Choosing a destination to go on a solo trip can be the most daunting of the entire process. You’re so excited to go everywhere that choosing a few places becomes a seemingly impossible task. Below are a list of 10 destinations that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend anyone to go. These are all places I’ve been so speaking from experience, these are the places I’d say left the most memorable mark.
- Australia (I cheated here)
- Hong Kong
- Easter Island
- Bagan, Myanmar
- Petra, Jordan
- Arequipa, Peru
- Fes, Morocco
- Hallstatt, Austria
- Osaka, Japan
Starting the list is Osaka, Japan. For full disclosure, I’m originally from Osaka and I still have extended family who live there. That said, I haven’t been back in years and it’s certainly a place I need to revisit. But as a kid, I used to go every year and to me, it’s the best city to visit in Japan.
Unlike the capital and more popular city to the north, Osaka is where you’ll want to to go if you enjoy eating street food. Tokyo may be the city you’ll want to visit if you’re into shopping. But in Osaka, you’ll be spending your money on food. And there’s a lot of it.
The best time to go weather wise is during the spring or fall when it isn’t too humid. But I used to go every year during the summer and loved it. Sure, it’s hot and humid but any stop inside a shop or restaurant will cool you down pretty quickly. Also, the summer is when all the festivals (called matsuri) take place. The Tenjin Matsuri held every summer in Osaka is not to be missed as the city is in full festival mode.
Getting around is simple but can be confusing. The city is well connected by train, metro, and bus lines but the sheer number of lines to choose from can be a bit daunting. Luckily, Google Maps has taken a lot of the guesswork out. You can get one day Osaka passes as well as purchase tickets for single use. Subway stations will have ticket kiosks that will English directions and signs are also typically written in Japanese and English. If you’d like to take a taxi instead, taxis are plentiful and meters are clearly marked. The drivers probably won’t speak English though so it’s better to have your destination written or on your phone to show the driver.
Japan in general is fantastic for solo travelers because of its overall safety. Low crime makes walking the streets at all hours incredibly safe. As a child (as early as 7 or 8 if not earlier) I walked through the streets of Osaka by myself for hours on end with nothing more than a little money to buy food when hungry. There was no concern for my safety because it just doesn’t happen. I’ve heard so many stories from people who lost their wallet, only to have it turn up the next day with nothing missing. Tokyo may have the glitz and the glamour but Osaka is the kitchen of Japan and just a fantastic place to visit.
This tiny town in Austria is stunningly beautiful. Channel your inner Julie Andrews and the von Trapp family. It seriously belongs on a postcard and getting there is about as picturesque as any train ride.
Hallstatt is located about a 2.5 hour train ride from Salzberg. Although the train takes a bit of time to get there, I certainly didn’t mind it as the scenery is stunning.
When you get to Hallstatt station, you’ll need to take small ferry across the lake to get into town. The ferry is about 5 minutes and offers fantastic views of this town. I honestly can’t tell you how picture perfect the scene is. The ferry is timed so that it arrives to pick up and drop off passengers with the arrival of the train. When you’re ready to leave Hallstatt, you’ll take the ferry back across to the station and buy a ticket at the kiosk there. There isn’t a ticket booth that’s staffed by anyone since there really isn’t any need for that.
The town itself is small and you can easily walk from one end to the other in a couple hours. But the fun of Hallstatt is wandering through the hillside neighborhoods that surround the water. There are also some fantastic hikes to see waterfalls and rivers.
I went during the winter so there was basically no one there. This is a tourist stop so during the day, all the tour busses will come into town around 9am crowd the streets. Honestly, the town isn’t as fun to walk around since there are a lot of people walking in a very small space. However, once the busses leave, the town is at its usual pace. The locals come out to eat the small kebab shop next to the dock, kids walk home from school, and the streets are so quiet you remember why you came in the first place.
In terms of public transportation, it’s pretty simple because there isn’t any. The whole town is pretty much pedestrian only and I don’t remember if I saw any cars there at all. Luckily, you can’t really get lost because the town is right along the lake. So if you need to get back to your hotel, if you’re walking uphill, you’re walking away from town. That said, you’ll definitely need a flashlight if walking around at night since there are no street lights either.
