The best destinations for the solo traveler

If Me, Myself and I travelling is for you, then these 12 inviting, adventurous and safe corners of the world are not to be missed

Fly solo on the vertigo-inducing swing in Baños, Ecuador – soaring over the Tungurahua volcano

Fly solo on the vertigo-inducing swing in Baños, Ecuador – soaring over the Tungurahua volcano

Category Tips & tricks

Date 14th December 2016

There are very few things more exhilarating than travelling alone. Meeting new friends, discovering the great wide world, maybe even learning a thing or two about yourself – wherever you and your backpack travel, the experience is well worth it.

Here’s our run-down of the safest and most exciting places to visit right now as a solo globetrotter.

Split, Croatia

Catch that ball! Join a game of picigin – a ball game born on Bačvice Beach in Split
Catch that ball! Join a game of picigin – a ball game born on Bačvice Beach in Split

Walking around Split is like walking into the Roman era. The ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, built in the 4th century AD, now compose Split’s Old Town with historical buildings and narrow streets within the walls of the fortress. Pass through the Bronze gate, one of four entrance gates, now merely pillars and partial arches, to reach the shoreline promenade known as Riva. Check out the green market and fish market on either end for fresh foods, but for the finest seafood dishes, don’t miss out on lunch in the typical wine cellar taverns like Konoba Matejuska.

Split has many hostels catering to the solo traveler looking to socialize – pub crawls and nightclub outings abound. Nurse your hangover with a friendly game of picigin (ball throwing and catching in shallow water invented in Split) at Bačvice Beach, or keep the party going with a sailing tour along the Dalmation coast for a few days of fun.

Find a flight to Split

Baños, Ecuador

Mingle with locals at the thermal baths in Baños, complete with a view of the waterfall
Mingle with locals at the thermal baths in Baños, complete with a view of the waterfall

Rent a mountain bike and ride along Ruta de las Cascadas to experience steep climbs through thick rainforest and past roaring waterfalls. Baños (bath in Spanish), as the name suggests, is a city that is reputed for its natural baths, fed from the Tungurahua volcano’s hot springs. Soak in the thermal baths at La Piscina de la Virgen at the base of a huge waterfall.

For a picture to stun your friends back home, take the bus to Casa del Arbol. A high swing hangs from a treehouse – once in motion, you’ll feel like you’re flying above the rainforest, in arms reach of the active volcano.

Although one of the safest cities in the country, petty theft occurs, so just keep your valuables out of sight, avoid walking home late at night, and if you need to withdraw money, do so during the daytime and avoid keeping large sums of cash on you.

Find a flight to nearby Quito

Gyeongju, South Korea

Bulguksa Temple, one of the most important relics in Gyeongju, and homes to numerous National Treasures
Bulguksa Temple, one of the most important relics in Gyeongju, and homes to numerous National Treasures

Traveling alone in Gyeongju is a journey towards inner peace, especially when wandering through the Gyeongju Historic Areas. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites protect the Bulguksa Temple, a masterpiece of Buddhist art and home to many national treasures of South Korea. Ancient pagodas, bridges, and stairways lead the way to bronze Buddha statues and sariras (Buddhist relics). Look up – beneath the temple roofs, you’ll find colourful decorations and lotus motifs.

Pair this visit with that of the precious Seokguram Grotto, a short hike from the temple. The seated Buddha, surrounded by stone guards, is so fragile that visits are kept brief and photography is not permitted. Follow the Buddha’s gaze outside, as the view from the grotto stretches across Mount Tohamsan towards the Sea of Japan.

Complete your solo quest for peace in the peaceful Gyeongju National Park, or stretch your quest a bit further to Homigot beach in neighboring city Pohang. Two giant hands jut out from the sea and the shoreline – the hands of harmony and coexistence. Feet in the sand, arms stretched toward the sky, you have arrived.

Find a flight to nearby Busan

Florianópolis, Brazil

Sunbathe, surf, or chill on the 40 beaches around the island of Florianópolis, like here in Praia Mole
Sunbathe, surf, or chill on the 40 beaches around the island of Florianópolis, like here in Praia Mole

Floripa, as it’s locally called, is an island paradise for students and backpackers alike, looking for the perfect beaches and perfect parties. The yellow arches of the Mercado Publico shelter a multitude of craft stands and shops with local fare – if you had to choose one, dig into a hearty dish of anchova grelhada (grilled or fried bluefish).

