Solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. Whether you’d rather spend it on a desert island or in a frenetic new city, here are the best places to travel alone.

1. Lombok and the Gili Islands, Indonesia

Not as overrun as Bali, its more famous neighbour, Lombok is gaining a sterling reputation with independent travellers who want to learn to surf, snorkel or dive in beautiful, clear waters. Inland, the lush green paddy fields stretch to the massive Gunung Rinjani volcano with its waterfalls and hot springs. The three tiny but increasingly popular Gili Islands off Lombok’s northwest coast are easy to access – Trawangan is where the party’s at.

2. Cuba

The Cuban capital of Havana conjures images of crumbling colonial architecture, 1950s Chevys, salsa and cigars. However, with the political scene inside Cuba shifting, private enterprise is being encouraged and small businesses across the country are opening and expanding. Now is a great time to visit those tiny back street restaurants and artisan shops. Homestays have always been characteristic of travel in Cuba, and this, along with low crime, means going it alone is safe and rewarding.

Not sure where to start? Check out our list of 23 things not to miss in Cuba.

3. Guatemala

If you’re looking for the best places to travel alone in Central and South America, don’t overlook Guatemala and its ancient Maya ruins. It’s an inexpensive place to travel, which means you could stay for a while to learn Spanish or even volunteer. Come here for adventure activities like hiking, kayaking and whitewater rafting – and to explore the jungle and get up close and personal with Central America’s most active volcano. Haggling for fresh produce in one of the country’s colourful markets is an adventure in itself.

With more than a few weeks to spare, you could also explore further; The Rough Guide to Central America on a Budget has all the information you’ll need on travelling in the region.

4. Kenya

With its incredibly diverse ecosystem and reputation for the “Big Five” (elephant, black rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard), Kenya is the place for safaris. You can easily join a big group or arrange for a guide to take you out into the wilderness alone. The country has a good infrastructure and it’s easy to get around and find accommodation – and it’s not uncommon to get offers to stay in people’s homes too. Take care of your belongings, particularly in Nairobi; but don’t hide away in your hotel when it gets dark or you’ll miss out on the city’s burgeoning nightlife scene (though taxis between venues are recommended).

We’ve put together three itineraries to help you start planning.

5. South Island, New Zealand

The list of solo activities you can do on New Zealand’s beautiful South Island is endless: zorbing, horse riding, skiing, hiking, kayaking, bungy jumping, skydiving, jet boating, whitewater rafting… With jaw-dropping scenery around every corner, the small country is one big outdoor playground. Mountains, glaciers, lakes and craggy coastline form the backdrop for a place that is regularly voted one of the most beautiful in the world.

Planning your trip on a budget? Here’s our advice for getting the most from backpacking around the country.

6. Barcelona, Spain

Busy Barcelona is one the best places to travel alone. Its café-lined boulevards are perfect for people watching, or you can escape the hustle and bustle by heading out to one of the city beaches on the super easy-to-use public transport. In the evening you can avoid eating alone in a stuffy restaurant by doing as the Spanish do: grazing on tapas in one of the city’s cool bars.

7. Ireland

Ireland is famous for the welcome it extends to strangers; pull up a stool in a traditional Irish pub, offer to buy your neighbour a pint and you’ll have a friend for life – or at least the evening. Stay a while and you might get lucky and catch a traditional Celtic music session. If you don’t have your own transport, then it can be tricky to get out to the remote west coast, though some people still hitchhike (of course not without its dangers). Here you’ll find some of the country’s most sacred sites including Skellig Michael, Rock of Cashel and Croagh Patrick.

8. Nepal

Although earthquakes have recently rocked Nepal, many of the regions famous for hiking are largely unaffected – and the country is in desperate need of your tourist dollar. If you’re an experienced altitude trekker, the Annapurna circuit can be tackled independently, but it’s wise to hire a porter or set out with an organised group. Hiking this Himalayan circuit typically takes three weeks and it’s a great way to get up close to traditional mountain people; you need very little gear as you stay in comfortable teahouses along the way and buy food as you go.

9. New York City, USA

Explore the streets of Manhattan and the outer boroughs with no arguments over which world famous museum, cutting edge art gallery or iconic landmark to visit. If you aren’t as brave as Carrie Bradshaw and don’t want to face a restaurant alone, then there are plenty of gourmet food markets to eat on the hop. You could also browse a Brooklyn flea market, people watch in Times Square, go rollerblading in Central Park or take a sightseeing cruise on the Hudson.

Just remember to take The Pocket Rough Guide to New York City along to guide you to all the best spots.

