When I first started traveling, nearly 30 years ago, I went alone. Simply because I couldn’t find anyone to come with me. I was 21 years old when I took that first adventure overseas alone. However, over the years I’ve become fond of solo travel, and despite now having people I could travel with, I often still prefer to go it alone.
Exploring the world by yourself can be an empowering experience. You have the freedom to go where you want, eat when you choose, see and do what interests you and skip what doesn’t — no consultation, consensus, or compromise required! You’ll meet amazing people, experience new things, and learn so much about yourself along the way.
The world is your oyster, but the question is, where do you start? Choosing the right destination is key, so I’ve rounded up a handful of suggestions for great destinations for women who want to travel solo.
Iceland has a reputation as the world’s safest country to visit for solo female travelers. Iceland is the only Nordic country that has gotten more peaceful over the past 10 years!
With its sweeping landscapes, over 20 active volcanoes, towering glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, and black sand beaches, Iceland is a geology textbook come to life. Between exploring the charming streets of Reykjavík, chasing the northern lights, heading out into the wilderness on well-traveled hiking trails, and driving the famous Ring Road, a woman on her own can have a bucket list kind of trip in Iceland and feel safe doing so.
Reykjavík, the country’s capital city, has lots of museums and great street tours. This is a sane and manageable city — in the space of an hour, you can walk from the soaring Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, past the Old Port, to the vibey Grandagardur quarter. However, Iceland’s real magic is in its rural landscape and there are ample opportunities to see the beauty of the country with a guided tour — ideal for a woman traveling alone. The majority of these tours are by bus or car, and most will happily collect you from your hotel.
If hiring a car, consider taking Iceland’s Ring Road. The scenery and views on this epic 800-mile road trip will have you feeling you’re on another planet. The Golden Circle is another option if your time is limited. It’s a short drive from Reykjavík and can be done in a day. It hits some of the most popular natural attractions in Iceland.
The Fimmvörðuháls hike is Iceland’s most popular and offers some amazing glacial and waterfall views. The Laugavegur Trail is another breathtaking look at Icelandic wilderness. Both hikes take multiple days and I’d recommend reserving accommodation in the sleeping huts.
From the capital, Reykjavík, you can go whale watching for minke and pilot whales. This is another popular year-round activity. Many tourists come to Iceland to catch a glimpse of the northern lights and the best time for this natural phenomenon is between September and April. If perhaps you’ve envisioned your visit as an opportunity to relax, then Blue Lagoon makes for a tranquil solo getaway.
It’s easy to love this country and the people are some of the friendliest in the world.
Fun Fact: Even though Icelandic is the official language of the country, around 70 percent of Icelanders understand and speak English well.
Next up, we’re heading to Finland. Ranked the safest country in the world by the World Economic Forum in its “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report,” Finland is a country that fuses natural beauty with post-modernist architecture and cozy cities. Don’t judge the country by its size. It may be diminutive but Finland is a place that will take your breath away.
Home to only a handful of sizable cities, Helsinki, the capital, is a great place to visit in the summer if traveling solo. If visiting in the winter, head north to experience the land of the midnight sun and the northern lights.
Finland is a great destination for nature lovers. No matter where you go in the country, even in urban centers, nature is never far away. Wild forests thrive in the Finnish capital and the Finnish have designed their cities around and in harmony with, nature. This makes them more liveable and sustainable.
Outside of the cities, there’s Lemmenjoki National Park, the largest wooded reserve in Europe with plenty of wild places to explore for both day trippers and more experienced hikers. With 187,888 lakes, Finland is known as the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” — with a population of only 5.5 million, there’s a lake for every 26 Finns! Where there are lakes, there are forests. Two-thirds of Finland’s surface area is forest, making it one of the most densely forested in the world.
Pro Tip: A visitor’s experience of Finland is not complete without two initiations — immersion in a Finnish lake and a visit to a traditional wood-burning sauna (heated to a melting 200 degrees and supplied with fragrant birch branches for “self-flagellation,” inducing even more sweating). Better still and even more authentic is to alternate the sauna with dips in a lake. Saunas are a Finnish institution and can be found in almost every home, hotel, holiday village, and campground in the country. By the way, most public saunas are segregated by sex.
Sticking with the Nordic countries, let’s head to Denmark. Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, is quirky and perfectly suited to parties of one. You’ll find plenty of centrally located hotels offering lovely single rooms, like the Coco Hotel in the hip Vesterbro neighborhood. The hotel has a daily happy hour where guests are given free wine in the courtyard bar and encouraged to mingle — a perfect opportunity to meet other travelers, especially if you are traveling alone.
