Going it alone: top trips for solo travel

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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, to celebrate the release of The Solo Travel Handbook, 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.

A cyclist rides on Bolivia's Death Road. In the background a condor circles over the scene.Biking Bolivia’s Death Road is one of South America’s most challenging solo experiences © filippo romeo / Getty Images

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 ascent.

Epic solo travel experience: Mountain biking down Bolivia’s infamous Death Road and debriefing with your fellow riders over a few beers afterwards.

Overhead view of street market in Can Tho, VietnamVietnam’s culinary pedigree is a major draw for foodie travellers © Alexander Frais / 500px

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.

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.

Pura Taman Saraswati temple in Ubud, Bali. Ubud’s ubiquitous temples add to the town’s spiritual feel © Sytilin Pavel / Shutterstock

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 village.

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.

Revellers congregating on the banks of the Spree River at dusk in Berlin Mitte districtBerlin’s diverse nightlife draws partygoers from around the world © canadastock / Shutterstock

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.

Epic solo travel experience: Heading out to a bar or nightclub and seeing where the night takes you.

A lion cub snoozes on a fallen tree trunk in the Serengeti National ParkA small group tour can really take the stress out of a trip to East Africa © Yury Birukov / Shutterstock

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 exacting region.

While East Africa’s tourism infrastructure is more developed than that in many other parts of the continent, it’s not always easy – or safe – to navigate public transport or self-drive. By opting for an organised tour, you can bypass this stress and simply enjoy yourself. 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.

Epic solo travel experience: Cruising past hippos, elephants and crocs along the Kazinga Channel in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.

View from the walkway on The Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, SingaporeThe otherworldly Gardens by the Bay is one of many Singapore sights suited to solo exploration © FuuTaMin / Shutterstock

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.

Epic solo travel experience: Checking out the cosy cafes and quirky boutiques in the gentrified 1930s housing estate of Tiong Bahru.

Interior of Rome's Colosseum with crowds of tourists Rome’s Colosseum helps draw 14 million-odd tourists to this cultural hub each year © Marco Rubino / Shutterstock

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 weeks, there is so much to see that there is 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.

Epic solo travel experience: Visiting St Peter’s Basilica and walking the 7km of halls that comprise the Vatican Museums.

A young woman orders food from a food cart pod in Portland, Oregon.Portland’s numerous food carts offer a sociable dining experience © RyanJLane / Getty Images

Best for a 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.

Palm trees and colourful houses line one of Caye Caulker's sandy beachesCaye Caulker’s relaxed, backpacker vibe makes it perfect for solo sunseekers © Simon Velazquez / 500px

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.

Action shot of car driving along a sandy beach on Fraser Island, Queensland, AustraliaExploring Australia’s East Coast on four wheels can help solo travellers get off the beaten path © Holger Mette / Getty Images

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.

Epic solo travel experience: Exploring the quaint villages and stunning waterfalls that dot the far NSW north coast hinterland by car.

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