10. Hokkaidō, Japan

Japan is a very friendly country and outsiders, especially those travelling alone, are made welcome as a matter of course. Hokkaidō is the most northern and least developed of the country’s four main islands and although its capital city hosted the 1972 Winter Olympic Games and brews the famous Sapporo beer, Hokkaidō is best known for the great outdoors. Hiking, skiing and birdwatching are top activities if you want to embrace the elements in a remote and unspoiled landscape.

Get prepared with this guide to the things every gaijin (foreigner) will learn in Japan.

11. Jordan

Jordan is a gentle introduction to the Middle East, so follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia to explore evocative ruins and ancient cities, stargaze in the desert or float in the Dead Sea. On your travels, be ready to accept a few offers to drink tea or eat a meal in someone’s home. You’ll find it impossible to go anywhere in Jordan without experiencing some of its famous hospitality; it’s one of 21 highlights of visiting the country.

12. Southern Thailand

Thailand’s beaches and islands are on the traditional backpacking route and whether you choose the Gulf coast to the east or the Andaman coast to the west, you are bound to find people to chat with over a cold Chang beer if you’re travelling alone. The land of smiles is also fifteen degrees north of the equator, so there’s a tropical climate with plenty of sunshine almost year-round.

For more detailed advice, check out our tips for travelling solo in Thailand.

13. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is predominantly a Buddhist country, and its residents are friendly and welcoming to all. In the interior of this island nation, undeveloped hill country is home to tea plantations, ancient cities, forest reserves and sacred mountains. On the coast you’ll find beautiful sandy beaches, quiet resorts and labyrinthine lagoons. Support local communities and get to know your hosts by staying in an ecolodge or a homestay.

14. Copenhagen, Denmark

This laidback capital city makes a brilliant weekend destination for a solo traveller. It’s a compact city that’s easy to explore on foot or by bike – there are cycle paths everywhere – there’s a lovely Scandi café culture, great art museums and cool, low-key nightlife. In summer, you could hit the nearby beaches, one of the harbour baths or an outdoor city pool for a swim.

15. The Greek Islands

Yes, there are party islands and whole coastlines dedicated to package tourism, but it’s easy to escape the crowds and find a lonely and unspoilt beach or traditional Hellenic village, particularly if you travel off season and aim to stay with locals. The ferry timetables easy to work out, so spend time hopping between islands or zone in on somewhere like Crete and explore every inch.

Start planning with our author’s tips for travelling in Greece and his five favourite islands.

16. Newfoundland, Canada

Wild and craggy, Newfoundland is dotted with remote traditional fishing settlements that have been there for centuries. St John’s – a lively port city with plenty of nightlife – is a great place to start any solo trip. Get “screeched in” on George Street, a touristy but fun initiation for all newcomers (which basically involves kissing a cod and drinking rum). But the real reason to visit is to find peace in the remote wilderness of the interior or spend time on the coast viewing icebergs, whales and seabirds.

17. Dubrovnik, Croatia

An historic walled city jutting out into the deep blue waters of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik has plenty to offer the solo traveller. Try to avoid high summer when cruise ships dock and passengers spill out into the narrow streets; the best times to visit are April and September when the weather is warm and the cafés and restaurants are open for the season. Walk the city walls, visit the islands by ferry and go sea kayaking around the stunning bay.

18. Southwest USA

The American Southwest is famed for its spectacular landscapes and although there are pine forests and snow-capped mountains, the region’s best-known vista is the deep red sandstone desert dotted with flat-topped buttes and towering pinnacles. A range of great tours make this the perfect place to strike out solo. You can even star in your own Western in Monument Valley, joining a horseback tour along the valley’s many trails. Be sure to stop at the viewpoints and photograph lengthening shadows in the atmospheric early morning or late afternoon light.

19. The East Coast, Australia

Australia’s east coast is a popular route with backpackers who typically travel overland in either direction between Melbourne and Cairns – which is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. It’s easy to meet fellow travellers on this stretch as everyone is in holiday mode, taking time to hang out in hippie retreats, surf towns and national parks. A great way to meet people is to join a sailing trip to the pristine Whitsunday Islands off the Queensland coast.

Looking for more tips? Check out our complete guide to solo travel in Australia.

20. Rajasthan, India

Rajasthan is a wonderful introduction to India if you’re travelling alone. The Land of Kings is packed with forts and palaces, it’s easy to travel between the major sites of Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, and you’ll be spoilt for choice for atmospheric and inexpensive places to stay and eat. Spend time in the desert on the back of a camel and don’t miss the camel fair in Pushkar (held in October or November).

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