One of the most welcoming trends of the 21st Century has been the rise of solo travel.
For years, it was mainly the preserve of gap-year students, taking a break from "the real world" before or after university. But today's solo travellers are a more diverse - and mature and discerning - crowd, with more time and money on their hands, a yearning for a big adventure or a bucket list to tick off, and there's been a huge increase in the number of senior independent females hitting the road with their wheeled suitcases.
The options for solo travel are endless - from trekking holidays and spa and wellness retreats to city breaks and scenic rail trips - it can be wonderfully invigorating and empowering to go it alone. Catering to the boom in solo travel, many companies offer holidays that attract other, like-minded lone travellers, offering flexible itineraries that let you pick and choose activities based on your own tastes and interests.
Small-group cultural tours
If you love the idea of roaming the colourful, atmospheric souks of Morocco, or admiring the bejewelled palaces of India’s Golden Triangle, but are mindful of language or cultural differences, check out Intrepid Travel. It’s the world’s largest small-group adventure travel company and over half of those on its trips are travelling solo. Some of their newest tours are exclusively geared towards solo travellers, including their Morocco and India options. You can reduce the cost of your tour by sharing a room with someone of the same sex, or pay a modest extra fee for your own room.
It’s a similar story with Collette, another tour operator accustomed to solo travellers. Collette’s Explorations tours, which cover destinations as varied as Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Italy and Iceland, offer immersive smallgroup touring, with an average of about 18 guests per group, helping to generate a friendly, tight-knit atmosphere.
If you prefer to travel independently, book some guided day tours as part of your trip. Local experts offer great cultural insights and you may meet other solo travellers who you could enjoy drinks or dinner with post-tour.
Whether it’s riding camels or 4x4s in the sandy Arabian deserts or sea kayaking past icebergs and penguins in Antarctica, there are so many possible pulse-raising adventures for solo travellers. Sydney-based Adventure World arranges walking, trekking and cycling trips across the globe, for all fitness levels, with tailor-made single supplements on select 2018 and 2019 sailings – there are ample opportunities to mingle with fellow passengers. This could be at the bar, at fitness or yoga classes, or on the myriad shore excursions.
Peregrine Adventures also welcomes solo travellers on its camaraderie-building trips, and with an average of just 10 people touring in a group, you’ll quickly get to know one another. They also offer independent experiences – short mini tours – that can be combined to create a unique holiday designed just for you. Peregrine tours cover every continent, with South America one speciality.
River cruises are another enticing option for solo travellers. They’re basically floating hotels promising spellbinding water views, tantalising wining and dining, and the chance to visit a variety of places one after the other that wouldotherwise be practically difficult – or expensive – to venture off to on your own. Many river cruise specialists, including Viking Cruises, offer sale rates for solo travellers and designated single staterooms.
While the Amazon, the Nile and the Mekong may seduce, Europe is the king of river cruising. Viking’s luxury all-inclusive vessels drift along major waterways like the Rhine, Seine, Rhone, Moselle and Douro, as well as the Volga in Russia, and the Danube, which flows through 10 countries at the heart of the continent. Most European river ports lend themselves to solo exploration, so you can hop off the boat and spend leisurely days savouring the historic coffeehouses of Vienna, bathing in the opulent geothermal spas of Budapest or photographing the landmarks of Moscow’s Red Square.
There are few better feelings than flinging open the curtains of your cruise ship balcony suite in the morning. If you’re in the South Pacific or the Caribbean, you’re greeted with sparkling turquoise seas and islands flush with coconut trees and idyllic coves. Cruise the Mediterranean or the Baltic and chances are you’ll wake up to the sound of church bells tolling from a richly-picturesque city cobbled together over the centuries.
It’s surprisingly easy to keep yourself to yourself, and enjoy the peace and quiet, on an ocean cruise, even on epic vessels like Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, which carries almost 7,000 passengers, but has numerous, cosy areas where you can chill out alone. But equally – and especially on the smaller, boutique cruise ships of Silversea, which have new, low single supplements on select 2018 and 2019 sailings – there are ample opportunities to mingle with fellow passengers. This could be at the bar, at fitness or yoga classes, or on the myriad shore excursions.