15 Places to Take the Solo Trip of a Lifetime
Because there's nobody better than me, myself, and I.
Solo travel, like dining alone, is often intimidating until you try it. Once you book that trip for one that’s lingered on your bucket list since before the pandemic, you’ll realize it’s the opposite of lonely—it’s actually liberating. Sure, you backpacked for a week or two while studying abroad and know your way around Europe’s trains, budget planes, and hostels. But we’re not talking bunk beds and shared bathrooms here (unless, of course, that’s what you want).
Solo travel can be as simple as a cushy staycation close to home or as far-flung and lavish as a flight to the Maldives. And while changing careers or trying to figure out your next step in life is certainly a great reason to hit the road, you don’t need an Eat Pray Love situation to make it happen. Travel can be transformational in so many ways, but not every trip has to be a big “aha moment.”
The beauty of solo travel is that you’re not catering to anyone but yourself. This is the time when you should be selfish. Want to sleep in at the swanky hotel you booked in Paris? Prefer to spend the day cycling to beer gardens in Belgium? Want to change destinations and itineraries altogether? You’re the one calling the shots.
From small-town gems to bustling capital cities where getting lost is all part of the adventure, here are the places to travel on your own—and a hint at what you might find when you get there.
When I moved to Spain nearly ten years ago without knowing a soul, I panicked. In a country so famously social (the entire concept of tapas implies having friends to share them with), how would I get by? Luckily, I landed in Seville.
The south lives up to its stereotype as Spain’s more fun-loving, open, hospitable region. Social life here is a public affair—in the streets, in the plazas, spilling onto cobblestones outside the bars. One friend told me he lived in Seville for years and never saw the inside of his best friend’s house. This makes it easy to strike up a conversation with locals (if you can hold your own with the tricky Andaluz accent) or some friendly study-abroad types (if you can’t).
You don’t even need a plan: Just go outside and something will find you, whether it be a religious procession (there are so. many. religious. processions.), an impromptu flamenco show, or a crowd of strangers watching the Betis game in one of the bars on La Alameda or Plaza del Salvador. For a real challenge, visit during the Feria de Abril, when the entire city dresses up like it’s 1899 and spends a whole week dancing sevillanas and day-drinking in brightly colored canvas tents, called casetas. A few of the casetas are public and open to all, but most are reserved for specific families and their close friends. Score an invite to one of those and you’ll instantly be considered one of the locals. –Maya Kroth
If you talk to someone about Redding, they’ll likely remember the Carr Fire and the destruction it caused in Northern California. But, as is typical with wildfires, new growth abounds from the ashes, and Redding is blossoming. Sure, Redding isn’t the hippest place to hang on the West Coast, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a town big enough to allow you to explore alone, but small enough that if you stay for a week, you’ll make friends with three bartenders and contemplate real estate costs on the outskirts of Shasta Lake.
One of the most paradoxical things about Redding is this: You go there to leave it. The city is surrounded by some of California's most beautiful and untouched nature. There’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest to the north, home of Lake Shasta; Lassen Volcanic National Park to the east, where there’s a ton of hydrothermal sites and the Devastated Area Trail; and Six Rivers National Forest to the west. I headed north to hike a waterfall loop—ostensibly four falls in one day. By the time my trip ended, I had visited seven. One of the most beautiful was Middle McCloud Falls, where the water is freezing, but swimming under the scorching summer sun while gazing at the behemoth of a waterfall pounding down around me was nothing short of spiritual. For a real adventure, head up to Hatchet Creek Falls and jump off a giant log into the swimming hole below. Just make sure you don’t get lost—there’s no service.
