Ngong Ping Village – A Quiet Escape From The Bustle Of Hong Kong’s Mainland

The very mention of Hong Kong usually conjures up images of skyscrapers, high-end restaurants and crowded shopping streets. There is, however, another side to this seemingly busy Asian territory. I discovered early this year, on my maiden trip to the Far East, the little-known wonders on the island of Lantau. This is the island on the Pearl River that houses Hong Kong’s bustling international airport. But barely a 20-minute drive away is an idyllic village called “Ngong Ping”.

Why I Chose Ngong Ping Over Disneyland

The giant statue of Buddha is visible from the Ngong Ping marketplace in Hong Kong's Lantau Island

The giant statue of Buddha is visible from the Ngong Ping marketplace in Hong Kong’s Lantau Island

Most first-timers with a Hong Kong visa prefer a trip to the famous Disneyland on the same island of Lantau – incidentally, the largest island of this nation. However, for those of us who prefer quietude over cacophony and natural sights over manmade rides, Ngong Ping Village offers some relief. Quite unlike mainstream Hong Kong, this hamlet, located on an undulating, hilly terrain, is a paradise of sorts – lush green mountain vegetation on all sides, a quaint marketplace lined with dainty shops, and a chilly climate, uncharacteristic of its subtropical position.

A Cablecar To Fly You There

There are several ways to reach Ngong Ping from the airport, but the prettiest way, undoubtedly, is to take the ropeway. You can take a taxi or a bus from the HK arrivals area and get off at the Tung Chung stop. The cable car ride begins from here. It is possible to buy tickets on the spot, but I had prebooked mine on Klook to avoid the queues (which get longer as the day wears on).

The Gondola Ride

I shiver inside my 360-degree crystal cabin gondola en route to Ngong Ping

I shiver inside my 360-degree crystal cabin gondola en route to Ngong Ping

The cable car ride is aptly named “Ngong Ping 360” for the 360-degree views of Hong Kong that it provides. The standard gondolas are glass-walled but have an opaque floor. For a slightly higher fee, you can get yourself a crystal cabin which is transparent on all sides. The premium gondola is worth the extra charge as it lets you view the forestlands, walking trails, treetops and many other gorgeous things without hindrance. The ride takes 30 minutes each way, and offers plenty of time to soak in the picturesque Lantau Peak, aerial views of the South China Sea, the amazing multi-layered road network of Hong Kong and several of its islands, bridges that connect the islands, and ships at the harbour. (If you ever plan to enter this country through another route, take a look at this set of information to help you prepare better.)

The Village Walkway

Starting point of the Ngong Ping Village walkway.

The starting point of the Ngong Ping Village walkway.

This high-tech village has free WiFi and is split into three sections: Village Square, Bodhi Path and Country Market. The village square is essentially the place for eateries. There are teahouses and umpteen restaurants and cafes waiting to serve you exotic teas and cuisines from Hong Kong, China and other international flavours. The Bodhi Path has the information centre and some installations from the Buddhist culture. The final section of the village walkway is the country market which has a string of shops selling a lot of unique cultural things, such as chopsticks, art, silver, gadgets, souvenirs and a lot more. When shopping

Buddhism In Lantau

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Monsoon is an interesting time to be anywhere in Asia. When I was in Hong Kong, I did not realize how erratic the weather could be. It was cold early in the morning, poured steadily when I made my way to the little village of Ngong Ping, and was sunny when I walked into a cafe for lunch. Even though packing for such a climate becomes tricky, its unpredictability only enhances the monsoon experience. Head over to my bio to find the link to my latest travel article on 'Beautiful Monsoon Destinations in Asia' written in collaboration with some of my travel blogging friends from around the globe! 🙂 #oindrilagoesfootloose #oindrilainhongkong #hongkongig #hongkong #hongkonger #monsoondiaries #monsooninhongkong #hkig #hkg #hk #lantaulife #lantauisland #lantau #ngongpingvillage #ngongpingvillage昂坪市集 #ngongping #solotravel #monsooninasia #asiatravel #explorehongkong #discoverhongkong #monsoon #rainyday #traveldeeper #bbctravel #cloudyskies #cloudyday #exploremore #doyoutravel #asianvillage

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Beyond the village walkway is the religious part of this island. After you have crossed the iconic white gate and the sprawling paved route, you will reach the palatial shrine area. This is preceded by a circular stage with flags all around it. To your right will be a stairway (with countless steps) to a giant statue of the Buddha – Tian Tan monument. You can either take on the arduous climb to the statue or stay back and explore the Po Lin Monastery.

Po Lin Monastery

This Buddhist monastery was built in 1906 in traditional Chinese architecture. The courtyard has a huge stand for worship purposes, around which devotees offer their prayers by way of lighting incense sticks. The scent of the incense wafts throughout the courtyard and perhaps inside the main shrine which has three large statues of the Buddha that represent his past, present and future. I am not a religious traveller, so without dwelling too long before the temple, I headed back to the food lane for some lunch.

