As someone whose life has been transformed through solo travel, I hope that one day we live in a world where every independent traveller can expect to be treated the same, regardless of our gender, sexuality, race or bodily ability. In my years as a travel writer, however, some destinations stand out as particularly hospitable to solo female travellers like myself. It’s a regular topic of discussion in my circle of female fellow explorers, which includes women of colour, female travellers with disabilities and LGBTQI+ travellers. Together we rigorously maintain an ever-evolving list of the gold-starred destinations that shine for being particularly welcoming, safe, progressive and hassle-free.
- IBIZA, SPAINHealth and hedonism have always peacefully co-existed on this particularly beautiful Balearic island, but it’s fair to say that its wellbeing offerings are the big draw these days. In fact, Ibiza’s yoga centres, meditation retreats, organic restaurants and community farms have made it one of the world’s premier wellbeing destinations, on a par with Sedona in Arizona, Tulum in Mexico and Goa in India. For solo female travellers in search of a friendly community of fellow wellness-seekers (or simply sun-seekers, vintage-clothing seekers and cocktail-seekers) the hippy spirit is alive and kicking on la isla bonita, welcoming barefoot bohemians from across the globe. It’s also a surprisingly easy place to navigate by motorbike or rental car, and for solo female travellers with a disability, the island’s robust tourism infrastructure offers a decent variety of adapted hotels and rental accommodation, and almost 30 wheelchair-accessible beaches.VIDEO: A postcard from IbizaTRAVELLER ORIGINALSVIDEO: A postcard from IbizaGETTY IMAGES
- PORTO, PORTUGALPorto’s charms are abundantly clear: the dramatic Douro river, the enticing port lodges, the narrow lanes of the historic centre. But it’s the charisma of the locals that really seduces solo visitors, and makes Porto stand apart from other Mediterranean cities of a similar size and commercial clout. Lone travellers with the right attitude will rapidly feel welcome at any terrace bar, port lodge or open-air food market; a few Portuguese phrases is generally all it takes. The city is small enough to navigate in a two to three-day visit, but many travellers decide to stay for weeks. This is a city best explored on foot, assisted by laid-back locals with the time to be truly hospitable – and the city’s digital nomad scene means that solo female travellers are by no means a rarity.GETTY IMAGES
- LUANG PRABANG, LAOSOne of South-east Asia’s most enchanting cities, this ancient place in the mountainous north of landlocked Laos – the country borders Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and China – is also blessed with a serene atmosphere and is ideal for those who prefer to explore on foot or by bike. The setting for this former royal capital (a title it held until 1975) could hardly be more idyllic – it lies in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Travellers come to visit the grand Buddhist temples, such as 16th-century Wat Xieng Thong, and to take trips into the hills for hiking, swimming in waterfalls and nature-spotting. The town has also built up a robust wellness scene, with a predictable but pleasant roster of yoga centres, juice cafés and meditation retreats, making it a dreamy destination for a solo soul-seeker. But another major draw is its food scene, in which flavoursome Laotian cooking melds with colonial French flair to produce a truly unique cuisine. And because the accommodation on offer spans everything from £10 guesthouse dorms to suites at the Rosewood, Luang Prabang draws every type of traveller, making it easy to find company or seek seclusion, whichever you prefer.GETTY IMAGES
- OSAKA, JAPANJapan might appear daunting to solo travellers who don’t speak the language, but those who take the plunge are typically rewarded with one of the most memorable trips of their lives. Japanese cities are famously futuristic and well-ordered, with English widely spoken in hotels, restaurants, shops and the street. And in Osaka, arguably Japan’s most exciting foodie destination, lone diners can take comfort in the fact they’ll be joining plenty of other solitary office workers – there is zero self-consciousness in turning up alone, whether at a ramen restaurant, a karaoke bar or a Michelin-starred brasserie. In the more rural areas surrounding Osaka, a few Japanese phrases go a long way, but what tourists lose in convenience, we gain in the kindness and consideration with which visitors are treated, in beach towns and onsen villages. Historically Japan has not been the easiest destination for travellers with disabilities, but there is an ongoing effort to rectify this, and accessible-japan.com is a brilliant resource.Things to do in Osaka, Japan
- PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIABack in the 1950s and 1960s, this desert hideaway 100 miles east of LA was the party town of choice for Hollywood stars and Rat Pack royalty such as Frank Sinatra. And in the past two decades, a new generation of bon vivants has rediscovered the city’s fabulously retro architecture, relaxed vibe and the dazzling beauty of the surrounding deserts and mountains. The Palm Springs of today is a wealthy, welcoming and pleasingly progressive Californian town, where well-off retirees mingle happily with the burgeoning LGBTQI+ community, sports obsessives and design and architecture buffs. This is not a cheap destination, but the city’s museums and galleries deservedly draw international lovers of modernism and all things mid-century design. And the abundance of stylish, luxurious boutique hotels with poolside cocktail bars makes Palm Springs a dream destination for a decadent honeymoon-for-one. And much as the town has been gently mocked as a haven for snowbirds and retirees, this makes it particularly hassle-free for travellers with a disability. Non-drivers, too, can take heart: bus links from LA are smooth, and this is a rare Californian city best explored by bike.GETTY IMAGES
- PERTH, AUSTRALIARegularly topping ‘most liveable cities’ polls, the out-of-the-way West Australian capital now offers similar cultural clout to reigning queen Melbourne, but with a friendlier and more relaxed pace of life than Australia’s bigger cities. Perth holds the distinction for being the most remote city of its size on the planet, but geography has bequeathed it an independent, quirky and breezy spirit that solo travellers cherish. Perth seduces with its golden beaches, vibrant street-art scene, world-class restaurants and affordable places to stay designed to offer travellers an immediate ticket to the heart of the city.9 cool shops in Perth, Australia
- BAVARIA, GERMANYThis large German Free State in the south-east of the country is storybook Germany, with ridiculously picturesque medieval walled towns, wildflower-strewn meadows, soaring castles and traditional beer halls to sustain travellers as they drive, cycle or walk through. But charming as the scenery is, Bavaria also has world-class museums in Munich, easily accessible lakes and a surprisingly varied and cutting-edge food scene. And since it’s a region popular with domestic tourists as much as international visitors, there is an easy network of cycle paths, wheelchair-accessible attractions, congestion-free roads and public-transport routes, making this a great destination for an outdoorsy adventure without any of the stresses that often entails. For the solo female traveller, Germany is blessedly hassle-free and safe; most Bavarians would be mortified if any visitor was made to feel unwelcome or self-conscious on their watch.GETTY IMAGES
- DOMINICA, CARIBBEANThis small English-speaking island sits between French-speaking tourism heavy-hitters Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Lesser Antilles. What Dominica lacks in white-sand beaches (a detail that has spared the island the mass development found elsewhere in the Caribbean) it makes up for in traditional charm, independent B&Bs and locally owned luxury lodges and a dazzling list of thrilling adventures in the jungle interior. It’s not dominated by honeymoon-oriented beach resorts like many Caribbean islands, so solo travellers won’t feel out of place, and its web of locally owned guest houses make it easy to meet other people. If you thought the Caribbean was off limits to independent travellers, Dominica is a breath of fresh air.GETTY IMAGES
- WEST CORK, IRELANDFor intrepid, road-tripping solo female travellers, West Cork has some of the most richly rewarding scenery in Europe. Dramatic, rugged coastline is dotted with charming fishing villages and a mixed community where hotshot interior designers and local fishermen all drink at the same pub. Culture is one of Ireland’s main draws, and visitors are often surprised to arrive in a seemingly quiet seaside town to discover an internationally acclaimed film, music or literary festival. The area is not short of fancy holiday homes set along the cliffs, catering to families from Belfast, Dublin or Cork, but solo travellers will do much better staying in the towns themselves, at a historic pub or Airbnb cottage. Road-tripping can be an isolating activity, but in this warm-hearted and welcoming corner of Ireland, lone travellers will soon feel right in the thick of things.ALAMY
- SINGAPORE, SOUTH-EAST ASIAThis island state is a true treat for the culturally curious and culinarily inclined traveller, with meticulous urban planning and a reassuringly robust tourism infrastructure that makes it difficult for travellers to go too far wrong. The fact that English is the main language spoken also makes ordering food from the city’s legendary hawker centres simple and straightforward, as well as making it easy to connect with Singaporeans, renowned for their kindness, generosity and openness – surely the legacy of a (relatively) class-free melting pot of cultural influences. It should also be no surprise that Singapore is the most wheelchair-accessible city in Asia. But don’t be fooled by the futuristic transport system and the much-mocked cleanliness of the streets: Singapore still proudly possesses a rich history and wields serious cultural heft. From the pastel-hued façades of Peranakan shophouses to the grandiose neoclassical civil buildings of colonial times and bold and visionary architectural flourishes such as the lotus-flower-inspired ArtScience Museum, Singapore’s skyline is as eclectic as the nation itself.