The Best Countries for Solo Travelers
Maybe your friends are all strapped for cash and unable to join you on vacation; or maybe you'd rather plan a trip without having to accommodate someone else's interests, style, and pace.
Possibly, you want your own "Eat, Pray, Love"experience and hope to discover just as much about yourself as you will about the world.
Whatever your reasons are, traveling solo can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have in life.
In a 2015 study published by the International Journal of Tourism Research, Queensland University of Technology Business School sought to explain why Australia saw a 20% uptick in solo travelers from 2007 to 2011. By surveying 24 participants who had recently traveled by themselves, head researcher Professor Constanza Biancha learned that people opted to go alone.
"It was a chance to indulge themselves fully," Professor Bianchi said. "Traveling alone for holidays also provided some participants with the feeling that they had more control over their lives and actions. Solo traveling also offered some participants the possibility of reflection and self-discovery."
Four-time international solo traveler Kristy McNiff echoed 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 form 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."
But, whether you are about to embark on your first solo trip or your 20th, packing up your bags and getting on a plane by yourself can be incredibly nerveracking.
We wouldn't want lack of company keep you from going on a bucket-list trip: that's why we've come up with a list of countries ideal for both first-time and experienced solo travelers. Based on data from the 2018 Global Peace Index — which ranks 163 nations on peacefulness — and the Happy Planet Index — which measures 140 countries on well-being, longevity, equality, and ecological impact — these destinations are safe to visit and likely to give you a warm welcome.
So summon up all your courage, book that ticket, and get ready to embark on the solo adventure of a lifetime.
No. 1 Norway
Safety Ranking: 16
Happiness Ranking: 12
With the Midnight Sun, warm weather, and lots of outdoor attractions and activities to see and do, your best bet may be to visit Norway during the summer. In Oslo, you can explore the capital’s many museums, restaurants, and parks by walking, cycling, and taking public transportation. Book a spot on a Hurtigruten coastal steamer, and you can 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.
On the other hand, if seeing the northern lights is at the top of your bucket list, plan a trip to Norway between November and March during peak aurora borealis season. For optimum views of the natural phenomena, head to the heart of the aurora zone: the city of Tromsø.
No. 2 Switzerland
Safety Ranking: 12
Happiness Ranking: 24
Truly, there may be no better way to see Switzerland than by train. When you purchase a Swiss Travel Pass, you can journey past stunning waterfalls, forests, and lakes as many times as you like. Hop off the train to hike the Alps, visit medieval castles, and drink Swiss wine — and hop back on to explore more of the mountainous landscape at no additional cost.
Of course, in the country that invented milk chocolate, indulging in the decadent, creamy treat is a no brainer. If picking up a bar of Toblerone or Lindt at the nearest grocery store isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, consider taking a chocolate-themed walking tour in Lucerne and Zürich, or visiting one of several world-famous chocolate factories.
No. 3 Denmark
Safety Ranking: 5
Happiness Ranking: 32
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 best known for its amusement park, the popular attraction also features flower gardens, bubble fountains, and an aquarium.
For the Shakespeare aficionado, head to Kronborg Castle, the UNESCO World Heritage site that inspired Elsinore Castle in Hamlet. While you’re there, you can take the train to nearby Hillerød, where you’ll find Frederiksborg Castle, home to the Danish Museum of National History.
No. 4 Iceland (tie)
Safety Ranking: 1
Happiness Ranking: 39
There’s a reason why Iceland is one of the hottest tourist destinations right now. The country is a haven for solo 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 safest country in the world, you can do it all 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, nearby Thingvellir National Park offers camping, hiking trails, horseback riding, and one of the best diving spots in the country.
No. 4 New Zealand (tie)
Safety Ranking: 2
Happiness Ranking: 38
Because New Zealand is one of the safest countries in the world — and a popular destination for backpackers — it’s one of the best places to see on your own and meet fellow travelers.
And the country is a haven for outdoorsy, adventure seekers: sign up for a guided tour, and 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 downtime from all your adventuring, take a day trip to Waiheke Island for incredible wine tours, or make your way to the Hobbiton Movie Set to see the real-life version of The Shire.
No. 6 Costa Rica (tie)
Safety Ranking: 40
Happiness Ranking: 1
Costa Rica lays claim to 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 gorgeous waterfalls, and hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park, here you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to please your adventurous spirit.
And if you need a bit of respite amidst all the activity, Arenal has hot springs perfect for relaxing in, or you can enjoy the white sands and wildlife at Playa Manuel Antonio, a tropical beach in Manuel Antonio National Park.
No. 6 Netherlands (tie)
Safety Ranking: 23
Happiness Ranking: 18
For the first time solo traveler, the Netherlands is a great place to get your newly independent feet wet. Amsterdam, with its laid-back and friendly culture, is far from intimidating. Do as the do locals do and explore the Dutch city on bike: from Vondelpark, a popular urban park, to world-famous museums, to the city’s picturesque canals and bridges, cycling through the streets will help you cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
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 just outside of Amsterdam and boasts over 7 million bulbs and 800 varieties of tulips to take in. Or, go to Noordoostpolder to see the Netherlands’ largest tulip field during its annual Tulip Festival.
No. 8 Spain
Safety Ranking: 30
Happiness Ranking: 15
Spain has a little bit of everything to please everyone: art museums and gorgeous architecture, delicious food, stunning beaches, an exciting nightlife scene, and jaw-dropping hikes.