Eat Like A Hongkonger

My bowl of udon noodles with curd bean sheets, sweetcorn and seaweed goes well with the chrysanthemum tea with wolfberries and honey.

My bowl of udon noodles with curd bean sheets, sweetcorn and seaweed goes well with the chrysanthemum tea with wolfberries and honey.

The average HK local has 5 meals a day, the last one being a sort of midnight snack (wow! 🙂 ) which is consumed hours after dinner and called “siu yeh“. While they have plenty of meats on offer, vegetarians will find sufficient options without having to resort to other cuisines. Dim sums, baos and congees apart, Hong Kong offers interesting soup bowls which are large enough to be the entire meal. Being China’s Special Administrative Region, the place is big on flavoured teas. They even have a tea museum!

Beyond Ngong Ping – Lantau Peak

For those who love to hike, Lantau Peak happens to be the second highest peak in Hong Kong at 934 metres. Also known as Fung Wong Shan, the peak is clearly the tallest on Lantau Island, especially when viewed from the Ngong Ping plateau. The trek begins from the same point as that of the Wisdom Path which passes a tea garden. If you are not up for the entire thing, just do the Ngong Ping Fun Walk and come back.

Nei Lak Shan Country Trail

Lantau Island's Nei Lak Shan country trail looks like an adventurous one.

Lantau Island’s Nei Lak Shan country trail looks like an adventurous one.

If you are of the courageous type, attempt the Lantau Peak hike early at around 4 am. This will give you enough time to reach the peak in time for a glorious sunrise. You can spend the night at the youth hostel along this trail, or just bring your own tent and sleeping bags if you prefer roughing it out. The Nei Lak Shan country trail will give you ample opportunities for bird photography and an insight into subtropical plants.

Useful Information For Hong Kong

Interiors of the Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau

Interiors of the Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau

  • Indians must apply for pre-arrival registration for Hong Kong before the trip. RedCarpet Assist ensures hassle-free visa application.
  • Hong Kong Dollars is the official currency of the country. However, some shops happily accept US dollars if you run out of HKD.
  • Most locals do not speak much English (if at all). So, come prepared to play some long rounds of dumb-charades 😉 (Just kidding! If you’re lucky, some expats or English-speaking students will help you out.)

Which version of Hong Kong do you prefer more – city or village?

Have you heard of any other offbeat places here?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more stories from the Far East and beyond.

Garhwal In Pictures: Memories From A Week In Uttarakhand

It was midsummer when the Uttarakhand Tourism Board invited me to explore the little lake-town of Tehri earlier this year. While the world hyped about the annual Tehri Lake Festival, I was more excited to glimpse a few other gems. I’d previously been to the north Indian state of Uttarakhand on several occasions, but this time, I was determined to see a few new places of Garhwal. Enjoy this photo-story as I show you the Lower Himalayan valleys through my perspective.

Dhanaulti From The Sky

The Lower Himalayan range is distinctly visible from Dhanaulti.

The Lower Himalayan range is distinctly visible from Dhanaulti.

The day that I was to spend relaxing in my hotel (aptly named “Dhanaulti Heights”), I chose instead to go for a hike to the nearby Surkanda Devi temple. I’m not a supporter of idol worship but I fully encourage hiking in the hills for the gorgeous views, if nothing else. Dhanaulti enjoys good weather and it is a delight to breathe in the pure air up here.

Having The Ganges Up-Close In Kaudiyala

The prettiest room I had was in Kaudiyala – a wooden cottage by the bank of the River Ganga. You can see from the video above what the scene from my balcony was. Sunrises here are unmissable, especially because nature wakes you up (think chirping birdies). The Ganges looks incredible from close quarters, so do the Shivalik Hills.

How Kanatal Turns Orange At Sunset

The glorious sunset in Kanatal.

The glorious sunset in Kanatal.

Kanatal was only a short stop for me on my way to another Garhwali destination, but I didn’t know that when I got there early in the eve. Trotting up and down the mountain trail, I thought I would have nothing much to do except talk to the locals. But the sunset proved me wrong by turning the blue sky yellow and beginning to paint this sleepy town as well.

See How The World Becomes Smaller When You Look Up?

