There’s nothing quite like jumping on a plane with everything you need in a bag and getting ready for some solo travel. For me, solo travel is pure therapy: Eating alone can help you savor every bite; navigating foreign cities without a friend builds your confidence; and spending your days exactly as you want (whether that’s museum-hopping, exploring markets, or lounging on the beach) gives you the headspace you might be lacking at home—plus plenty of time to indulge in what matters to you most. But the best experiences seeing the world on your own completely depend on choosing the right destination. While no two spots are alike, the best solo travel destinations share some similar characteristics: They have welcoming locals, spectacular scenery, opportunities to make friends, and unique activities you can do on your own. (Bonus points for hotels that are as chic as they are cozy!) Wondering where to go on your big adventure? Here are some of my favorite solo travel destinations, along with a bunch of places other women jetsetters have fallen in love with as well. Warning: This list will trigger some serious wanderlust.
The Best Solo Travel Destination for Amateur Archeologists: Malta
This small island nation, tucked just beneath Sicily, is a playground for wanderers. From secret swimming coves and top-notch diving that will make you feel like a mermaid to some of the world’s oldest (and best preserved) archeological sites to walking trails on the edges of stunning cliffs, Malta has tons to explore on your own. Crime rates are low, most residents speak English, and public transportation is cheap, safe, and efficient, making this an excellent solo travel destination for women (especially first-time jetsetters!). Make the capital, Valletta, your base for exploring Malta and its sister island, Gozo. Then, spend a week (or more) uncovering the many secrets of the natural and ancient worlds in this off-the-beaten-path solo travel destination. Where to stay: Ursulino hotel in Valletta makes for an artsy home away from home with comfy duplex suites and a staff that goes out of their way to make guests feel welcome.
The Best Solo Travel Destination for Culture Buffs: Istanbul, Turkey
Architecture, religions, and foods converge in Istanbul, making it a melting pot of cultural goodness (and a pretty rad solo travel destination).Mornings start with the Muslim call to prayer, echoing from minarets in the Old City, and a small (but mighty) cup of velvety Turkish coffee. Spend your days wandering through Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques, and underground treasures (the Basilica Cistern looks like a movie set!). In the evening, dig into big plates of piping-hot falafel at outdoor restaurants and try out trendy cocktail bars. No solo travel adventure to Istanbul would be complete without a visit to a local hamam (a spa focused on bathing treatments). While I felt completely safe in the city a few years ago, the political situation in Istanbul has been changing rapidly. Keep an eye on the recommendations from the U.S. Department of State before visiting Turkey (or any country!). Where to stay: Solo travel accommodations don’t get better than Marmara Guesthouse with its cozy, affordable beds, a centralized location, and rooftop breakfasts you’ll never forget.
The Best Solo Travel Destination for Island Hopping: Indonesia
If your dreams of a solo travel adventure include hopping around islands, lounging on beaches, climbing volcanoes, and wandering around dreamy rice paddies, you’ve got to book a flight to Indonesia. Bali’s a great place to start—the island has tons of tasty, healthy food, spa treatments galore, and beautiful temples. But bring your sense of adventure to this top solo travel destination and go beyond the typical tourist sites. Central Java is the arts and music center of Indonesia (plus it’s home to Borbobudur, the epic ninth-century Buddhist temple), whereas Sumatra’s got an absolutely gorgeous crystal-clear lake and striking architecture; meanwhile, Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo) offers access to some of the most biologically diverse flora and fauna on Earth. No matter where your journey takes you, the genuine warmth and friendless of the locals makes the experience so much richer. Where to stay: Yogi Beach Bungalows offers tiny, private houses right on the beach on the quiet island of Nusa Lembongan for $20-30 a night—you can’t beat it.
