Where to go if you’re a woman travelling solo
Travelling alone as a woman is the ultimate act of unbridled adventure and rediscovery. Marisa Cannon charts the destinations where women can enjoy a spectacular solo experience, facilitated by a host of booming female-led businesses
Worn, pastel-painted walls, sprawling promenades and salsa simmering through the cobbled streets: Cartagena is just as romantic as the renderings by literary titan Gabriel García Márquez of his hometown. A city epitomised by its waning colonial charm, it’s also a place where the atmosphere is warm and welcoming to female travellers, and where chivalry and equality are not mutually exclusive. “The culture of the caballero or gentleman, is alive and well – it’s difficult to make it two steps carrying anything at all before some obliging gent will help you with it,” says sustainability pioneer Portia Hart, founder of hotels and beach clubs Blue Apple Beach, Townhouse Cartagena and Amare Beach. Hart opened Blue Apple Beach in 2016 and has gone from strength to strength (Amare Beach launched in July 2021). “I’ve never had a problem here as a woman running my own company,” she says. “Quite the opposite, I think it helps. I also love that there is a word for a female boss – patrona or jefa – and they roll off the tongue so easily.”
The former shipbuilding hub of Syros offers a variety uncommon to the Cyclades: an urbane, arty scene with international film, jazz and street art festivals, galleries and sightseeing, alongside the assumed ‘free and easy’ beach life of these Greek islands and tantalising cuisine. Here, sisters Oana and Jasmine Aristide opened Hotel Aristide in 2022. It’s an art-centric nine-room eco-boutique set in one of the island’s remaining Neoclassical mansions. Around the island, activities for solo female travellers abound. “To the north, there are walks with a local expert in foraging who is an encyclopaedia of knowledge about Cycladic herbs and plants, and an award-winning chef,” says Oana Aristide. “You can walk alone at any time of day or night. Indeed, one of the things we recommend at the hotel are the full-moon walks — on clear nights, the light and the smells make it the closest thing to visiting another planet.”
Bottle-green valleys, craggy landscapes and turquoise surf are in heady abundance in St Lucia, which is also home to Jade Mountain Resort on the island’s southwestern coast. The luxury retreat offers a Singlemoon package, the brainchild of executive director of marketing and operations Karolin Troubetzkoy and designed with solo travellers in mind. “It came out of discussions with friends and realising that people were tired of either being locked up with the wrong partner, or just simply wanting to spoil themselves and not wanting to wait for a partner to come along,” she explains. As part of the programme, guests stay in a suite where one of the outer walls has been removed, offering boundless views, a chromotherapy whirlpool tub, infinity pool and private deck. Wellness consultations, health check-ins and curated meal plans come as standard, while beer, chocolate and wine tastings, birdwatching and bespoke yoga can also be arranged.
It’s true that the Maldives attract honeymooners in droves, but a new private island dedicated to wellbeing and personal transformation is tempting solo travellers in equal measure. Joali Being creates bespoke programmes based on the pillars of mind, skin, microbiome and energy, with immersion programmes designed to target hormonal balance, mental clarity, immunity and weight rebalance. “We’ve created a warm community environment with daily group classes, learning activities and workshops as well as a communal dining concept to help welcome solo travellers,” says founder Esin Gural Argat. Being female-owned, Joali has a strong ethos, and believes in the power of diversity and gender equality. “We’ve created a leadership and gender diversity programme in line with our commitment to the UN Women’s gender equality campaign and we support training for girls in local schools, hiring local women and ensuring the team is structured in a way that encourages women team members to grow and progress,” Argat explains.
Secreted away on India’s northeastern tip near the tea-bearing region of Assam, Meghalaya is one of the rainiest parts of the planet, with an ethereal spectacle of waterfalls, otherworldly rock formations and undulating landscapes. Society here is matriarchal and rooted in tradition and tribal culture, with the capital of Shillong home to a thrumming music scene and warm café culture. It’s also the prime holiday pick of Malini Gowrishankar and Akanksha Bumb, co-founders of solo and all-women travel company F5 Escapes, which they started in an effort to help female travellers feel comfortable exploring alone in India, facilitating experiences centred on local culture and community. “Launching the business has been hugely positive, especially because we work with locals closely and because we’re always contributing to the local economy,” says Gowrishankar. “All our group trips are planned after extensive research and are based on our own experiences travelling the length and breadth of the country, and we always aim to create a balance between safety, comfort and authenticity.”
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