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The higher you climb, the smaller everything on earth appears – the houses, the people, the material possessions and the problems. When I feel low, I just take a hike. Do you introspect when you go trekking? I captured this shot on my recent trek in the Garhwali mountains near Dhanaulti, Uttarakhand. #oindrilagoesfootloose #Dhanaulti #trekking #hiking #beautifulhike #girlswhotravel #girlswhotrek #Uttarakhand #incredibleindia #lightroomedits #shotoncanon #canonphotography #canon📷 #canonshot #himalayasarecalling #exploretheunexplored #exploreuttarakhand #Garhwal #garhwalhimalayas #himalayangeographic #lonelyplanetindia #natgeoyourshot #exploremore #doyoutravel #travelawesome #indiaphotosociety #igersuttarakhand #ig_captures #simplyheaven #traveldeeper

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I’ve often realized that being away from humanity has a calming effect on my soul. Perhaps that’s why I’m mostly a solo traveller. Trekking really helps to leave the world behind and let your problems become smaller as you climb up. And believe me, the endorphin rush automatically makes you happy! 😉

Learn What Love Is From The Animal Kingdom

Caught this mommy macaque walking with her baby! <3

Caught this mommy macaque walking with her baby! <3

There is so much one can learn from the birds and animals. Loving, for instance. When I read horrifying stories of parents abandoning their children or women justifying abortion, I am inclined to think humans have forgotten all about love, care and self-sacrifice. So, I look instead at animals for some hope. And they never disappoint. I was able to click this macaque mom-and-daughter duo during my hike to Kunjapuri temple in Adali, near Rishikesh.

Rafting Camps For River-Lovers

Tents and wooden rest houses in Kaudiyala

Tents and wooden rest houses in Kaudiyala

If you are not such a fan of luxury and prefer to rough it out instead, Kaudiyala offers plenty of safari tents. These campsites are usually preferred by rafters who will eventually indulge in some whitewater rafting in the Ganges. Irrespective of where you stay, you still get the same clean air and the background music of hundreds of avifauna and a gurgling river.

Appetizers For Lunch, Anyone?

A stack of bread pakoras waiting to be devoured - at a roadside stall along Garhwal's national highway.

A stack of bread pakoras waiting to be devoured – at a roadside stall along Garhwal’s national highway.

I don’t have too many pictures of Garhwali food as I was too impatient (on most occasions) to take photos before quelling my hunger. I tried a variety of millet breads (both chapatis and parathas) with plenty of potato preparations. I also remember having just snacks for lunch – savoury bread-pakoras, phaan (a wafer-like bar) and kachoris. Uttarakhand also makes some amazing desserts – jhingore-ki-kheer, baal-mithai, and loads of other milk-based sweets.

Berry-Picking In The Hills

The easy path to Surkanda Devi trek (not what I followed though ;-) )

The easy path to Surkanda Devi trek (not what I followed though 😉 )

The Himalayas are a great place to find unique coniferous trees and various shrubs and outcrops. My hikes were more fun as I would stop to look at the leaves, smell the flowers and search for fruits. On one occasion, I had run out of snacks during my walk downhill and had to fill up on a peculiar kind of yellow berries (which I washed with water, of course) in the wild. Back at my hotel, a friend had picked some kafal (little red berries) which she shared with me.

Power-Dressing: The Pahadi Way! 😉

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I can't believe it's already been half a month! I met these beautiful ladies on a work+fun trip to Uttarakhand and was quite taken by their sense of humor. We'd spent most of our days in those hills in hiking gear, so we decided to play dress-up one evening. Any style tips for me? 😉 #oindrilagoesfootloose #girlswhohike #girlswhotrek #girlswhotravel #womenintravel #womeninbusiness #indiantraveller #indianculture #travelmemories #travelstoke #travelstories #Uttarakhand #incredibleindia #traditionalindianwear #indianwomen #indianwear #chamba #Himalayas #igersindia #beautifulwomen #beautifulindia #exploremore #simplyheaven #kurta #indiankurta #ootd #travelstyle #travelfashion #hillstation #indianhillstations

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One of the most memorable evenings I had was in New Tehri, just before we all set out for the lake festival. Our gang of girls had dressed up in traditional kurtas. After days of hanging around in hiking pants, we finally had the chance to wear some makeup and look like conventional ladies. 😀

New Tehri is still miles away from the lake (Tehri Lake)

New Tehri is still miles away from the lake (Tehri Lake)

And just like that, the rollercoaster trip came to an end. I have chosen to conveniently forget the endless, tiring road journeys and the sleepless state of mind I had on most days. I now only remember the beautiful tree-lined hills, the sweet smell of berries and the wry humour of my fellow travellers.

Do you think you’ll ever go to Garhwal?

What are your favourite things to do in the mountains?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more stories from the Himalayas.

Discover Central & Eastern Europe With Travel Tips From Locals + Top Bloggers

Most of you have told me how much you love reading about Europe on my blog. This is the last piece in the series, and this one is especially for my readers on a budget. Today’s list is a handpicked collection of extremely affordable destinations. If you are a solo female traveller on your maiden visit to Central or Eastern Europe, we urge you to look beyond the popular cities of Budapest (read – A Quick Guide To Budapest – The Capital Of Hungary) and Warsaw (read – What Warsaw Whispers – A Photoessay), and give these lesser explored places a chance to mesmerise you:

Česky Krumlov – Czech Republic

Česky Krumlov (Courtesy: Parampara)

Česky Krumlov (Courtesy: Parampara)

Recommendation by Parampara – Awara Diaries

“On the offbeat path as a solo female traveller, Česky Krumlov was one of the best adventures that I’d signed up for. With the aim of exploring Czechia beyond the party scenes of Prague, I took a trip south of the capital to the town of Česky Krumlov. To begin with, the Czech transport system is in great shape and connects the country with much ease. I took a 2 and a half hours’ bus journey to this Czech town.

