Now more than ever, solo travel is gaining popularity, as the travel industry has seen a steady increase in single travelers in recent years. According to a study by Visa, one in five travelers set out on their most recent vacation alone. Not only do these types of trips enable travelers to meet new people and gain some independence—they're an ideal way to explore these nine exciting destinations in the upcoming year.
With a large backpacker scene, you're sure to make friends at Lake Atitlan. If you're looking for adventure, you'll be able to kayak, scuba dive, hike, take volcano tours, and rock climb, as well as explore Mayan culture at a fire healing ceremony or tree-planting ceremony. There are also numerous yoga retreats in Guatemala, especially in this region, so if relaxing is your thing then Sololá is perfect. Don't miss the all-week market where you can shop for local goods to bring back home, too.
How to Meet People: Use GuideHop to find tours in the region and be matched with a local guide and fellow travelers interested in the same activities. Look here for yoga retreats, and check out the hostel scene if you're looking to meet people during your stay.
Grand Circle, U.S.
Located across five states—Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada—the loop covers some of America's most iconic National Parks: the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, and Arches National Park. 2016 is the perfect year to discover these sites as the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial this year with a handful of free admittance days.
How to Meet People: Use GrandCircle.org to hire tour guides, find group tours, and connect with other travelers along the way. Lodges like Far View Lodge and ferry journeys like Burr Ferry are typically always busy with other travelers and are a great place to meet people.
Iceland's capital is a great base for day trips that showcase postcard-perfect attractions such as the Northern Lights and Blue Lagoon. If you want to rent a car, do the Golden Circle (a modified version of the Iceland Ring Road) which can be done in a day, or find a travel buddy at your hostel to do the trip with.
How to Meet People: Book guided adventure tours to meet others and grab a meal at The Laundromat Café, which is known as a meeting spot for backpackers and solo travelers.
RELATED: Warming Up to Iceland
Australia's 'Second City' is a hub for solo travelers, with its art scene, accessibility, shopping, hidden alleyways, and exceptional food, beer, and coffee— all which make it a fantastic destination. From Melbourne, you can explore the Great Ocean Road on a day trip, take the tram to St. Kilda, or take a day-long ferry to Tasmania.
How to Meet People: Booking a day trip on the Great Ocean Road is a great way to meet people as well as hanging out at any of the alley coffee shops. Locals hang out at Federation Square, which makes for great people watching (or meeting).
RELATED: Best Places to Go in Australia
Ganges River Cruise, India
See all that India's sacred river has to offer aboard G Adventures' Varuna. Experience India outside of its bustling cities with palaces, remote villages, and temples. If you're looking for more exploration, continue on to Bangladesh or explore any of India's bustling cities.
How to Meet People: You'll be on a ship with 23 others, so meeting people will be pretty easy. Take your pick from three different boat tours, varying in length, activities, and offshore excursions.
Great Britain & Ireland
The islands of Britain and Ireland are perfect places for a solo mini-backpacking trip. You won't need much time in each place, but every stop will offer something unique. Start out in Ireland and visit Dublin, Cork, and Shannon, then fly to Glasgow. From Glasgow take the train to Edinburgh, and from there head to England, stopping in Manchester and finally London. From London explore Bath, Brighton, and Oxford before heading back across the pond.
How to Meet People: You'll be in Europe, so meeting people while backpacking is pretty easy. Research hostels you know will be more social and take the time to talk to people on train rides headed to your destination. Day trips to tourist sites will often have other backpackers, too.
California Coast, U.S.
If you're looking for some self-discovery, a road trip is one of the best ways to do it. If you're from the West Coast, this trip can easily be done over a weekend, but you can modify it to take your time and stay more than one night at any of the stops. We love this guide from travel blogger Kiersten of "The Blonde Abroad". Start out in Los Angeles and then travel to San Luis Obispo on the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping in Santa Barbara and "California's Little Denmark," Solvang. From San Luis Obispo travel up to Big Sur, stopping at Hearst Castle along the way. Big Sur has incredible retreats and State Parks, so give yourself plenty of time to explore. Continue on to San Francisco with a stop in Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Santa Cruz.
How to Meet People: Camping along the PCH is a great way to meet people. In Big Sur you'll be able to find a hiking partner if you're social or stay at a retreat. Try Treebones Resort for social glamping.
Greek Islands, Greece
It's no secret the Greek economy isn't doing great, but that shouldn't stop anyone from traveling there alone—just make sure to take a few extra steps before going solo. While Athens has rich history to offer and is a good home base, the islands offer a perfect solo beach escape where you'll be able to meet people and island hop when you get bored. Luckily there are thousands of islands to explore with ferries and flights providing easy access between them. Don't miss picturesque Santorini, famous party spot Mykonos, beach-riddled Zakynthos, historical Ithaca, under-rated Syros, and of course the biggest island, Crete.
How to Meet People: Traveling solo around the Greek Islands can be tricky if you are looking for travel partners, especially if you're island hopping from place to place. Although they can be pricey, a cruise can be your best option. Cunard offers single-occupancy cabins on their Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria ships; both have expeditions in the Greek Isles. P&O also offers a variety of options throughout the Eastern Mediterranean with single cabins available on most ships.
New Zealand can be overwhelming for any traveler, never mind if you're traveling alone, so it's best to start out in Queenstown and go from there. You'll find plenty to do on the hub of the South Island, from adventure activities to day trips throughout the South Island plus phenomenal food and nightlife. If you're feeling up to it, explore the rest of the South Island by car, stopping along the vineyard trail in the Farewell Spit, Milford Sound for a cruise through the Fjordland, and Christchurch. If you're feeling bold, book a heli-hike at Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, too.
And, if you have lots of time, travel up to the North Island to the country's capital, Wellington, then head up to Auckland with stops at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, the famous Rotorua's Te Puia Geothermal Valley, and the hot beach on Coromandel Peninsula. Make sure you see the tropical Bay of Islands just north of Auckland to complete your country-wide tour.
How to Meet People: New Zealand is perhaps one of the most friendly countries in the world, with plenty of hostels where you can meet fellow travelers. You'll be sure to find a travel buddy at Budget Backpacker Hostels, which has a great website to make connections, even for non-backpackers.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The Single Best Piece of Travel Advice Ever
- What You Learn By Traveling Alone
- 10 Safety Tips for Fearless Solo Female Travelers
(Photos: Icebergs in Jokulsarlon via Shutterstock; Thinkstock/iStock)