14 Top Destinations for Solo Travelers
By Rachel Yang
Traveling with other people can be a hassle: Often, you have to make compromises and give up places you want to see, and it gets exhausting to feel you have to entertain the same people for an extended period of time. Travel is often an interior experience, so perhaps it’s time to try solo travel and have total control of the itinerary: when to get up, what to do, and how much time to spend at each place. For every reason you might want to travel alone, we have a location to match: for quiet contemplation, there are spots like the redwood forests; if you want to be active and not held back by companions, Costa Rica (pictured) and Queenstown, New Zealand, may be perfect destinations for you. Don't let the fear of being alone hold you back. Go to these places instead.
Mexico City is a city for thinkers and art appreciation, and it rewards travelers who go alone and look within. What better way to delve into Mexico City’s storied history, vibrant art-and-music scene, and architectural gems than by exploring a few of its more than 150 museums? Spend a whole day wandering around institutions like the Palace of Fine Arts, the Frida Kahlo Museum, and the National Museum of Anthropology (pictured), without glancing at your watch every hour or worrying about an itinerary. Without interruption, soak up the stories that make Mexico City the sophisticated world capital it is.
Zambia is a world-class country for wildlife, and its Luangwa Valley has one of the highest concentrations of game in Africa. Land-only safari packages can start at just one night, so those traveling alone or on limited budgets can choose short-term excursions, often without single supplements for certain times in the year. On a safari, you can spot hippos, leopards, hyenas, and other animals you’ve only dreamed about seeing. You shouldn't talk while looking for animals, anyway, because it scares them away, so you don't need any yapping from travel companions. While you're in the country, you can finally lay eyes on the legendary Victoria Falls.
Bodh Gaya, India
The site where Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya (also known as Bodhgaya, in Bihar) is now a popular place where travelers from all over come to meditate and pray in solitude. The lofty main temple complex is the most popular attraction in the village, as it houses the Mahabodhi Temple and a descendant of the famous original Bodhi tree, as well as the lotus pond, meditation park, and other places the Buddha visited after finding enlightenment.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, in the mountains of New Zealand's gorgeous South Islands, is a daredevil’s dream, with countless extreme sports and excursions to partake in, from rafting and dirt-biking, to skydiving and bungee jumping. However, most of its intense activities are not for the faint-hearted and are only suited to one person at a time. The positive side? There’s no one there to hold you back from propelling off a bridge on a rope, and the town is brimming with like-minded adventurers like you.
Like Queenstown, Costa Rica is the perfect place for adrenaline junkies who don't want to be held back by their travel companions. If you want the independence of being able to spend your entire day on the go, jumping from place to place and absorbing the beauty of nature, then zip-lining in Costa Rica may be an ideal activity. The Sky Limit tour, for example, offered by Sky Adventures, (www.skyadventures.travel) includes a ropes course, zip lines, canyoning, rappel, Tarzan swing, bridges, and other challenging activities in Monteverde and Arenal. It's fun, affordable (there's no single supplement price!), and definitely not for the average traveler.
Redwood National and State Parks
The four parks that comprise California's Redwood National and State Parks contain 133,000 acres of land. Travelers can get lost in the forest (not literally, if they stick to the trails), and be with their own thoughts as they drive or walk through the park and marvel at the gargantuan redwoods before them. This is an ideal place to reflect: The atmosphere is quiet, and the temperature is mild, with the sun hidden by these unfathomably ancient trees.
In Shanghai, the most populated and one of the most crowded cities in China, even walking down the street can feel overwhelming. If you travel in a group, the fast-paced lifestyle, crush, and inconvenience of driving can feel tedious and impossible to navigate. Being on your own might make all the walking, shoving, and lining up to see sights like the Oriental Pearl Tower—that tower made up of bulbous spheres that appears on so many postcards—more comfortable, especially if you get to try xiaolongbao, the pork-filled steamed bun Shanghai is famous for, in the process.
Some people associate cruises with family vacations, but that's not always true anymore. Norwegian Cruise Line has five ships, including Norwegian Escape, Pride of America, and Norwegian Getaway, which have "Studios" (pictured) specifically designed for the solo traveler. With no single supplement required, cruise enthusiasts can enjoy a full-sized bed, access to a private studio lounge, and beautiful ocean views while paying less than they would to occupy a standard cabin alone. Additionally, Holland America offers a Single Partners Program which includes more than 40 activities like parties, trivia contests, and exercise classes to help solo travelers make friends with others traveling on their own. On the MS Koningsdam, passengers can either share a stateroom with another solo traveler, or have their own room.
For those who still have the energy to be up until 3 a.m., Ibiza is a great place to hang out in and make new friends at the bar. It has one of the hottest nightlife scenes in the world and is a popular destination for producers and DJs to come to clubs and play their new music. This is a trip fit for solo travelers or a younger crowd—kids and elders will probably be in bed by 9 p.m.—the better to enjoy those glittering Mediterranean beaches in the morning.
Guinness, Guinness, and more Guinness—Dublin is a popular destination for everyone, but if visitors want to focus on the city's most famous export, then it might be easier to ditch the kids at home and go alone to visit the Guinness Storehouse, a former fermentation plant and now a tourist hot spot, followed by a quiet stroll along River Liffey. Dublin is also full of energetic university students—a friendly solo traveler might earn an invitation to party with the locals.
Belgium is a city best seen by wandering, which makes it good for solo travel. It's deservedly famous for its namesake waffles and chocolate, but high-quality food doesn't come cheap—an average lunch in Brussels can cost about $25. The city is also one of the most expensive places for drivers, so skip renting a car and either take the Metro or simply stroll around to see sights like the Grand'Place, one of Europe's best squares, and the Forêt des Soignes park.
Known as the "City of Sunshine" and "Land of Gods," Lhasa is a beautiful place with a rich history. However, it is also a city to visit with caution. Since it's located nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, some people who go there experience high altitude sickness. Going alone means if you have trouble yourself, you can descend and recover for a few days without breaking up a group. It also means you wouldn't have to wait for other people in your group to break away. Once you’re acclimated, stop by Jokhang Temple, which was built in the 7th century and houses a statue that was brought to Tibet more than 1,300 years ago. Barkhor Street, another popular destination, surrounds the temple and there you can haggle over local goods, as well as spot Buddhist pilgrims making a devotional 20-minute clockwise walk around the temple—another thing you can’t do with a group.
Denali National Park, Alaska
It’s awe-inspiring to be surrounded by the wild, vast expanse of mountains in the Denali National Park, home to North America’s tallest peak. Travelers may be rendered speechless by the mountain’s beauty and grandeur, and it’s only after serious contemplation, hiking the trails, and being around wildlife, that they can begin to describe the magnitude of what they’ve seen. But if you do make a personal trek of it, make sure to stick to the trails and make rangers aware of your plans.
It's nicknamed "Little San Francisco" for a reason—although it's not as wealthy, Valparaiso is famous for its hills and colorful scenery. Still, the language barrier and all the uphill walking can tire people out. If you don’t want to constantly be stopping and taking breaks to accommodate your companions, going solo might be your best bet. To see beautiful ocean and city views, you can climb up Cerro Concepcion, a popular area with lots of shopping and restaurants, or if you don’t like stairs (who does?), go on the Ascensor Reina Victoria, which costs around 100 pesos per person.
Belgium, Chile, China, Costa Rica, India, Tibet, Alaska, California, Ibiza, Bangkok, Brussels, Denali National Park Region, Dublin, Lhasa, Mexico City, Queenstown, Redwood National and State Parks, Shanghai, Valparaiso