Česky Krumlov was no less than a wonderland for me. Medieval mythical vibes with castles, towers, rivers, and bridges. Walking around this quaint town was the obvious choice, but unlike other Czech towns, there was life even post sunset. Making new friends at the hostel, walking around the town, looking at the lit castle and most importantly, eating around, trying some of the best ever grilled trout and apple strudel, Česky Krumlov had my heart. And for once, I could believe that I was living a fairytale with a possibility of getting lost in the woods and stumbling upon a dragon or just watching over the town quietly from the top of the tower! Indeed, one of the best and safest destinations for solo travel and making new friends.”

Viscri – Romania

Viscri (Courtesy: Andra Padureanu)

Viscri (Courtesy: Andra Padureanu)

Recommendation by Andra Padureanu – Our World to Wander

“The village of Viscri used to be one of Romania’s hidden gems. But now, thanks to Prince Charles, it has become a popular destination for people who want to taste the rural life in Transylvania. It’s a small and charming village where you can take a glimpse of the traditional way of life. Viscri is also famous for its fortified church which has put it on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

It is a very safe destination for women travellers and highly recommended if you want to try a Romanian homestay. You will stay with a family in one of the small houses, and everybody will want you to taste the numerous delicious dishes of the region. It is a picturesque place where you can lose track of time while wandering through the narrow cobblestoned streets.”

Ljubljana – Slovenia

Ljubljana (Courtesy: Jessica)

Ljubljana (Courtesy: Jessica)

Recommendation by Jessica – Travel Solo Anyway

“Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana is one of my favourite destinations in all of Europe. It’s perfect for solo female travellers because it’s extremely clean and safe, the people are among the friendliest I’ve ever met and English speakers will find it’s incredibly easy to get around using English. I especially adore the café and market culture in Ljubljana. There are so many opportunities to take in the city’s relaxed atmosphere while dining and shopping outdoors.

Many eateries have outdoor and riverside seating, and on certain days of the week, you can also check out flea and farmer’s markets for cool finds and fresh produce. Sweet lovers must also try a piece of the city’s famed Ljubljana cake. The legend goes that a cook delighted the daughter of the Lord of Ljubljana Castle so much with this creation that he was offered her hand in marriage!”

Eger – Hungary

Eger (Courtesy: Sharon Gourlay)

Eger (Courtesy: Sharon Gourlay)

Recommendation by Sharon Gourlay – Simpler & Smarter

“Eger is a city in northern Hungary, just a couple of hours from Budapest. It is the perfect place to visit on your solo adventure if you love wine and baroque architecture. Or if you just love discovering smaller European destinations which aren’t flooded with tourists. Eger is an easy place to visit. All the main attractions are within walking distance and the city centre is pretty and easy to walk around.

There is a hilltop castle with great views, a big basilica and many other attractions. My favourite is the wine cellars in the Valley of Beautiful Women. These cellars are all in a row surrounded by nature with many indoor and outdoor tables. The wine is cheap and good and it’s fun trying out the wines.”

Istria – Croatia

Istrian Pasta (Courtesy: Kaila Yu)

Istrian Pasta (Courtesy: Kaila Yu)

Recommendation by Kaila Yu – NomList

“Istria, Croatia is an ideal destination for solo women travellers. Not only is it so safe that you could walk the streets at any time of the night and feel perfectly comfortable, but it’s also the ultimate foodie locale! If you love olive oil, truffles and wine, you must visit this magical area of Croatia. Many of the dishes of Istria have Mediterranean and Italian influence and the fresh seafood in the region is spectacular.

Istria is considered to be part of Croatia but it actually encompasses Italy and Slovenia too. The peninsula juts out into the Adriatic Sea, so it also has beautiful oceans views. One popular activity in this region is boating and exploring the many small islands in the vicinity. It’s definitely an off the beaten path location that is dreamy and a can’t miss for solo female travellers!”

Chisinau – Moldova

Chisinau (Courtesy: Gabriela Muller)

Chisinau (Courtesy: Gabriela Muller)

Recommendation by Gabriela Muller – Gabriela Here and There

“I recently travelled to Moldova as a solo female traveller and was positively surprised by how nice it was. Moldova is one of the least visited countries in Europe but this little nation has so much to offer from wine tours to beautiful countryside. Most of the travellers will visit Chisinau, the capital city, and it’s a great place to base yourself in Moldova. Chisinau might not have the Eiffel Tower or other famous sights but it’s a charming city with its own little spots. The best way to explore Chisinau is on foot and because of its small size, everything is within a walking distance. I never had any problems with street harassment or catcalling, and always felt very safe walking alone (even at night).”

