We talk a lot here about how travel is great for spending quality time with loved ones. But for some people, travel is something they do solo for a variety of reasons: busy schedules that don’t allow for vacation time when others can go along, stressful lives that travel serves as a temporary escape from or the simple fact that single people like to travel too. For solo female travelers, safety can be an extra concern. And what good is traveling, alone or with others, if you don’t learn something about yourself? These are some of our experts’ recommendations for solo female travelers.
Australia & New Zealand
Being so far away, these destinations require more time off to visit. Family and work obligations can mean you don’t find somebody to go with you. Fortunately, while you’re certain to learn some new words, there isn’t a language barrier. The people are friendly, and it’s safe. There are enough cultural similarities to help you ease in but enough differences to make for a real adventure. There are great cities, expansive nature and unique wildlife.
Expedition ships often have special sailings where single supplement fees are waived, which means you have your own cabin at no additional cost. You’re still traveling in a relatively small group, so it’s easy to make friends, especially when you’re experiencing something so life-changing. The diversity of wildlife in the Galapagos definitely makes for a one-of-a-kind journey and will prompt some introspection that might lead to journaling in your cabin at night, much like Charles Darwin did when he visited.
The Nordic countries
Quality of life is pretty good, and people are generally welcoming. There’s a reason the rankings of happiest countries in the world basically read as a list of the Nordic countries: Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Sweden are all in the top 10 for this year’s rankings. Depending on when you go, you can maximize your chance at seeing the Northern Lights or have it be daytime all the time. See for yourself what makes life in these countries so happy.
Spain & Portugal
The distance between cities can be covered in a few hours on a train. They’re rich in culture, and the food is incredible. Each region offers something unique, so you can pack a variety of experiences into a compact area. The architecture and art are out of this world. The weather is usually good most times of year. This corner of Europe offers adventure and beauty at every turn.
A lot of locals travel solo, so there’s an infrastructure for it and a level of familiarity. It’s easy to base yourself in one place and do day trips. The country is safer than most, and there are emergency phones and small police buildings called koban virtually everywhere if you need help. Hotels and ryokan are used to accommodating solo travelers, as are restaurants. Some cities offer female-only train cars on public transit.
Sunday marked the 120th anniversary of the birth of Ernest Hemingway. The Nobel Prize-winning author lived a life as full of adventure as any of his characters, and he traveled the world in pursuit of a good story throughout his life. “Papa” left his mark on several places, and they left their marks on him, appearing as characters in their own right throughout his works.
Hemingway was the first American wounded in Italy during World War I as he had joined the Red Cross after being rejected from the U.S. Armed Forces because of poor eyesight. He was bringing supplies to soldiers on the front line at Fossalta di Piave when he was wounded in a mortar attack. He spent six months recuperating at a military hospital in Milan and fell in love with a nurse, inspiring the plot of “A Farewell to Arms.”
Hemingway’s first novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” popularized the San Fermin Festival and running of the bulls that is an annual rite in Pamplona. His nonfiction work “Death in the Afternoon” details the culture of bullfighting in Spain, and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” dramatizes events of the Spanish Civil War, during which Hemingway worked as a foreign correspondent.
After World War I, Hemingway and his first wife moved to Paris, where he began his writing career in earnest and hung around with the likes of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. It was this time in Paris between the world wars, living in the Latin Quarter that Hemingway really came into his own as a writer and voice of the “Lost Generation.” The posthumously published memoir “A Movable Feast” chronicles this time.
Though he suffered near fatal injuries in successive plane accidents in Africa later in life, Hemingway’s 10-week safari in 1933 had such a profound impact that it inspired his works “The Greens Hills of Africa,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” He and his second wife toured around what are now Kenya and Tanzania, marveling at the abundance of wildlife.
Hemingway spent several winters in Cuba, raising cats and possibly hunting German U-boats in the waters around the island. He returned to Cuba after working as a foreign correspondent during World War II, when he was a witness to the D-Day landings in Normandy. His time in Cuba inspired “The Old Man and the Sea,” which he wrote in eight weeks and for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and which was cited as a major factor in his winning the Nobel Prize in literature.