There isn’t much to do here and it certainly isn’t a place where you’ll find an amazing night scene. But I would certainly recommend staying for a night or two, if only to recharge the batteries as you move on to your next destination. For such a small town, it left a sizeable impression on me and I would love to go back.
Sure, Marrakech gets all the publicity in Morocco. It’s famous, easy to get to, and the place everyone goes to see Morocco. But to get a more authentic taste of Morocco that is far less touristy, go north to Fes.
Tourists are here but not nearly in the large numbers as you’ll find in Marrakech. Because Fes is a slightly more difficult to reach, not as many tourists decide to go.
A four hour train ride from Casablanca, Fes is everything you hoped Marrakesh would be. The real Morocco. Arriving at the train station, you’ll have to decide if you want to stay within the old town or outside the city walls. Either way, cabs are cheap and plentiful in Fes and getting to/from the old town is simple if you decide to stay outside the city walls.
Once you’re within the city walls, it’s mainly a pedestrian only city with the occasional motorcycle or donkey coming through. Really, the only way to visit the city is to embrace the fact that you’re going to get lost. You can try to rely on Google Maps but the never ending maze of the city will eventually overwhelm you. This is fine. You just have to ask around to find your way to the nearest exit from the city walls and you’ll be able to get a taxi.
Food in Fes is unlike anything I’ve had before. From eating khlii to a traditional meal cooked in a tagine to fried whole fish, the food in Fes is authentic without the touristy atmosphere you’d see in the main square of Marrakech. The hospitality is also genuine as the people want to show you their best without giving you a hard sales pitch. They’re eager to share but that certainly shouldn’t be mistaken as a sales tactic.
If you are shopping in Fes, you can try your hand at haggling but you can have a little more confidence in knowing that they aren’t there to sell you junk. They take pride in their work regardless if it’s spices, tiles, rugs, or leather.
Communicating might be difficult since not everyone speaks English. But you’ll certainly meet enough people who do and they’ll be happy to help. I didn’t meet anyone who wasn’t helpful and friendly and that makes for a great destination in my book.
This relatively unknown town in southern Peru is certainly overshadowed by its more popular sisters Lima and Cusco. Although both cities have good and bad points, I can honestly say Arequipa left the biggest impact on me as a traveler.
Although Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru, it is only served by a small handful of airlines and the airport is tiny, to say the least. If not flying, you can take a bus into the city a well. Once in the city, you can do much of the exploring in the city by foot. If you want to go outside of the city, you’ll have to take a tour bus. However, what really made me fall in love with this city was the food and the people.
The city itself has a very young, college vibe. Despite the city center being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the energy at night especially on a Friday or Saturday night is contagious. Walking around town, you can’t help but feel the youthful energy as young students let loose for the weekend.
Food in Arequipa is also different from what you’d find in Lima and the people of Arequipa take great pride in their local cuisine. They’re also not shy about telling you how much better they think their food is due to the local ingredients and visiting the local market is a showcase of their food. I was never a big fan of tamales (and still not for the most part to be honest) but I would gladly go back to Arequipa just to eat some tamales at the food stall in the market.
For accommodations, hotels and hostels are plentiful in Arequipa and can meet any budget type. The biggest difficulty might be getting to Arequipa but once you’re there, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
This isn’t an obvious choice of a solo destination but having been there, it’s certainly worth the trip. Walking around town, it’s hard not to fall in love.
Singapore is a city that seems to surprise me every time I visit. It’s very well connected internationally with flights, a simple to use metro system, a world class food scene, and is incredibly safe for tourists.
Flights to Changi Airport are plentiful and connect the world to this small nation. The airport is an attraction in itself with things like a butterfly garden and movie theater. There is little reason to wonder why Changi is continuously rated as the best airport in the world.
Getting from the airport to the city is simple because it’s connected to the metro. But you could also easily take a taxi as well. The city is well connected via the metro and navigating the metro is simple and straightforward.