In Barcelona, spend time in Parc Güell, a public park that doubles as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features modern architecture, sculptures, and mosaics designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Continue your Gaudí tour at La Sagrada Família before moving onto the Picasso Museum — and 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. And for the brave and truly adventurous, join an organized hike through Caminito del Rey in Málaga, or journey along the famed Camino de Santiago.
No. 9 Austria
Safety Ranking: 3
Happiness Ranking: 43
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 classic Viennese coffee house culture.
Salzburg is an approximately two and a half hour train ride away from Vienna and its relatively small size makes it just as — if not more — easy to navigate. Most widely recognized as the backdrop to "The Sound of Music," fans of the movie can take themed tours of the city, starting at Mirabell Gardens. Round out your trip by visiting Mozart's Birthplace and climbing to the top of Hohensalzburg Fortress for unforgettable views of the city.
No. 10 Uruguay
Safety Ranking: 37
Happiness Ranking: 14
This South American country is perfect for those who just want to relax by the ocean and soak up the sun. Punta del Este, the “Hamptons of Buenos Aires,” 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.
Montenegro isn’t short of 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.
No. 11 Finland
Safety Ranking: 15
Happiness Ranking: 37
Thanks to the traditional sauna experience, it’s easy to meet people in Finland as a solo traveler. Home to over 3 million saunas, you’ll be sure to find one wherever your travels take you, from Helsinki to Tampere and Savonlinna.
But there’s more to Finland than saunas. In Helsinki, you’ll find magnificent architecture, museums, parks, markets — all of which are all easily accessible by foot and public transportation. Travel to the coasts, and you will 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 northern lights viewing — and to cross “riding a reindeer” off your bucket list.
No. 12 Panama
Safety Ranking: 50
Happiness Ranking: 6
Make your first stop in Casco Viejo, Panama City’s “Old Town,” to see a beautiful balance of colonial architecture, old churches, and a cool café and bar scene. Of course, no trip to the city would be complete without seeing the Panama Canal, so be sure you carve out time in your day to watch the ships pass through.
Just outside the city limits is Monkey Island, where you can get up close with several species of the adorable critters. For ultimate relaxation, head to San Blas Islands, an archipelago paradise of turquoise water, small huts, and serene beaches.
No. 13 Ireland
Safety Ranking: 10
Happiness Ranking: 48
If the idea of traveling by yourself to a country where you don’t speak the language makes you nervous, look no further than 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 in a traditional pub in Eyre Square to listen to live Irish folk music. If you’re looking to get out of the city, you can 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.
No. 14 Chile
Safety Ranking: 28
Happiness Ranking: 35
Chile’s landscape is as gorgeous 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 will be sure to find an adventure that meets your fancy.
Adventure meets culture in Santiago, which is easy to navigate by foot and bicycle: here, 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, and explore one or more of the city’s impressive museums and art galleries.
For a calmer vacation, head to the beaches of La Serena or Tongo, or enjoy exceptional wine tastings at one of the top wine regions in Chile.
No. 15 Albania (tie)
Safety Ranking: 52
Happiness Ranking: 13
Its friendly locals and gorgeous scenery makes Albania an up-and-coming destination for solo travelers. Journey to the Blue Eye spring near Saranda, where you’ll come across some of the bluest and 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 one of the country’s beautiful beaches, or soak in Permet’s Benja Thermal Baths, which are said to have healing properties.
You may also want to consider taking a day trip to Berat — aptly named 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 will quickly see why the city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
No. 15 Vietnam (tie)
Safety Ranking: 60
Happiness Ranking: 5
There are a seemingly endless number of things to do in Vietnam. Hop on a boat that departs from Hạ Long City and cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay, or take a guided tour of the largest cave in the world. Visit Hội An during the full moon, and you’ll be welcomed by the sight of hundreds of lanterns floating down the Thu Bon river during the city’s monthly lantern festival.
In Ho Chi Minh City, you can indulge in street food at Bến Thành, 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 to take a leisurely stroll around Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
No. 17 Germany
Safety Ranking: 17
Happiness Ranking: 49
Germany has several major cities that are accessible to anyone traveling on their own. Hop on a bike in Berlin, and you’ll find an abundance of museums and historical sites, in addition to cafés, nightclubs, and beautiful parks and a forest. You could also visit Munich during Oktoberfest, but if you’d rather avoid the crowds, you can still enjoy the city’s beer gardens any other time of year. And if you head to Frankfurt, you’ll discover an eclectic array of museums, cafés and boutique shops, delicious restaurants, and a botanical garden in the increasingly popular city.
For solo travelers looking to get out of the city, consider planning side trips to see some of Germany’s beloved castles (there are over 20,000). From the Gothic style Liechtenstein Castle to the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, visiting any of one of these magical attractions will have you feeling like you stepped straight into a fairy tale.
No. 18 Japan
Safety Ranking: 9
Happiness Ranking: 58
First stop: Tokyo. Whether you shop in the luxurious Ginza neighborhood, ride to the top of the world’s tallest tower, tour the Sensō-ji Temple, dine on ramen in your own private booth at Ichiran Shibuya, 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. And wherever your travels take you, be sure to visit Japan during the springtime to see the gorgeous cherry blossoms in bloom.