Then there's McArthur-Burney Falls. Most of the river leading up to the falls is underground, so when you finally get to the base, it looks like a gigantic wall of water is spilling out from the mountain. I didn’t swim here because I wasn’t sure if it was allowed and it was chilly that day, but it’s a risk entirely worth taking. On the way back to Redding, give in to the allure of Yaks on the 5. It’s one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, and after a day of hiking and swimming, it’s definitely the right move. –Alex Robinson
Bangkok is a “one size fits all” kind of place, a concrete jungle teeming with divergent personalities and crisscrossing travelers getting on in mellow symbiosis. Even for those who are socially shy or take a minute to get out of their comfort zone, it’s pretty effortless to meet people here. Friendly Thais will take you under their wing, and you’ll befriend foreigners you might not usually gel with, united simply by shared experiences—those WTF moments of navigating a chaotic hub that swings between electrifying and claustrophobic.
Show up to a bar opening or expat mixer, and a few beers or vodka sodas later you'll be crammed in a tuk-tuk with a motley crew rattling off to a nightclub or afterparty. Years ago, as a tenderfoot tourist in Bangkok, I found myself adopted by a Thai celeb couple and their crew at a Lady Gaga concert, treated afterward to a night of VIP bottle service at what was then Bangkok’s best club. It was a colorful chance encounter, one that Bangkok creates like nowhere else. It was so great that I jetted back to Canada, packed up all my things, and moved there. –Barbara Woolsey
Book a trip to Paris and friends will invariably ask, “Who are you going with?” Your perfectly acceptable response: No one. You’re about to binge on some of the world’s best museums, and catering to a travel companion can quickly spoil a wool-gathering stroll or long meditative sit in front of centuries-old paintings. Paris’ Museum Pass costs just 78 euros for six days of entry to 50 different sites. I only managed to hit maybe a dozen, including the Louvre, which alone would require all six of those days to see the entire thing. The city feeds you culture and beauty the way foie gras farmers feed their geese corn mash.
So, when you go, post up somewhere central and walkable. I booked a quiet apartment through a rental site called Paris Perfect, but if your tastes run more bière than Champagne, a no-frills one-room apartment runs a mere $40 a night on Airbnb (or you can go the hostel route, if you’re really on a budget). Then, soak up some of the architecture that makes Paris, well, Paris. The Rodin Museum, for instance, sits on the grounds of a grand, 18th-century mansion that the artist himself took over in 1911. Across the street, the Museum of the Army is housed in a palace Louis XIV built for his wounded vets. You’ve got dozens—if not hundreds—of similar spots to hit. The best part? No one is here to rush you off to the next spot, so sit and stay a while. –Sam Eifling
If you’re seeking a setting for your next short story, jet across the pond to the Welsh coastline. It’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Barafundle Bay’s emerald fields, the colorful architecture lining the waters in Tenby, jagged rock cliffs at Presipe. Double down on the charm by staying at a bed-and-breakfast, or one of Wales’s many medieval castles like Bath Tower, on the northern coast. Some beach towns (like Shell Island) double as campgrounds, so you can pitch a tent and fall asleep to sounds of waves in the countryside.
Wales is a safe country overall, which is obviously a plus for solo escapades. The Welsh are also friendly and hospitable folk (just don’t call them British), so when you inevitably tuck into a local pub for a pint, making a new drinking buddy won’t be difficult—especially since English is their most-recognized language. Native Welsh is spoken in more rural areas, but good luck asking for directions to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (yes, a real place). –Brooke Sager
Greece is often reserved as a spot for a honeymoon or engagement, and don’t get me wrong, Santorini’s sunsets really are worth proposing over. But it’s not somewhere I’d want to spend a week doing solo yoga or fighting the crowds in Oia to get that postcard-worthy photo of the blue domed churches melting into the even bluer sea beyond. But I’ve always had a soft spot for stopover cities, those jumping-off points you pass through to get somewhere fabulous like a safari or, in this case, Santorini. Athens is often an afterthought. But given the disconnect between flights and ferries into and around Greece, you’re bound to spend at least one night in Athens, no matter where your final destination may be.