Skopje – Macedonia

Skopje (Courtesy: Kamila Napora)

Skopje (Courtesy: Kamila Napora)

Recommendation by Kamila Napora – Kami and the Rest of the World

“Skopje is one of the weirdest cities you will ever see. It’s like the Disneyland of the Balkans with quirky, brand new but old-looking architecture all over the centre and the largest old bazaar in the Balkans. It’s also a safe and interesting city to visit for solo female travellers. I’ve been solo to Skopje 5 times by now and never encountered any issues. Local people are super friendly, the food is to die for and everything is really affordable. You should most likely stick to the centre and Debar Maalo areas. Like everywhere else, if you stick to your common sense you will be more than fine. There are many things to do in Skopje that will keep you occupied for at least 2 days. Just visit the city with an open mind and enjoy it!”

Belgrade – Serbia

Belgrade (Courtesy: Karen Turner)

Belgrade (Courtesy: Karen Turner)

Recommendation by Karen Turner – Wanderlustingk

“Belgrade was one of the easiest places that I’ve travelled solo in. People were so incredibly warm that I ended up getting drinks almost every single night with Serbians that I’d meet who would just invite me out with their group of friends. In Belgrade, I also found a female-run hostel with staff that just made my trip magical as they sent me on a food scavenger hunt. The walkable city centre and good public transit with the high level of English made it a breeze to travel in Serbia and I’d recommend it to any woman trying out solo travel!”

Kharkiv – Ukraine

Kharkiv (Courtesy: Megan Starr)

Kharkiv (Courtesy: Megan Starr)

Recommendation by Megan Starr – Megan Starr

“Kharkiv, Ukraine is a destination off the beaten path in Eastern Europe that doesn’t garner the tourism traction that it should. The city, often overshadowed by Kyiv and Lviv, sits in the east of Ukraine but is completely in the safe zone. It is one of the loveliest places I have ever had a chance to visit. Females shouldn’t feel unsafe in Kharkiv, even if travelling alone. There are top notch cafes, restaurants, and some stately architecture from various areas that make this Ukrainian city extremely compelling and a must-visit spot for travellers. Kharkiv has become more connected via daily flights and there is even a fast train connecting it with Kyiv these days.”

Olomouc – Czech Republic

Olomouc (Courtesy: Veronika Primm)

Olomouc (Courtesy: Veronika Primm)

Recommendation by Veronika Primm – Travel Geekery

Olomouc is a hidden gem lying in the east of the Czech Republic, right in the heart of the Moravia region. The city features a beautifully preserved Old Town with Baroque structures such as fountains and churches. You’ll even find an Astronomical Clock on the local Town Hall! Just strolling around feels fulfilling enough. There’s also no shortage of cosy cafés and large parks encircling the city centre.

Students rule Olomouc. If you go out in the evening by yourself, it’s easy to strike a conversation with local students. The town is lively and there’s often a lot going on – from events organized by the local Palacký University to markets/gatherings on the main square (Upper Square).”

Are you a fan of Eastern & Central Europe now? 🙂

Got more suggestions for solo travellers to these parts of Europe?

Let us know through your comments below. 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more travel inspiration from Central & Eastern Europe and beyond.

A New Look At Spain & Greece: Beaches, Forests & Hideouts For Solo Travellers

Southern Europe was one of my first solo travel destinations as an adult, long before I began to blog (read – How I Started a New Life in Catalonia). The region has a bunch of slow-paced countries that make you fall in love with life. The Mediterranean coastline works like a charm on every traveller. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Greece or Portugal or Italy (read – Italy Beyond The Usual) or Spain. If you are craving some sun without running into hordes of tourists, follow this list of recommendations (from experienced travellers) on offbeat locations in Spain and Greece-

Asturias – Spain

Asturias (Courtesy: Campbell & Alya)

Asturias (Courtesy: Campbell & Alya)

Recommendation by Campbell & Alya – Stingy Nomads

“Not many know of an area in Spain with lush green forest, cool temperatures even in the summers and breathtaking mountain scenery. For those who like going off the beaten track, a small region of Asturias in northern Spain is the perfect destination. Asturias is one of the least populated regions of Spain with its main treasure being natural beauty. There are mostly small towns and villages with very friendly and helpful locals here. It’s a real paradise for hikers – there are several short and long distance hiking trails including Camino Primitivo – the first Camino de Santiago walked by the Spanish king, Alfonso II in the 9th century. The famous mountain range – Picos de Europa with some peaks over 2600m is located here.

