Traveling solo is a unique opportunity to find out exactly who you are in completely new surroundings and without anyone around from your past to influence you. That can be a scary prospect, but the good news is there are plenty of places out there that can make you feel safe and welcome. And when in the right place, a solo trip — regardless of how long it is — has the power to benefit you for years or even a lifetime thereafter.
Before I traveled alone, I was pretty terrified, mostly because I didn’t think I’d like my own company enough to be solo 24/7. I was delighted to find that I met new people constantly (something that’s true for solo travelers in general). When on the road, people are social.
While it was possible to feel inspired and delighted everywhere, a few places in particular stand out as great options for women traveling alone. Below are 10 solo travel destinations that you probably didn’t expect to be awesome for solo female travelers in particular, whether for their women-oriented businesses or for their safety, solitude, spirituality, or sociability:
Most people who visit South Africa head right to Cape Town or Kruger National Park, and while those spots are both popular for good reasons, why not take a look at the orange, rocky, rugged bush called the Karoo as well? It’s safer than Cape Town and less crowded than Kruger.
It didn’t take long for the Karoo to feel special to me while I was staying on a farm there, appropriately called The Rest. As a solo traveler, a great way to get to know the area is to do some kind of workaway program at such a place.
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: South Africa, with its high levels of crime, might not initially seem like a logical destination for solo female travel. However, the rural parts, like the Karoo, are so isolated and far from the sometimes-dangerous bustle of the cities that staying with a family there and learning how to work the land can be both a safe and character-building experience.
Plus, with all of that space and time to feel and think, it can promote a lot of personal growth. Such a desolate landscape, with almost nobody and nothing around, can give you much time and freedom to think and feel, which is one of the greatest benefits of solo travel.
Yubeng is a remote village in the Chinese Himalayas that can only be reached by foot or mule. During the hike in, I saw Tibetan prayer flags strung from tree to tree, snow softly falling, and animals roaming freely all throughout the town. There are stupas (mound-like structures containing relics and used for meditation) everywhere.
Yubeng is peaceful in a way that much of the rest of China isn’t. The feeling is hard to explain, but it’s felt by all who pass through. If you’re overwhelmed with the rest of China, seek refuge in Yubeng.
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: In the big cities, scams often target young female tourists, but in the Himalayas, you’re more of an esteemed guest. The friendly people of Yubeng are so relaxed, patient, and welcoming, as are the younger tourists who flock there, often with some English-language ability and curiosity about foreign visitors.
As a solo traveler, I was worried that I would be completely going this one alone, but I was surprised and delighted to find that young and friendly Chinese people take this route too, seeking the same sacred place.
Maui isn’t typically what comes to mind when most people think of a solo trip, but with all its activities — from surfing and hiking to driving the road to Hana and taking boating and snorkeling tours — it’s actually a great place for those flying solo.
With its constantly changing microclimates, the beautiful island has pockets of sandy sunset beaches, sprawling resorts, quaint little camping spots, and hikes through the valley.
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: The cool thing about Maui is that it feels like a different country than the States, what with the tropical weather and Hawaiian culture, but you don’t need a passport, an RTW flight, or to learn a different language to enjoy it. Plus, there are female-focused activities — like the Maui Surfer Girls camp, designed specifically for solo female travelers who are looking for a supportive group of women to take up a new sport with. It’s an experience that is both empowering and fun!
If you love nature, there’s almost no better spot in the world to enjoy it fully than in Patagonia. Much of the region can be quite remote, but El Chaltén is Argentina’s trekking capital, and as such there are plenty of hostels there, and the whole town is totally chilled out. It also draws plenty of solo travelers who are open and happy to meet others to share the trails with, some of whom I met and hiked with when I was there (albeit not solo myself), and we left as new friends.
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: With its constant catcalls, South America can sometimes feel stressful for solo female travelers, but this trekking town is different. It’s full of nature-loving artists and hippies who are welcoming, as well as hikes that are full enough of people that even if you show up solo, you can easily meet others on the trails. So, you could spend time in town just chilling and relaxing, or you could join glacier hikes, learn how to rock climb, or go on camping excursions, all of which accommodate solo travelers.
It hit me as I was staring up at the Northern Lights in Iceland, watching them swirl and snake across the sky in flashes of green, that this has got to be, hands-down, one of the most unique and drop-dead gorgeous places on this planet, with its black sand beaches, icy fjords, and those huggable, iconic ponies. Where else can you see the northern lights, geysers, and incredible land formations all in one spot? I saw so many waterfalls, I stopped counting anymore or even paying attention. That’s how abundant the natural beauty is!
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Iceland is the safest country in the world. Seriously, people leave their cars running, with the keys inside, when they go grocery shopping. That’s how high the level of trust between people is! Plus, the capital draws so many solo travelers on layovers from the US that it won’t be hard to meet someone cool at your hostel to split a car rental with for a day trip like the Golden Circle or even a longer journey like the Ring Road.
When thinking about an escape, heading to the Arctic during the winter was not exactly at the top of my list, but after experiencing how amazing the Arctic could be in Iceland, I went for it: Lapland, Finland, in January.
I found that when the weather is so cold that it drops to 30° below freezing, the air becomes incredibly crisp. Also, that far north, the sun barely sits on the horizon during the short time that it’s out, creating an an unusual combination sunrise/sunset.
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: The locals are so darn amiable that you’re sure to make a few friends, especially if you head to the female-owned-and-run Aurora Estate, where the owners can help you plan some awesome excursions snowmobiling and snowshoeing. The region is also home to the only ski slopes in the country, which tend to draw solo travelers. Head to an after-ski bar, join a husky safari, or talk to the locals in Snowman World (ice bar and restaurant). Who knows? You might catch the Northern Lights, too!
I call California home, but for some reason it took me until I was 29 to finally visit Big Sur — and I couldn’t believe what I had been missing: the rocky coastline, whales breaching in the distance, dolphins just about every time I looked at the horizon, and waterfalls in the state parks. It’s no wonder that the Central Coast has long enchanted actors, poets, and writers (just crack open any book by Jack Kerouac and you’re bound to read at least a little bit about coastal California, particularly Big Sur).
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Camping in Big Sur is the perfect opportunity to meet others, because campers are friendly. Chances are good you can make a pal at the very next camping spot, especially if you offer them a locally-brewed beer. The hustle and bustle of Los Angeles turns some visitors off, so if what you’re seeking is some incredible nature, just head five hours north and you’ll be in paradise. How can you stare up at a redwood tree (some of the largest and oldest trees in the world) and not feel moved?
Those who have never been to Bayfield might be scratching their heads, wondering how Wisconsin made this list. But trust me on this one, because it’s a unique Midwest gem.
It’s a tiny town full of artists, and people are incredibly friendly, living up to that Midwestern charm. Just about every person I met there seemed to have the time to stop and talk to me.
And you absolutely cannot beat the amazing sea caves! There’s something really special about kayaking through them. Or jump on a boat, sail around Lake Superior, and live a bit like Robinson Crusoe.
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: I was afraid that Bayfield might be lonely since it initially seems like a family destination, but I made friends easily on kayaking tours around the caves, which accommodated me as a solo traveler, and found it easy to speak to people working in the restaurants and even on the sidewalk. Plus, it’s a safe place with low to no crime, so as a solo female traveler, you can even camp alone and enjoy the solitude.
It might seem like a barren desert isn’t the place to enjoy by yourself, but I have found it to be quite the opposite. That kind of space to think and feel can really be incredible for personal development. Plus, in Namibia it’s warm and dry, so the sky is absolutely incredible for stargazing.
Climbing up and around Dune 45 at sunrise was a beautiful experience for me. After everyone else descended, I stayed up top to explore a bit more — and I had the whole view to myself. Can you imagine sitting in one of nature’s biggest sandboxes and having it feel like it’s all yours? My inner six-year-old rejoiced.
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Namibia is adventurous and social without feeling dangerous. All of the backpackers and camping accommodations have pools and other common areas, which makes it easy to meet others if you’re solo. It’s also a gorgeous destination in Africa that isn’t crowded and chaotic, and is more about the peace and space than anything else. In a country of only two million people, your biggest worry is the scorpions (for real, though — watch out for those!).
You can also join a tour or safari and meet plenty of other solo travelers. It’s what I did, and what Matt did too when visiting the area.
How did a big city make this list? Well, Berlin is not just any city; it’s full of artists and has been for the past 30 or so years. It’s hard not to feel inspired in a place where so many people make their living by creating and honoring their passions. This is why I’ve also made it my home base and became a resident of Germany. I just couldn’t be without this funky place for too long!
Though it’s the capital, Berlin doesn’t feel crowded because it is so spread out. And with so many big parks in just about every neighborhood, peace and quiet is easy to come by.
Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Berlin draws many solo travelers, and it’s easy to meet others. It’s also a socially progressive city with a low violent crime rate that’s simple to navigate and easy to love. Take a street art tour and combine everything at once! There are also tons of expats, so check out a Meetup.com group or a Couchsurfing event to get a mix of visitors and those who are more familiar with the city.
While solo traveling and soul-searching don’t lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all approach, generally the places that draw solo travelers are the ones that are the most interesting and unique, provide opportunities to enjoy nature and connect with others (and with yourself). Regardless of which place you’re targeting in the world, with these options covering just about every continent and style of travel, you can find a place that suits you.