The afternoon is best spent sunbathing on one of the 40 beaches on the island – the hardest part is choosing between the seemingly untamed Praia do Matadeiro and the beach-bar-clad Jurerê. The daytime bustle turns into a murmur, as nightclubs pump the volume of their neon-lit dancefloors. On the walk back home, admire the lights of the Hercilio Luz suspension bridge reflected in the waters that lead to mainland Florianópolis.

Find a flight to Florianópolis

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin's wet and wild cultural centre, Temple Bar
Dublin’s wet and wild cultural center, Temple Bar © Nico Kaiser

Proudly flaunting its rich 1000-year history right alongside its defiantly international population and contemporary architecture, it’s almost impossible not to fall for the contrary charms of Dublin.

For the traveling bookworm, there are city tours that pass through the tiny cobbled pathways, ancient bell towers and Georgian town houses where heavyweights like Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Bram Stoker once resided. Lose yourself in one of Dublin’s many leafy spaces, like Phoenix Park and its herds of beautiful wild deer.

A nation known world over for their cheery disposition, the way to an Irish guy or gal’s heart is through their taste buds. Make your way down to a traditional Victorian pub (you’ll find one on almost every street corner, it seems!), head for the bar and you’ll be sipping Guinness with your new best friends within no time. You don’t have to go and find yourself a good time in Dublin, it will come and find you.

Find a flight to Dublin

Havana, Cuba

The typically charming street scene of Havana, Cuba
The typical street scene in Havana, Cuba

If you’re looking for a bit of spice and sensuality for your next solo travel conquest, then head to Havana. The safety of travelers (particularly those visiting alone) is taken seriously, meaning that you’ll find many multi-lingual policemen in the busier neighborhoods, often dishing out tips of where best one should wine and dine.

Chow down on piping hot fried croquettes served from street vendors, then get yourself a snapshot of modern-day Cuba with the hip Cuban entrepreneurs selling their locally-produced wares in the trendy boutiques, workshops and cafés of the 500-year-old Old Town, La Habana Vieja.

A trip wouldn’t be complete without a stroll along the Malecón esplanade to have a gander at vintage American cars and the colonial buildings – decaying, yet oddly alive. If you really want to blend in with the Habaneros (the inhabitants of this electric city), then bring yourself some comfy shoes, plus a bottle of wine, and spend the tropical evening dancing along the harbour.

Find a flight to Havana

Fiji

A sunset falls over the Fiji coastline
Coconut palms, clear warm waters and a tropical yellow sunset … Welcome to Fiji

There’s no denying it: Fiji is a stunner. Its crystal colored coastline and palm-fringed beaches make it the epitome of picture-postcard romance, and you can be sure that this isolated archipelago resting deep on the South Pacific is somewhat of a honeymoon haven. But, with a total of 332 islands, there’s bountiful opportunity to escape the love-birds and find your own paradisal nest.

When you’re done with all the sun-lounging, get a kick from exploring Fiji’s rougher charms. Just 30 minutes’ drive away from the capital city, Suva, the Colo-i-Suva rainforest offers Fiji’s most stunning trekking routes, soundtracked by tuneful bird life. If you prefer your wild life aquatic, then take a dip with the exotic fish and soft coral reefs lying beneath Fiji’s azure waters.

Craving company? The locals are famous for their winning smiles and hospitality, especially to those travelling here alone. Spend an evening in town, making friends, stuffing your face on fresh Kokoda (Fiji’s answer to ceviche) and learning to love the relaxed Fijian way of life. It won’t take you long.

Find a flight to Fiji

Toronto, Canada

Feathers and glitter acquired, follow the Caribana Festival Parade
Feathers and glitter acquired, follow the Caribana Festival Parade

You’ve probably heard countless cities being labelled as “vibrant”, but it’s the welcoming melting pot of Toronto that really owns the label. With around 200 languages spoken and a population of 6.1 million, the solo traveller is likely to feel at home and welcomed with open arms in “the world’s most multicultural city”.

