No mere trend: Solo female travel is here to stay. Women around the world are getting out of their comfort zones to discover the challenges and rewards of planning and executing a trip all on their own. Solo travel encourages confidence, allows you the freedom to do exactly what you want on a trip without having to compromise, grants total immersion in a different environment and culture, and gives you the chance to connect with locals and other travelers.
Whether you’re looking to make new friends while on the road, spend all your time hiking through remote national parks, or eat your way through every restaurant and food stand in a new city, there are tons of options to choose from when it comes to selecting a solo travel destination that will fit your personality and trip goals. These offerings range from captivating landscapes to ancient cities to vibrant food scenes. So no matter what type of adventure you’re out to have, we’ve got you covered: These are the best solo female travel destinations for 2020.
1. For first-timers: Iceland
Some may say Iceland’s reign as the must-visit destination for solitude-loving adventurers and photographers is coming to an end with the demise of its low-cost airfare options. Well, if interest in Iceland is waning, that’s good news for solo travelers as there will be fewer crowds to contend with, and you’ll get all those amazing landscapes to yourself.
Solo travelers will find a great base camp in the capital city of Reykjavik, which, thanks to the boom, has blossomed into a truly cosmopolitan city full of both local and international dining options, diverse shopping, cultural diversions like museums and tours, and more. It’s also extremely walkable and easy to navigate solo.
From Reykjavik, it’s easy to branch out and explore nearby attractions like the Blue Lagoon and Black Sand Beach; in fact, many of southern Iceland’s most popular sites are within driving distance of the city. You can either choose to rent a car and explore on your own or take a group tour if you’d like to meet new people, especially during the high season months of June to August. But 2020 promises to be an especially good year for solo travel in Iceland because, in an effort to reduce crowds at overrun sites on the southern half of the island, Iceland’s tourism board has been improving infrastructure to promote more off-the-beaten destinations further afield like the Westfjords or the northern reaches of the country.
Furthermore, there’s no language barrier, with 99 percent of Icelanders speaking fluent English, and their friendly, open cultural attitudes make it easy to ask locals for help or advice. Plus, your tourism dollars will be supporting a country that ranks first in gender equality, having had female presidents, taken on the gender pay gap, and possessing a culture that is supportive of strong women — you won’t even get cat-called here.
The sole caveat would be to always be careful when venturing out into the landscapes alone; Iceland’s nature is beautiful but can be deadly due to extreme weather, so if you are off exploring on your own, check the weather, bring the right gear, and make sure someone knows where you’re going.
2. For the trailblazers: Saudi Arabia
For years, Saudi Arabia remained largely closed off from the outside world, accessible mainly to those undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. But the kingdom is opening up to visitors, with the release late last year of a new tourist visa for 49 different countries, as well as relaxed dress rules for foreign women such as not requiring the use of an abaya (the traditional long, black dress that covers Saudi women’s body and hair). With traditional Arab hospitality fostering a culture of safety and respect, increased access for both foreign and Saudi women to travel at leisure, and the fact that some tour companies now hire female guides, Saudi Arabia is clearly taking steps to prove it’s a modern country for modern women, especially solo travelers.
As with many Middle Eastern destinations, Saudi Arabia’s past sits juxtaposed with its present, with ancient archeological sites a short drive from innovative, 21st-century hubs of technology and commerce. The capital of Ridyah is chock-full of historic buildings, like the Al Murabba Palace, but also modern skyscrapers, cutting-edge museums, and luxe shopping and dining, all accessed via the favored mode of transport: Uber.
The country is home to five different UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the spectacular Mada’in Saleh, a stone-carved palace made by the same empire that built Petra. You can pound the pavement in cities to visit classic markets, fortresses, and cafes (coffee culture is huge here) or head out into the desert on trekking expeditions to the Edge of the World, a prominent rock pinnacle overlooking the desert. Go to electronic music festivals, dive or swim in the warm waters of the Red Sea, stroll along the stylish Jeddah waterfront, view the spectacular architecture in Medina… really, the list goes on and on.
There is still some gender segregation that female visitors will have to deal with (like male-only pools or stores), and dressing modestly is encouraged,