Must-visit spots in Copenhagen include Nyhavn, the iconic canal lined with multi-colored houses, the Tivoli Gardens, and perhaps a quick bite at the TorvehallerneKBH food hall. A 2-hour small-group walking tour is the perfect introduction to Copenhagen.
Anyone who has traveled solo knows that some of the most awkward moments in your trip are meal times. Food is meant to be shared and savored. When you are eating alone, it’s easy to feel self-conscious. You may be tempted to hide behind your book or phone then eat fast and leave. Fortunately, the Danes have a solution for this very scenario, one with an unpronounceable name: Faelles-spisning, meaning “communal eating.” Folkehuset Absalon is a fun-packed community house where you can expect everything from social dining to bingo, themed parties, life drawing, and where you’ll never have to eat alone! Meals here start from around $8.
Denmark is a small country, which means it’s easy to visit most sites, no matter your starting point or interests. Nature lovers should spend a day at Møns Klint, Hans Christian Andersen fans should check out the famous author’s museum in Odense, and culture buffs shouldn’t miss the ARoS museum in Aarhus.
No matter which city you visit in Denmark, you’ll likely see more bicycles and cycle routes than cars. For Danes, biking is a way of life — don’t miss the opportunity to ride in this “bicycle nation.” It’s relaxing and a great way to blend in!
Cities all over Denmark offer boat tours and cruises. Water surrounds the country and the Danes as a nation are strongly connected to it. Whether you want to discover the best sights from the water or just want to have some fun sailing, numerous boat-tour agencies can assist.
Austrians enjoy some of the best quality of life in Europe and the country is ranked fourth in the International Women’s Travel Centre’s list of best countries for women traveling alone. What’s more, Austria has some truly extraordinary landscapes; vibrant green mountains, snow-capped mountain peaks, and crystal-clear lakes. This is a great destination to get off the beaten path and experience some natural beauty or visit the country’s charming towns and cities, awash with baroque architecture and hearty cuisine.
Vienna, Austria’s capital city, is a place rich in arts, music, and culture. From its grand concert halls to food markets, there’s much to get excited about here. Top Vienna activities include the Schönbrunn and Belvedere Palaces, The Hofburg, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna State Opera, and Naschmarkt, Vienna’s best-known market with around 120 market stands and restaurants.
Overlooked by the Hohensalzburg Fortress and with the Salzach River running through it, Mozart’s hometown, Salzburg is another great city for solo travel. If “The Sound of Music” is your thing, then visit the Mirabell Gardens and Nonnberg Abbey. If you fancy a coffee, try the terrace of The Café Tomaselli, situated in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town. For something stronger, visit the 1,400-seat outdoor area of Augustiner Bräu, Austria’s biggest Biergarten.
I’d also recommend venturing into rural Austria and spending some time at the Bohemian Forest and Traunsee Lake in the north.
Spain is one of the best countries for solo female travel. It’s easy to get around, has great tourism infrastructure, and for years has been ranked the second most visited country in the world. Spain has something for everyone — history, food, architecture, culture, and nature. From the beaches of Barcelona to the museums of Madrid, from the culture of the south to the landscapes of the north, and with numerous UNESCO sites in between — no matter what type of traveler you are, you can plan your perfect trip to Spain. This is also one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe.
Santiago De Compostela
If you are looking for something a little different to do as a solo woman traveling in Spain, why not consider hiking the Camino de Santiago? Pilgrims have been walking to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, since the Middle Ages. This is a unique experience, attracting thousands of people from all over the world. With no singular starting point, there are numerous different routes, and the route you choose will depend on your preferences, interests, and what you want to get out of the experience. Perhaps consider joining a tour group, like the ones offered by Adventures in Good Company, who have a 10-day itinerary for women only.
If the idea of traveling all on your own is a little too intimidating, just remember solo travel doesn’t have to mean “going it alone.” Another great way to travel as a solo female is on a small group tour. Sarah Hoyland, director at Journeys for Women, has been handcrafting bespoke journeys for over 28 years, and whether you want to immerse yourself in ancient cultures, explore the wilderness in search of wildlife, or shop until you drop in some of the world’s most exciting cities, she has an itinerary for you.
From the northern lights in Norway to the medinas and mountains of Morocco, from the wilds of Antarctica to the beauty of Bhutan, these are escorted group journeys, designed by women, for women. Joining a trip like this provides the opportunity for like-minded individuals to venture to some of the most special destinations on the planet with the companionship and security of a small group and the knowledge and expertise of a specialist guide. American women rank first in frequent solo travel, with 72 percent of American women taking solo journeys, three or more trips in a given year. What are you waiting for? It’s time to get packing and join them!
For more information on solo travel, check out these articles: