There is so much to love about traveling solo. For starters, you’re alone (different from lonely) which means you can do what you want when you want. Rise in darkness to watch the sunrise over the sea, sleep in late and order coffee in your hotel room and engage in life-affirming activities that feed your mind, body, and soul. Some of the best trips I’ve taken in my life – from far-flung locales to the ease and familiarity of a nearby beach house – I’ve taken alone. And because combining wellness with travel is high up on my list of solo sojourns and one of the best ways to truly decompress and rediscover my rhythm, here are five destinations worth traveling solo for.
If ever a fairytale city existed, it is this magical, rising from the Black Forest, a spa town known for centuries as “Europe’s summer capital.” Royals and wealthy aristocrats would spend summers here recharging in the salt-rich thermal waters, most notably the ancient Freidrichsbad and Caracalla. Today, a distinctly younger, globe-trotting set (many of them solo) is walking the tree-lined boulevards of this sybaritic Black Forest town.
Wander through the Frieder Burda Museum, a dazzling collection of German Expressionist and Gerhard Richter masterworks, hike the beautiful forest trails, dine at the spa town’s many outdoor cafes, opt for a Michelin-star restaurant (there are several), shop in the upscale boutiques (amber is big-ticket item here). At night, step into the opulent, James-Bond-like casino, said to be the most beautiful in the world with its jaw-dropping decor: Hello crystal chandeliers, intricate portraits, gilt ceilings, and walls lined with bright red wallpaper and gold accents.
Where To Stay
Brenner’s Park Hotel & Spa is a stunning compound of classical villas (dating back to 1842 ) set within a lush park with gorgeous leafy views. Although it has been centuries since this landmark hotel opened and Old Masters paintings still grace its walls, Brenner’s remains the chic destination of choice, especially among devoted spa-goers. For complete restoration and relax, check into Villa Stephanie, a former royal residence which now houses the hotel’s iconic five-floor spa. After coffee in room (elaborately wheeled in and meticulously poured), head to the spa for a facial, massage, body treatment, sauna or traditional European ‘kur.’ Or book one of the supervised medical programs like weight loss, dentistry, aesthetic medicine, physiotherapy or integrative holistic medicine or nutrition.
To immerse yourself in true Baden Baden wellness, spend a day inside the historic Friedrichsbad bath house. If shy, be sure to book (women’s or men’s only days) as the napkin-sized towel that’s worn is taken away at station five (of the 17-step circuit). Float through a combination of hot-and-cold pools, thermal steam rooms and warm-to-hot air baths. Afterward, a body scrub – given with much authority -prepares for the grand finale: being wrapped womb like in down-soft blankets for a restful 30 minutes.
There’s no question that Portofino, on the Italian Riviera, is romantic. But sojourning solo to this postcard-perfect fishing village by the sea is perhaps the greatest love story of all – to oneself. A playground for the rich and famous since the 19th century, there is still a noteworthy and fun people-watching vibe here but this posh and picturesque town is perfect, too, for solitary endeavors like meandering.
Wander past lemon trees and olive groves into the hills of Monte di Portofino – past a 15th-century chapel and 200-year-old wisteria; take in views of the cliffs of Santa Margherita, azure Ligurian Sea and Portofino’s landmark castle. For a longer walk, go all the way to the lighthouse. Spend time in the tiny harbor ‘downtown,’ lined with colorful homes (population 400 year-round), chic bistros and a handful of yachts. And most definitely, stop for gelato -and often – along the way.
Where To Stay
Belmond Hotel Splendido is one of Italy’s most iconic hotels. Since its earliest days – when Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner arrived with trunks in tow for month-long soirees by the sea, the hotel has been synonymous with the good life. This dreamy faded-red villa, originally a 16th-century monastery, sits majestically overlooking the Mediterranean. Glamorous yet tranquil, the rooms and suites – with clawfoot tubs, cushy duvets, private terraces, and windows that fling open onto fragrant lemon trees and bougainvillea – are the perfect place to rejuvenate. Dip into the stunning pool, overlooking the harbor; take a yoga class or book outdoor spa treatments in the garden.