The final season of “Game of Thrones” is upon us. There are a lot of questions to be answered. Who lives? Who dies? Who sits on the Iron Throne when it’s all said and done? Will it even matter because everything’s been taken over by the Night King and his army of White Walkers? The most important questions, however, are, “Where did they film that?” and “Can I go see it?” We might not yet know the full implications of Bran’s ability to travel in time, but we know where you can travel to see these incredible Game of Thrones filming locations.
Dubrovnik doubles as Kings Landing, with Cersei’s walk of shame taking place in the streets of the ancient city. Fortunately, even though Cersei took her revenge by blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor, Dubrovnik’s Old Town still stands. Ston also lends its beauty to some of the fortifications of Kings Landing, while Dubrovnik’s Minceta Tower serves as the House of the Undying, where Daenarys sees visions of the past and future. The Riverlands can be found in Krka National Park, while Kliss Fortress and the Palace of Diocletian in Split represent Meereen. Braavos is actually Sibenik, with St. Jacob Cathedral serving as the Iron Bank.
The Dothraki Sea seen in Season 1 is the Glens of Antrim and Ballymoney, while the Dark Hedges lend their eerie intertwining beech trees to scenes featuring the Kingsroad. Castle Ward’s towers will be recognizable to fans of the Stark family as the towers of Winterfell. The Iron Islands can actually be found in Murlough Bay, while Cushendun Caves and Larrybane Quarry are the Stormlands. The Dragonstone beach where the red priestess Melisandre burns idols of the Seven to appease the Lord of Light is really Downhill Beach.
Supplying most of the ice and A Song of Ice and Fire, Iceland supplied filming locations for pretty much everything north of the wall and some portions of the North as well. The Wildling camp is at Thingvellir, which is also the site of Brienne’s sword fight with the Hound. Grjotagja Cave is instantly recognizable to those romantics who saw Jon and Ygritte fall in love over a hot bath. Lake Myvatn and Vatnajokull provide some of the spectacular scenery north of the wall, while a ragtag bunch of heroes traveled to what looks an awful lot like Snæfellsnes Peninsula to bring back a White Walker.
One of the biggest revelations in Game of Thrones has been the true identity of Jon Snow, who was born in the Tower of Joy. You can find the tower in Guadalajara, where it is known in our world as Castel de Zafra. Danaerys needed a dragon ex machina to save her from an assassination attempt in the fighting pits of Meereen, which are actually the Plaza de Toros de Osuna. The Alcazar of Seville and its gardens served as the royal palace of Dorne in Sunspear, where the Martells held sway. The Roman bridge in Cordoba doubles as the Long Bridge of Volantis. Sam cleans some chamber pots and finds out some important truths at the library in the Citadel, which is really the Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants in Girona.
If you can remember all the way back to Season 1, Malta featured prominently. Khal Drogo and Daenarys were married on Gozo’s Azure Window. Sadly, the rock formation collapsed into the sea in 2017, but the spot is still great for diving. The beautifully preserved medieval city of Medina stood in for Kings Landing in the first season, especially the city gate. Cersei gave Ned her famous, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die” speech at St. Dominic’s Convent in Rabat. Ned, who definitely did not win, lost his head at Fort Manoel, which doubled as the Great Sept of Baelor for his death scene.
As we say goodbye to 2018 and welcome in 2019, we have a lot of travel plans for the coming year. We’re celebrating 50 years of helping clients make their travel dreams come true, and along the way we’ve picked up some favorite New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2019. Use some of these tricks from other cultures to ensure a prosperous new year.
At the clock hits midnight, Spaniards eat a grape at each chime. The 12 grapes represent good luck in each month of the coming year. After midnight, the party really begins, as Spaniards take to the streets and pass around bottles of cava. In large cities, especially the capital of Madrid, they gather in the main squares and celebrate deep into the night. As the sun rises, they drink hot chocolate and eat churros before heading to bed for most of the day. Sounds like something we can get behind.
It being summertime and water being such a big part of Brazilian culture, a lot of New Year’s traditions are centered around the ocean. Flowers and floating candles are put to sea as offerings to the goddess Iemanja, a water deity from the Yoruba religion brought to the Americas by African slaves. Some people jump over seven waves, making a wish with each hop. Others eat seven raisins and keep the seeds in their wallets to encourage money to grow. Most wear white as a symbol of peace, mixing in green for health, yellow for money, red for passion and purple for inspiration.