On a trip to Crete last summer, when a friend forgot to fill out her Passenger Locator Form—a COVID-related requirement that had to be completed 24 hours before—and had to rebook her flight, I found myself alone in Athens for two whole days. I stayed in the former artisan area of Psiri, which is now considered one of the more up-and-coming neighborhoods. I strolled the cobbled, winding streets of Plaka, the historical center that’s home to the Acropolis, sidewalk cafes, and traditional (albeit touristy) Greek tavernas. I had lunch on a makeshift terrace at a Japanese gastropub called Birdman, whose inventive take on yakitori was some of the best I’d ever tasted. I bought artisanal olive oil and mountain tea from a deli-sized gourmet grocery store and treated myself to natural wine and a cheese plate for dinner at Heteroclito, the Greek version of a Parisian wine bar.
The server there was friendlier than my neighborhood bar back in actual Paris, and quickly found me a table despite it being a busy Saturday evening. He didn’t care that I was alone; he didn’t ask if I was waiting for someone to join. He was more interested in why I was in Athens and wanted to tell me how great his city is. The same thing happened on my way to the ferry port to meet my friend the following day. “There are a lot of new hotels opening soon in Athens,” the taxi driver said in near-perfect English. “We hope people will stay longer before going to the islands and see our city.”
While sticking around Athens wasn’t exactly part of my plan, I’m glad I did. And doing it alone gave me a different insight into the gritty but gorgeous Greek capital that’s all too often overlooked. –Lane Nieset
Halfway through a 3-mile hike up a steep incline to a remote mountaintop where one twisted ankle could spill you into a crevasse, you’ll start taking stock. Quads screaming. Lungs burning. Subconsciously you’ll touch the bear spray on your belt, the same way you’d feel your pocket for your phone. Football coach Vince Lombardi used to say fatigue makes cowards of us all—but this is where you determine that you’ll go down fighting if a critter decides to step.
That fight-or-flight moment will find you in any of America’s National Parks. For the full experience, I recommend Glacier, in Montana. Spanning more than a million acres, with 175 mountains and an epic 745 miles of maintained hiking trails, it’s a vast, beautiful obstacle course. You will see chipmunks and rabbits and marmots, as well as bears and moose. The park encourages hikers to wear jingling bells to scare away bears and always carry bear spray—especially if walking alone.
But when you’re alone, that’s when you’ll feel the towering, snow-capped mountains surrounding you. Getting to the end of a trail, or coming upon a peak and taking in an otherworldly view, shrinks you down to size, and reminds you that nature really runs this bitch. –Nicole Schuman
A year after grad school, I bought a used bike and made my way around Belgium. I practiced my high school French to ask for directions and got very lost. I met a friendly little granny who convinced me, a vegetarian, to eat her homemade sausage. I met a man named Pol who'd named his microbrewery Inter-Pol. (He thought this was very funny.)
Two things make Belgium a great place for a bike trip: First, it’s the density of great breweries. The entire country is smaller than the state of Maryland and so crammed with world-famous breweries (over 150 of them), that you can stop at a different one each day. Biking between these breweries is dangerously easy; go on the tour, sample the beer, then hop on and ride off to your next pint.
Second, the country is completely bonkers for bikes. Some of its biggest celebrities are professional cyclists. There’s a bike shop on every corner, which saved me on two separate occasions, and a surprising number of dedicated bike paths parallel to highways. Drivers are much less threatening than in the States, an important consideration when you’re riding with a belly full of monk-brewed Trappist. –Lewis Kelly
Dublin is easy to get to from New York. And exploring the idyllic, shockingly green countryside dotted with loads of fluffy white sheep is an easy day or overnight trip from Dublin. Ireland isn’t very large, which means you can see a lot of it in a short amount of time. And there are a few ways to do it: by public transport, by bike, or by renting a car. If efficiency is your goal, scooting down to historic Cork or over to the traditional harbor city of Galway and the inconceivable Cliffs of Moher for a day or two is incredibly easy on a tour bus. Is it a little touristy? Yes, but it will also give you an easy opening with other solo travelers who probably also want to get a pint in a cozy bar with live Irish folk music and then buy a fisherman sweater.
