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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Italy Beyond The Usual: Calling All Women Who Love To Travel Solo

Italian cuisine is one of my favourites and the country also ranks quite high on my list. It has been more than 7 years since I last visited Italy. However, my naive old self had only done all the touristy things (read – What Not to do in Venice). Before heading out to that country again, I wanted to be sure to steer clear of tourist traps. So, I asked my travel pals to share some of their recommendations on offbeat places for solo female travellers. Here are 5 Italian destinations that are surely beyond the usual suspects:

Bologna

Bologna (Courtesy: Kate Storm)

Bologna (Courtesy: Kate Storm)

Recommendation by Kate Storm – Our Escape Clause

“Hoping to explore Italy’s beautiful architecture and cuisine without the overly romantic environment of places like Venice and Tuscany? Look no further than Bologna. As the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, Bologna offers a fantastic mix of offbeat experiences, delicious food, and beautiful streets to wander… all with an easy-to-use travel infrastructure and a much less romance-focused atmosphere than nearby Tuscany and Verona. While you’re in Bologna, consider joining a food tour to indulge in some of the best food in Italy (Emilia Romagna is the original home of delicacies like mortadella, tagliatelle al ragu, and more), climb the Asinelli Tower for epic views over the city, and take yourself on an informal scavenger hunt to find the hidden canals of Bologna.”

Modena

Modena (Courtesy: Ayngelina Brogan)

Modena (Courtesy: Ayngelina Brogan)

Recommendation by Ayngelina Brogan – Bacon Is Magic

“Although most travellers tend to stick to Rome and Florence, I love to recommend smaller towns in Italy for solo female travellers. Modena is just a short 30-minute train ride from Bologna and so many people miss it. Most famous for its balsamic vinegar, it’s also home to great prosciutto and many Parmigiano Reggiano cheese producers. As a town, it’s perfect for women travelling alone as the downtown core is walkable, yet there is a hop on hop off bus to reach all the factories and producers on the outskirts. There is no tourist section of the city, so you don’t need to worry about being targeted by pickpockets as you’ll see locals everywhere and it’s well lit at night. Modena really is a food lover’s dream and you can do it on your own.”

Favignana

Favignana (Courtesy: Leanne Scott)

Favignana (Courtesy: Leanne Scott)

Recommendation by Leanne Scott – The Globetrotter GP

“Favignana is a tiny island just off the coast of Sicily. Often compared to the Caribbean, this should be a must-see on any Sicily itinerary. For me, it was a tranquil haven. I spent a wonderful, peaceful day cycling solo from one stunning beach to the next. I have truly never seen an ocean so bright blue and crystal clear. I felt completely safe on this island as a solo female traveller. On mainland Sicily, I occasionally worried about being pickpocketed but on Favignana, life was so laid back, this didn’t even cross my mind. An easy day trip from Trapani on the west coast, it takes just 30 minutes to reach Favignana. Tickets can be purchased on the same day from booths opposite the ferry company. With only a handful of tourists and barely any traffic on the roads, the only way to get around this tiny island is by bike.”

Ortigia

Ortigia (Courtesy: David Angel)

Ortigia (Courtesy: David Angel)

Recommendation by David Angel – Delve Into Europe

“Ortigia is an island which was the historic centre of Syracuse, on the south-east coast of Sicily. For a time in the 5th century BC, Syracuse – originally a Greek colony – was the most powerful city in the known world. It’s fair to say it has retreated to the backwaters since then. Ortigia is just a few minutes’ ride from the main bus station in Syracuse, but it’s only served by a tiny electric bus that carries eight people every twenty minutes. The island itself is absolutely stunning, a maze of crumbling romantic 17th and 18th-century houses, with many of the streets pedestrianised, so there’s very little traffic.

We loved the walk along the island’s seafront, passing a medieval castle, a street of restaurants, several churches and a couple of tiny beaches. The backstreets are also beautiful, many lined with lovely little trattorie. We chose Ortigia because we were travelling with our two-year-old son who loves to run and explore, and this is a safe place to do so. But it would work just as well if you’re travelling solo. Ortigia’s highlight is the Piazza del Duomo, a large ‘square’ centred around the stunning Baroque cathedral. We went there every night for gelato and coffee around dusk, just as the lights came on. It’s one of the most beautiful squares in Italy – at a fraction of the price you’d pay in Venice or Rome.”