The Best Solo Travel Destination for Feeling like Royalty: Portugal
Portugal’s a solo travel destination that’s been plucked straight from a storybook—just look at the vibrantly-hued castles of Sintra. But it’s more than just palaces and royal splendor. Portugal also has some crazy fun cities that leave visitors spoiled for choice of things to do on their own. “Lisbon and Porto are very budget-friendly, the architecture is stunning, and the food is delicious,” says Namrata Bhawnani, co-founder of green travel and living website Ecophiles. “Both cities have bars and cafes with tons of character, plus the port wine cellars in Porto are hard to resist. The sunset in Lisbon is memorable—and free!” Where to stay: Sleep surrounded by local art at the In Porto Gallery Guesthouse.
The Best Solo Travel Destination for Day Tripping in Europe: Geneva, Switzerland
With world-class concerts, beautifully designed parks, free museums, and lush botanical gardens, Geneva is a prime solo travel destination in its own right. But it also makes a great jumping off point for day trips throughout Switzerland and France, says Tatyana Rodriguez, who lived and traveled there for a year as an au pair.“You can take the train to the old French town of Yvoire, which has a beautiful five senses garden, or to Gruyères, which is perfect for sci-fi lovers and has a museum dedicated to surrealist artist H.R. Giger,” she says. “From Geneva, you can also drive to Montreux [in Switzerland] to see the place that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein, or even take the bus to Annecy, France, which is nicknamed the Venice of the Alps.” Where to stay: The boutique hotel La Cour des Augustins has converted two mid-19th century buildings into a modern sanctuary.
The Best Solo Travel Destination for Winter Travel: Québec City, Canada
After traveling to 68 countries and all 50 U.S. states, Elizabeth Avery, founder of Solo Trekker 4 U, has finally found her favorite solo travel destination: Québec City, Canada. “It’s a friendly, down-to-earth place where eating alone in a restaurant doesn’t feel awkward,” she says. “It also gives you the feel of France for a much lower cost.” While summer might be prime travel season, winter is actually one of the best times to visit Québec City. Avery recommends skiing, taking a dog sledding tour, ice skating, or even trying out a traditional toboggan, where you’ll zoom down an ice slide at over 40 miles per hour. After all that activity, indulge in some self-care at one of the city’s popular spas and indoor swimming spots. Where to stay: Make yourself at home at the quaint Auberge Place d’Armes, a charming boutique inn in the heart of Old Québec.
The Best Solo Travel Destination to Start Backpacking in Africa: Ethiopia
Africa might not be the first continent that comes to mind for the best solo travel destinations, but Valerie Bowden, the brains behind Backpacking Africa for Beginners, says it’s safe and welcoming to visitors. She recommends getting your feet wet in Ethiopia. “Ethiopia is safe, and as heartwarming as it is quirky,” she says. While development limitations mean electricity and wifi aren’t entirely reliable at this solo travel destination, the break from modern amenities gives you a chance to dive even deeper into the culture, says Bowden. “You can’t leave without experiencing a traditional coffee ceremony. And make sure you travel to the rock churches in Lalibela and the Danakil Depression, which will blow your mind,” she adds. Where to stay: Mr. Martins Cozy Place makes it easy to travel solo on a budget in Addis Ababa, says Bowden.
The Best Solo Travel Destination to Get Wowed by Nature: Iceland
Once you visit Iceland, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the wonders of the environment. It seems there’s a spectacular new sight around every corner. “There are massive waterfalls, beautiful scenery, black sand beaches, natural thermal pools, the Blue Lagoon, glaciers, national parks, and Reykjavík—a great city to explore by foot,” says Danielle Spindle, travel blogger at Nurse to Nomad. “If you’re lucky, you can stare in awe at the Northern Lights.” Iceland also has a thriving solo travel scene. Things can be pricey, so people are eager to save on costs by doing things as a group. “Iceland has fantastic, safe hostels, so it’s not difficult to meet others if you prefer to socialize while traveling alone. And it’s safe—I never felt uneasy, never worried about my purse, and everyone was really kind,” says Spindle. Where to stay: Try the Oddsson, a chic hostel with comfortable, private rooms, gorgeous views of the water, and yoga classes.