Sometimes, a solo trip doesn’t have to be a grand transcendent adventure or a challenging journey of self-discovery. Sometimes, you only have a week between quitting a job and starting a new one and you want to go somewhere accessible and fun where you don’t have to use too much of your brain to communicate. Ireland is the perfect place to get away from the everyday grind, be anonymous for a little while, eat comforting food, and pet the sweet noses of curious donkeys who peek over the fence of their pasture when your ride pulls to the side of the road. Folks here are friendly and the air is crisp and fresh—except, of course, the one night I stayed in a poorly ventilated, six-person hostel room in Dublin with five roommates who had been out drinking beer all night at The Temple Bar. I don’t recommend that last bit. But I'll never forget it, either. –Carrie Dennis
Nearly everywhere you turn in Morocco there’s something to be photographed. “The colors of the aged architecture suck you in,” says NYC-based photographer Eian Kantor, who took nothing but a backpack and two cameras to the North African country recently. “The landscapes are paintings. The medinas are chaotic, yet beautiful mazes.”
From city to city, Morocco offers something different. Chefchaouen, with its characteristic blue-washed buildings and the vast Rif Mountain region surrounding them, practically begs to be put on film. Three hours south in Fez, you’ll find an 11th-century leather tannery where animal hides are soaked in limestone vats of cow urine, pigeon feces, quicklime, salt, and water; then, they’re dried and dyed naturally with spices like saffron. If you can forget where the colors are coming from and hold a sprig of mint up to your nose, the sight—dozens of vibrant vats—are seriously something to behold. Locals will ask if you want to see it from a balcony and charge you $5 (60 dirham) to do so—which Kantor says was well worth it for the shot. Friendly Moroccans genuinely just want to show off what the country has to offer, a mission a photographer instantly shares. –Rebecca Strassberg
When we think of getaways to national and state parks, we mostly think of trips taken in the summertime. Summer, however, means crowds. To get some quality solo time during the off-season—the kind where you can actually hear yourself think without an ambient chorus of hungry schoolchildren in the background—you need to go to an outdoors destination that is best visited in the wintertime. Utah is your place.
February is an ideal time to take a solo trip to Zion National Park; only 13% of visitors go in the winter months, meaning the usually crowded trails are 87 % more peaceful to explore. It’s also prime time to wander the echoey washes of Goblin Valley State Park, where you can enjoy the otherworldly hoodoos that Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for without the crowds that Bryce is also famous for. If you’re aiming farther north, try Vermilion Cliffs National Monument along the border of Utah and Arizona. Wherever you are, don’t head back to your hotel too early—you’re in the right place for some of the most incredible stargazing you won’t want to miss. –Kastalia Medrano
Here’s a tip: Start with a guided walking tour. Germany’s history is visible on almost every corner of this city, and getting quickly acquainted with some of the darker realities of Berlin’s past will give you a strong geographical and cultural foundation for the rest of your trip. Explore the Jewish District, see the site of the former SS & Gestapo Headquarters at the Topography of Terror Museum, and visit the Holocaust Memorial. It’s all very sobering, but you’re alone, so don’t worry about what your face looks like when you start getting emotional. Walk along the East Side Gallery—the spectacularly painted remains of the Berlin Wall—and see the Brandenburg Gate at sunset. Berlin is where events you’ve read about in textbooks since you were 14 years old actually happened, and connecting dots will never be this compelling.