Porto Venere

Porto Venere (Courtesy: Christina Román)

Porto Venere (Courtesy: Christina Román)

Recommendation by Christina Román – Explore Now or Never

“Everybody loves the Cinque Terre, but just 15 minutes south is UNESCO World Heritage site Portovenere without the crowds! A soul-satisfying European destination for solo women. Begin by exploring the ruins of the Church of St. Peter, a 13th-century Catholic church high on a cliff overlooking the sea. Then wander the shops. (Great deals on linen clothing and tablecloths in sun-drenched colours.) While we were enjoying a lovely al fresco lunch dockside, a white Rolls Royce with newlyweds came zooming past, heavy on the horn. As everyone stood and applauded, we were reminded why we love locals-only destinations best. In the evening, you’ll have the Cinque Terre mostly to yourself. Here are more tips on how to see it and where to eat.”

Been to other offbeat places in Italy?

Got some solo travel tips for my readers?

Let us know through your comments below. 🙂

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Northern Europe For Solo Female Travellers – 5 Stunning Recommendations

When I first ventured into the northern parts of Europe (read – Running in Lithuania – My First Half Marathon Abroad), I did not realize how delighted I would be with its intrinsic beauty, the lack of crowds and the simplicity of the inhabitants. Even though I’ve explored a bit of the Baltics (read – The Romance of Riga), I still have to see most of northern Europe. Sometime back, I asked my solo travel pals for their recommendations, and here is what they suggested:

Reykjavik – Iceland

Reykjavik (Courtesy: Natasha & Cameron)

Reykjavik (Courtesy: Natasha & Cameron)

Recommendation by Natasha & Cameron – The World Pursuit

“Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, meaning it is fantastic for all solo female travellers. Its capital, Reykjavik, doesn’t feel like your typical capital at all. It’s small, charming, and quiet with no skyscrapers ruining the view. Iceland was one of the first countries I ever travelled to by myself, and I have fond memories of its people, landscapes, culture, and my time in Reykjavik.

Only 120,000 people call this place home. Its small size means you won’t feel nervous or unsafe walking around here – even at 2 am. Honestly, with a country so beautiful, the main danger is Mother Nature, so it’s important to hike and venture out with some knowledge of the land and its conditions. Reykjavik is also such a fantastic capital city because there are so many things to do just outside of it! It still blows me away that only 10 minutes from Iceland’s capital you can find yourself deep in the heart of beautiful nature.”

Vilnius – Lithuania

Vilnius (Courtesy: Nicola Lavin)

Vilnius (Courtesy: Nicola Lavin)

Recommendation by Nicola Lavin – All About Rosa Lilla

“I was blown away by Lithuania’s capital city and the breathtaking design of its medieval Old Town – the largest in all of central and eastern Europe. With its bustling cafe scene, hip pub culture and beautiful architecture, it is not hard to completely fall in love with Vilnius. Despite its turbulent history, Lithuanians are proud of the independence they achieved in 1990 – the first Soviet republic to do so. It was so heartwarming to see the flags hung so proudly, and at night, to watch the buildings lit up in red, yellow and green. Not too touristy, this is the perfect place to be a solo traveller. Nearly everything is within walking distance. I felt completely safe walking the streets here. Also, Vilnius is one of the cheapest European capitals I’ve travelled in, so your Euro goes a long way.

There is so much to see and do in this wonderful city, even if it is just wandering the streets to check out the cool street art. I used to think that graffiti makes a city look messy but I’ve completely changed my mind since visiting Vilnius. They take street art to a whole new level. Think Putin and Trump sharing a joint! There are many beautiful pink baroque churches, and if you fancy something completely different, visit Užupis. Užupis is a self-declared Republic within the city of Vilnius, often compared to the Montmartre region of Paris. Here you will find the funniest constitution that residents follow as you spend the day enjoying the laidback boho vibes of the area. There is plenty to love about Vilnius and I really hope you consider visiting for yourself.”

Dragør – Denmark

Dragør (Courtesy: Anjali Chawla)

Dragør (Courtesy: Anjali Chawla)

Recommendation by Anjali Chawla – Travel Melodies

“A sleepy little cute old town near the sea coast, virgin forests and meadows, -Dragør is a delight to visit. Just 12 km southeast of Copenhagen, this old fishing town is historically, culturally and naturally vibrant. The town offers the taste of authentic Denmark and the best views of the Øresund Bridge as it spans across to Sweden. Its narrow cobblestone streets and colourful low thatched roof houses from the 1700’s seem like a perfect setting for a slow stroll. The cottages adorned beautifully with vibrant flowers add romance to the whole experience.

Denmark has been ranked as one of the safest countries for solo women travellers in the world. Safety-index ranking, friendly and helpful locals, intimate vibe, and its small size (13,000 inhabitants) make Dragør a perfect choice for solo-female travellers. The public transport system is easy to navigate and one of the best in the world. It takes 30 minutes by bus line 350S from Copenhagen and 12 minutes by line 35 from the airport to reach this charmingly quaint town of Denmark. Bicycling around the town and along the coast is the best way to feel the essence of Dragor.”

