Being a solo female traveller shouldn’t stand in the way of your wanderlust. At i-escape, we know a thing or two about travelling the world as a woman – we’re female-founded after all
That’s why our leading ladies have picked 10 amazing destinations if you’re venturing out on your own in 2020
Solo female travel has its quirks, so realism is essential. All of our choices scored well in 2019’s global Women, Peace and Security Index. We’ve also paired our locations with stylish hideaways – many have single rooms or discounts for solo guests. Result!
Hopefully, these 10 destinations will unleash your free spirit
1 Follow in the footsteps of Mozart in Salzburg
Nikki Tinto, Co-founder Why you should go: ● Austria ranks among the top 10 countries for women’s equality ● Salzburg’s cobbled Old Town is pedestrianised, so heading out for dinner in the evening is a breeze ● There are hikes around Salzburg for all abilities ● Skip around Mirabell Gardens (where they filmed The Sound of Music), visit Mozart’s birthplace, or stretch your legs at Hans-Donnenberg-Park ● Climb the Hohensalzburg Fortress for unforgettable city views
Where you should stay:The Mozart Hotel is a chic boutique with fashionable rooms and great tapas restaurant. It’s a lovely 15-minute stroll to Salzburg’s charming old town. Then take a train to Haus Hirt in spa town Bad Gastein. Its daily guided mountain hikes (included in the rate) are a great way to meet other guests. Enjoy lunch together at a mountain hut then head back for a thermal bath and a yoga class.
Watch out for:Avoid the area around Salzburg’s train station after dark. And it might be worth paying a little more to stay in the Old Town if you prefer to be somewhere with higher footfall. Although English is widely spoken, it’ll help to pick up a few words and phrases in Austrian-German.
2 Explore Iceland’s majesty in Reykjavik
Nadine Mellor, Kids Collection and New Hotels Editor Why you should go: ●It was the first nation to have a female president and has made unequal pay for equal work illegal ● Everyone speaks immaculate English ● Wander around a clutch of decent galleries; admire striking views from Hallgrímskirkja Church and Harpa Concert Hall ● There are countless tours departing from the city – I hopped onto a puffin-spotting boat trip ● The roads are easy enough to drive for longer expeditions (check out live webcams if you’re nervous) and pop to the Blue Lagoon your way to the airport
Where you should stay:101 Hotel is in downtown Reykjavik, ideally located for the best bars, restaurants, shops and the harbour. Further up the west of Iceland is Hotel Glymur, which has geothermal hot tubs that overlook a rugged fjord.
Watch out for:High prices. Food and drink are incredibly expensive, so choose wisely. Icelanders are very helpful, but may not be quite as warm and friendly as other places. For those looking to enjoy a quiet drink in your room after a day exploring otherworldly craters and spouting geysers – there are only a couple of government shops selling alcohol and these close early in the evening.
3 Restore your body in Chiang Mai
Rosanna Spence, Editorial Assistant Why you should go: ●Ornate temples, lush tropical streets and urban murals ● Yoga and meditation are the order of the day and bowls are piled high with technicolour, organic food ● Chiang Mai’s mountainous air is cooler (and streets, calmer) than Bangkok’s deliciously gritty mayhem ● Harassment, cat-calling and violence against tourists are very rare ● Try Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution Vocational Training Center for a massage in jail you’ll never forget
Where you should stay:Baan Orapin Heritage B&B is a serene base for sightseeing, with rooms in traditional houses tucked away in lush gardens. Those who prefer a little structure should try a friendly excursion outside the city at Lisu Lodge: visit tea plantations, go bamboo rafting and take a Thai cookery course.
Watch out for: Some elephant sanctuaries may not be as ethical as they claim (head to Elephant Nature Park to support a genuine cause). Chiang Mai is fairly isolated from the south, meaning it’s a tough 12-hour bus journey from Bangkok, sleeper train or an internal flight. Thai toiletries tend to have skin-bleaching agents added to them, including sun cream and deodorant. Females aren’t allowed to touch male monks, so avoid close contact.