The best time to visit is in the heat of summer, when the streets are packed with locals and like-minded travelers looking to get their festival fix. The Beaches International Jazz Festival is at the top of the pile, hosting 24 days of free public concerts throughout July featuring some of the biggest names on the jazz scene. Or, go calypso with the Caribana Festival Parade, celebrating the city’s vibrant Caribbean communities in North America’s largest street festival.

Find a flight to Toronto

Thimpu, Bhutan

The Tiger's Nest Buddhist temple located in the cliff side of the upper Paro valley, in Bhutan
The Tiger’s Nest monastery located on the cliff side of the upper Paro valley, in Bhutan

If you’re keen on travelling solo, it probably means you’re not afraid of leading the pack to explore frontiers new. For a truly life-affirming independent travelling experience, Bhutan is the place to go.

Famed for its mountainside fortress monasteries and regarding its “gross national happiness” higher than its GDP, Bhutan only opened to international tourism some thirty years ago, and it is still relatively unscathed by Western influence. In fact, the state is so protective of its roots and culture that travelling to the country must be pre-approved and pre-paid through tour groups, who offer up a range of exotic trips for the curious traveler looking to explore this mystical Buddhist kingdom (but solo backpackers can find private tours, allowing personal flexibility).

And, boy, do these Buddhists love to party! Food, song and dance festivals occur throughout the year in Bhutan, meaning that whenever you decide to visit, you’re likely to stumble across something worth celebrating.

Find a flight to nearby Paro

Juneau, Alaska

The face of the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska
The face of the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

No man is an island, but in Alaska, you can come pretty close. Of the two million travelers that visit per year, 16% of them travel alone in the summer, and up to 72% in the winter*, longing to unplug from the chaos of the rest of the world and stare into the abyss of the dramatically beautiful glaciers, stroll through national parks one-and-a-half times the size of Switzerland, or just hang loose with the grizzlies.

Nature happens in a big way here, so – once you venture out of the sweet, but sleepy capital of Juneau – you better be prepared to play the explorer. If you can get through the ice, take a fishing trip through the Tracy Arm Fjord. Then climb aboard another boat out to the Inside Passage to be confronted with the real rulers of this water-world – the orca whales!

Find a flight to Juneau

Queenstown, New Zealand

Mountain biking over the Queenstown Bike Park
Mountain biking over the Queenstown Bike Park © Skyline Queenstown

New Zealand is an incredibly welcoming place to travel, and great for solo travelers looking to meet other solo globetrotters landing here and looking for fun.

You can soak up the Lord of the Rings-affiliated antics found around the Wellington capital, but the real daredevils head for Queenstown. This winsome lakeside town really earns its nickname as ‘The Adventure Capital of the World’, with one million visitors – groups and singletons – coming together every year to soak up the bodacious white-water rafting, skydiving, bungee jumping, and black-run ski resorts over the Remarkables mountain range.

Find a flight to Queenstown

Gothenburg, Sweden

The candy coloured rooftops of Gothenburg, Sweden
The candy colored rooftops of Gothenburg, Sweden

Always forced out of the limelight by the beautiful, if a little pricey, Swedish capital of Stockholm, super-friendly Gothenburg has plenty of culture and Scandi style to keep you entertained, often at prices that are far more forgiving and budget friendly for the solo traveler.

Whether the sun is shining or otherwise, you’ll find yourself lured in by the beautiful aromas emanating from the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens, one of the most florid plant centers in all of Europe. Grab a quick bite to-go at the Stora Saluhallen food market and head for the Paddan Boat Tour. This relaxing cruise is the best way to get your bearings as you coast through the inner city’s 17th century canals and under 20 bridges.

But it’s not all about the old fortifications in this quaint harbor city; Gothenburg is also the breeding ground for some of the country’s brightest new talents in design. You’ll realise it when browsing through the boutiques around the trendy Magasinsgatan street, as well as in the world-leading center for fashion and applied arts, The Röhsska Museum.

Find a flight to Gothenburg
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our list of 20 indispensable tips for the solo traveller and our tips about how to meet locals while travelling
*The statistics are based on the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program (AVSP) from 2011

Originally published

14th December 2016