By Skye Sherman and Elizabeth Preske
Updated August 19, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

Maybe all your friends are strapped for cash and unable to join you on vacation; maybe you prefer planning a trip without having to accommodate anyone else’s input; maybe you want your own Eat, Pray, Love experience and hope to take a journey where you’ll discover just as much about yourself as you will about the world.

Whatever your reasons, traveling solo can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences. The benefits of traveling solo range from the freedom to fully indulge your every whim to a sense of empowerment to opportunities for reflection, self-discovery, and new friendships.

Four-time international solo traveler Kristy McNiff echoes these sentiments, reflecting on how empowering it can be to travel by yourself: “Traveling alone is also a huge confidence and character builder. Figuring out how to navigate a foreign city, remembering how to drive a manual car, or managing travel plans solo, you learn to be more resourceful and that feeling of accomplishment is all yours to enjoy.”

When you’re by yourself, you also have the opportunity to establish meaningful connections with people you’ve just met. McNiff adds, “Traveling solo, you’re bound to meet other friendly travelers on a similar agenda that you can join forces with when you want the company. It’s easy to have more engaging conversation, and you’ll make friends faster than you ever would at home or if you were with a group.”

Still, whether you’re about to embark on your first solo trip or your 20th, tackling a trip by yourself can be incredibly nerve-wracking. We wouldn’t want lack of company to keep you from checking off a bucket-list trip, so we’ve come up with a list of countries ideal for both first-time and experienced solo travelers — safe destinations where you can expect a warm welcome.

So summon your courage, book that ticket, and get ready to embark on the solo travel adventure of a lifetime.

1. Iceland

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There’s a reason why Iceland has consistently ranked among the hottest destinations in recent years: The country is a haven for travelers who love the outdoors, with caverns and caves to explore, volcanoes and glaciers to hike, and geothermal spas to soak in — and since it’s the most peaceful country in the world, according to a recent Global Peace Index report, solo travelers can explore the country worry-free.

If you’re traveling to Reykjavík, consider taking a day trip to the ever-popular Blue Lagoon, or go whale watching in Faxaflói Bay. For those wanting to get out of the city, Thingvellir National Park offers camping, hiking trails, horseback riding, and the freshwater Silfra fissure, considered one of the best diving spots in the world.

2. Costa Rica

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With a high life expectancy and overall elevated levels of wellbeing, Costa Rica snagged the number one spot out of 140 countries on a recent edition of the Happy Planet Index, which measures 140 countries on wellbeing, longevity, equality, and ecological impact.

Costa Rica has long had a reputation as the happiest country in the world, and it’s easy to see why: from whitewater rafting down the Reventazón River to ziplining through gorgeous rainforests, rappelling down waterfalls, and hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park, in Costa Rica you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to please your adventurous spirit.

If you need a bit of respite amidst all the activity, Arenal has hot springs perfect for relaxing, or you can enjoy the white sands and wildlife at Playa Manuel Antonio, a tropical beach in Manuel Antonio National Park.

3. New Zealand

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New Zealand is a popular destination for backpackers, outdoor enthusiasts, and thrill-seekers striking out on their own — maybe because it’s the second most peaceful country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index.

The country is a haven for the outdoorsy and one of the best places to meet fellow travelers. You can take a cruise through the fjords, rainforests, and waterfalls of Milford Sound; heli-hike your way through Franz Josef Glacier; trek part (or all) of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing; explore the Waitomo Glowworm Caves; or go whale-watching in the Bay of Plenty.

If you need some down time from all your adventuring, take a day trip to Waiheke Island for wine tours or make your way to the Hobbiton Movie Set to wander the real-life version of The Shire. With so much to do, you won’t miss having a travel buddy.

4. Mexico

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When it comes to choosing a country for a solo travel adventure, there’s no better endorsement than recommendations from seasoned solo travelers who have been around the world. Ciara Johnson, blogger at Hey Ciara and solo-female-traveler extraordinaire, has visited 60 countries on her own. Her top pick for solo trips? Mexico.

“People might be surprised to discover that my favorite country for solo travel is Mexico,” Johnson reveals. “I’ve spent months backpacking the region and there is so much to discover. From swimming with whale sharks to swimming in cenotes to exploring ancient Mayan ruins, there is no shortage of things to do and see.”