4 Lake-hop across Slovenia from Ljubljana
Katya Klisarska, Rates and Channels Manager Why you should go: ● Historic Ljubljana (pronounced ‘lyoo-blyah-nah’) remains somewhat undiscovered ● Less traffic and lower crime rates than most cities ● There’s a flea market every Sunday and an Open Kitchen Market on Fridays ● Get your bearings and meet others on the free city walking tour ● More than a third of Slovenia is a protected area with around 1,300 lakes to hop: think watersports and healing thermal springs
Where you should stay:Ljubljana Boutique Apartment overlooks one of the city’s lively cobbled squares. Spill out of your front door and directly into the action. Pristava Lepena is further afield. It’s a cluster of cabins in the Soca Valley but delivers big on Apline serenity and outdoor pursuits.
Watch out for:Petty theft is your main concern in the city. Lake Bled can feel touristy in comparison to other Slovenian destinations. Pig slaughtering can be a major community event in rural areas – not for the faint-hearted (or vegetarian).
5 Uncover Portugal’s hidden castles in Sintra
Anna Huges, Senior Marketing Executive Why you should go: ●Basing yourself near Sintra can provide three holidays in one: hills, coast and the city ● Sintra is a mass of whimsical, romantic energy and conjured by Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic and Moorish castles, parks and palaces ● The nearby coastal town of Cascais is worth a visit for its choice of beaches to shop, surf and watch sunsets ● Lisbon is a 40-minute hop from Sintra with trains departing every half an hour (avoid the traffic) ● The city’s Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira) is a bustling hall of delicious eateries; chat to like-minded travellers around communal tables
Where you should stay:Aguamelis a bijou B&B in Sintra named after Portuguese honey-water. It’s ideal for exploring UNESCO-listed Sintra once the day-trippers have left. Prefer the coast? Then try this hip sea-view retreat: Dream Guincho is warm, welcoming and totally chilled out. Plus there’s a weekly table d’hôte and plenty of homemade Portuguese treats to fuel your day.
Watch out for:It’s worth getting a tuk-tuk up the hill to the main sights of Sintra (cars have been known to have their engines blow up trying to get to the top and roads can get clogged). Watch out for pickpockets on Lisbon trams, plus you might get approached on the street by people offering you something to smoke – though they weren’t pushy on our last trip.
6 Visit the birthplace of tango in San Telmo
Jenna Woollon, Bookings Consultant Why you should go: ●Argentina fares more favourably than its neighbours on women’s rights and safety ● San Telmo is charmingly shabby, with markets to lose yourself in for hours and 1920s architecture reminiscent of Barcelona or Paris ● Head to Bar Sur in Milongas for an original, authentic tango spot ● The Microcentro is walkable: find Casa Rosada, the pink building Evita ruled from ● Cross the Women’s Bridge to the 350-hectare nature reserve, where buildings give way to forest, grassland and lagoons
Where you should stay:Krista Hotel is a chic, peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle in nearby leafy, upmarket Palermo. Opt for CasaCalma in Retiro and take in many of the sights mentioned here by foot on the way down to San Telmo.
Watch out for:By day San Telmo’s vibrant and friendly streets are welcoming, but avoid lingering on your own at night, especially in the area just south of here called La Boca. And, like any busy city, keep your valuables zipped away, especially in crowded markets. I even stashed some cash and my cards in clothing, just to be on the safe side.
7 Cycle to Scandi-chic cafés in Copenhagen
Kate Parsons, Head of Reservations Why you should go: ●Denmark is remarkably flat, making Copenhagen excellent for cycling around ● Stop off at the many design museums, art galleries and park spaces ● Coffee shops can be found everywhere: people-watch with a Danish bun and warm cuppa ● There are loads of Scandi-noir walking tours for fans of The Killing, Borgon and The Bridge ● Cool kids flock to the Meatpacking District (Kødbyen), rub shoulders with the locals at the food markets there
Where you should stay:Laid-back Ibsens Hotel is set bang in between trendy downtown and beautiful lakes – hire a bike from reception to get around. Don’t miss its daily ‘cosy hour’, when guests are invited to enjoy complimentary drinks.
