Foodie trip, city break or outdoor adventure, the solo trip is never a tired trope. Once a niche way to travel, more and more people are choosing to go solo, and the options are endless. Wander colourful old towns in Europe, scale glaciers in Iceland, take it easy in an eco-retreat in northern Thailand, these are the best places to travel alone in 2020.
Constantly voted as one of the safest countries in the world, it’s also easy to navigate public transportation in Japan, especially with the Japan Rail Pass. The Land of the Rising Sun is a melding of hypermodernity and centuries-old history, offering solo travellers a chance to get lost in Tokyo’s crowded intersections or soak in the astounding silent beauty of Kyoto’s Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Family-run noodle bars and ramen joints with curtain dividers that seat less than 10 patrons are also ideal for a party of one.
A wintry destination wouldn’t normally come to mind for a solo trip, but there’s something about being totally alone in vast, unspoiled nature that’s immensely calming. With frozen glaciers, gushing waterfalls and bubbling hot springs, Iceland is the perfect remedy to cure the intrepid traveller’s wanderlust. Rent a car and drive around the island, stopping at deserted landscapes, or, for a real adventure, come during winter or early spring and see the Northern Lights by yourself.
Sandwiched in between two popular tourist destinations, Thailand and Singapore, Malaysia is often overlooked by solo travellers despite it being a safe and affordable country blessed with gorgeous topography and brimming with cultural offerings. Treat yourself to a shopping spree in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, or have a relaxing bungalow stay in the tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. In Penang, visit George Town, where stately, colourful Peranakan houses have been converted into breezy accommodations and eat your way through Air Itam Market before kicking it back at one of the beaches in Tanjung Bungah or Batu Ferringhi.
One of the safest countries in Africa, Ghana is becoming increasingly diverse and international and its big cities are easy to get around, especially with Uber. Should you venture out of the city to scenic places, cocoa farms and national parks, the best bet is to join a local tour. There are tours to Aburi Botanical Gardens, known for its palm-tree-line walkway, Tetteh Quarshie cocoa farm, the first cocoa farm in the country, as well as Kakum National Park, where you can cross a suspension bridge over a tree canopy.
Unlike Prague or Budapest, Tbilisi doesn’t get much love although this is the perfect compact city for the fashionable solo traveller to wander about with camera in hand. The colourful pastel houses in the Old Town contrast nicely with centuries-old cathedrals perched atop hills. Find a bathhouse to rest your feet, taking in the magnificent patterned-tiled designs while simmering in sulphur water. But don’t get too cosy here – save a few days for relaxing at the Black Sea beaches with their long stretches of black sand.
Portugal’s cities are quirky and diverse which makes them fun to set out and explore on your own, imagining you’re the hero of your own adventure novel. Lisbon buzzes with an entrepreneurial vibe of people doing their own thing. Here, indie cafés and coworking spaces often decked in bright-coloured walls and potted cacti fill with digital nomads, some coming in from a morning surf. Porto, though a reputed romantic destination for its dramatic sceneries, is also welcoming to solo travellers. Get sucked into the intricate contours and shapes of the Ribeira’s colourful clusters of houses and have a glass of port wine at one of the many tiny eateries.
Scotland is a merry mix of cultural offerings and outdoor adventure, perfect for a short city break followed by a solo road trip through the Highlands. August is a month of festivals, including the well-known Edinburgh Festival Fringe and also the Wigtown Book Festival, which sees the tiny town of just over 1,000 inhabitants come to life with storytelling. Then, rent a car and conquer the lochs, valleys and crags of the Highlands, which have inspired writers, poets and painters for centuries.
The archipelago on the Mediterranean Sea has glorious summers and mild winters, making it a popular base for digital nomads and freelancers. The main island is small enough to navigate on your own with a rental car, stopping at beaches and coves for swims. A snorkel session in the Blue Lagoon is a must but also make time to visit Gozo Island, a once-sleepy fishing village now buzzing with picturesque waterfront seafood restaurants.
This rainy city in Basque Country is ideal for solo travellers looking for a city break. Travellers can spend many rainy days marvelling at exhibitions of everything from the Roaring Twenties at the Guggenheim Museum and to art from the Middle Ages at the Museum of Fine Arts Bilbao. Or perhaps invest in a rare or antique leather-bound book at one of the many bookstores. If the weather changes for the better, take that book to read at Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park. In the evening, it’s time for pintxos and wine in downtown.
Known for its big family resorts and beach clubs, there’s a quieter side of Thailand that’s found in the lush jungles in the north. In Chiang Mai, solo travellers can book a yoga or meditation retreat, sign up for a Thai cooking class and peruse art galleries and studios, and in Chiang Rai, there are many temples to wander. Or make a solo trip to Bangkok and soak in the entrepreneurial atmosphere of neighbourhoods such as Ari which is littered with sustainable fashion boutiques, vintage shops and craft beer bars.