The Best Solo Travel Destination for City Slickers: Tokyo, Japan
Hands down, Tokyo might just be one of the best solo travel destinations in the world for women. Its low crime rates pop it at the top of the Safe Cities Index, Japan’s well known for its hospitality, and it’s extraordinarily easy to navigate, says Amelia Heldt, blogger at The Beat of Adventure. The ample array of things to do will keep you busy for your entire trip. “[Even] if your hostel isn’t pumping with potential new friends, you won’t be bored. Japan is a nation that mixes the beauty and tradition of the past with the convenience and advancements of the future. There are all kinds of museums, amazing food, sake, stunning nature, cutting-edge fashion, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, bullet trains, the Tokyo Disney Resort, and Blade Runner-esque looking cities. Did I mention the sake?” she says. “Japan continually surprises and delights even the most hard-to-please travelers.” Where to stay: Claska has peaceful-looking rooms that offer plenty of serenity from the bustling city.
The Best Solo Travel Destination You’ve Never Considered: Bosnia and Herzegovina
One thing that’s critical to any solo travel destination is a friendly community. When you’re so far from home and on your own, you want to feel welcome. Enter Bosnia and Herzegovina, a nation in southeastern Europe that declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1992.Hazel Joy, travel blogger at Arrivals Hall, fell in love with the country’s warm culture. “I experienced many random acts of kindness from the locals, a trait which also rubs off on visitors,” she says. “Despite its difficult recent history, it’s a very safe country for solo female travelers. It’s a country which seems to attract tourists who are culturally receptive and open to socializing outside of their group. It’s also very cheap to travel in.” As for things to do, plan to spend ample time exploring the capital, Sarajevo, as well as the Old Bridge Area of Mostar, a historic town that’s earned recognition from UNESCO. “Other places of note are the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in eastern Bosnia and the pilgrimage town of Medjugorje. Given Bosnia and Herzegovina’s mountainous terrain, hiking and rafting are popular outdoor activities,” she says. Where to stay: “The cream of Bosnian society hangs out at the Hotel Europe,” says Joy. “I met the mayor of Sarajevo there!”
The Best Solo Travel Destination in the United States: Maui, Hawaii
Not all solo travel destinations are outside of America! If you’re looking for a great spot to go stateside, consider hopping on a plane to Maui, says Kristin Addis, CEO at Be My Travel Muse. “I traveled solo to Maui a year ago, and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. It was so easy to meet people on snorkeling trips, just hanging out in cafes, or on the beach. People were friendly, and even though I feared I’d be surrounded by couples, there were plenty of interesting locals to talk to,” she says. “I also drove the Road to Hana solo,” she says, “which was fantastic because I could stay at each place for just as long as I wanted and do it all on my own clock and terms.” Where to stay: Addis recommends the Grand Wailea, not only for its beautiful grounds, but also for its onsite restaurant, Humu Humu.
The Best Solo Travel Destination to Kick Off a South American Adventure: Colombia
The country once best known for Pablo Escobar’s drug-fueled escapades has developed into one of the world’s best travel destinations, solo or not. Its breathtaking Caribbean coastline woos beach lovers, while its colorful cities immerse globetrotters in the local culture. Kaiki Hüppe, a German woman who’s been traveling throughout South America, says it’s her favorite spot on the continent. “I definitely recommend going to Medellín, it’s my favorite city so far in my travels. It’s got incredible history, an interesting free city walking tour, and a fun, safe party scene,” she says. “A day trip to Guatapé, an Andean resort town, is super nice, as well as a visit to the old colonial town of Cartagena.” Where to stay: Los Patios has a cool atmosphere with an even cooler rooftop bar. If these incredible solo travel destinations have you teeming with wanderlust, there’s only one thing left to do: Book a flight! And don’t forget to send us a postcard.