Singapore is known for being an expensive city and food might take a large bite out of your budget. But the locals know to eat a hawker stands instead of the pricey restaurants located throughout the city. Hawker stands are food stalls that are semi hidden but if you follow a group of locals during lunch hour around the city, they’ll definitely lead you to a nearby hawker center. These hawker centers serve all types of foods at affordable prices. If it’s any indication, hawker stands have even been awarded Michelin Stars with one having the distinction of being the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world. Yes, these hawker stands serve amazing food.
Safety is also of little concern in Singapore because there is a very large “big brother” presence there. Everywhere you look, you’ll see security cameras watching your every move. On top of that, the punishment for crimes is often severe to the point that some might argue that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. However as tourists, we have to respect the laws regardless of whether we agree with them. Remember millions willingly live and work in Singapore and view the punishment to crime a relatively small price to pay for the their safety.
With the city so easily accessible via international flights, getting here shouldn’t be a problem. Also, Singapore is a very safe city and the food is world class. There’s a reason I look for any reason to transit through Singapore whenever possible to give myself a few hours to go into the city and eat some great food.
Petra is easily one of the most incredible places to visit. As another bucket list destination, it’s easy to see why so many flock to this site every year. Although getting around Jordan might be a little daunting for some, the intrepid solo traveler can easily do this on his/her own without the crutch of a tour company.
Getting to Jordan is simple enough but you’ll need to make sure you have your visa. By getting the Jordan pass before arrival, you’ll not only save a lot of time but also save a lot of money while you’re here. To give yourself the ultimate freedom, you’ll need to rent a car but driving in Jordan is simple enough and once outside Amman, it’s a very easy process.
Petra is the obvious main attraction for Jordan and for good reason. Getting there early is key if you want to explore unbothered. The site is massive and you’ll ideally want to spend a couple days there but if not, a hike up to the monastery is a must. By having a car, you’ll be able to beat all the tour buses.
There are hostels and hotels in the Wadi Mousa region (the area around Petra) but not all are close to the entrance gate of Petra. Around town, there are countless places to eat but just like any restaurant, the best endorsement comes from the locals so walking around and looking for a busy restaurant is the easiest way to go.
Just listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019, Bagan is otherworldly when it comes to the number of temples. Getting here is simple enough since Myanmar has the “tourist triangle” of Yangon, Bagan, and Inle Lake. Flights operate regularly among these three sites and are fairly regular.
Bagan is about an hour flight from Yangon and once you arrive at the airport, you’ll need to either get a taxi or have your hotel shuttle come pick you up. There aren’t that many vehicles since most use a motorcycle to get around. Once you’re in Bagan, the hospitality of the locals will amaze you.
Accommodations are plentiful and hostels and hotels are easily available. But you can really get a great deal on a fantastic hotel if you travel during the wet season. I found the hotel staff to be fantastic and really went out of their way to make me feel welcome. Although they didn’t all speak English, they certainly tried and their ability to speak any English was certainly miles beyond my ability (or inability) to speak Burmese.
Getting around, there’s really only one option. The e bike. This is an electric moped that you can rent for about $10 a day. Sure, you can take a tour bus to the major sites but the real fun is in exploring the temples on your own. Trying to find the few temples that still have the staircase to the top open is really part of the fun.
Bagan is certainly tourism oriented and the people there try incredibly hard to make you feel welcome. Their hospitality is genuine and it really comes through. If you need directions, locals (who many not understand a word you’re saying) will go out of their way to help you. As far as choosing a destination for a trip, the people often make the biggest impression and the people really left an indelible mark on me.
Easter Island, Chile
This small island off the coast of Chile (which is a good 5.5 hour flight from Santiago) is amazing to visit and probably a bucket list destination for many. However, it’s also a great place to visit as a solo traveler because the setting is so serene.
A trip to Easter Island is not cheap basically because you don’t have many different options from which to choose. LAN airlines has a monopoly on the flight from Santiago to Easter Island so flights aren’t cheap. Once there, hotels are also pretty limited and the price you pay doesn’t reflect the quality. Finally, remember that everything has to be flown in so things in general are going to cost more.
