Carolyn Gregoire is a features editor at the Huffington Post. She has spoken at TEDx and the Harvard Public Health Forum, and appeared on MSNBC, The TODAY Show, The History Channel and HuffPost Live. She is the author of a forthcoming book on the science of creativity, with Scott Barry Kaufman, to be published by Penguin Books in Fall 2015. This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.
Traveling alone can be an incredibly liberating and exciting experience — and it can also do a lot to lower your stress levels. But of course, not all solo travel destinations are created equal: If you’re looking for a relaxing trip, make sure to choose a destination that’s known to be safe for travelers, friendly, and filled with tranquil natural landscapes to explore on your own.
From tourist-friendly rural Ireland to the serene islands of Vietnam, solo vacations can be an excellent way to explore a new culture, enjoy some time to yourself, and experience some of the world’s most vibrant cities and stunning scenery. If you’re planning your next stress-relieving getaway, click through the slideshow below for 10 of the most relaxing destinations for solo travel.
With some of the highest national rankings for happiness and safety in the world, Costa Rica is the perfect setting for a peaceful getaway that combines adventure travel and relaxation. Enjoy surfing, kayaking, horseback riding and hiking through rain forests and tranquil beaches, and take a load off at one of the many small eco-resorts, like Lapa Rios Ecolodge & Wildlife Preserve.
Safe, affordable and full of opportunities for outdoor exploration, Malaysia is a top solo travel destination in Asia. Hike or backpack through the countryside and enjoy some peace and quiet at one of Borneo’s restful coastal resorts. Be sure to make a stop in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur to enjoy the local culture and cuisine. The country is known to be safe for solo female travelers, but TripAdvisor recommends that women avoid wearing skimpy clothing while sightseeing during the day, and steer clear of flashy jewelry or accessories that might attract pick-pockets.
Although Stockholm is definitely on the pricier side, the Swedish capital is one of the best cities in Europe for solo travelers. The culturally vibrant and historically rich city is safe, clean, easy to navigate, and full of attractions that don’t require a companion to be enjoyed. Make your way up City Hall Tower to enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the gorgeous city, soak up some medeival history at Gamla Stan (the old town), and hop on one of the many boat tours that take visitors around the city by water.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Like Stockholm, safe and friendly Amsterdam is an ideal city for solo exploration — and for making new friends. Tour the city by bike, see some of the world’s greatest works of art at the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, and do a little bar-hopping to meet the locals and try some Dutch beers. The city offers a number of attractions to keep travelers busy, as well as quiet coffee shops for unwinding and people-watching.
With no language barrier and plenty of friendly locals, Sydney is a welcoming destination for young gap-year travelers and single voyagers. Enjoy the restaurants, bars, and museums of the city, and head up the coast for some relaxing hiking and beach time. The city is safe for women traveling alone, and with lots of backpackers, there’s almost guaranteed to always be someone there to share a drink and some travel tips.
Explore miles of rolling green hills, dramatic coastal cliffs, and mingle with the friendly locals and enjoy a lively pub culture while touring through Dublin and the Irish countryside. Travelers can take it easy while hopping from one pub and bed & breakfast to another, or rent a car and enjoy a tranquil coastal drive. The country’s rich history and rural charm — and of course, beautiful historic castles and churches — will put you in a relaxed frame of mind.
The quaint island country of Iceland is peaceful and full of dramatic landscapes, and it’s both easy and enjoyable to explore on your own. The Icelandic people are friendly, the countryside is beautiful, and the capital city of Reykjavik is full of culture, good food and art — make sure to stop at the National Museum of Iceland and Hallgrimur’s Church. Travelers also can’t miss the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, located in a lava field on the southwestern corner of the island, to bathe in naturally heated, mineral-rich waters that are thought to have healing properties.
If you’re looking to really get away, experience a new culture, and tour through some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the world, plan a trip trekking across New Zealand. The best way to explore the land of “Lord of the Rings” is to hike your way through the countryside, starting or ending your trip in Auckland. Make friends with the hospitable Kiwis, experience the local wildlife, and be sure to take lots of photos of the breathtaking scenery. Once you’ve had some time to relax in the great outdoors, make sure to take advantage of local adventure activities like rafting and sorbing.
Belize has come into vogue as of late as a hot Central American travel destination, and it lives up to the hype: The coastal country, nestled between Mexico and Guatemala, has much to offer solo travelers in particular. Explore ancient Mayan ruins, enjoy some of the world’s best scuba-diving and snorkeling, and lounge on the stunning beaches at Queen Cays. The country is safe for both male and female travelers in nearly all areas, and although English is the official language, tourists would do well to brush up on their Spanish before they go.
Like Malaysia, Vietnam is safe, affordable and stunningly beautiful. Backpackers and single tourists can hike through miles of forests, rivers and beaches. The native people are known to be welcoming to travelers, and the activities options are nearly endless, from boat tours to the ancient ruins at Hoi An to exploring fishing villages and hundreds of beaches with warm, crystal-clear water. Venture through the budget-travel destination of Hanoi, the country’s capital, for excellent cheap eats and inexpensive shopping and lodging.
What are some of the most relaxing destinations you’ve traveled to alone? Share your thoughts below!