Tallinn – Estonia

Tallinn (Courtesy: Allison Green)

Tallinn (Courtesy: Allison Green)

Recommendation by Allison Green – Eternal Arrival

“If you’re looking for an offbeat travel destination in Northern Europe, you should consider visiting the Baltic States on your next trip. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a great place for solo female travellers. It’s incredibly safe and there are plenty of hostels with nice, modern design where you can easily meet other fellow travellers. Street harassment is very uncommon in Tallinn (and in Northern Europe in general) so you are able to let your guard down a bit, compared to bigger Western European cities.

There are countless things to do in Tallinn that are perfect for solo enjoyment, such as exploring the local coffee shops, window shopping at Telliskivi Creative City, checking out the street art in Kalamaja, browsing the KGB Museum or the KuMu art museum, or just wandering around and photographing the stunning Old Town which has been preserved extremely well from its medieval roots. Tallinn is easily walkable and the public transportation infrastructure is excellent for a city of its size, making it a great choice for solo travellers.”

Vik – Iceland

Vik (Courtesy: Kristin Addis)

Vik (Courtesy: Kristin Addis)

Recommendation by Kristin Addis – Be My Travel Muse

“Vik in Iceland is one of my favourite places for solo travel. It is absolutely beautiful, with several waterfalls nearby. Easy to access along Iceland’s Ring Road, Vik is not too far from Reykjavik if you don’t have a full week to explore the full Ring Road. Besides, Iceland is the safest country on earth right now! That ticks all of my boxes for the perfect spot to travel solo. It is easy to reach on a tour, by public transport, or my preferred method – a camper van.”

Ever been to the Baltics or the Nordic countries?

Have more suggestions for solo female travellers visiting Northern Europe?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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Discover Kerala With Backpacker Panda: Fort Kochi And Beyond

The rainy month of July began on a sunny note for me as I flew down to Cochin to kick off my shoes and relax in Kerala. Even though this month sees terrible monsoons, my time by the Arabian Sea coincided with clear weather in the region. I should have guessed this South Indian state gets plenty of sunshine when I landed at the world’s first fully solar-powered airport. Cochin International Airport is power neutral, thanks to the acres of solar panels installed next to the aerodrome. A 90-minute drive brought me to Backpacker Panda’s Santa Maria hostel in Fort Kochi – conveniently located close to the harbour.

A Walk Down Kerala’s Past

Mattancherry Palace - a gift from the Portuguese

Mattancherry Palace – a gift from the Portuguese

The first European township in India, Fort Kochi’s culture is also influenced by the Chinese, the Arabs and the Jews. The marina is only a stone’s throw from the hostel – a nice place to watch the ferries transport people, animals and even cars and auto-rickshaws from the nearby islands. Sunrises and sunsets are best spent walking along the coast. There, you can admire the bright purple and blue Chinese fishing nets introduced to the local fishermen by Chinese traders. The neighbourhood of Mattancherry brims with Portuguese, Dutch and Jewish auras. The Mattancherry Palace and its surrounding complex are a result of the Portuguese and later, Dutch occupation. Almost adjoining is the oldest active Jewish temple in all of the Commonwealth nations – Paradesi Synagogue.

What’s So Special About Santa Maria?

Santa Maria Hostel - one of the cheapest backpackers' hostels in Fort Kochi

Santa Maria Hostel – one of the cheapest backpackers’ hostels in Fort Kochi

My choice of stay was an integral part of my Kerala experience. I had planned this trip in a hurry, hoping to make the most of the rare fair-weather window in the off-season. Nonetheless, Backpacker Panda was quite efficient in confirming my booking and assisting with the directions to their hostel. Santa Maria is perhaps the cheapest place you can find in a destination so loved by tourists. For as little as INR 250, you can have a bed in an air-conditioned dorm with en-suite bathroom! Their private rooms are not too costly either. The friendly owners of the hostel are generally around to help you plan your days in Fort Kochi.

Jew Town – Where Chaos & Calm Coexist

The busy marketplace of Jew Town

The busy marketplace of Jew Town

Kerala has a small Jewish population. Several years ago, displaced Israelites left their home-country due to religious persecution and sought shelter in various parts of the world. Some of the Jews settled in Mattancherry and brought their culture with them. Apart from the synagogue, the area has a shopping street – a long, narrow lane lined with shops that sell clothing, souvenirs, spices and handicrafts. You can very quickly escape the bustle of the marketplace as you enter their house of worship or stride into a cafe.

Inside A Backpacker Panda Dorm

The girls' dorm with 3 bunk beds is a cosy room.

