Want to snag the last seat at the walk-in-only restaurant’s bar, change your itinerary on a whim without checking with anyone else or bail on the group tour in favor of doing your own thing?
You can do it all if you travel solo.
And that’s nothing to say of how empowering it can be to go it alone, making friends along the way, reflecting on the experience and learning something about yourself.
But solo travelers aren’t invulnerable to travel stress. Concerns may include how far is too far to venture on one’s own, and how real is the threat of boredom hanging out on the beach by yourself. And, most salient, is it safe?
Whether you prefer urban explorations, daredevil hikes or blissfully uncrowded island retreats, there are myriad suitable solo destinations all over the world.
We’ve rounded up five diverse trips for the solo wanderer. Discover each destination’s highlights, charms and reasons to visit.
For the adrenaline junkie: The Azores
Dangling on the precipice of virality (think Iceland, but 10 years ago) is this tiny cluster of islands, smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, is actually surprisingly easy to travel to: From Boston, for example, it’s less than a five-hour journey to Ponta Delgada, the capital city located on São Miguel Island.
From there, visitors can hop puddle jumper flights to other islands (every one boasts a commercial airport), or take ferry rides (which are cheaper, but mean significantly longer journeys).
São Miguel is the biggest and most populous island, and as such, has the most to offer in terms of hotels. Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort is a favorite for its easy beach access and the studio-size rooms, which are ideal for people traveling alone. Most tourists visit a few islands on their trip – Pico and Terceira are common stops – and it’s best to plan for at least a week here.
Whale and dolphin watching are especially popular here, since over a third of the world’s creatures cycle through the islands’ surrounding waters on migratory routes. Divers are also in for a treat with warm waters and visibility that reaches to nearly 100 feet below sea level during the peak season from May to October.
Back on land, volcanic formations have given the islands their characteristic topography, as well as their breathtaking beauty. On Pico, brave souls can traverse one of the longest lava tubes in the world, but thrill-seekers who prefer their adventures in moderation may appreciate the island’s many hiking and biking paths around volcanic craters.
With friendly locals, widely spoken English, and a favorable exchange rate, the islands are an ideal (and safe) trip for solo adventurers. Travel agencies like Azores Getaways can shoulder most of the heavy lifting, such as arranging inter-island plane hopping and coordinating private culinary experiences with popular island chefs.
For the history buff: Berkshire, England
With lush meadows, an astonishing display of castles, and a convenient location less than an hour from London, Berkshire is ideal for any solo traveler who loves English history, the British royal family or “Downton Abbey.”
Begin your journey at Cliveden House.
No hotel is infused with more history than this stunning estate originally built in the 1600s by the second Duke of Buckingham as a gift to his mistress Anna Talbot. Since then, it’s played host to the infamous Profumo affair in the 1960s, the filming of The Beatles’ feature “Help!,” and most recently, Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, who spent the night before her wedding to Prince Harry.
St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where those royal nuptials took place, is only a short drive away and is a must-visit for any royal aficionado. One of the most classic examples of “perpendicular Gothic” in the country, it is also still a place of worship for Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family.
The postcard-perfect Royal Borough of Windsor is also worth a stop, offering everything from Michelin-starred restaurants such as The Fat Duck and Waterside Inn to charming pedestrian-only shopping squares.
Fans of fictional British lords and ladies – namely “Downton Abbey’s” inhabitants – should also pay a visit to Highclere Castle, the Victorian estate that poses as the ancestral home of the Crawley family on the TV series. Look on the castle’s website for information on special tours: a more intimate way to tour the property (and make friends with like-minded fans!).
For the beach bum: Bermuda
For those looking for an island escape without the hassle and crowds of gigantic all-inclusive resorts (where honeymooners or couples are often found in droves), the refined, British-inflected Bermuda is a welcome respite. And, with several daily direct flights from New York City, Bermuda can work as a weekend trip for residents of the US East Coast.
Solo travelers would do well to book a room at the centrally located Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. A venerated property built in the late 1800s, it received a $100 million facelift in 2016 and now includes amenities such as a superyacht marina and a restaurant helmed by Marcus Samuelsson. A complimentary jitney shuttles guests directly from the hotel to its nearby beach club set in a private cove, ensuring relaxed safety for solo sunbathers.