Both hiking and cycling trails are well marked, safe and easy to follow – definitely the kind of place where a solo female traveller can hike on her own without worrying about safety. The region is great for a beach holiday as well as there are several nice coastal towns like Gijón, Llanes where you can enjoy sandy beaches, clean water and delicious local food. Asturias also has some interesting cities whose foundation dates back to the 8th century. Oviedo – the beautiful capital city founded in 761AD has a charming historical centre with typical narrow cobblestone streets, a gothic cathedral, old houses and street cafes.”

Kalymnos Island – Greece

Kalymnos Island (Courtesy: Maureen)

Kalymnos Island (Courtesy: Maureen)

Recommendation by Maureen – Life On The Mediterranean

“Kalymnos is a small Greek island in the Dodecanese between Kos and Leros, near Turkey. It’s overlooked for other easier-to-reach islands like Rhodes or Kos, and more difficult and more expensive to reach. But once you do, you’ll find an extremely tranquil island whose economy is based on sponge fishing, rock climbing and a bit of tourism.

It’s a great place for solo female travellers as it’s extremely safe and people look out for one another. You’ll be alone, but you won’t. It’s a great place to chill, write, enjoy life on a quaint island, enjoy fresh seafood and get to know the locals if you want. Hotels and food are affordable. It’s a lovely Greek island where time has stood still. You could stay for a month on the weekly budget you need in some other pricier islands. Give it a try.”

Galicia – Spain

Galicia Cathedrals beach at sunrise (Courtesy: Inma Gregorio)

Galicia Cathedrals beach at sunrise (Courtesy: Inma Gregorio)

Recommendation by Inma Gregorio – A World To Travel

“The reasons why I can’t stop recommending Galicia as a friendly destination for visitors – and in this case, for women who travel alone – is as varied as the region. Still, I’ll try to give you some clues, girls: Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, is a semi-unknown region because it does not belong to the busiest tourist circuits, but it is equally beautiful due to the exuberant Galician nature and cities full of history.

The tradition of this land in receiving visitors who travel alone comes from the Middle Ages when the road to Santiago began to be ‘crowded’ by pilgrims who came from nearby and distant lands. That is why the Galician people are accustomed to receiving and treating well whoever comes here. An affordable living, world-acclaimed cuisine, many celebrations all-year round and funny weather, are awaiting you.”

Athens – Greece

Athens (Courtesy: Iulia - Alexandra Falcutescu)

Athens (Courtesy: Iulia – Alexandra Falcutescu)

Recommendation by Iulia – Alexandra Falcutescu – The Traveling Tulip

“While visiting Athens, I have discovered a wonderful blend of culture, history and contemporary air. I was simply enchanted to walk the streets of Athens and having to stop at every step, because there was always something to see, always a street vendor that wanted to show me their merchandise or an ancient building that “demanded” to be admired.

As a woman travelling solo to Athens, I have never felt unsafe. The people are so friendly, especially when they discover that you are a foreigner. They try to do their best to welcome you and make you feel comfortable. As with every other country I visited, I did my best to avoid dangerous situations or locations by staying informed on those prior to the actual visit. If you want to find out more of my time in Athens, check out my post about how to spend a weekend in Athens.”

Cercedilla – Spain

Cercedilla (Courtesy: Jamie Graffman)

Cercedilla (Courtesy: Jamie Graffman)

Recommendation by Jamie Graffman – Crashed Culture

“Cercedilla, Spain is a quaint but beautiful pueblo on the northern outskirts of Madrid, Spain. This town is full of many Spaniards’ former second homes before the country faced economic issues. This recent history makes for an interesting trip because while the area is clean and beautiful, it’s also completely empty and full of opportunities. Cercedilla is a popular stop for hikers and other nature lovers but is also fun just to walk around and see the beautiful buildings.

Cercedilla is a great destination for women travelling solo because it’s so open! For those concerned about strangers they’re likely to meet on the road, this isn’t a concern in such a desolate area. It’s a great place to just walk around and enjoy the scenery, which means travellers need not be concerned about finding things to do.”

Naxos – Greece

Pyrgaki, Naxos (Courtesy: Steph Edwards)

Pyrgaki, Naxos (Courtesy: Steph Edwards)

Recommendation by Steph Edwards – The Mediterranean Traveller

“The whole of Greece is ideal for easy-going solo female travel, but my favourite place is the island of Naxos in the Cyclades. From the moment you set foot there, you instantly feel relaxed. Plus, the people are super friendly. Despite its amazing beaches and fantastic food, Naxos is not overly commercial or busy like some of the more popular islands, and you’re bound to bump into other independent travellers there too (probably congregating in one of the laid-back beach cafes).

You can see the main sites by bus which is great for those who don’t want the expense of hiring a car. But – best of all – you can find cheap rooms a street or two back from the main town beach Agios Georgios, meaning you don’t have to worry about your stuff whilst you’re swimming. No wonder Naxos has devotees who return year after year!”

Do you also love islands and sandy shorelines?