Johnson has explored cities and towns all across Mexico, including Mexico City, Tulum, Puebla, Oaxaca, San Cristóbal de las Casas, La Paz, and more. “As a solo traveler, I’ve enjoyed that the region has a pretty established backpacker infrastructure,” she says. “The culture is extremely rich, the people are friendly, and the food will make you want to return for more.”

Mexico also recently ranked second-highest out of 140 countries on the Happy Planet Index.

5. Switzerland

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Switzerland is known for its stunning beauty, and there may be no better way to see Switzerland than by train. Purchase a Swiss Travel Pass, which gives you unlimited travel by train, bus, and boat, and journey past stunning waterfalls, forests, and lakes, then hop off the train to hike the Alps, visit medieval castles, and drink Swiss wine.

In the country that invented milk chocolate, indulging in the decadent, creamy treat is a no-brainer. But instead of simply picking up a bar of Toblerone or Lindt at the nearest grocery store, take a chocolate-themed walking tour in Lucerne and Zürich, or visit one of the several world-famous chocolate factories.

6. Chile

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Janice Waugh, solo travel expert at Solo Traveler World, considers Chile among the best countries for solo travelers. “Santiago is a modern city and a good starting point,” she says. “From there, head south to the Chilean fjords and on to Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park, which offers spectacular hiking for novice hikers as well as back-country experts. In one trip, you’ll have an urban experience, cruise, and some of the best hiking in the world.”

As Waugh points out, Chile’s landscape is as beautiful as it is diverse. Whether you explore Torres del Paine National Park or the San Rafael Glacier in Patagonia, climb an active volcano in the Lake District, or camp underneath the brilliant night sky in the Atacama Desert, you’re sure to find an adventure that meets your fancy.

In Santiago, adventure meets culture, and the city is easy to navigate by foot and bicycle. You can hike St. Christopher Hill or Santa Lucia Hill for panoramic views of the capital, browse the boutique shops, cafes, and cocktail bars in the Bellavista neighborhood, or explore the city’s many museums and art galleries.

For a calmer vacation, head to the beaches of La Serena or Tongo, or enjoy tastings at one of the top wine regions in Chile.

7. Netherlands

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For the first-time solo traveler, the Netherlands is a great place to get your newly-independent feet wet. In Amsterdam, with its laid-back and friendly culture, do as the locals do: get around by bike. Start in Vondelpark, a popular urban park, then bike to world-famous museums like the Van Gogh Museum, passing the city’s picturesque canals and bridges along the way.

Head to Holland between mid-April and the first week of May, and you’ll be welcomed by a glorious array of the country’s most beloved flower: tulips. The Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe, is located just outside Amsterdam and boasts over 7 million bulbs and 800 varieties of tulips. Or, go to Noordoostpolder to see the Netherlands’ largest tulip field during its annual Tulip Festival.

8. Spain

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Spain has a little bit of everything to please everyone: art museums, gorgeous architecture, delicious food, stunning beaches, an exciting nightlife scene, and jaw-dropping hikes.

In Barcelona, wander Parc Güell, a public park that doubles as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features modern architecture, sculptures, and mosaics designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Continue your Gaudí tour at La Sagrada Família (nope, even after nearly 140 years, construction still isn’t complete!) before moving onto the Picasso Museum. When you start to get hungry, make your way to La Boqueria, the oldest market in the city.

You can also find some of the world’s best beaches in Spain, such as Ocata Beach near Barcelona and Socorro Beach in Tenerife. The brave and truly adventurous can join an organized hike through Caminito del Rey in Málaga or begin their journey along the famed Camino de Santiago.

9. Austria

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Austria is a must-see for solo travelers with a taste for fine culture. See for yourself why Vienna is known as the City of Music and attend a concert at the State Opera House or the Musikverein. The city also boasts over 100 museums, prime for exploring in between experiencing traditional Viennese coffeehouse culture. In Salzburg, backdrop to The Sound of Music, fans of the musical can take themed tours of the city and round out their trip by visiting Mozart’s Birthplace and climbing to the top of Hohensalzburg Fortress for unforgettable views of the city.

But Austria’s not all art, food, and culture: adventure awaits, too. Avin Kline, longtime digital nomad and founder of web development agency Success Agency, considers Austria his favorite solo travel destination. Though he typically travels with his wife and two children, he occasionally sets out from their home base in Florence for a solo adventure, especially when it involves his favorite hobby: bungee jumping.