Guests can choose to enjoy the cove’s water hammocks or head out on a snorkel board or kayak if beach boredom begins to set in.
Fans of boutique properties, however, should look into the charming Relais & Châteaux-affiliated Rosedon Hotel, which has bedrooms outfitted with beautiful four-poster beds and lush tropical gardens accessed via a furnished patio.
But no one comes to Bermuda for the hotels alone. The pink sand beaches here are one of the island’s biggest draws. With many hidden coves and smaller beaches, it’s also easy to find a spot to sun-worship sans crowds. Some of the most tempting places on the island include the cerulean waters of Jobson’s Cove and the blissful quiet of Chaplin Bay.
And exploring the island’s terrain via foot or on a bicycle is a breeze. The Bermuda Railway Trail is a picturesque route that spans the entire island. Book a group bike tour through Island Tour Centre. it’s a perfect way for solo travelers to meet other cyclists and swap travel stories while exploring the natural surroundings.
For the architecture aficionado: Havana, Cuba
Cuban architect Miguel Coyula once described Havana as “the last virgin city,” due to the great number of architectural styles and buildings that have been preserved within it. And indeed, in UNESCO-listed Old Havana, the baroque and neoclassical monuments to the pastel-painted arcades all maintain an air of timelessness.
The juxtaposition of different aesthetics also marks the city as unique among others: As UNESCO puts it, Havana “has maintained a remarkable unity of character,” even with “the superimposition of different periods of history” on its urban planning and architecture.
For those wanting to delve deeper into the history and architecture of the city, a small-group adventure tour operator like Intrepid Travel is one option. The company offers Havana experiences ranging from touring the outer-city in a convoy of classic American cars, to a walking tour of Old Havana that passes by 16th-century fortresses, the striking La Catedral San Cristobal and the elegant Plaza de Armas.
Finish the day by unwinding at the grand, historical Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra once slept.
Only 90 miles from Florida, Cuba is geographically next-door, even if it’s been near-impossible for US citizens to visit for decades. And while current restrictions have been ramped up since the Obama administration, it remains an accessible destination even for solo travelers, provided you plan ahead. (Citizens of the United States can still visit the country without a tour operator as long as their trip’s purpose is to “support the Cuban people.”)
In plain English: Visitors should interact with the locals and patronize local businesses, which is pretty good advice for any destination.
For the food lover: Kyoto, Japan
It’s hard to think of a culture that has greater reverence for food than Japan, and nowhere is this on display more fully than the mesmerizing city of Kyoto. Less hectic and easier to navigate than Tokyo, Kyoto provides a pleasant backdrop for individuals who want an urban experience on a smaller scale.
From three-Michelin-starred restaurant Iida to a quick-but-satisfying bowl of ramen inside Kyoto Station, seemingly every corner of the city turns up a new snack or meal to experience.
Japan is also an ideal choice for a solo explorer: 2018’s Global Peace Index ranks the county as the 9th safest in the world.
But back to the cuisine: Kyoto is known especially for its tofu and is one of the most famed spots to taste different preparations is Shoraian. Located inside the city’s famed and bucolic bamboo forest, the experience is almost as much of a delight for the eyes as it is for the palate. An added bonus is the beautiful multi-course lunch special. A steal at 3,800 yen (about $35), it’s an affordable luxury for the single diner who wants to taste as much as possible.
Solo-traveling foodies will love the culinary focus (and pampering) at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, which offers classes in sake tasting, sushi making and even the art of traditional wagashi, sweets served with tea.
Matcha lovers should also pay a visit to the nearby district of Gion, famed for its teahouses and its preponderance of geishas. If you can score an invite, don’t turn down a chance to visit Ichiriki Chaya, a famed ochaya – geisha tea house – that’s over 300 years old.
And while not every Kyoto denizen will speak English, the Japanese are famously polite. Go the extra mile by learning a few words of Japanese, downloading a translation app like Google Translate, and print out addresses of where you’re headed in Japanese script to ensure you end up in the right location.
Juliet Izon is a veteran lifestyle writer, covering food, travel, interior design and entertainment. She lives with her husband and daughter in New York City.