Few life experiences are as daunting yet adventurous and downright liberating as travelling alone, especially if you’re a woman. Research shows that more and more women are now setting their nerves aside and seeking out their passport stamps solo — no friend, family member, partner in tow. And why wouldn’t they? The freedom of tailoring an itinerary to your own liking is undeniable, as is the boost of confidence that comes from stepping outside your comfort zone.
Also part and parcel of this must-do? Connecting with fellow female solo travellers, many of whom you’ll instantly bond with, along the way. What you will, however, have to do is plan your destination wisely, pack lightly, and err to the side of caution — but that’s sensible in just about any travel scenario. Today, in honour of Plan A Solo Vacation Day, we’re sharing our picks of the seven best travel destinations for your first (or umpteenth) solo adventure.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is very safe, and therefore another ideal spot to discover on a solo trip. Wander around De Pijp, Amsterdam’s colourful Latin quarter, visit the Rijksmuseum with its world-class art collection, get lost along the canals, and spend an afternoon at the Waterlooplein Flea Market. The Netherlands has a great public transport system, so it’s easy to venture out of the city to the seaside on the West coast by train or rent a bike to cycle along the coast and stop for brunch at one of the many beachside cafés in the little town of Zandvoort.
Stay: The Dylan
See: Grachtenfestival, a classical music festival along the city’s canals of Amsterdam
Do: Go for dinner at Bridges restaurant for some of Amsterdam’s best seafood
Queenstown, New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most visited countries by solo travellers, and one of the best ways to get around is to hire a car. The roads are safe, with many scenic views along the spectacular Southern Lakes route. Queenstown has a lovely little botanic garden that is worth a visit, and you can stop along the way for coffee at The Bathhouse café on the lake shore. Warm up next to the open log fire at Barmuda in the evening, and take a trip out to the far corners of the lake on the iconic TSS Earnslaw steamship. In winter, there are several great ski fields reachable from Queenstown.
Stay: The Dairy
See: Fly over to Milford Sound
Do: Take a day trip to Arrowtown, an old gold-mining town by a beautiful river
With its natural beauty, far from the crowds, Iceland is a great destination for some “me time”. The Icelandic people are very friendly and will happily give you recommendations on how to spend your time – all you need to do is ask. The scenery here is really unique, so make sure you visit its black-sand beaches, icy fjords, geysers, incredible land formations, and countless waterfalls. If you fancy stepping back in time, head to the Árbær Open Air Museum, where you can visit over 30 houses that visualise the former Icelandic way of life.
Stay: 101 Hotel
See: The Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights
Do: Look for puffins in Iceland!
Italy is always a good idea, and Rome is a truly fabulous destination that will captivate you and indulge all your senses. Rome, the “Eternal City”, is famed for its rich culture and history, palazzi, museums, galleries filled with stunning art, fashion around every corner, delicious food and gelato, awe-inspiring ancient sites, famous piazzas, and cobbled laneways. The city is and has always been one of the world’s greatest cities – you’ll understand why when you’re there.
Stay: Crossing Condotti
See: Everything! Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Navona, the Colosseum, and Vatican City
Do: Indulge! Dine at Aroma Restaurant, which boasts stunning views of the Colosseum
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Located in the north, Chiang Mai is one of the best and most picturesque places to travel alone in Asia. Surrounded by lush countryside and mountains, the city is much safer, quieter, and greener than Bangkok. It also has a significant expatriate population as well as a cosmopolitan feel. This is a great destination in which to explore national parks and temples. No matter where you are in Thailand, you’ll have an exquisite time with food, from street stands to cooking classes – all thanks to those incredibly rich flavours. Thai food experiences in Chiang Mai are often the highlight of a trip, with its rich cultural heritage and influences from both Burma and China.
Stay: 137 Pillars House
See: Take a day trip to Elephant Nature Park
Do: Go for dinner at The River Market; you’ll find it by the Ping River overlooking the Iron Bridge
The famous Golden Door experience has been designed to empower people to reposition themselves at the centre of their own lives by tending to their bodies, minds, and spirits. Going for a hike is as much a rigorous morning exercise as it is a chance to reflect on the day ahead. A meal is the means by which to learn to satisfy, rather than simply feed hunger. This is a serene and calming destination in which to experience the luxury of indulging yourself through fitness training and refined nourishment programs complemented by spa treatments. If you’re looking to take some time out for yourself, this is the perfect place to do it.
Stay: Golden Door
See: A whole new side of yourself
Do: Take care of yourself – mindfulness and relaxation are the common denominators here
Arenal, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is said to be the safest place in South America. It is a beautiful spot to escape the daily grind and enjoy those famous candy-coloured sunsets. The Arenal area is full of unspoilt tropical rainforests, and its Arenal Volcano National Park has an actual active volcano. Don’t miss Proyecto Asis, a wildlife rescue centre where injured animals are nursed back to health before being released back into the wild. You can spend half a day there, volunteering, before heading to the scenic La Fortuna Waterfall, which is also in the La Fortuna de San Carlos area. For something a little different, visit scenic nature preserve Mistico, where the Hanging Bridges (a maze of bridges high up in the trees) await.
See: The stunning Costa Rican sunset
Do: Volunteer at the wildlife rescue centre