Would you like to recommend some more places?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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Western Europe’s Best Kept Secrets: 10 Places For Girls Who Travel Solo

Western Europe is perhaps the most visited part of the world today. Truth be told – I have always been wary of a region where almost every tourist flocks. This is one of the reasons why I have largely avoided travelling to western European countries. The closest I’ve been is to Germany. But I’m discovering how a trip to mainstream Europe does not have to mean seeing the done-to-death cities. Here are 10 offbeat locations which solo travellers will love:

Glattalp – Switzerland

Glattalp (Courtesy: Michael Gerber)

Glattalp (Courtesy: Michael Gerber)

Recommendation by Michael Gerber – MscGerber

“When people think about Switzerland there are usually the same destinations they try to visit: Zermatt, Lucerne, Interlaken, Zurich and many more. However, there are still some hidden gems in the Swiss Alps that are not even known by the Swiss people. One of those is the Glattalp, which is not only a perfect place for hikers and adventurers but also for solo female travellers.

To get there, you will have to drive a car or take public transportation – to then be able to take a (pretty old) cable car up to the Glattalp, which seriously offers some of the most breathtaking views I have ever witnessed. What I personally loved the most about the Glattalp was its lake (Glattalpsee), which offers incredible reflections of the mountain peaks around it.”

Kildare – Ireland

St. Brigid's Cathedral in Kildare (Courtesy: Roxanna Keyes)

St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare (Courtesy: Roxanna Keyes)

Recommendation by Roxanna Keyes – Gypsy with a Day Job

“The village of Kildare, in County Kildare, Ireland, is a perfect place for a solo woman traveller. Kildare was actually founded by a woman, St. Brigid, the Patroness Saint of Ireland. Her cathedral and round tower still stand near the town square, making interesting exploration for those interested in Catholicism or Celtic religions, as Brigid figures largely in both.

Horse and garden lovers will enjoy National Stud, the training centre for championship steeds, and home to two renowned gardens. The Japanese gardens are among the loveliest I have ever seen. The village also boasts a prestige store outlet mall, and the Silver Screen Museum in nearby Naas is a surprising treat. Along with these things that are unique to Kildare, there are also castles, ruins, holy wells, pubs, and the gorgeous Irish countryside to see. Kildare is charming and safe, a village many women may fall in love with.”

Bayeux – France

Bayeux (Courtesy: Shobha George)

Bayeux (Courtesy: Shobha George)

Recommendation by Shobha George – Years Of Therapy Ahead

“Bayeux is a small city in Normandy, France – a must-see for history buffs. The city’s location near the English Channel means it has played a pivotal part in world history. For example, one of its museums holds the UNESCO-recognised Bayeux Tapestry which depicts William the Conqueror’s conquest of England in 1066. The British crossed the English Channel in the opposite direction in 1944 at nearby Gold Beach during the D-Day landings. Bayeux was the first city liberated from the Nazis by the Allied Forces on the day after D-Day.

The city has a museum dedicated to the Battle of Normandy as well as a large British war cemetery dedicated to the fallen. Luckily, the city itself escaped any damage from World War II because British engineers created a bypass road for their soldiers and tanks. Bayeux is still a charming town of historic houses, cobblestones and canals, unlike some neighbouring cities like Caen which were heavily damaged after World War II. There are direct trains from Paris that run to Bayeux, making it an ideal small city from which to explore both the D-Day beaches and other attractions in the rest of Normandy such as Mont St. Michel.”

Rostock – Germany

Rostock (Courtesy: Dhara)

Rostock (Courtesy: Dhara)

Recommendation by Dhara – It’s Not About the Miles

“Rostock is a pretty Hanseatic town on the north coast of Germany. It has a picturesque old town and a lovely harbour. Rostock would make for a lovely solo travel destination for women because it is easy to get in and around and there is plenty to see and do, albeit at a relaxed pace. You can wander around, shop for amber, and tour the local university.

The Neuer Markt, the main square, has six beautiful gable houses from the 15th and 16th centuries as its focal point. The town has two beautiful old churches: St. Nicholas, and St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s contains an astronomical clock and a Baroque organ. You can climb up to the top of the tower for beautiful views. The old city wall remnants and the Town Hall are other major attractions. Rostock is about two hours from Berlin by fast train, and there are several trains that run every day.”

Llandudno – Wales

Llandudno (Courtesy: Lavina Dsouza)

Llandudno (Courtesy: Lavina Dsouza)

Recommendation by Lavina Dsouza – Continent Hop

“Great Britain is usually considered a safe bet when it comes to solo travel, but travellers typically tend to stick to the usual when they visit – London and the Burroughs and Edinburgh. However, if you venture a little to the west, Wales is a great option to explore. Liverpool has good connectivity, and once you get to Liverpool, Llandudno is an hour’s drive from there. It’s got a great beach, numerous activities including hiking and bars too but what sets it apart is you can experience all of this within a short area till late without feeling out of place.