For the ultimate dining experience, request a table for one on the open-air terrace overlooking the harbor; savor a simple glass of (Italian) wine and fresh-made pasta with garden-grown basil pesto. Retire blissfully to your room, or if still feeling energized, order a nightcap and head to the piano bar, where A-list musicians are often performing.
Sunny practically year-round, Southern California is renowned for its towering palm trees and fiery red-orange-yellow sunsets that dip into the Pacific ocean. There’s much to love about the stunning landscapes, under-the-radar gems, top-notch hotels, and wellness-centric experiences and spas which can all be enjoyed solo.
Eat at trendy vegan restaurants, embrace the yoga studios, go for long beach walks, guided hikes, check out the notable art museums, experience whale-watching adventures and hang with the seals in La Jolla.
Where To Stay
A perennial favorite, we love the Japanese-inspired Golden Door Spa in San Marcos (near San Diego). Guests literally leave their baggage – and outside lives – at the door, along with their clothes. Beautiful kimonos and sandals (nightly dinner attire), along with yoga pants, shorts, T-Shirts, jackets, and a full line of skincare products are provided. Morning hikes are optional, though most join. Otherwise, each guest’s program is completely customized – from spa treatments to mind-body classes to hard-core workouts. While most everyone arrives here as a solo traveler, most depart with lifelong friends. Meals are completely organic, culled from the spa’s own gardens, dinner conversations are stimulating and quite possibly life-changing. Guests return year after year, a few have now surpassed their 100th visit.
Just in case you’re considering taking your significant other to experience Golden Door, take note that even during designated ‘couples weeks,’ couples are given separate casitas. The reason is: Everyone needs their own separate and sacred space.
Long before Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling solo travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Bali was on the map as a utopia for solo travelers. A place to relax, reflect, and recharge, traveling solo is extremely common here. One of the most solo-traveler-friendly places is Ubud, with its emerald rice paddies and mist-wrapped mountains. Countless novels and films have been set here and the ex-pat community – of travelers who arrived but never left – speaks volumes to its magical allure.
Rise early (or not), join a yoga class, take a guided tour of the monkey forest, pop into a vegan or organic cafe for healthy eats and spend afternoons visiting museums and temples overflowing with lotus before drifting off to sleep to soothing gamelan music.
Where to Stay
COMO Shambhala Estate is an ultra-lush jungle estate, located near Ubud, where villa-style accommodations are created with local woods and stone and scattered among sunny clearings carved from the river bank. Coining itself a ‘retreat for change,’ you’ll have access to experts like zen masters, energy healers, life coaches, and nutritionists. Among its devoted fans: fashion designer Donna Karan and musician Annie Lennox. Check in to one of the dreamy suites with its beds canopied in billowy white fabric and beautiful Balinese furniture and artwork. Then explore the grounds – bike through neighboring rice paddies, partake in yoga classes (offered throughout the day), master the art of deep-breathing, and then check into the exotic spa for signature healing treatments like acupuncture, cupping, Indonesian massage, and Javanese Royal Lulur Bath.
Holy water -via an ancient spring in the resort’s gardens – runs through here. And guests, dressed in traditional Balinese attire, can cleanse mind, body, and soul in a private anointing/chanting ceremony.
Small and intimate – and considered one of the safest and most fascinating countries in the world – Iceland is the ideal destination for solo travelers. With its breathtaking natural wonders and adventures – black sand beaches, epic fjords, active volcanoes, northern lights, Icelandic horse trekking, and of course, the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater – it’s no wonder this tiny country packs a big punch and makes its way onto travelers’ bucket list.
Where To Stay
The Retreat at Blue Lagoon. No trip to Iceland is complete without a dip into the country’s famous mineral-rich, geothermal pools. This 62-room retreat evokes Nordic sleek design with floor-to-ceiling windows, oversized tubs, and minimalistic simplicity while offering the perfect view of the breathtaking lagoon (yes, the water really is the bluest of blues) and surrounding lava fields. From your room, step into The Retreat Lagoon, separate from the popular blue lagoon to soulfully enjoy the quiet and healing waters.
July and August are great months to visit Iceland for the warmer weather and midnight sun. But if the northern lights are on your must-see list, opt for February-March or September-October for best viewing.