Watch out for:Small talk isn’t really a ‘thing’ for Danes, and there’s no word as such for ‘please’. Don’t rely on cash or change for small transactions as everything is electronic here, including payments. The Little Mermaid statue is rather underwhelming and is mainly a photo opp, with queues to boot.
8 Walk back through time in Prague
Lucy Richardson, Assistant Editor
Why you should go: ● Prague may have notorious affiliation with liberal pursuits, but its history and architecture come up top trumps ● Accommodation is affordable compared to many other European cities ● Meet others on free walking tours (the centre is completely walkable), but trams also have unlimited passes available if you prefer ● There are community dining options like Kuchyň and artsy MeetFactory ● Head to Naplavka, an area along the river, which is sociable in summer with lots of live music and flowing pilsner
Where you should stay:Hotel Neruda is a stone’s throw from Prague Castle; picturesque yet quiet. Opt for a Superior or Deluxe to spoil yourself in a bathtub after a hard day’s exploring. Or if head to Vinohrady Boutique Apartment. It’s just outside of the tourist-trodden paths and is ideal for a longer, working break if you want to get under the skin of the city.
Watch out for: Don’t hang around the area by the main train station and the park in front of it (known as Sherwood by locals). It can feel a bit seedy, especially at night. Wenceslas Square (where stag parties tend to congregate) and Charles Bridge are usually packed with tourists and can be a pickpocket’s dream. Taxis have a reputation for ripping off visitors, so order an Uber or ask your hotel to book one for you with an agreed price.
9 Rewild your soul in Costa Rica
Marta Purwin, Bookings Consultant Why you should go: ●Costa Rica is as organic as the earth gets; its eco-credentials will make your eyes water ● You can’t go wrong with the Pacific coast: there’s a big backpacking community seeking adventure here ● The further south of Nicoya peninsular you go the more easygoing it gets ● If you’re in an area with fewer restaurants and bars book yourself onto activities and boat tours to socialise ● Of course, no visit to Costa Rica would be complete without a zipline through the jungle!
Where youshould stay:Villa Buena Onda is a secluded retreat hidden in the forest above the Pacific Coast with free culinary taster sessions, plus complimentary coffee and afternoon tea. Or head further down to the Osa peninsular to Lapa Rios Ecolodge. It is set in primary forest, home to amazing wildlife and 375 species of birds (the ocean is within eyesight, too).
Watch out for:Staying in Costa Rica’s lush interior can feel isolating, especially at night. Landscape and climate vary greatly across the country: inland highlands are cooler, the coasts warmer and humidity increases as you travel south on the Pacific coast. There’s an unpaved road running the length of this coast too (awesome for jungle off-roading) which in the wet season – if self-driving – can become unpassable. Avoid the larger family/honeymoon resorts if you’re seeking tranquility.
10 Indulge your inner foodie in The Basque Country
Megan Price, Marketing Executive Why you should go: ●Feel the freedom of the open road – self-drive or hire a car and flit between hills and coast ● Basque society is believed to have matriarchal rootage, with a pagan deity linked to Mother Nature (locals exclaim ‘ay ama!’ instead of ‘oh my god’) ● The region’s close relationship to its bounteous seas and earth mean it’s ideal for a foodie following their nose ● Drool at the sheer abundance of Michelin-starred menus ● Don’t miss San Sebastian for one of the best city beaches in Spain and delicious pintxos
Where you should stay:Hotel Iturregi – an old Basque farmhouse reborn – enjoys long, luscious views to the sea in Getaria. Head to the hills for an earthy meal with the locals in Bedua.Back on San Sebastian’s coast, Hotel Villa Soro is close to your restaurant hotlist (Arzak has three Michelin stars, no less). Helpful staff can book tables for you.
Watch out for:Spaniards eat dinner late. Like, 10pm late. Which is fine if you’re in a big group, but dining earlier and alone could see you sitting in an empty restaurant. Many places don’t open until much later, either. Thankfully, northern Spain is littered with pintxos bars, which are much more active and casual. So you can snap up bite-sized skewers crammed with local specialities in your own time.