There are beautiful bed-and-breakfasts, most of which have someone at the reception to help out, there are clear directions put around, and a quick Google search will tell you timings for almost all activities so that you can plan in time and not get stranded. The locals are always happy to help with a smile on their faces, and it’s a great place even if you like to take a stroll late at night!”

Leiden – The Netherlands

Leiden (Courtesy: Constance)

Leiden (Courtesy: Constance)

Recommendation by Constance – The Adventures Of Panda Bear

“Everyone knows about Amsterdam being one of the safest large cities for solo female travel, but did you know that Leiden is also an amazing spot to travel alone? Located only a 30-minute train ride away from Amsterdam, Leiden is a historic Dutch city with a quaint city centre full of canals and a laundry list of museums and sights to be explored. Check out the Leiden Street Market for cheap and amazing eats and don’t forget to take a stroll along the canals to walk off the food!

Some of the best museums in the area include the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden) and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. The Molen de Valk working windmill museum is picturesque and also worth visiting. Even though Leiden is a smaller city, it’s got a lot to offer any solo female traveller and is perfect for a getaway trip from Amsterdam.”

Luxembourg City – Luxembourg

Luxembourg City (Courtesy: Rachel Brown)

Luxembourg City (Courtesy: Rachel Brown)

Recommendation by Rachel Brown – Rachel On Route

“Back in the spring, I travelled to Luxembourg City as a solo female traveller and I would go back in a heartbeat. The city has a wonderfully European ‘cool’ vibe, was clean, bright and felt exceptionally safe. It was only my second solo trip, so still a new concept for me, but I found that because the city wasn’t crawling with tourists, I was more comfortable wandering around and exploring alone. I felt like I didn’t need to constantly watch myself, and was able to relax.

I found it quite surprising the city wasn’t busier though. It has some beautiful cobbled streets, lovely green spaces (the park is beautiful) a great city museum, cute coffee shops and the views from the Casemate du Bock over the river were pretty romantic. The city has a long and fascinating history and the people I met were friendly and kind. Everything I could possibly ask for! To my mind, as cliché as it may sound, it’s a hidden gem.”

Newcastle upon Tyne – England

The Swing Bridge, spanning the River Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. The Norman castle keep and Quayside area of Newcastle stand beyond the bridge.

The Swing Bridge, spanning the River Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. (Courtesy: Stuart Forster)

Recommendation by Stuart Forster – Go Eat Do

“Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a vibrant city in the north-east of England. The locals, nicknamed Geordies, tend to be friendly folk who make visitors feel welcome without overstepping their boundaries. The nightlife is renowned as being among the best in Europe, with dozens of bars and clubs to visit. Looking for things to do during the daytime? The Great North Museum and Discovery Museum count among tourist attractions that help put the city and region into context. The Centre for Life is an ideal place to while away a few hours if you are interested in science. The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art is a renowned exhibition space on the far side of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. On Sundays Newcastle’s Quayside hosts a market, meaning opportunities to snack on street food or purchase souvenirs to take home.”

Flims – Switzerland

Flims (Courtesy: Arzo)

Flims (Courtesy: Arzo)

Recommendation by Arzo – Arzo Travels

“I was positively surprised by one little place that isn’t very famous amongst international tourists though it is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. Flims, in the canton of Graubünden, has won my heart. While it is not as busy as places like Zurich or Lucerne, there are a few attractions that are mind-blowing and which you can see within one day (actually, you can hike that area in a few hours). On a hike, you can see three natural attractions – Lake Cauma, Lake Cresta and the Rhine Gorge. These three attractions make you feel awestruck. Here you will find nature at its best – and as it is not very famous yet, you will not have to share that place with too many other tourists. It is mostly locals who hike there.

Swiss people are not necessarily fans of small talk, so if you are looking to have some chats you will appreciate the few Americans you will meet along the way. But if you like calm and serenity, this is the perfect place to visit as a solo traveller. Switzerland is very safe, so you can spend your vacation there without having to worry about safety.”

Lyon – France

Lyon (Courtesy: Noel Morata)

Lyon (Courtesy: Noel Morata)

Recommendation by Noel Morata – Travel Photo Discovery

“For travelling around Europe solo, I think Lyon, France is really a wonderful place to visit. Less than a two-hour train ride from Paris, Lyon showcases everything you can dream of in Paris but on a much smaller and doable scale for a short visit. For those looking at historic or cultural interest, foodie inspired venues, wonderful shopping and a safe place for solo travel, Lyon offers all that and more. It’s very easy to get around the city by walking or taking public transportation and the historic district is very compact and easy to manoeuvre. Beautiful squares, old town vibe combined with hip new venues and hangouts, make this an easy city to meet and greet locals or even new people visiting the area. Check out my Visiting Lyon post here for more inspiration of what to see and do in this fabulous city.”

What are your thoughts on Western Europe as a travel destination?

Have more ideas for my solo-travelling gal-pals?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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