Although travel is inherently full of adventure, there is nothing quite as exhilarating as flying off to a new country completely solo. Best put by English author Lisa St. Aubin de Terán, “Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.’” You don’t need to adhere to anyone’s schedule but your own—and there is something quite cathartic in getting to make the executive decisions on where to go, what to eat, and how to experience it all. For travelers seeking an independent adventure and some memories all their own, location plays a big role in the overall quality of their trip. Some places seem as if they were designed to be experienced solo, with simple-to-master public transportation and exceptionally friendly locals. Explore these five destinations from Australia to North America that are perfect for an exciting vacation for one.
Byron Bay, Australia
The easternmost point of mainland Australia, Byron is the pinnacle of laid-back Aussie lifestyle. Plan to visit for a weekend and once you discover the gorgeous beaches and relaxed pace of life, you just might end up extending your trip indefinitely—you wouldn’t be the first. With some of the friendliest people in the world and a surplus of natural beauty, Byron Bay is an independent traveler’s dream.Public Transport: Like any small beach-centric town, the best way to get around is by foot or bike. Bikes can be rented by hour, day, or even week from any number of rental shops. If your accommodation is too far of a walk from the town center, there are car and shuttle services available for hire.
Live Local: Perhaps the biggest draw to this coastal town is the surf culture—and the influence it has over the area’s energy. “No shoes, no shirt, no service” couldn’t be further from policy—locals wander in and out of restaurants and shops barefoot, fresh from the beach. Take advantage of the easygoing atmosphere and chat up locals for their recommendations—especially the best-hidden surf spots.
Nightlife: Much like its people, Byron Bay prefers its nightlife to be laid-back. Casual bars and indoor-outdoor lounges are where you’ll find tourists and locals alike during the evening hours. For a quintessential Byron outing, go to Treehouse on Belongil, an eclectic open-air bar and wood-fire pizza shop, for locally brewed Stone & Wood lager and hometown music acts.
Best Solo Brunch: When you need a break from the beach, visit The Farm for a gorgeous, locally sourced brunch and a walk through its acres of lush farmland. It’s located less than ten minutes outside of town, and well worth the trip.
In Santiago, situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, you can go from hiking to snowboarding within hours. It is frequently ranked as one of the safest cities in South America and has an effervescent street culture—perfect for exploring the city by foot.Public Transport: Although Santiago is best experienced wandering the many culturally rich neighborhoods, the city’s expansive metro system, Transantiago, is a clean and effective way of getting around. Download the official app to help you plan your route as well as check bus times.
Cultural Intake: Santiago has its own museum district within Quinta Normal Park. The park itself is great for checking out much of the local plant life and to grab a quick lunch at one of the many amazing food vendors. For a major afternoon museum hop, you can hit the Natural History Museum, Railway Museum, Museum of Science and Technology, along with several others.
Nightlife: You can’t go to Chile and not try its world-renowned pisco—and plenty of it. Explore the city’s many high-design pisco bars like Chipe Libre, which boasts the biggest menu in town and bartenders ready to make suggestions based on your palate.
Best Solo Shopping Experience: For goods by local artisans, visit Centro Artesanal Los Dominicos. Set at the base of the mountains, this is a charming place to spend a carefree afternoon. From wood carvings to alpaca clothing, you’re certain to find meaningful mementos to bring home with you.
Quebec City, Canada
An intersection between France and North America, Quebec City is a unique blend of old and new worlds. The cobblestone streets are lined with remarkable architectural gems, alternating between historical monuments and trendy restaurants and shops.Public Transport: This city is so walkable, you just might miss out on its eccentric street culture if you get around any other way. If you aren’t sure where to start, there are many walking tours available—from restaurant hops to historical strolls.
Live Local: Quebec is the largest French-speaking province in Canada, with 80 percent of the population being native Francophones. You’ll find all signs and many restaurant menus are in both French and English, but do make sure to have some basic French phrases in your repertoire. Even if you haven’t perfected them, locals do appreciate the attempt.
Nightlife: Although Quebec City is peaceful during the day, by night it has a lively social scene. There truly is something for everyone, with plenty of trendy bars and cultural event spaces popping up citywide. For an experience unique to the city itself, go to one of the many boites à chansons—micro-venues that typically feature Quebecois folk singers. For an evening of great local music, try Bar Les Voûtes Napoléon, which is tucked underneath the Restaurant Bonaparte.
Best Solo Exploration: For the slower-paced traveler, nothing could be more enjoyable than getting lost in the Old Town. Founded in 1608, the neighborhood is full of old-world architectural structures mixed with modern museums and restaurants.
An intoxicating mix of waterways, grand Chinese architecture, and lush green tea plantations, Hangzhou has been the inspiration of poets and artists since the ninth century. With modern amenities like citywide Wi-Fi, a thriving nightlife culture, and easy-to-navigate public transportation, this historically rich city is made for solo travelers.Public Transport: As one of the largest tourist destinations in China, navigating Hangzhou is made simple. There are five bus lines designated specifically for tourists, stopping at major monuments and scenic locations. Taxis are really convenient, but avoid being overcharged by looking up standard fares beforehand.
Waterside Activities: The West Lake is a park overflowing with history, outdoor activities, and incredible local cuisine. Spend the day wandering its web of tranquil walkways or take a slow boat ride across the lake. If possible, visit during the week to avoid crowds, and make time to stop at one of the many teahouses.
Cultural Intake: Designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates, the folk art galleries at the China Academy of Arts are an outstretched village of art spaces occupying land that was once used as a tea plantation. The structures are largely made from repurposed roofing tiles from local homes and have slanted floors built to accommodate the rolling hills of the old plantation. This is an architectural experience not to be missed when visiting Hangzhou.
Best Solo Outdoor Afternoon: The city’s most famous temple, the Lingyin Temple, dates from A.D. 326. Walk along its humid, magical riverbanks and spot nearly 470 Buddhist carvings hidden along the hillsides and inside grottoes created between the tenth and 14th centuries.
Cape Town, South Africa
The Mother City is a beachside metropolis, producing a blend of urban energy with laid-back attitude unlike anywhere else. Whether you’re mingling with the penguins at Boulder’s Beach or standing in Table Mountain’s shadow, Cape Town is full of surprises.Public Transport: The easiest and safest way of getting around in Cape Town, day or night, is Uber—which is incredibly cheap compared with fares in U.S. cities. To use the city’s MyCiti or Golden Arrow bus systems or the Metrorail, download the GoMetro app to easily plan out your trip.
Art Scene: As the world’s 2014 Design Capital, it’s no surprise that brilliant art can be found in every corner of the city—from the interiors of trendy restaurants to massive outdoor murals. For a look at contemporary artworks, visit Gallery Momo, which exhibits some of the country’s greatest up-and-coming artists. You can find all of the art events going on by neighborhood at What’s on in Cape Town.
Nightlife: If Long Street is too touristy for your liking, there are now plenty of other options for stylish bars and clubs. Cape Town is in the midst of a nightlife reimagining, with craft-beer gardens and high-design rooftop bars becoming the new norm. Check out Weinhaus & Biergarten on Bree Street for a hip but casual atmosphere complete with an outdoor stage for live music, as well as local beers and amazing food.
Best Solo Outdoor Experience: Among the most incredible botanical gardens in the world are the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Approximately 9,000 of the 22,000 plant species in South Africa are grown here. Walk along the Tree Canopy Walkway, which is an elevated steel-and-timber bridge with amazing views of the arboretum below.