Published in IWC Ladies Magazine Middle East, October 2015
Travel is always more about the journey than the destination; even more so, for women traveling solo on a path to self discovery, a gastronomic adventure or simply an opportunity to snatch a few rare moments alone.
Here are some top destinations for solo vacations, ideal for women – recommended, eaten-loved-and- prayed in, by other women travelers.
CHIANG MAI, Thailand
Photos by Lavanya Ullas
If there’s one place in Thailand that serves better coffee than anything else, it is Chiang Mai. This cozy town is all about its quaint bookstores and art galleries, quirky fashion boutiques and an overall hipster vibe. This walled, fortress city has many mysteries waiting to be unraveled, dating back to the Lanna Kingdom in the 1200s.
But deep in the jungles at the foothills of Northern Thailand, you’ll uncover Chaing Mai’s best kept secrets – it’s regal elephants. Spend a day at an elephant camp getting to know these gentle pachyderms and even learn to train them as mahuts.
Take a walk around the tribal Karen village for a peek into their nomadic lives and perhaps pick up a few tribal trinkets for your jewelry collection back home.
Where to Eat: Chiang Mai sleeps early but no reason why one can’t rock out at a local Karaoke diner with a few cocktails, before calling it a day. Try Loco Elvis (Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District Ph: +66 88 493 3303) for a fun night out. Where to stay: Yindee Guest House, Ratvithi Rd (Old town), Ph +66 53 418 585 Chiang Mai.
Steeped in history and centuries-old traditions, Japan’s erstwhile imperial capital holds the key to a treasure trove of Japanese heritage.
No less than ten thousand shrines still stand in this historic city, alongside traditional homes or machiya (townhouse) and numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Catch a traditional Kabuki performance (classical Japanese dance-drama), a maiko dance recital or visit the local Bunraku puppet theatre for a slice of Japanese culture. If you’re a foodie, then the 400 year old Nishiki food market with delight your senses with innumerable types of street food, pickles and confectionary (wagashi).
Where to Eat: Try a traditional Kaiseki meal at Kikunoi Restaurant – Shimokawara-dori, Higashiyama-ku. (Ph: +81 75-561-0015). Post dinner; grab a drink at the bustling pub street Kiyamachi –dori. For a more casual affair, treat yourself to a delicious portion of Okonomiyaki (grilled, pizza-like dish) at ant of the home-styled teppenyaki restaurants in Kyoto’s Gion district.
Where to stay: Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo Nishinotoin St, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto. Ph: 075-361-5531
From unlocking mysteries of the ancient civilization to sampling the classic Roman focaccia, this city can offer a host of fascinating stories even before breakfast. As the seat of ancient art, politics, architecture, and literature, Rome will simply leave you spellbound.
Experience the drama, excitement and raw beauty of Rome at the Colosseum, the Roman Forums, and the Piazza Novona, but also be sure to visit the bustling neighborhood of Trastevere, across the river Tiber. Expect artisan gelaterias, microbreweries, Jazz clubs and parties that spill onto the streets until the wee hours of morning – a great way of experiencing the decadent Roman life.
Where to eat: Forget pizzas and pastas. While in Rome, do as the Romans do and head to a local kitchen with authentic fare. Try Trattoria Monti (Via di S. Vito, 13/A, 00185 Roma +39 06 446 6573) or the whimsical Drunken Cow- Hosteria La Vacca M’briaca (00184, Via Urbana, 29, 00184 Roma +39 06 4890 7118). Don’t leave without a taste of some homemade tiramisu. Where to stay: Hotel Romano: A cozy boutique hotel overlooking the busy streets of central Rome, a hop away from the Roman Forums and the Colosseum (Largo Corrado Ricci, 32, 00184 Roma +39 06 678 6840).
THE ANDAMAN ISLANDS, India
Apart from the stunning and pristine white-sand beaches, the islands that make up the Andaman archipelago in the Indian Ocean, are some of the best in the world for diving and snorkeling. Camping under the stars on uninhabited islands, trekking across the thick jungles and exploring new islands along the way will feed your spirit of adventure, if not turn you into a victim of wanderlust.
While the Havelock Islands in the Andamans are best for diving and snorkeling, do spend a day or two in the capital city, Port Blair. Explore the Cellular Jail and the MG Marine National Park, take a walk around the city market and cycle along the sloping streets for a feel of the island life.
Where to Eat: Sample local seafood from small restaurants along the beach villages in Havelock.
Where to stay: Fortune Resort Bay Island, Port Blair (Marine Hill, Port Blair +91 3192 234 101); Dolphin Resort ( No. 5, Govind Nagar, Havelock island)
It’s the artsy woman’s ideal destination. Barcelona’s natural beauty apart, it is a haven for art lovers, given Gaudi’s whimsical creative endeavors enshrined in this city and Pablo Picasso’s peripatetic upbringing in the city he called home. But Barcelona is also about Las Ramblas, the street that never sleeps. Known as the nightlife capital, this city comes alive in the wee hours of the morning, with its cosmopolitan crowd, thumping music and wheeler-dealers of things one could never imagine being sold on streets. Let’s just say Barcelona by night is best taken with a pinch of salt, and perhaps a slice of lime.
Don’t miss going up to the Montjuic Castle – the views are worth it and if time permits, take a small detour to Monteserrat (approximately an hour from Barcelona by train).
Where to Eat: A Tapas bar hop across the city on Las Ramblas Where to stay: Barcino147, Gran Via de las Corts Catalanas 662, Barcelona, 08010 Spain Ph: +34 607 37 91 01