Solo travel is a hot topic among jet-setting types these days, and for good reason—getting a change of scenery, plus a healing dose of solitude, just might be the healthiest choice you could make.
And with high-powered careers, families, and other obligations taking up time, it can be challenging to find a travel buddy who also has the flexibility and means to do so. Or maybe, like me, you’re just interested in venturing out to experience the world by yourself. Either way, more women are packing up and heading out to discover the world on their own.
The only obvious next question is, where to? With an entire globe at travelers’ fingertips, the choices can be overwhelming. Here are six destinations and regions that provide the perfect mix of wellness options, good food, breathtaking sights, safety, and opportunities to find your inner explorer.
Scandinavia and Central Europe
Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, and Germany are all excellent options for women traveling solo. They’re full of exciting things to do, whether you’re a foodie checking out some of Copenhagen’s highly rated restaurants, a spa junkie heading to one of Norway’s famed saunas, or a design geek looking for art and architecture in Stockholm. I had one of the best vacations of my life just hopping from vineyard to city to vineyard in Germany over the course of 10 days. It was made even better by the fact that I could soak it all up without input from anyone else.
Monica Stott, who focuses on affordable luxury venturing at The Travel Hack, is a fan of city-based trips for women. “Any city is great for solo travel because there’s so much going on and so many people around,” she says. “You can take full advantage of choosing exactly what you want to do without having to compromise.” Add regular flights from the United States, low crime levels, reliable public transportation, and a population with a high percentage of English speakers and you have a region well-optimized for women travelers of all kinds—especially first-timers.
Adventure lovers need not look any farther than the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island. The island has multiple climate zones that nurture fresh fruit and produce year-round, so eating seasonally is easier than almost anywhere else on earth. And if you’re a surfer, the Big Island is known as being more hospitable to those who’ve already conquered tons of waves. But there are still a few choices if you’re sporting a brand-new rash guard—check out beginner-friendly Pine Trees Beach north of Kona Airport and Kahaluu Beach in Keauhou.
A highway goes around the perimeter of the island, conveniently serving as a built-in road map. Start your journey in Hilo, on the green, rainier side, which is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the still-erupting Kilauea and Kalapana lava flow.
Drive around the island, stopping off at black sand beaches along the way, to end up on the west side, where sunny days and pristine beaches are at a premium. The main town there is Kona, which is a good home base to explore the dormant volcano Mauna Kea at sunrise or sunset. (Don’t forget your camera!)
Southeast Asia is enormous, spanning countries on the mainland as well as islands such as Indonesia and Singapore—so where should you go first? Editor, social media maven, and trip curator Aida Mollenkamp of Salt & Wind has Thailand squarely in her sights because of its matriarchal society. “They highly respect women in Thailand, and people are some of the nicest you’ll ever meet,” she says.
Another woman-friendly spot: Vietnam. Ten years ago I lived there, and I’ve returned since, always on my own. The geographic diversity of the country is stunning—there are lush jungles, awe-inspiring mountains, bustling cities, and idyllic beaches. The food is complex in the best way; it’s the kind of deliciousness only found in a culture that is truly obsessed with eating. It’s also a country with a very low crime rate. Most incidents are in the realm of petty crime, which is something any traveler could deal with whether she’s in a group or not.
Oaxaca has it all: beautiful beaches, mystical mountains, a heralded food culture, and abundant contemporary and indigenous art. Oaxaca City, the state’s capital, is a good home base. In the bustling city center, old stone churches flank colonial buildings dotted with art galleries, restaurants, and little shops. The weather is always perfect, thanks to its southern location as well as its altitude, giving it a climate described as “eternal spring.”
Just outside the city are the ruins at Monte Alban, the lively Sunday market at Tlacolula, the petrified waterfalls of Hierve al Agua, the rug-making village of Teotitlan del Valle, and a bevy of mezcal palenques (AKA distilleries that produce the healthier-than-average liquor). Spa lovers and those looking to dive into indigenous culture a little deeper should seek out a temazcal, which is an herbal steam bath suited for those who can handle cramped spaces. For solo venturers wanting to socialize or in need of a local guide, plenty of tours focusing on food, crafts, and mezcal abound.
Traveling to Oaxaca is generally safe for all travelers, but it’s recommended you have good wits about you when visiting. Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico, making travelers a target for petty crime. Common sense should keep you safe, which is good advice to heed no matter who you are and where you go. On September 7, the state of Oaxaca was affected by the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in 100 years—so research the recovery progress before you go, then go help the region build itself back up with the help of some much-needed pesos.
Traveling to St. Lucia is all about wellness, with no shortage of luxury retreats to choose from. BodyHoliday is one of the island’s premier resorts, offering specialized classes from in-house yogi Natascha Zeller. Ayurvedic workshops are offered alongside the yoga program, which spans the ashtanga, hatha, and katti disciplines. The beachfront luxury property also offers a full range of fitness options, from horseback riding to scuba diving. Oh, and there’s an award-winning spa, too.
Off of the beach and into the trees Swiss Family Robinson-style is the Viceroy Sugar Beach, whose Rainforest Spa delivers on its name by providing treatments high up in a forest canopy. The spa itself is spread among several tree houses, and the treatments source mostly from local ingredients like bananas, papaya, pineapple, and aloe vera. This kind of island living is ideal for a lone traveler who wants to unplug, and St. Lucia offers plenty of opportunities to do just that.
According to professional traveler and writer Tara Povey of Where is Tara, Hong Kong is the place to be for women rolling solo. “It’s surprisingly easy to navigate and there’s so much to see and do,” she says. “Everyone I know who has ever visited Hong Kong has fallen in love with the city without being able to describe exactly why. The only way to find out is to visit!”
Along with Cantonese, English is one of Hong Kong’s official languages, so it will be easy to experience the city’s art, food, and sights. It’s also well-served by many daily flights and a good hub for the rest of Asia—just in case you’re inspired to keep your travel streak going.