May 2024

Go it alone

Solo travel was once associated with backpacking, ‘finding yourself’ or being single (and therefore sad and alone). Not anymore

Travelling alone means being totally selfish; a rarely afforded privilege in adulthood, and an untapped pleasure. It means ordering room service and watching King of the Hill in a fluffy bathrobe, even though Ray’s Brooklyn is right outside. It means never feeling guilty for skipping a tourist hotspot, or spending an entire day hunting vintage Céline in Le Marais. You can hike at your own pace through Italy’s Dolomites, or just marvel at them from the comfort of your hammock at Brixen’s luxe, boutique wellness hotel Forestis (pictured).

There’s a kind of empowerment that comes from being a party of one which you simply cannot access when travelling in a group, or even a pair. You summon up the courage to barter in a market, then people watch alone at a bar, by which time you might easily strike up a conversation with your neighbours. Before you know it, you’re dancing to Robyn in a Berlin nightclub. That’s the thing about solo travel – even the most prepared jet-setters never know where they’ll end up. Consider this the essential edit of places to stay when what you really need alongside a holiday is some you time.

LE GRAND MAZARIN, PARIS

Paris is the perfect place to be a party of one. Cluttered bistros that spill out onto sidewalks offer world-class people watching, glass of wine in hand. Your lack of company only amplifies the sexy and mysterious energy you’re giving off to beautiful Parisian men and women going about their day. The sheer volume of museums and galleries, parks, restaurants, shops and bars is such that you cannot possibly tick everything off your bucket list, but will be so busy trying, you’ll forget to call home. Put their minds at ease with a quick photo dump, sent as you lounge beneath an ornate hanging tapestry at Le Marais’ new pastel technicolour dream address, Le Grand Mazarin.

INNIT, LOMBOK

In an alternate reality, The Beach ends with a talented young architect showing up and inspiring the secret community to build a series of minimalist pavilions which masterfully connect the inside and outside with raw elegance. That’s Innit; considered, earthy, and best enjoyed solo. Like The Beach, the boat ride there is as much a part of the adventure as the destination itself, and arriving on the – ahem – pure shores of Ekas Bay, surrounded by cliffs and traditional fishing villages, you may find yourself lost for words. During your stay, go surfing, snorkelling and spearfishing (three activities in which talking only spoils the fun), or wake up with a private yoga session by the 35m-long infinity pool. Dinner is the catch of the day, which you can enjoy in the open-air dining room, the sand between your toes and the lapping waves for company. A holiday this restorative means you won’t even mind a little salt in your hair or sand in your sheets as you fall into bed.

ANDENIA, SACRED VALLEY

This part of the world is no great secret to tourists – Machu Picchu alone draws over 4000 visitors a day – but to truly immerse yourself in the magic of Peru’s ancient Incan civilisation, you really do need a bit of shush. With just nine rooms spread across two casitas, the vibe is distinctly boutique at Andenia. A bucolic guesthouse in the revered Sacred Valley, it’s the perfect home-away-from-home for solitary voyagers and an ideal base for exploration, providing stark contrast to the hum of well-trodden sites like Machu Picchu, Moray and Pisac. Curated experiences on offer include traditional outdoor stone cooking and an introduction to artisanal traditions (think dyeing, weaving and chocolate making). And if the main drawcard for you visiting this part of the world is actually to take an inner journey, there are a number of spiritual retreats nearby where you can experience multi-day ayahuasca ceremonies.

BOCA DE AGUA, BACALAR

If your idea of a good time is packing two bikinis, insect repellent and a fat stack of reading material into a backpack and going somewhere remote, Bacalar is the destination you’ve been dreaming of. It’s the new Tulum (before Tulum became the new Cancun), and 22-room Boca de Agua is the new kid in the jungle, literally. Set far enough back from the main strip to create a feeling of complete immersion in Mexico’s natural landscape, the interconnecting treehouses which make up the property fuse Japanese minimalism with Mexican modernism in a way that is deeply pleasing to the soul. It’s the perfect environment to take a reading holiday – and while a pool treehouse room is undoubtedly the most indulgent way to beat the heat, a book + a margarita + the plunge pool + you is girl math that just makes sense.

MONA, ATHENS

A proposition: taking up your employer’s offer to work from anywhere shouldn’t send you to a tropical island, but instead plant you in the heart of a buzzing city. In Athens, Mona is the spot for it. Housed in a former textile factory in trendy Psirri, the main living area of this 20-room bolthole is a popular workfrom-anywhere hangout. You can flirt with a visiting chef while they do their thing in the kitchen (always a good time), or explore the basement which hosts gigs and exhibitions that draw a discerning art crowd. On the rooftop, which boasts dreamy Acropolis views, trade stories and ideas with your new ‘colleagues’ over a bottle of natural wine. In short, there’s always something happening. Bonus: it’s a short walk to bustling Monastiraki Square and stacks of incredible museums and galleries. You can also enjoy easy access to Piraeus, the port which gets you Greek island hopping via a fast ferry. The option to live out your John Fowles fantasy (solitude on a remote Cycladic island) is entirely within reach.

KASBAH BAB OURIKA, MARRAKECH

For some, solo travel invites the opportunity for complete cultural immersion. They take the idea of doing a place “like a local” seriously (in other words, not just for the ’gram), and inevitably return home with new friends for life. At Kasbah Bab Ourika, less than an hour’s drive from Marrakech, panoramic views of the Atlas Mountains and the quiet luxury of the estate are offset by the authentic Berber villages scattered throughout the valley. The staff are local Berbers who can offer a rich cultural and historical understanding of the destination like no other. Enjoy a long lunch date with your Kindle, or join other guests on a trip to the local market. Visit nearby waterfalls and hiking trails, or idle between the garden, the pool and the hammam (arguably as magical). The blissful isolation and idle time here means conversations with strangers are inevitable, and hearing what brought them to Marrakech elicits rich stories from all corners of the globe.

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