Get it right and it’ll be the best trip of your life. Get it wrong, however, and there’s nothing worse. Solo holidays shouldn’t be reserved for those without a significant other but there’s an art to planning a lone travel adventure to ensure it’s all about enrichment and excitement. That starts with where you go. Here are my tried and tested picks for must-visit destinations for a single holiday.
To those without a good command of Spanish, Peru can seem like a daunting destination for a solo holiday. Start your trip with a week or two at a language school in Cusco – there, you’ll pick up some basic phrases and give yourself time to acclimatise to the altitude while you’re at it. Spend your afternoons wandering the many local sites that are bundled up in the city’s tourist ticket known as the boleto turistico: Sacsayhuaman fortress, Qenqo, Pukapukara, Tambomachay and more. Armed with your new-found linguistic prowess, negotiate a daily rate with one of Cusco’s many taxi drivers and set off to explore the surrounding countryside. As you hop along the Sacred Valley you can practise conversation as you marvel at some of the many Incan archaeological sites that litter the area. Peruvians speak with a languid, easy to follow accent, so you’ll be surprised at how fast you pick up new words. Before you know it you’ll have reached the end of your journey at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu.
If all that sounds just a little too social for a solo traveller, then my next suggestion is the exact opposite. A couple of hours outside the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator (and incidentally an easy add on to a Trans-Mongolian train ride, rail fans) lies the Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve. Rolling hills and big skies rise from the sliver of silvery water that is the Kherlen River. At Steppe Nomads camp, you can rent a tourist ger, the ubiquitous felt tent that forms the portable home of the country’s nomadic population. Ride horses or camels across this wild and dramatic landscape. The vast emptiness will make you – and any problems you’ve brought along for the ride – seem insignificant. If you seek solitude, the Steppe Nomads team can set you up with a nomad family for a taste of their lifestyle. Stripping away the trappings of modern life, free from mobile reception and WiFi coverage, you can get to know yourself again. It’s the perfect place to lose, or indeed find yourself.
It might have something to do with those long, dark winter nights, but Iceland’s tiny population can seem just a touch crazy to an outsider fresh off the plane. I mean that in a good way, of course, and if you’re planning a solo holiday in Europe there are few countries that come close when it comes to making you feel welcome. Within a day of arriving for my first trip, I’d found myself at the home of a Reykjavik local for an impromptu summer barbecue. The country’s hot springs are the perfect place to relax and get to know what makes Icelanders tick, while the rugged volcanic interior and delightful coastline is perfect for long summer hikes to get away from it all.
America’s Deep South
“How y’all doing today?” might be a familiar refrain as you wend your way across the USA’s famously welcoming southern states, but you don’t need to take y’all literally – they’ll say it to you if you’re on your own too. Solo travellers will find heaven in the heaped plates of comfort food and the melodic tunes that fill the region’s many music halls. Tennessee’s a good place to start. As you tour Memphis, don’t miss Graceland, the surprisingly small home left just as it was when Elvis died in 1977, or the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. End up in Louisiana to spend time in sultry, laid back New Orleans – it’s not called the Big Easy for nothing. Take a paddle steamer ride along the Mississippi, stroll among the beautiful mansions of the city’s Garden District and mellow out in the bars of Frenchmen Street for some good ol’ fashioned jazz.
A well-travelled route on the global backpacker trail, New Zealand is an easy country for the solo holidaymaker to find themselves in. An extensive network of high quality hostels not only provides good value accommodation but also a chance to hook up with like-minded travellers to share travel experiences with. The bonus? You’re not going to be stuck with the same person for your whole trip if you find you don’t get along as well as you thought you would. Looping the main sights of North and South Island can be completed in as little as a fortnight, taking in Auckland, Rotorua’s geothermal landscapes and the café culture of Wellington before crossing the water to Christchurch, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and Milford Sound. But don’t just look at the sights: New Zealand is famous for embracing activities designed to get the adrenaline pumping such as zorbing, white water rafting and of course bungee jumping. If you’re holidaying alone, remember, no one can hear you scream.
Wherever you go, travelling solo means you can do whatever you want, whenever it suits. Just make sure you snap a selfie or two to show the folks back home what they’re missing.