“Since I’m a bit of an adventure-seeker, Austria is perfect, with a ton of thrill-seeking opportunities like whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and my favorite — bungy jumping,” Kline says. “And the scenery is breathtaking for drives and hikes.” He adds that when traveling without his family, he usually keeps his lodging pretty basic — and “in Austria, even the most modest bed-and-breakfasts have been incredibly clean and welcoming,” he says.

10. Denmark

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Denmark is another easy-to-tackle country for solo travelers. Start in Copenhagen and head to Nyhavn to see the city’s iconic wooden ships and colorful townhouses lining the canal. Afterwards, take a stroll through Tivoli Gardens. While beloved for its amusement park, the popular attraction also features flower gardens, bubble fountains, and an aquarium.

Shakespeare aficionados should head to Kronborg Castle: the UNESCO World Heritage site inspired Elsinore Castle in Hamlet. While there, take the train to nearby Hillerød, where you’ll find Frederiksborg Castle, home to the Danish Museum of National History.

11. Japan

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First stop: Tokyo. Whether you shop in the luxurious Ginza neighborhood, ride to the top of one of the world’s tallest towers, tour the Sensō-ji Temple, dine on ramen at Ichiran Shibuya  (the famous chain serves steaming bowls of ramen at solo booths), or take a leisurely stroll through a traditional Japanese garden, you’ll never run out of things to do in the glitzy city.

If you need some rest from the hustle and bustle, you can take a bullet train to Kyoto, where you’ll find a plethora of shrines, gardens, and temples. Since the tea ceremony has its roots in Kyoto, you may wish to partake in the tradition while you’re there. No matter where on the island your Japanese travels take you, be sure to visit during the springtime to see the gorgeous cherry blossoms in bloom.

When it comes to traveling solo, Alyssa Ramos, solo travel expert and blogger at My Life’s a Movie, is partial to Japan. “Out of the 105 countries I’ve traveled to, I still say that Japan has been my favorite for solo female travel,” Ramos shares. “My decision is majorly based on the way I’m treated and how comfortable I feel being alone. In Japan, most people are extremely polite, and if not, they at least mind their own business. No one stares, no one questions if or why you’re alone, and it’s normal to see women eating or on public transportation alone. In fact, there’s even a specific women’s-only overnight bus.”

Another experience that stood out to Ramos when she was flying solo in Japan was when she looked lost and a local came up to her and tried to help. “It happened to me three times, and one of the people even missed their train to walk me to mine to show me where it was,” she recalls.

For the solo traveler eager to share their adventures, Ramos points out another great thing about traveling solo in Japan: “You don’t have to feel embarrassed using a tripod or selfie stick, since literally everyone uses them there!”

12. Norway

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Visit Norway during the summer for warmer weather and lots of outdoor attractions and activities. In Oslo, you can explore the capital’s many museums, restaurants, and parks by walking, cycling, or taking public transportation. Or book a spot on a Hurtigruten coastal steamer — there’s no single supplement! — and cruise through the country’s famous fjords on a multi-day adventure, stopping at numerous ports of call along the stunning coastline to hike, kayak, dog-sled, and more. You’ll even cross the Arctic Circle, another bucket-list check.

On the other hand, if seeing the Northern Lights tops your bucket list, a trip to Norway between November and March will land you there during peak aurora borealis season. For optimum viewing of the natural phenomenon, head to the heart of the aurora zone: the city of Tromsø.

13. Ireland

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If the idea of traveling by yourself to a country where you don’t speak the language makes you nervous, then opt to visit Ireland. In Dublin, you can take a literary walking tour of the UNESCO City of Literature, browse Grafton Street’s bustling shops, and cozy up in the Guinness Storehouse with a pint of the world-famous stout.

With its stunning scenery and friendly inhabitants, Galway is not to be missed, either. While you’re there, stroll along the lovely Salthill Promenade, or park yourself in a traditional pub in Eyre Square to listen to live Irish folk music. If you’re looking to get out of the city, hop on a ferry to the nearby Aran Islands to explore archeological sites and medieval forts, or take a public bus to the iconic Cliffs of Moher for breathtaking views.