The girls’ dorm with 3 bunk beds is a cosy room.

After a full day spent walking about, you long for a comfortable place of rest. Santa Maria’s rooms are basic but pleasant. During my stay at the hostel, I had a chance to sleep on both a double bed (in one of their private rooms) and a bunk bed (in the girls’ dormitory). All of the Backpacker Panda properties have mixed dorms also. The dorms have lockers under the beds but you’ll have to bring along a padlock. The bathrooms are neat and stocked with toilet paper. However, you’ll have to carry your own soap and towel (unless you stay in a private room).

Tour The Backwaters On A Houseboat

Houseboats docked by the palm groves in Kerala's backwaters

Houseboats docked by the palm groves in Kerala’s backwaters

If any object can be a symbol of Kerala, it is the traditional houseboat. These elegant floating vessels are wooden boats that are covered with bamboo and cane, ropes of jute and coconut husk tying them together. Depending on how much you love nature, you can cruise over the backwaters for three hours to a couple of days. Kerala’s backwaters are shallow and the person steering the houseboat uses a long bamboo pole to push against the foliage and earth. The ride really is delightful as it lets you hear the lovely sounds of birds, gaze at paddling ducks and pristine lotuses and occasionally, watch villagers go about their lives.

Where Art Has A Chance To Flourish

With all the paintings on the walls, it is easy to see that the hostel hosts a lot of artists.

With all the paintings on the walls, it is easy to see that the hostel hosts a lot of artists.

Fort Kochi has a vibrant community of artists, many from other countries. The Kochi Biennale held from December to March showcases art exhibitions across multiple venues. Apart from art galleries, these exhibitions are held at an art cafe. The art wave has birthed a lot of art cafes in Fort Cochin – Kashi & Mocha art cafes are worth a visit. Sharing the artsy spirit of the place, Santa Maria Hostel frequently hosts students and proponents of art. Most of the walls in the hostel show off the works of the artists who’ve stayed here.

Keralite Cuisine – More Than Rice & Spice

Traditional Keralite lunch served on a banana leaf.

Traditional Keralite lunch served on a banana leaf.

Culinary exploration is an essential element of all the trips I undertake. Kerala did not disappoint. Right from the roadside bondas to the elaborate meals served on banana leaves, Keralite cuisine promises variety. Rice is the predominant staple and curries are generally spicy. My personal favourite is the fluffy kalappam with a thick, mildly sweet centre which tapers out to a paper-thin consistency and crispiness. Coconut, whether shredded, whole or its milk, imparts a unique flavour and texture to the dishes.

The ‘Common’ Factor Between Two Strangers

The common space at Backpacker Panda's Santa Maria Hostel

The common space at Backpacker Panda’s Santa Maria Hostel

I like hostels that have common areas to facilitate interaction among the guests. Santa Maria’s common spaces are full of art. There are also books, board games and musical instruments for those who enjoy other kinds of art. Most of the furniture is of wood or cane, lending a sophisticated character to the otherwise carefree place. Tea and coffee are available round the clock and you can access the kitchen to make your own dish. Drinking water is free, but you need to get your own bottle which can be refilled at the water station.

Care For Some Kathakali?

Kathakali performance at the Greenix Village cultural art centre.

Kathakali performance at the Greenix Village cultural art centre.

When you are in a state that loves its art and culture, you cannot miss the dances. I spent an evening at Greenix Village – a performing arts centre in Fort Kochi. Apart from concert halls, the venue has a Kathakali museum that showcases all the musical instruments and dance costumes used in this traditional dance form. Before the show begins, you can watch the makeup artist paint that famous fierce green face on the male actor. The program commenced with a graceful Mohiniyattam piece – another classical dance of Kerala. The highlight of the evening was, of course, a Kathakali skit. That was followed by a demonstration of Kalaripayattu – a martial art style in which poles, swords and shields are employed. The final presentation was Tholpavakoothu – shadow puppetry with the use of leather dolls.

Be A Backpacker!

Peaceful mornings at Santa Maria Hostel - the perfect setting for some quiet reading.

Peaceful mornings at Santa Maria Hostel – the perfect setting for some quiet reading.

All of the backpacking trips that I’ve made around India and the world have taught me this – it is always a good idea to travel light. It is also a myth that there is no privacy in hostels. You often get lucky and find your room empty when the others have left. And those times are best spent relaxing with a book (for me at least).

Know other places in Fort Kochi that will interest me?

Ever stayed at an art hostel?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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You too can experience backpacking in different parts of India through Backpacker Panda. I’ve got an exclusive 15% discount for you! 😉 Use OINDRILA15 as the coupon code when you book your stay with them (valid till 31-September-2018).