Sometimes we all need to get away from it all. There are times when that just means going out for a walk or a cup of coffee by yourself, but when that won’t cut it, you need to get out and explore. Where once travelling alone was seen as something “brave” or “daring” for the courageous few, increasingly travellers are realising that they can go where they want, when they want without making a fuss out of it.
Travelling solo gives you the breathing space that is so often hard to come by in our day to day lives and contrary to what many think, it doesn’t have to be lonely. Here’s our round up of the top ten countries we recommend for solo travel, whether you’re looking for a backpacking adventure of self-discovery or just a chic city break where you can explore at your own pace.
If you’re worried that solo travel may give you a little bit too much time by yourself, then South Africa may well be the destination for you. Booking a group walking tour or safari means you are sure to meet others while you travel and often, having some structure and plans will help you make the most out of your trip. If you’re not quite the outdoorsy type, a wine tour around Stellenbosch is another way to take in the South African countryside.
There’s plenty to do in South Africa without ever leaving the city however and a city break to Cape Town will give you stellar beaches, stunning vistas and some top notch restaurants for you to sample when you travel. Try Ash Restaurant for a classy, meat lover’s paradise.
Cuba is one of our favourite destinations here at Homestay.com and with host families in some of the capital Havana’s stunning colonial houses, you can uncover the real Cuba away from the tourist resorts. While Havana offers some stunningly colourful options for any architecture or photography lovers, the more rural areas of Cienfuegos and Trinidad have the perfect beach spots if all you want to do is chill out with a book and a mojito.
Away from the Caribbean beaches, the inland town of Viñales is famous for its tobacco farms where you can see the production of the world-famous Cuban cigars for yourself. The valley surrounding Viñales is a lush, tropical landscape and part of a national park that’s best explored by hiking or if you prefer, on horseback. Ask your casa particular host for help discovering the location and they’ll be only too happy to help you.
For a lot of people, Japan is something of a culture shock and many travellers feel they need a second, third or fourth person with them to help them cope with the change. While Japan most certainly is a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime trip, it’s also something you can handle alone.
Travel between Japan’s major cities is relatively easy, thanks to their impressive high-speed rail network meaning that you can easily see several cities in one trip. One aspect of the country that is often overlooked by travellers to Japan is the beauty of the more rural areas, in particular the northern island of Hokkaido which has some stunning mountain walkways.
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Have a read of our dedicated tips for solo travellers to Japan to plan your getaway but really, my best travel tip for Japan is just to go with the flow and enjoy it. Yes the cities are busy, but really there is nowhere else like them in the world.
If the prospect of Cuba’s sandy beaches appealed to you, then Bali is another spot you definitely need on your travel list. The Indonesian island has been a firm favourite with surfers for decades and the laid back island has dozens of surf schools, yoga retreats, spas and all manner of wellness centres to help you get some R’n’R.
Bali is a very tourist-friendly location, so it’s a great spot for a first time solo traveller or someone who needs something to keep them busy when they go abroad. The night life in Bali is pretty much à la carte: it’s there if you want it, but it can easily be a clean-eating holiday if you’d prefer to detox.
Cosmopolitan cities, fantastic food and wine, and stunning year-round scenery? Argentina has it all: city slickers will love uncovering the coffee culture of Buenos Aires and its vibrant, colourful neighbourhoods. Argentina is also the perfect spot for a road trip if that’s your preferred mode of transport, with the flat, fertile plains of the Pampas criss-crossed with an excellent road network.
Not every holiday has to take you halfway around the world and there’s a lot to be said for a long weekend getaway to help you recharge. A city break to Amsterdam and the surrounding area can be just what you need to clear your head and is a must for any culture vultures. Indulge your senses in the city’s many art galleries and take a cycling tour to explore the city as the locals do.
If you have a little more time in the country, take the train to the suburban town of Hilversum and visit the Institute for Sound and Vision which contains a museum as well as the country’s audio-visual archives. And when you head back to Amsterdam for the evening, pop into one of the many brown cafes that dot the city, to sample a tipple or two.
Sticking with the theme of travel close to home, Scotland is a perfect trip for anyone looking for a weekend escape. Glasgow has an exciting contemporary art scene while the more traditional city of Edinburgh is a joy for walkers and great for a city break. If you’d rather a more rural escape, Scotland is an ideal spot for a driving or indeed a cycling holiday and the choice of trails through both the Highlands and the Lowlands means that you can choose a route to suit you.
While winters in Scotland can be harsh, the country is famous for its New Year’s Eve Hogmanay festival and the traditional, fun-filled events that take place in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland are a fun alternative to a traditional New Year’s party.
Much like Cuba, Sri Lanka is an island nation with a rich and diverse landscape, letting you tailor your solo holiday as you like it. The lush rainforests and mountainous centre of the island can be explored as part of a safari group and the Hindu temples in the north of the country in particular merit exploring.
Homestays are popular in Sri Lanka to help guests get to know the local culture of the country, and your host will be able to point you in the right direction: whether it’s tea farms and rice paddies you want to see or chilled out evenings at a beachside restaurant, the island has something for everyone to stimulate the senses.
If weekend spa breaks and pampering are you thing, I can’t think of a better destination than Hungary and its capital, Budapest. As well as the soothing walks along the River Danube, the vibrant nightlife in the city’s VII District, Budapest does one thing brilliantly: pampering. The Hungarian capital sits atop a network of hot thermal waters which are said to have healing properties and a whole industry of elegant, restorative bathing.
Basic entry to the baths allows access to the thermal waters as well as to the regular lane-swimming facilities that these complexes provide, but additional services such as physiotherapy, aqua aerobics, massages and sauna facilities are also available. For a look back at the city’s Ottoman past, head to the Gellert Baths on the Buda side of the city, while the Széchenyi baths on the Pest side, close to Heroes Square has some stunning outdoor bathing facilities.
Many travellers have a hesitation around visiting the Middle East solo, but the small nation of Jordan packs a punch for travellers and is a wonderful starting point for travel in the Middle East. The ancient city of Petra, known as the Rose City gives a look back at the country’s past, while desert tours to the Wadi Rum will have you feeling like a modern day Laurence of Arabia, a fellow solo traveller.
The modern capital Amman has plenty to keep solo travellers occupied, from the plethora of tea shops and cafes to the ancient Roman amphitheatre and the many ornately decorated mosques that dot the city. For a more chilled escape however, head to the sparkling, salty waters of the Dead Sea where you can let all your worries float away and come back with a sun tan and vibrant-looking skin.
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