The Japanese hold bonenkai parties to forget the old year’s troubles and leave them in the past. The traditional meal is soba noodles to promote a long life. Watching the sunrise on Jan. 1 to greet the new year is a popular pastime. Temples and shrines attract visitors from across the country by the millions from Jan. 1-3, when most businesses are closed. People send out cards to friends, loved ones and co-workers that are marked for delivery on New Year’s Day, and the first three days of the year are spent with family.
In Cape Town, people head up to the top of Table Mountain before a night on the waterfront. There’s a sunset concert at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden on the slopes of the mountain, and the last tram back down to the city is at 9:30 p.m. Fireworks light up the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront at midnight, and afterward revelers head to all-night beach parties by candlelight. A day outside the city in the Cape Winelands is also a terrific getaway, and it stays light out until around 8 p.m.
The evening starts out rather tame, with a speech from the queen at 6 p.m. Things get progressively more rowdy, as Danes meet friends for a big late dinner after a snack of cod with mustard sauce at home. It’s one of the six nights a year shooting off fireworks is legal, and Danes make the most of it. At midnight, they smash old dishes on the doors of friends. While cleaning up in the morning might not be the most fun thing in the world, a big mess means you have lots of friends who love you enough to trash your house.
It may look daunting at first, but it’s a fairly easy sport to take up. Yes, like any other watersport, you need balance and discipline. But in kitesurfing, you get a big assist from the elements. Given the right conditions, a novice can soon look like an old pro, and the experience is exhilarating for beginners and more experienced wave riders alike. Here are some of the world’s top spots for kitesurfing, whether it’s your first time or you’re looking for a new challenge. Just add wind and water.
Ka‘a Point on the north shore of Maui near the airport has a great combination of water conditions, with a protected cove that has flat water close to the shore, chop in intermediate depths and good jumping waves just off the point. Nearby “Action Beach” is home to instructional schools and a good place for learners to get started. Watch the pros compete in contests at Ho‘okipa Beach and pick up some pointers. Take your lessons well enough and you just might be able to join them yourself on a future visit.
Turks and Caicos
Quickly emerging as a destination for kitesurfing, Turks and Caicos match up well against any other Caribbean islands in quality. On Providenciales, the main island, Long Bay Beach has soft sand and shallow waters particularly forgiving to first-timers, with a long flat ride. Though it’s just a few minutes from popular Grace Bay Beach, Long Bay is often uncrowded, leaving you plenty of room to work. Once you have experience under your belt, Grace Bay’s deeper waters and northeast winds make for a rewarding challenge, producing plenty of chops and a good break off the reef about a mile out.
Just a glance at the map explains why Tarifa is the kitesurfing capital of Europe. Situated on the Atlantic side of the Strait of Gibraltar, just across from Africa, there’s a 6-mile stretch of beach that’s basically a huge wind tunnel. The wind coming from the east is generally consistent and not too heavy, making it easy for just about anyone to catch a smooth ride. Where things pick up is when the from the west blows in, building speed as it does so and gusting close to 60 mph at times, often for days or weeks at a time.
Nabq Bay, Egypt
On the Sinai Peninsula, where the Gulf of Aqaba (aka Gulf of Eilat) meets the Red Sea, conditions are ripe for kitesurfing. Tiran Island sits at the meeting point, creating twin lagoons that are shallow with sandy bottoms. One area is perfect for beginners, while experienced riders flock to the other. Though kitesurfing only began in the area about a quarter-century ago, it easily became recognized worldwide as a mecca for enthusiasts.
Brazil has more than 4,500 miles of coastline, so it’s no surprise that some stretch of it is one of the top spots in the world for something. As Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are the places to see, be seen and party, Cumbuco on the country’s northeastern coast is the place to catch wind and waves. The weather is almost always perfect, the wind is steady and there is a tight-knit community of devotees who train regularly. With zones of flat water and areas with high waves, it’s a great place to start out and work your way up as your skills and confidence improve.