Sometimes flying solo is way more preferable than a group affair — there’s no compromising on where to go, how long to stay, or when (or what) to eat. Next time you feel like putting those vacation days to work – or doing a little soul searching – bust out that carry-on and consider going stag to one of these 8 destinations. By Chelsea Stuart
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Argentine capital has something for everyone; it’s both laid-back and fast-paced, colonial and contemporary, with easily walkable neighborhoods perfect for exploring solo. On the banks of the Río Riachuelo, colorful La Boca is full of artist studios (avoid touristy Caminito, but if you venture into side streets, it’s best to go during the day); Barrio Norte attracts bookworms with the El Ateneo theatre-turned-bookstore; San Telmo is where you to go practice your tango moves (brush up your skills with a lesson at La Viruta before hitting the floor at El Viejo Almacén, one of the most popular clubs); bohemian-chic Palermo Viejo draws a young crowd for its one-off shops, boutique hotels and funky bars. The elegant Recoleta is the city’s cultural center, known for its eponymous cemetery where ornate stone, marble and glass crypts – plotted out like city streets – mark the final resting places of Argentina’s rich and famous.
San Francisco, California
Suffice it to say, there is more to do in SF than recreate the Full House opening credits in front of the iconic Painted Ladies (but please still do it and take a video). Bypass the bustling masses at the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz (unless you’ve never been) and head to the Treasure Island Flea Market for up-cycled antiques and views of the bay, or to the vintage boutiques of the Haight-Ashbury district, once home to music greats like Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead. Come dinner time, don’t rule out a sit-down affair. We know it can be awkward to eat out alone, so why not join a supper club for gourmet eats and good conversation, held at a top secret location – maybe a pop-up kitchen in the Mission? Or at a…shooting range? Our favorites: Stag Dining’s Clandestine Dinner Series and Lazy Bear (be sure to sign up for their mailing lists in order to receive an invite).
Monteverde, Costa Rica
With relatively short trails (about a mile each) the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, in Costa Rica’s northwest, is an ideal hiking spot for adventurous solo travelers. Plan your own route, set your own pace, and stop to take as many pictures of orchids, hummingbirds, tree frogs, tapirs – and maybe even jaguars – as you like (or as your SD card can handle). You can learn more about Costa Rica’s biodiversity at the Monteverde Butterfly Garden or sign up for a coffee tour to see first hand where your favorite Arabica beans are harvested. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge is the area’s best place to stay, with cozy, rustic cabins surrounded by tropical rainforest. JS Tip: Don’t miss the hotel’s zip lining canopy tour.
With its winding bike lanes and walking paths, Stockholm is one of the most accessible cities in Europe. Go in spring or summer when locals come out of winter hibernation and fill the sidewalk bistros and sunny parks. The best way to get to know the city is with a three-day city bike rental (only $20). Among your must-dos: a visit to ABBA the Museum, a day trip to the Baroque Skokloster Castle, dinner at Bar Nombre (where the menu reflects Spanish takes on Swedish classics), and a tour of the city’s slick design shops. Leave time for a stroll through the cobbled streets of Old Town, which are lined with galleries, small shops and quaint cafes. When hunger strikes, local favorite Caffellini is the perfect spot for a fika – or coffee and pastry break, that is.
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There are some things a first timer in Dublin must do (drinking and reading being two of them). After you’ve gotten your certificate at the Guinness Storehouse for pouring the perfect pint (and bid farewell to your new friends/fellow barmaids), combine your love of literature and liquor on a literary pub crawl – Irish luminaries include James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. When you’ve had your fill, check out the shops on Grafton Street before hopping the DART to Bray. The sleepy seaside town is home to the Bray Head Cliff Walk – a rolling four-ish mile coastal hike to the town of Greystones. Or, if you’re down for something a little more offbeat (we always are), it’s worth swinging by the National Leprechaun Museum nearby. Those hunting the perfect fish and chips should look no further than Leo Burdock. Open since 1913, right near the Christ Church Cathedral, the chip shop’s 100+ year presence and perpetual line are testaments to its fare (and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s all deep fried).
Thailand isn’t known as the land of smiles for nothing; solo travelers will find friendly faces at every turn and the more than favorable exchange rate will have you grinning, too. Khao San Road is a hotspot for travelers with hostels, handicraft shops, street food vendors, and transportation to nearby Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia. You won’t want to spend all your time there, but it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for suggestions or a buddy to eat with. Make sure to visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho – the intricate mother-of-pearl inlay on the enormous Buddha’s feet is crazy cool – and stop for a heavenly Thai massage at the traditional massage school (there’s always a line, but the ancient ayurvedic treatment is worth the wait). If you can swing it, hop an hour flight to Koh Phi Phi to relax on a blindingly-white sand beach. We recommend skipping the overcrowded Maya Bay in favor of the quieter Loh Moo Dee Beach which is often void of daytrippers.
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If you happen to have an ear for classical music and an eye for fine arts and theater, Vienna is your city (though its old world cafes, Hapsburg-era architecture and grand plazas are enough to seduce any traveler). Go for broke and splurge on dinner at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Steirereck (the wiener schnitzel is out-of-this-world), followed by a show at the Vienna State Opera. For those on a tight budget, there’s the daily Naschmarkt. The 120-stand culinary bazaar sells the finest local grub, and on Saturdays you’ll also find a flea market. Once you’ve collected enough Viennese treasures to fill your suitcase, kick back with a fresh apfelstrudel and Wiener Melange – the Viennese answer to the cappuccino – and people watch till your heart’s content.
Auckland, New Zealand
Smaller (and cheaper) than oft-frequented Australian hubs, Auckland, is a great city to meet fellow free-spirited travelers and backpackers. Quirky cafes, vintage stores, forward-thinking clothing boutiques and a killer music scene are just some of the attractions for those flying solo. Splurge on local fashions at shops like Zambesi and flo&frankie in Newmarket, an Auckland suburb dubbed NZ’s shopping capital. Or pack a picnic lunch and hike to the summit of volcanic Mount Eden for 360-degree views of the city and harbor. Looking for a weekend escape? Matakana wine country is just forty-five minutes north of the city. Spend a Saturday at the Matakana Village Farmer’s Market where friendly vendors sell locally brewed coffee, organic chocolates, produce and artisanal baked goods.