14. Uruguay

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This South American country is perfect for those who just want to relax by the ocean and soak up the sun. Punta del Este may be best known for its gorgeous beaches, like Playa Mansa and Playa Brava, but if you want to escape the crowds, consider visiting the more secluded beaches in Jose Ignacio and Rocha.

Montevideo isn’t short on beaches, either, and for those who want to mix up sunbathing with cultural experiences, the capital also offers historical attractions, museums, and traditional Candombe music and dance performances.

15. Albania

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Its friendly locals and gorgeous scenery makes Albania an up-and-coming destination for solo travelers. Journey to the Blue Eye spring near Saranda and you’ll encounter some of the bluest, clearest water in the world. Since you might find the water too cold to swim in, head to the Albanian coast for fun and sun on any of the country’s beautiful beaches, or soak in Permet’s Benja Thermal Baths — they’re said to have healing properties.

You may also want to consider taking a day trip to Berat — nicknamed the “town of a thousand windows” — to marvel at the city’s stunning architecture. From the Ottoman-era buildings and medieval castle to the mosques and Holy Trinity Church, you’ll quickly see why the city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

16. Vietnam

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Endless adventure awaits in Vietnam. Hop on a boat that departs from Hạ Long and cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay, home to some of the world’s most striking blue water and natural landscapes; take a guided tour of Hang Sơn Đoòng, the largest natural cave in the world; visit Hội An during the full moon and you’ll be welcomed by the awe-inspiring sight of hundreds of lanterns floating down the Thu Bồn River during the city’s monthly full moon festival.

In Ho Chi Minh City, you can indulge in street food at Bến Thành Market, one of the city’s earliest surviving structures, and brush up on Vietnam War history during a tour of the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels. Travel to Hanoi to explore the capital’s impressive historical and cultural sites and take a leisurely stroll around Hoàn Kiếm Lake.

17. Germany

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Germany has several major cities that are accessible to anyone traveling on their own. Hop on a bike in Berlin to explore the city’s abundance of museums, historical sites, cafés, nightclubs, and parks. You can also visit Munich during Oktoberfest, but if you’d rather avoid the crowds, you can enjoy the city’s beer gardens any time of year. And if you head to Frankfurt, you’ll discover an eclectic array of museums, cafés, boutiques, restaurants, and even a botanical garden in the increasingly popular city.

You should also consider planning side trips to see some of Germany’s famous castles — there are over 20,000 of them. From the Gothic-style Liechtenstein Castle to the dramatic Neuschwanstein Castle, visiting any of Germany’s magical old castles will have you feeling like you stepped straight into a fairy tale.

18. Finland

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Thanks to the camaraderie of the traditional sauna experience, it’s easy to meet people in Finland as a solo traveler — the country is home to over 3 million saunas, from Helsinki to Tampere and Savonlinna.

But there’s more to Finland than saunas. In Helsinki, you’ll find magnificent architecture, museums, parks, markets, and more — all easily accessible by foot or public transportation. Travel to the coasts to see a lovely array of lighthouses, or head to Rauma or Loviisa to spend a day in a wooden town. While it may be best to go to “The Land of the Midnight Sun” in the summer, visit during the winter for peak viewing of the Northern Lights — and maybe even to cross “riding a reindeer” off your bucket list.

19. Scotland

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Waugh, who’s also an expert on traveling solo as a senior, recommends Scotland as her top pick for senior solo travelers.

“What a country!” she says. “There’s great history, outdoor activities, folklore, traditions, and modern political complications to make it interesting. Glasgow and Edinburgh are very different and dynamic cities; the Isle of Skye can’t be matched for beauty.”

Of course, there’s also golf, she adds. “It’s a great, safe, cozy, fascinating destination with stunning landscapes.”

Feeling brave? Head to the Highlands of Scotland to seek out the legendary underwater monster at Loch Ness, and while you’re there, visit Urquhart Castle, which dates all the way back to the thirteenth century.

20. The United States of America

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Whether a solo hike through America’s glorious National Parks or a laid-back trip to Florida’s beaches is more your speed, you’ll find plenty to love on solitary adventures through the United States. Even if you’re a citizen, getting off the beaten path will quickly remind you that as an American, domestic travel is anything but dull.

While there’s tons to explore from sea to shining sea, you don’t have to relegate yourself to the mainland: there’s also Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and even American Samoa to explore. With such a range of varying landscapes, there’s ample adventure to be found, especially on your own.