayed) – remains a wonderful place for solo travellers to relax, reflect and recharge.
Nestled among emerald rice fields ringed by mist-wrapped mountains, Ubud is a magical place. Solo travel is extremely common here, meaning no more probing glances upon arrival at a morning yoga class or when dining at one of the town’s salubrious vegetarian cafes. To really harness the healing power of Ubud (and for some serious solitude), check yourself into one of the many health retreats that dot the verdant hills surrounding the town.
Epic solo travel experience: Indulging in one of the area’s holistic classes, from yoga to reiki. Classes are offered at several establishments, including Taksu Healing Haven.
Best for nightlife: Berlin, Germany
Some say you are more likely to get into Berghain, Berlin’s most famous nightclub if you arrive alone. Whether or not that’s the case, the rumour typifies the German capital’s penchant for solo travellers, who are drawn by its deserved reputation as one of the friendliest, most inclusive cities in Europe.
Of course, Berlin is currently the place to party, offering a collection of colossal clubs and graffiti-bespattered beer gardens, but the city’s attractions aren’t reserved for the hedonistic holidaymaker. The sense of history surrounds you, from the Brandenburg Gate to the Holocaust Memorial, while quirky cafes, cool boutiques, weekend flea markets and a growing food cart scene offer more leisurely delights; visit alone or as part of a walking tour.
Best for a group tour: East Africa
Have you always dreamed of viewing gorillas in the jungles of Rwanda, meeting a Maasai chief in Kenya, or spotting the “Big Five” in Tanzania – but lack the confidence to tackle East Africa independently? A group tour can simplify the experience of visiting this vast, stunning, region of the world.
While East Africa’s tourism infrastructure is well developed and travelling solo in most countries here is perfectly achievable, opting for a group tour means you can bundle in a number of big animal-viewing experiences together in multiple countries, without getting hit by lone-traveller supplements – not to mention having the transport between them (often in energy-sapping temperatures) organised for you.
Encompassing a number of bucket-list destinations, the tours attract a diverse group of travellers, meaning you’re unlikely to be the only solo traveller sandwiched between canoodling couples.
Best for a solo stopover: Singapore
With a plethora of cultural attractions to explore, a growing offering of city hostels and one of the world’s best public transport systems (including excellent airport links), there are few more stress-free solo travel experiences than finding yourself in Singapore on a sunny afternoon.
Whether you choose to amble with an audio guide through the Chinatown Heritage Centre, gawp at the otherworldly Gardens by the Bay or plunge into a lavish rooftop pool, the city feels well-suited to solo travel. And then there’s the food; the city is famed for its hawker stalls, where visitors and locals nudge elbows around rickety tables, bonding over bowls of steaming laksa (spicy noodle soup).
Epic solo travel experience: Checking out the cosy cafes and quirky boutiques in the gentrified 1930s housing estate of Tiong Bahru.
Best for culture: Rome, Italy
From ancient icons like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum to the towering masterpiece of Renaissance architecture that is St Peter’s Basilica, Rome’s cityscape is a kaleidoscopic canvas of artistic flair, architectural wonderment and historical marvels.
Whether you’re visiting for two days or two months, there’s so much to see that there’s little risk of becoming bored, and, though English is not by any means ubiquitous, it’s hard to feel lonely among the 14 million-odd other tourists that visit this cultural hub each year. But don’t spread your itinerary too finely, as Rome rewards relaxation; mingling with strangers over a glass of vino is an essential pastime in The Eternal City.
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Best for an all-round city break: Portland, Oregon
One of America’s coolest cities, Portland has all the cultural advantages of a major metropolis, but the intimacy of a small town. This sense of affability reverberates from the town’s urban wineries, microbreweries and coffee roasters, where conversation flows quicker than the drinks are poured.
But there’s plenty more to this bastion of counterculture than its love of a good chinwag, with a host of whimsical attractions highlighting its quirky streak, from a museum dedicated to vacuum cleaners to an urban herd of goats. It’s also a cinch to navigate, with good public transport and a bike-share initiative. And while the city is famous for its artisan restaurants, a more social – and undeniably more fun – way to dine is at one of the city’s 500 street food carts.
Epic solo travel experience: Exploring the Alberta Arts District; time your visit to coincide with the Last Thursday art walk.
Best for food: Vietnam
Don’t tell Thailand, but if only one Southeast Asian food nation can be crowned the crème de la crème, it’s Vietnam. Subtle in its flavours and outstanding in its diversity, Vietnamese cooking is a huge draw for travellers, who’re lured into lingering at cramped tables swapping travel tales over a fifth plate of bánh cuốn (rice batter filled with ground pork, mushroom, and shallots).
Vietnam for solo travellers
Thinking about travelling solo in Southeast Asia? From trekking with hill tribes and kayaking past karst peaks to exploring energetic cities, Vietnam has plenty to keep you busy. Ready to go? Lonely Planet’s Solo Travel Handbook is packed with practical tips and ideas for a safe, fun and fearless trip. Vietnam for solo travellers
All over the country, you can mingle with villagers, sample local dishes and sip rice wine in Vietnam’s many regional markets, while a myriad of street-food tours and cooking schools foster social environments in major cities. Those seeking respite from the crowds should make for the hill treks around Sapa (fear not, voracious voyagers – a pho is never far away).
Epic solo travel experience: Learning how to cook a Vietnamese feast; highly recommended is Hoi An’s Green Bamboo Cooking School.
Best for a tropical island escape: Caye Caulker, Belize
Enchanting atolls aren’t reserved for honeymooners; pastel-hued, car-free Caye Caulker has always been a great place for solo travellers thanks to its compact size and easy-going, backpacker-friendly vibe, which draws a relaxed, international crowd in search of a slice of paradise.
It’s easy to lose days lounging at The Split, the island’s premier beach, but there are plenty of other activities on offer, from snorkelling and diving over variegated reefs, to kayaking to lesser-visited parts of the island – keeping a beady eye out for crocs! Join other travellers at local reggae bars during the afternoon happy hour before sampling Creole-style street food come nightfall; arguably the greatest blessing of solo travel? You don’t have to share your shrimps.
Epic solo travel experience: Snorkelling or diving in the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, which teems with turtles and sharks.
Best for road-tripping: East Coast Australia
It’s difficult to explore the East Coast of Australia alone; so many travellers plough the snaking stretch of road that runs from Sydney to Cairns – seduced, in part, by stories of late-night revelry – that solitude is often harder to find than companionship.
But it’s not just the good-time vibe that makes this stretch of coastline so spectacular. The classic road trip route is studded with bucket-list attractions, whether that be lolling on Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach, rambling through the ancient Daintree Rainforest or bobbing in the Great Barrier Reef. Though the most memorable moments will likely come from interactions with locals in coastal towns and windswept villages, or simply the cathartic sight of the single road stretching out ahead of you.