Berlin is a veritable feast of museums and historical hotspots, which makes it an excellent city for entry-level solo travel. Too shy to strike up a conversation with a stranger? Spend your days seeking the city's best currywurst while wandering between points of interest: Go to Bauhaus-Archiv to see items from Walter Gropius's iconic design school, and then head to Kulturforum, a complex of cultural buildings that includes the Neue Nationalgalerie, which houses 20th-century paintings. (Note: At the time of this writing, Bauhaus Archiv is undergoing renovation and in a temporary location, so be sure to check before going.) Climb to the top of the Berlin Cathedral for the view. And then, maybe on your third or fourth night in town, make a weird friend who’s just as alone as you are. Invite them to eat a doner kebab for dinner and then see if you can get past the bouncer at Berghain, a club with one of the strictest door policies around. You probably won’t, so move on and dance to trance music until 7 am at a club you can’t remember the name of instead. That’s what I did, at least. –Carrie Dennis
Whitehorse is cold, isolated, and small. Like, population 25,000 small. It’s the capital of a vast, majestic region of Northwest Canada the size of California, yet with approximately one one-thousandth the population. In fact there are almost two moose for every human being living in the Yukon. (This is the best Yukon fact there is.)
To make life there tolerable, the locals have become alarmingly good at making friends. I stayed in Whitehorse for two weeks; by the time I left, it felt like I was abandoning my hometown. Within 24 hours of arriving, I experienced the following: First, a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend heard I needed to borrow a Wi-Fi router, came over, and installed it. Then, he invited me to dinner at his house. Not long after, he offered to lend me his car to pick up groceries.
Whitehorse is also surrounded by scads of great opportunities to hike, mountain bike, kayak, or ski and dogsled in the winter months. It offers honest-to-goodness untamed wilderness, with all the associated rewards—and risks. This is where your new friends will come in handy. When you’re one twisted ankle away from a seven-hour limp back to civilization, having someone to lean on is priceless. Plus, most locals carry bear spray with them almost everywhere—with good reason. –Lewis Kelly
Dubrovnik can get a little pricey. It is, after all, one of Croatia's most touristy cities. But drive up Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline and you’ll find all the wine, cheese, seafood, and sunbathing spots you could ask for. This is a place where you can indulge without putting too deep of a hole in your wallet. It turns out that traveling solo to a gorgeous destination doesn’t mean you have to rough it if you pick the right spot.
Sample the oysters in the ancient village of Ston, and take a dip in front of the Sea Organ in the town of Zadar, where the waves make a musical instrument out of the strategically hollowed-out marble steps descending into the water. Stop in Pag for a wheel of what many consider the best sheep’s cheese in the world. And no matter where along this dazzling aqua-green coastline you end your night, tuck yourself into a bar with a glass of the local red and ask your bartender for their recommendations for swimming holes to hit the next day. (Might not hurt to smoke a little weed while you’re in Croatia, either.) –Kastalia Medrano
Start in Miami. Head out early, grab a cafe con leche and say adios to the Magic City. Don’t slow down until you reach St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city. Visit the Castillo de San Marcos and Ponce de Leon’s “Fountain of Youth.” Next stop: New Orleans. Settle in for a night of solo bar-hopping, beignets, and live jazz. Go for four Hurricanes or one French 75— the world is your muffuletta.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that ain’t just something folks say. Eat your fill of Salt Lick BBQ in Austin, tap your foot to a band or two, and then it’s onward to the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg. Marfa is totally out of the way, but it doesn’t hurt to go anyway to see what all the fuss is about. Look out for Border Patrol trucks—with 71 traffic checkpoints near the southern US border, there’s always a chance you’ll be stopped.
You’ll get an uncanny feeling driving on the 10 Freeway through El Paso (one of the safest US cities) and looking over at Juarez (one of the world’s most dangerous cities) on the other side of the Rio Grande’s barbed wire-topped riverbed. The radio stations get a bit fuzzy and confused here, and you’ll probably get that “Welcome to Mexico” message on your cell, alerting you to a change in cost and coverage.
Power through New Mexico (White Sands!) and Arizona (orange rocks!), and stay alert at those sketchy casino gas station rest stops where you will inevitably need to stop and pee. If you can time your trip through Joshua Tree to catch a sunrise, do that. Snap some pics, grab breakfast at an Anthony Bourdain favorite and your final destination is in sight. LA’s hilly hikes, Pacific sunsets, ramen, street tacos, and tattoos might convince you to stay a while. –Allison Ramirez