Even with the higher than normal prices, Easter Island is an amazing place to visit. Of course the Moai statues are incredible and the tourism bureau does a good job making it very easy for tourists to navigate around and see all the sites. However, there are also sites that you can only get to by hiking.
In terms of public transportation, there isn’t any. There are a limited number of taxis you can get but for the most part, you’re better off driving yourself. Luckily, the island has one main road that goes around the island and another road that bisects the island. Basically it’s impossible to get lost. Getting a rental car is pretty easy and although the rental companies will also rent bicycles, you’d have to be in great shape to bike around the whole island and see everything.
What makes Easter Island so fantastic to visit is that because there is only a limited number of flights and people capable of visiting, a lot of the sites were completely secluded when I was there. In many cases I was the only one at the site and was able to walk around freely without seeing another person. There is something fitting about being the only person at such a historic and awe inspiring site.
If I had to choose my favorite city in Asia, I would have a difficult time choosing a city other than Hong Kong. This city has everything for a solo traveler. Wide variety of places to stay? Check. Numerous flights to the city? Check. Fantastic public transport? Check. Amazing food? Check.
With Hong Kong International being an international destination as well as the hub for Cathay Pacific, the city is very well connected with the world. Every airline in the world has flights to Hong Kong since it’s a financial center so getting there is easy. Once there, the city does everything it can to make it as easy as possible to navigate the city for tourists. Also, being a former British territory, many of the residents speak English and the signs are written in Chinese and English.
Public transport is simple since all the stops are again written in English and Chinese. The metro system connects many parts of the city and if in doubt, a taxi is never far away. Also, the single must do whenever I visit the city is to take the Star ferry across the harbor. For the cost of a quarter, you can cross the harbor and at night, there is no better view of that skyline.
For food, Hong Kong is a foodie’s paradise. Everything from dim sum to noodles to gourmet burgers is here. And it’s all affordable. Street food is fantastic but the city’s real culinary treasures are found in small restaurants that serve one type of food that they’ve been serving for years. You’re packed in next to strangers, the ambience is nonexistent, and the setting is loud. But you’ll know you’ve stumbled across a gem when you see the line of people waiting to eat lunch and there isn’t a tourist in sight.
In terms of accommodations, there is something for everyone’s budget. You can stay in a hostel, small Airbnb, or even a luxury hotel. The city has everything you can want from food to shopping to nightlife that it isn’t possible to leave the city disappointed.
So yes, this isn’t a city but Australia has a special place in my heart because it was the first place I solo traveled internationally. I had such a wonderful time that I still have very fond memories of my trip.
Getting to Sydney is easy as it’s a major destination for airlines across the globe. It’s connected to the city via the metro and you can get from the airport to the harbor in 30 mins. The city is well connected via the metro and ferries. One of the best things to do is to take the ferry from Manly back to the city at night to see the Sydney Opera House all lit up.
Now, a three hour flight north from Sydney is Cairns. This is a great place to be if you want to go visit the Great Barrier Reef. At the time, Cairns was a massive backpacker’s paradise with countless hostel options but few hotels. I’m sure that’s changed today but this was about as close to a backpacker town as I’ve seen.
From Cairns, you’ll have your pick of companies to go snorkel or dive the reef. You’ll also be able to choose the length of trip you want to take. Aside from the reef, you can visit the rain forest and take one of the best coolest train rides down from the top. You can also visit the local zoo and pet a koala and feed kangaroos. There is certainly enough to fill an entire scrapbook of memories.
Obviously there is no language barrier here which makes getting around very simple. On top of that, there was a warmth to the people that was welcoming and hospitable. Everyone I met was really nice and obviously the accent was a dead giveaway to the fact that I wasn’t a local.
So, there you have it. 10 not-so-ordinary destinations for your first solo trip. I think as solo travelers, we’re a bit more hearty when it comes to travel destinations. The unique, off the beaten path destination is more attractive than the normal run of the mill destinations. Ultimately, the choice is yours to make and I certainly can’t recommend destinations I haven’t been to. But as I look back to all the countries and countless cities I’ve visited, these are certainly at the top of my list.